Quite a few of our students come to Oxford in order to prepare for an English exam, IELTS being by far the most popular. Getting a good result in IELTS can have a significant impact on their academic opportunities. Of the four parts that make up the exam, writing is often the one that baffles the students the most, so today we’re going to look at some good practices when it comes to writing an essay for IELTS.
Think of the road ahead. With only about 40 minutes to write a 250-word essay, you might feel that planning is a waste of precious time. However, 5 minutes thinking of ideas and organising them before you start writing can actually save you time, because you won’t get stuck for ideas halfway through. Apart from that, your text will be much more coherent if you plan and, knowing what you’re going to write, you can focus more on how to write it (improving your range of vocabulary and grammar).
Put things in perspective. Frame the topic by stating first what's happening in the world that makes this question worth answering. So if, for instance, your essay is about the pros and cons of technology in schools, your context sentence can be about how technology nowadays pervades all aspects of our lives.
State your business. Some candidates like to keep their opinion to themselves until the very end, but then the result is often a confusing text in which the reader is left guessing the writer’s stance until the conclusion. It is safer to state your view in the introduction, and then go about defending/justifying it. That doesn’t mean you have to use ‘I think’ or ‘I believe’. You can go with something like ‘This essay will argue that…, or ‘In this essay, it will be argued that…’
Don’t forget the other side. No matter how strong you feel about something, every story has two sides. What would a person with the opposite opinion to yours argue? State that point of view first, using a distancing device (It could be said that..., It is often said that…), then present a counterargument to that idea (why it isn’t necessarily true). Finally, present a strong demonstration of why your idea is better.
Wrap it up. The conclusion is very important; it’s the last impression that you’ll leave the reader (in this case, the examiner!). The main mistake candidates make here is to present new information or arguments. In the last paragraph, just rephrase the concession you made and your main points in one sentence and confirm your opinion, possibly with a summarising phrase (All things considered, …).
Be the examiner. In the same way you should spend a few minutes planning before you start, it’s also a good idea to put yourself in the examiner’s shoes and analyse your essay after you finish it. Are there any mistakes you often make? Focus on those first, then read it again to find any other inaccuracies. It’s not only about correcting though. You should also try to improve your text: substitute any bland words for more interesting ones, and replace any words you’ve used a lot with synonyms.
These are just a few of the techniques we use to help our students in our IELTS preparation course here at OISE Oxford. Get in touch to find out more about how we can help get that grade you need.