IELTS Writing Tips

Managing IELTS Writing

Continuing the theme of time, I want to say something this week about IELTS Writing. This is the other area where many students are up against the clock and this can cause some stress and worry. Like the reading, it doesn’t have to be like this and students who get band 7 or above in writing can generally complete everything – including planning and checking in 60 minutes easily.

There are strategies that will help you to do this and as with everything, the more you practise these strategies the better you will accomplish the task.

As with the reading there are three things you need to do in your practice and doing ALL THREE will help you manage the time more efficiently.

  • Improve your vocabulary and sentence structure
  • Practise, practise, practise
  • Get it checked

Improve your vocabulary and sentence structure

The examiner expects to see certain things (you can find out what these are in the Band Descriptors). 50% of these relate to actual language ability – spelling, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary – the others are related to the question and organisation of your essay. All of these are important but managing the organisation of your task and interpreting the question are quicker to learn than the language and no matter how many model essays you use to write your practice tasks, if you have fundamental errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation or limited vocabulary, you are unlikely to reach band 7. A student asked me recently if spelling errors would lose any marks in the writing – of course they will, this is a test of the application of English language to various tasks and the language has to be correct and bad spelling is bad English just as bad grammar and punctuation are bad English.

So, check the models, look at the vocabulary and structures and then learn how to use them correctly.

Preparation is everything

A good student of English should have a good grammar book and a good dictionary – make sure you have access to both of these to learn and check.

Practise, practise, practise

This goes without saying. My mantra, which I am certain you’ve heard me say a thousand times, is; “Just knowing about a strategy, technique or particular sentence structure is not enough, you have to practise to improve”.

All of these things are skills based and so the more you practise them the better your skill will be. With writing there is one note of caution, try to have each piece of writing checked for errors before you do the next one – this is the best way to improve. If you write 6 tasks all at once they are likely to all have exactly the same errors.

Get it checked

Getting someone to check is vital – it is almost impossible to correct your own writing. It doesn’t have to be a teacher – someone with a really good knowledge of English could help you to eliminate some of the mistakes and the fewer you have the better.

Clearly an experienced IELTS teacher is the best as they will be able to explain why you have made the mistake so you can avoid this in the future and they will also be able to adjust your vocabulary and introduce you to better sentence structures so you can improve your writing more quickly and effectively.

Manage the Time

Managing the Time

I haven’t mentioned this much yet but there are also three things that are vital to maintaining accuracy as well as speed when you actually write the tasks and especially in the exam itself. These are:

  • Planning
  • Having a good Framework for your tasks
  • Checking

Learning how to do all of these makes your IELTS writing practice effective and saves you a lot of time in the exam.

Planning

This step in the writing process is critical and helps you not only write far more quickly but also control every part of the task. A good plan will give you a strong outline for your essay – it will be the ‘bones’ upon which you will add the ‘flesh’. This means that your essay will not digress from the question, it will be well-organised, it will be faster to write and you will be able to manage the grammar, spelling, punctuation and vocabulary as you write. All this adds up to better writing. A good plan also forces you to choose your ideas at the very beginning so that as you are writing you are ONLY thinking about your English language and style.

In task 1 your planning will be more about organising the data into paragraphs and deciding what to put where. Again once you have decided this then you can focus on language.

The exam is an opportunity to showcase what you can do

Your Unique Framework

In the IELTS exam there are factors such as nerves, the impact of the completed listening and reading tests which you may be worrying about, thinking about the speaking and the fact that this is now the real thing! All of these can have an effect on your writing. It is essential therefore that your writing tasks are not being done absolutely from scratch. By this I mean that you should , when you go to the exam, already have a good idea about how you will write the tasks. What vocabulary you will use, which sentence structures you will use and any language devices you will write to create your tasks. As soon as you see the task, be it Task 1 or Task 2, you should go into automatic pilot. If you have prepared well then this is what will happen. This is a result of practice, knowing what sentences you can write well and without error and which ones you cannot and should probably avoid using.

Most of my students who have been successful at IELTS knew exactly how they were going to write the tasks before the exam and were able to adapt the language they  had in their ‘language bank’ to the questions. This ‘framework’ or ‘skeleton’ means that you can write much faster and more accurately.

Checking your Work

Mistakes in writing are easily made. A forgotten article, the wrong preposition, a silly spelling error, I make errors myself and they are annoying and I’m sure when your teacher points this out to you, you are annoyed too – you know this stuff! So if you check your work you will be able to find these ‘silly’ mistakes and stop them from going to the examiner. So, why do most people not check? It makes no sense. Not having enough time is not a good excuse – it’s important. Make it part of your practice.

The good news is that if you follow the advice on planning and having a framework of what you intend to write before you go into the exam, you will have time to check and will be able to stop the examiner seeing these mistakes – and that’s great because it will help your band!

Twelve Top Tips for IELTS

Today is the twelfth day of Christmas and the celebration of Twelfth Night. In the past this was a very big celebration with people feasting and partying well into the night. In other countries in Europe twelfth night and tomorrow January 6th (the feast of the 3 Kings) are big festivals but in the UK we have largely sacrificed this for Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Tomorrow is the day to take the Christmas tree and all the other Christmas decorations down. Failure to do this results in bad luck for the year (so the tradition goes). So we are now at the end of Christmas for another year and after all the celebrations we settle down to our shiny New Year and begin all the great plans we have.

I hope that you have begun your great plans too and I’m sure that these will include your IELTS exam – is this the year to get the score you want and move on with your dreams?

On this, the twelfth and last day of Christmas I want to share my final tip of this Christmas series – something about the exam as a whole.

I hope that over the past 12 days you have learned something about the skills you need to perfect in order to gain a high IELTS band score in each part of the test. To be honest during these twelve days I have only been able to scratch the surface of the skills that you can work on to make sure that your IELTS is on track for bands 7 and 8. We haven’t talked about vocabulary or grammar, for example, which are also important.

My final piece of advice is don’t go it alone. Get some help and support. This could be from me and my team and I would love it if you can come and work with us online – if this isn’t for you then get another teacher or at least find a group of people who are also doing IELTS at your level  to work with. Doing it by yourself is a lonely journey; you have no-one to check things with, to ask questions from or to share your highs and lows as you prepare for the exam.

So to get help and support for your IELTS this January I am offering you a free IELTS Exam Support Skype call. In this call we can look at your IELTS, see what needs to happen to get you to your band score and then talk about how you can get this support if that is appropriate.

To get a call with me you must complete this questionnaire:

Questionnaire

I will also be giving a special IELTS Christmas gift to everyone who completes the form and books a call.

Questionnaire

I hope you have enjoyed this little journey through the Christmas Season. I can’t wait to speaking with you soon and find out more about you and your IELTS.

Questionnaire

Berni xx

Twelve Top Tips for IELTS

Today is the ninth day of Christmas. Celebrations are now going on and many people also take the time today to consider their New Year resolutions. I’ve made one about helping even more people in 2018 to get the IELTS result they want. I have written several IELTS programmes and the results so far are excellent – so if you want your high bands in 2018 read on – it will be useful to you.

 

Today is the ninth day of Christmas; I want to share one final piece of advice about the IELTS writing exam that you need to consider if you want a high band.

When you make your New Year resolutions this year and if getting IELTS is one of them – make your resolutions more specific. Getting your IELTS is not really compelling enough; you need to break it down. Look at the areas in IELTS that are still not at the right level and make resolutions around them. This could be increasing your score in reading and listening by 3 points for example and then look at what steps you need to take to be able to do this. Or it might be finding speaking partners to practise on Skype with – how can you do this?(I might be able to help) One of the best things you can do for your IELTS writing is to perfect your planning.

Many students just don’t plan – they let the ideas flow. If you use this method then I have to tell you that it really doesn’t work. You cannot focus on ideas and really good language at the same time unless you are a native, or almost native, speaker and even then I doubt whether it would work well. If I write a model task I will spend some time planning this so that it fits the IELTS criteria.

Planning does three things that will transform your writing:

  1. It helps to get your ideas out of the way before you begin to write so you can focus on language (remember IELTS is a test of English language)
  2. It helps you to write more accurately and grammatically paying attention to your vocabulary, sentence structure and linking words without being distracted by ideas
  3. It helps you write more efficiently and quickly leaving you time at the end to check

IELTS writing is not creative in fact it is quite formulaic and to create this formula you need to have a good outline.

Planning is the best thing you can do for your writing and I know how to do this and can teach you how to do it easily and effectively.

Conquer your IELTS writing ‘once and for all’ in 2018! I want to offer you the chance to work with me and my team in January.

I am setting aside some days during the beginning of 2018 to speak to you about getting the help you need to get the IELTS score you want.

To get one of these Skype appointments you need to complete this questionnaire:

Questionnaire

I will be giving a special IELTS Christmas gift for all those who complete the questionnaire and request a Skype call.

Questionnaire

Happy New Year 2018!!

Twelve Top Tips for IELTS

Ring out the old ring in the new J I wish you all a prosperous and successful 2018. I really hope that I might be able to support you in that success. I am certain that you will be away celebrating today and may not read this until tomorrow or the day after. Enjoy your celebrations, have fun and relax – forget about IELTS for a few days and re-charge your batteries.

 

On this New Year’s Day, the eighth day of Christmas, I want to share something that you really should do for your writing in order to be sure you can get a high band score.

When it comes to IELTS writing students can be very neglectful. This is the one area that is almost impossible to improve alone. In fact trying to do this alone can be not only counter-productive but also dangerous to your score.

If you don’t know what mistakes you are making and if you don’t know exactly how to write a band 7 or 8 task and yet continue to practise alone you can actually learn mistakes that will become so ingrained in your writing that they will be very hard to eliminate. I see this, on a daily basis in students’ writing and I know that it is going to take a long time to unravel the errors.

If you use a teacher for nothing else use them to correct your writing. And, a native speaker who is not a trained teacher may not be able to help you with this either as although they will certainly know where your mistakes are they won’t necessarily be able to help you prevent them in future writing. Even general English language teachers only have limited skill when it comes to IELTS writing and many of them cannot show you exactly what you need to do to improve.

This is one area of IELTS that I feel really strongly about – I would say that the majority of my students are struggling to get their band in writing. Sometimes the other scores can be band 7.5 and 8 and even 9 yet the writing is still coming out at band 6 and 6.5.

The good news is that I can help you with this – ‘the last hurdle’ as one of my students put it.

To find out how I can help you I am inviting you to have a Skype call with me in January. In this call we can look at your IELTS and see what support you need to get the band that you want.

To get one of these Skype appointments you need to complete this questionnaire:

Questionnaire

I also have a special Christmas gift to offer – but you have to complete the questionnaire and book for one of these Skype calls.

 

 

Twelve Top Tips for IELTS

Today is New Year’s Eve, the very last day of the year and one which is celebrated all across the world. Here in the UK people celebrate in different ways. For the people of Scotland they have a huge celebration – more important than Christmas – called Hogmanay. Others prefer to celebrate in clubs or pubs with friends and some at home with family. Whatever the celebration chosen you can be sure it will go on well into the early morning. One tradition that is common here in the north of England is called ‘first footing’. The first person to enter a house in the New Year is believed to bring the fortune of that house for the rest of the year. Usually it should be a man – tall and dark haired. To avoid any mistakes in this, the tallest and darkest man in the New Year celebration (in our house it will usually be my husband) goes outside just before midnight and will knock on the door on the strike of midnight and enter with a piece of coal. He is then given a drink of whisky in return. The coal is to guarantee heat in the home and he usually needs the whisky to get warm again!! This act secures luck for the coming year. One year our red-haired dog got in first and it was one of the worst years we ever had!!

On this seventh day of Christmas, I want to share something that you must do in writing in order to be sure you can get a high band score.

I have written a story above about a New Year’s Eve celebration. Stories are nice, they are interesting and they can be fun – BUT they are not suitable for IELTS writing.

IELTS writing must be more formal (in academic language – except for the GT letter), objective and clear. Stories are the opposite they are subjective, creative and paint pictures and they use lots of tenses. If you are writing stories in your IELTS tasks then you are stopping yourself from getting a high score.

I know how to teach you to write an objective, academic task. I also know what the examiner is looking for because I used to be an examiner myself. I have great skill in this area. One thing I can tell you and it’s important – writing takes time to develop so you have to be patient but it will develop a lot faster if you know what you have to write to secure your high band.

I want to help you achieve this important writing skill and give you the chance to work with me and my team in January and February to make sure your IELTS is ready for band 7 and 8.

I am setting aside time during early January to speak to you about getting the help you need to get the IELTS score you want.

To get one of these Skype appointments you need to complete this questionnaire:

Questionnaire

I’m giving a special IELTS Christmas gift also – but you have to complete the questionnaire and qualify for one of these Skype calls.

Questionnaire

Not many people who have to write are able to do this automatically and without much thought – even professional writers. I am talking here about native speaker writers. So for those who have English as a second language think how much more difficult it will be to just sit and write.

How easy it will be to go off the topic, how hard it will be to see an overall pattern to the writing, how easy it will be to make many mistakes and how easy it will be to forget the time and not have enough spare minutes to check at the end of the test.

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IELTS writing

So here is my IELTS 10-step Writing Strategy.

The Ultimate Strategy for Moving your IELTS Writing from Band 6.5 to Band 7

One – make sure that you practise writing regularly. This doesn’t mean that you have to write lots of complete tasks every day. You could just begin by working on your introductions – use the question to do this. If you leave your writing practice to just before your exam your chances of producing a task that will hit band 7 or 8 are much reduced. Writing takes time to develop. Brainstorm the topics for task 2 and the letter or analyse the data for task 1 and write down some ideas that are connected. Look at the ideas and see which ones you can develop or write about well.

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There seem to be lots of IELTS myths going around about IELTS writing. Let me tell you that in my experience (and I’ve been teaching IELTS at bands 7 and 8 for well over 20 years) there are no short cuts, tricks or quick solutions to writing. The best way to improve your IELTS writing is to do it! You can read, watch YouTube videos, speak to teachers, ask friends and even contact examiners and they will all give you lots of advice all of which might be very good BUT unless you put your pen on to a sheet of paper and write that task none of it will make the slightest bit of difference to your writing. It’s a fact. It’s rather like trying to learn to drive from a book or manual and then expecting to take a driving test having never been inside a car.

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