How to Improve Your IELTS Writing

This article is provided for those who are preparing IELTS and specializing in the sub-category of writing. Yet the tips mentioned as bellow would not be useful at all unless you fulfill them practically. To develop these habits may be painful at the first place and it would take time to materialize the benefits. Patience and perseverance are necessities. But please don’t hold qualm about quitting half-way. Something you might need to do is to make learning intriguing so that you will concentrate on studying continually.

Writing is not an independent ability and cannot be honed independently. As an index of output, it is interwoven with the amount of your input. Therefore, learners need to absorb massive linguistic knowledge and yield them regularly. You might hear about ‘passive vocabulary’, which means you can understand the words while reading whereas they would not occur to you while writing or speaking. All you need to do in your studying scheme is to bridge the gap between the ‘passive’ and ‘active’.

Here comes a detailed introduction of these two concepts: https://blog.thelinguist.com/active-and-passive-vocabulary

The volume of ‘passive’ ones would outnumber the ‘active’ a lot and I have to say speaking requires more training than writing for its different word lists i.e. idioms, slangs and native phrases. It would be hard to familiarise with them without native speaking environment or well-edited textbooks.

Check the IETLS official instruction for writing. Examiners use four criterions to ascertain your brand marks:

  • Task Respond [TR]
  • Coherence and Cohesion
  • Lexical Resource [Vocabulary]
  • Grammatical Range & Accuracy

Task Respond & Coherence

TR is based on the arguments and whether they cover the information given in the question. Someone may deem dialectics as obsolete, but the fact is the majority of IELTS writing essays entail this mindset, i.e., “To what extent do you agree…”, “Do you agree or disagree…”, “Someone think…others think…what is your opinion” etc.. That examinees would balance between pros and cons is probably due to the consideration of words’ number. It is also a time-saving method. However, it does not mean that one-sided argument is not feasible. Some of them might demonstrate an opposite idea beyond our preconceptions but persuasive enough to gain a high band. But it would be better for a novice/apprentice IELTS learner to elaborate balanced arguments.

The way to cover all details of assignments is to give a brief introduction paraphrasing the question in the first paragraph, illustrate your supported ideas in two paragraphs and introduce the disapproved idea in one paragraph consequently. In your main part [exclude the introduction part], each paragraph would be composed by no more than three sentences ideally, epitomized by one short topic sentence [you sub-argument], two supportive sentences to clarify your sub-argument.

Take one paragraph from my writing essays as an example.

“①Reduction​ ​of​/Fewer​​ ​long​ ​distance​ ​flights​ ​could​ ​make​ ​a​ ​finite​ ​difference [Sub-argument]. ②​The​ ​per​ ​capita​ ​carbon dioxide​ ​emission​ ​is​ ​high,​ ​but​​ ​​the​ ​​overall​ ​released​ ​pollutant​/pollution​​ ​might​ ​merely​ ​​m​ake​ ​​up​ ​​a small​ ​part​ ​in​ ​the​ ​gross​ ​volume,​ ​compared​ ​with​ ​that​ ​of​ ​widely-used​ ​private​ ​cars.​ [Supportive sentence 1] ③Also,​ ​the definition​ ​of​ ​‘non-​essential’​ ​varies​ ​from​ ​person​ ​to​ ​person​ ​​since/because​​ ​a​ ​casual​ ​cancellation​ ​of a​ ​flight​ ​can​ ​impede​ ​the​ ​scheme​ ​of​ ​an​ ​international​ ​entrepreneur​ ​or​ ​a​ ​visiting​ ​scholar​ ​​very much/badly. ​[Supportive sentence 2]

And this one refers to my disapproved idea in another essay.

“Yet​ ​this​ ​is​ ​not​ ​to​ ​say​ ​that​ ​mone​tar​y​ ​aid​ ​is​ ​less​ ​valuable. [Introduce the opposite idea]​ ​For​ ​example,​ ​when​ ​disastrous​ ​accidents happen​/occur,​ ​such​ ​as​ ​flooding​ ​or​ ​a​ ​spread​ ​of​ ​cholera,​ ​donation​s​​ ​of​ ​currency​ ​certainly​ ​would relieve​ ​the​ ​stress​ ​of​ ​poor​ ​countries​ ​and​ ​tackle​ ​the​ ​dilemma​ ​effectively. [Supportive sentence]​” [In the ideal model, there should be another sentence to criticise the limitation of this method.]

A clear viewpoint should be provided at the end of the first paragraph.

Advertisements​ ​have​ ​become​ ​indispensable​ ​in​ ​the​ ​modern​ ​market​ ​notwithstanding​ ​the potentially​ ​exaggerated ​​​publicity​ ​generated​ ​from​ ​them.​ ​Discussion​ ​about​ ​their​ ​​pros​ and cons​ ​centres​ ​on​ ​different​ ​levels​ ​ranging​ ​from​ ​individual​ ​consumers​ ​to​ ​the​ ​whole​/entire​​ ​society.​ ​I support​ ​that​ ​the​ ​positive​ ​influence​ ​exerted​ ​by​ ​advertising​ ​outweighs​ ​the​ ​negative​ ​overall. [Central viewpoint]

In the report task i.e. “What causes this…/What is your solution…”, this model need adjustments.

Rigorous notwithstanding, this prototype is not a set of restriction. It is the midwife who gives birth to your crystal clear essay as it has been practiced and proven to be the most fluent and elegant combination to condense ideas down. Even in some academic papers, authors would give their basic argument at the end of the first paragraph. A scientific structure is the stepping stone to a high mark undoubtedly.

Vocabulary and Grammar

Many people harbour skeptical views on ‘mechanically’ memorising words, which I regard as the pretext for laziness. You might need to switch memorising strategies and make this process fun.

I recommend the series of Word Power published by Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press. It has five books for English learners on different levels in which new words are provided under specific contexts. Even if you are unfamiliar with their original meaning, you can deduce from the context.

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Here are other books I recommend.

Grammatical sentences are prerequisite for examiners to comprehend your arguments. The flexible combination of various relative clauses are key to consolidating your ideas cohesively. So, as you may see now, the four criterions of IELTS writing are connected with each other mutually.

One method, personally, to stimulate your interest in studying English is to read articles written by the most intelligent and experienced authors. Thus I recommend The Economist as your daily reading material. I am not suggesting you to imitate the tone of The Economist [I bet ten years would not suffice for you] but to evoke your memory of ‘passive vocabulary’ while reading articles. Such training would familiarize yourself with new words and use them in your writing tasks.

Dictionaries are helpful for language learner. I use these websites a lot:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/ [the words here are not sufficient enough but the words’ explanations are clear]

https://www.merriam-webster.com/ [Supplement to Cambridge Dictionary]

http://www.thesaurus.com/ [Expand your original vocabulary]

Although IELTS writing is to prepare yourself for the academic writing on Western campuses, in essence, it is the revolution of your expression and mindset. English necessitates logic, which is the ignored aspect in Chinese. While it is meaningless to debate about characteristics of two linguistic systems, poor marks of Chinese students on IELTS writing [5.24/9.0[1]] still prove the fundamental deficiency of logic thinking in domestic education. The trainings mentioned above should be maintained for long periods unless you gain the qualified band on your writing.

I also recommend a beneficial website to proofread and rate your English essays ranging from IETLS, TOEFL and other exams: www.writersforme.com where you can find native teachers to correct your essays [20 dollars each IELTS essay]. I received many practical feedbacks from teachers there.

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Sincerely, I hope you can get the ideal mark! You can post a comment here if you have any ideas to share with me. 🙂

[1] https://www.chinaielts.org/white_paper_2017.html

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