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This guide covers 12 of the skills whose mastery generally corresponds to a score of Band 7 or above in IELTS Writing. It is by no means comprehensive—writing well in English involves far more than what can reasonably be covered here—but I have done my best to select the top concepts that IELTS candidates find particularly challenging, and that apply at a general structural level regardless of the topic or type of question involved.
To be clear: you do not need to be able to do every single thing on this list flawlessly in order to earn a Band 7 score. There is some room for error. But you must be able to do most of them, and do them consistently, in order to produce responses that contain mostly error-free sentences; remain clear and on-topic throughout; and are sufficiently cohesive and coherent.
Also, please note: The list below assumes that you know how to use standard spacing, punctuation, and capitalization. If you have difficulty with those aspects of English, you need to work on them first. (more…)
1) A question is a general prompt; it is your job to “develop the topic”
I’m certainly not the first person to say this, but this is undoubtedly the single biggest issue for many IELTS candidates, especially in Part 1. In non-test life, when someone asks you a simple yes/no question such as Do you live alone or with other people? it’s perfectly fine to just say By myself.
An IELTS response that will put you on track for a high score, however, is something along the lines of I live in a house with a couple of other people right now, but I’m actually planning to move into a studio in a couple of months. I get along with everyone pretty well, but to be totally honest, I’m the sort of person who does better alone, so I’m really looking forward to having my own space.
It’s ok to speak until the examiner cuts you off. You only get points taken off for talking too little, not for talking too much. If you are not naturally talkative, you will need to practice pushing yourself to keep giving more information than what certain questions seem to call for. Although this may seem deceptive on the IELTS’ part, it’s actually right there in the Band Descriptors: high-scoring responses are “fully” developed—by definition, that involves giving a lot of information. (more…)
I originally did this list as an Instagram post, but then it occurred to me that I should put it up here as well, so here goes in slightly expanded form.
First, remember that the singular/plural rule for verbs is the opposite of the rule for nouns:
Third-person singular verbs end in -s (it works, s/he does, the graph shows).
Third-person plural verbs do not end in -s (they work, they do, the graphs show).
1) Compound subject = plural
A compound noun consists of two nouns joined by and. These subjects are always plural, regardless of whether the individual nouns are singular or plural. This rule is easy in principle but can be surprisingly difficult in practice.
Correct: A stressful atmosphere and poor management are often responsible for employee burnout.
Incorrect: A stressful atmosphere and poor management is often responsible for employee burnout. (more…)
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Although it is very important to make a good first impression on your examiner by writing a strong introduction to your Task 2 essay, the body paragraphs are where your overall mark will really be determined.
Body paragraphs form the substance of your essay, and so it is important that they be structured logically (Coherence and Cohesion), and in a way that allows you to respond to the question as directly and thoroughly as possible (Task Response).
Because the Writing test requires you to apply so many skills at the same time, it can be very helpful to have a standard body-paragraph “formula” that can be used for virtually any question.
Once you have determined the focus of your paragraph, each new idea can be introduced with linking device + point.
You can then discuss that point or give an example to illustrate it using no more than two additional sentences. The limit prevents repetition, over-explaining, and going off-topic.
Slowly but surely, I am making progress on my webinar for tutors working with struggling older readers.
After a crash course in using Zoom to record PowerPoints, numerous attempts, and much time spent finagling computer-camera angles in my office, I’ve actually managed to produce what I hope is a serviceable recording. (I was having a bad hair day in pt. 2, but I’m hoping that everyone can deal;)
There are two parts: a shorter (approx. 40 mins.) introduction part, in which I summarize some of the key issues and background information (the Simple View; the Matthew effect; the three-cueing system); and a longer recording (1:45), in which I present and demonstrate a series of short exercises based on the sequence developed by my colleague Richard McManus at the Fluency Factory in Cohasset, Mass.
Although I spend a lot of time going over the exercises, they can actually be done in about 30 mins. and can thus be split with regular test prep. I’ve also tried to actually integrate SAT/ACT-based materials into the exercises as much as possible.
I’m currently working on the materials packet (probably in the range of 70-75 pages) and will hopefully have the whole thing ready by the week of November 7th. I haven’t yet determined the overall price, but the packet will be included along with the webinar because it would be pretty ridiculous to explain all of the exercises without, you know, actually providing them. Initially, I was going to focus on the ACT since that’s the test where speed and processing issues tend to become most apparent, but because the SAT is the more popular test, I’ve integrated some material from that exam as well.
A few points: (more…)