In this tutorial we look at a band 9 essay. Ellen gives some general writing advice like how important it is to know the band descriptors, analyze the question thoroughly and brainstorm BEFORE you begin to write anything.
In this tutorial you will learn:
- How an essay is analyzed according to the band descriptors (Task Achievement, Coherence & Cohesion, Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range & Accuracy)
- How an essay is organized so that the progression of ideas is logical
- What grammatical structures examiners are paying attention to
- What lexical items will impress your examiner
- Different ways to create cohesion that go beyond Furthermore, moreover and additionally
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Ellen: Hi there, IELTS podcast listeners. This is Ellen and I’m back today with another tutorial for you. Today, I want to look at a sample essay for task 2 and we’re going to look at what I believe would probably get a band score of a 9 and if well not a 9, then for sure over an 8. So, 8.5-9. So, I thought that was really useful for us to kind of look at this essay together and kind of pull it apart; look at all of its different elements, look at all of its different pieces to see why this would get a band score like that.
Before we get started with this particular essay, I think it would be really helpful if you could refer to the band descriptors. They’re available online. They’re readily available. You just have to type into your favorite search engine IELTS band descriptors task 2 and the public version of the band receptors will come up. It’s really useful, in general, to have this information, but for our purposes today to kind of see what makes this particular essay such a high-level essay, it’s useful to have that information with you.
|LET’S LOOK AT THE TOPIC|
Okay. So without further ado, let’s actually look at the topic. This is a topic from a couple of years ago I think. I believe it was located somewhere online. There’s always somebody posting some recent IELTS topics, test-takers who share their experience with other IELTS test-takers and say what essay they got during the test. So, that’s the source of this. I’m afraid it can’t be more specific because I just don’t know, but let’s actually look at what the topic was.
There are many reasons that can motivate a person to stay working for the same company. Some believe that money is the main reason. Do you agree or disagree? What are some other reasons why people may stay? Okay, so the first thing that we have to realize here is that this is a two-question essay where the first question is do you agree or disagree with the previous statement and the second question is what are some other reasons why people may stay?
So, if we were going to write this essay, a good rule of thumb is spend one paragraph on each of those questions. So, your first body paragraph would answer that do you agree or disagree statement and then explain our position and the second body paragraph would analyze some other reasons why people might stay in their job.
Okay. So, since we’ve got that beginning part of the essay where they kind of set up the situation for us, I do want to look at that part again because it is rather important for your essay. Looking at it again, it says there are many reasons that can motivate a person to stay working for the same company. So, here when we’re brainstorming, we need to think about what some of those reasons might be. What motivates us to stay in the same job, okay?
So, those are some things you should be asking yourself and then the assumption that the essay is making is that money is the main reason according to some [unintelligible 00:03:58.26] people. So obviously, in order to answer the first question in this essay, we have to ask ourselves well, do I agree or do I disagree? Is money the main reason why people stay in the same job?
So, the essay writer here took the position that no, money is not the main reason why we stay, which is an interesting position to take because I think a lot of people are kind of tempted to say well, yes. Of course, I’m going to agree with whatever the IELTS people are telling me, but in supporting the position, the writer actually makes some really interesting statements.
So, if we were going to write this, of course, we would have to jot down some notes, we would have to brainstorm and I really cannot emphasize how important this is. It is so important to spend three maybe four minutes reading the question over and then jotting down some important notes; both your main ideas about what you’re going to say and then some kind of keywords or statements as to how you’re going to support your position, okay?
So, really I cannot emphasize enough how important this is, but let’s go into what our writer here actually said about this topic and we’ll kind of pull it apart piece by piece to see why it would get a good score. So, here is the introduction.
The majority of our waking hours are spent at our place of business. Therefore, it is paramount that a person be happy where he works. For some people, the key to this happiness is adequate monetary compensation. In fact, they may remain in a position they do not enjoy solely for the purpose of money. I believe that people who follow this model are in the minority and by and large when people choose to remain at their companies, it is for reasons other than salary.
So, first of all, thinking about task achievement, did the person clearly express a position? Yes, absolutely. The writer says that people don’t– the majority people don’t stay in their position for money and they end up staying for other reasons, okay? So, it’s a disagree here and then they’re telling us that yes, I’m going to analyze these other reasons. So, in terms of task achievement, it’s well done.
In terms of coherence and cohesion, there’s a variety of cohesive devices used in this paragraph. We have some obvious ones like therefore, in fact, but then there are some other things like lexical cohesion and some pronouns. For example, in the second sentence, the writer says the key to this happiness, okay? So, this, of course, is a type of referring back to something that we’ve talked about before.
There are some pronouns like they. They may remain in a position they do not enjoy, all right? So again, it’s going back to this reference to people, okay? And there are a number of examples of this. Again in the next sentence, people who follow this model. So again, this is a type of cohesion. So, cohesion is handled really, really well here.
In terms of grammar, there are a number of advanced grammatical structures being used here. There are some simple things happening as well, but there are some really nice structures like in that– from the first sentence, we’ve got some passive voice: hours are spent. Then there’s also a bit of subjunctive: it is paramount that a person be happy. That’s an advanced grammatical structure. Also, there’s where he works. That’s a relative clause.
So, you can see that in one sentence, there are three different more advanced grammatical structures being used here. Let’s see… and then the rest of it is accurate, okay? It’s accurate. It’s at a good level, but I want to point out some of those things in terms of grammar.
Now, the vocabulary I think is super strong here. So, you’ve got words like paramount. You’ve got some collocations like adequate monetary compensation. You have things like by and large. So, a number of nice words happening, nice lexical resources and they’re precise. So, the person is capable of saying exactly what he wants to say and there really is no imprecision here. It’s all pretty well done.
Okay. So, let’s now look at the body paragraphs. Money is rarely the reason why people remain at a company. In fact, money is typically the reason why people leave. It is frequently easier for job seekers to negotiate a higher salary at a different company that is eager to hire them than it is to get a similar pay rise at the current place of employment. For this reason, people in search of higher positions and higher compensation, generally make strategic decisions regarding their career moves and rarely stay in the same company for a sizable period of their career.
Okay, so I would say that this is pretty clearly laid out. The person told us in the introduction that they disagreed and they said that money is not why people stay. In fact, it’s why people will go to a different job and then they spend the paragraph explaining this. That you get a better high salary when you switch jobs and so people who do have money as a motivating factor will probably switch jobs more often, okay?
So, this is a really clear example of a disagree and the whole paragraph is spent around this idea that people who have money as a motivating factor will not stay in the same job, okay? So, it’s pretty well done.
Now, in terms of cohesion, we have things like in fact. We have for this reason, all right? These start out a couple of the sentences in this paragraph. We have again a variety of pronouns. So, we have jobs seek– not job seekers, I’m sorry. We have them, we have their; in terms of pronouns. Again, we have for this reason and then we have again some synonyms, which also help create cohesion.
So, this is what I was trying to say when I said job seekers before. So, job seekers or people in search of higher positions. So, talking about these people using different– and this is interesting because this is both an example of cohesion because it’s linking together these people who are making these moves, but it’s also doing it in a way that shows the range of this person’s vocabulary. So, it’s really quite precise. The person has a variety of ways to refer to the same people, but with different words and so it’s kind of like killing two birds with one stone. It’s showing good cohesion.
It’s also showing good lexical resources, okay? So yes, you have things like job seekers. You have people in search of higher positions and then, of course, just the standard people. So, a variety of things happening here, okay?
In terms of some nice collocations in this paragraph, we have things like negotiate a higher salary, we have higher positions, we have higher compensation, we have strategic decisions– that’s really nice. We have a sizeable period of their career, which is also a nice collocation.
If I had any complaint really about the vocabulary in this paragraph, it would be with the overuse of the word higher because even that previous sentence I just said, you probably heard me use the word higher three times. So, higher salary, higher positions, higher compensation. There are other ways of saying this. There could have been a little more variety, but I think it’s a minor problem when you consider all the other lovely examples of vocabulary being used in this paragraph.
So, let’s move on and take a look at the second body paragraph which answers the question what are some other reasons why people may stay. Here it goes. Money aside, remaining at a company for a lengthy period of time may be of benefit to some. There are those who find the stress of changing companies overwhelming and prefer to remain in familiar territory. These are people who typically relish routine and dread the unknown.
Others may gain benefits of a different nature from staying at the same company. If the location is ideal, the benefits extraordinary or colleagues exemplary, money may not provide enough of a temptation to leave. Of course for some, money is nothing more than a necessary evil and they would never dream of factoring it into the equation of pursuing a new position.
So, thinking about this in terms of task achievement, has the person answered the question what are some other reasons people may stay? Well, from what I read, it looks to me like the writer chose to talk about three reasons why people may stay, okay? So, the first reason was that some people really just like familiarity. They don’t like change, okay and then the second one is talking about kind of these secondary benefits that people gain like location, nice colleagues, nice work environment and that money is not going to be something to sway them. And then the third thing that the person wrote here is that some people in terms of just ideals, in terms of life philosophy, they kind of consider themselves to be above money and would never factor that into a decision.
So, the person really talked about three other reasons why people might stay at a job. I think the writer did a nice job of talking about these. There might not have been a ton of analysis especially for that last one, but I think it was a nice attempt. I think there’s really not much more to say about it.
The person said money is nothing more than a necessary evil and they would never dream of factoring into the equation of pursuing a new position. So, yes. That’s a person who is just above money and really wouldn’t consider it. They find the other intrinsic values of working to be more important. So, I think the person does a nice job in terms of task achievement. Could they have possibly said more? Again, you could argue it both ways. Maybe yes maybe no, but I don’t think there are any major gaps in the argument here, okay?
So, let’s take a look at some of the cohesion that is being used in this essay. There are a variety of things being used here. I liked the link to the previous paragraph where it starts off money aside, okay? So, in other words, we’re not talking about money anymore and money being an issue, but there are other reasons, okay?
So, we have some pronouns. We have those. We have these. We have they, okay? We have it. So, these again are some pronouns that really create some cohesion here. There is not much here in terms of those kinds of front position cohesive devices that I know a lot of people like to use. I’m talking about the ones like furthermore, moreover, additionally.
In fact, there’s none of those here at all in this paragraph and I think this is a really important point to make here. I know a lot of test-takers think oh, I absolutely need to include these in my writing to make it cohesive and to show variety and I’m here to tell you no, you don’t because really sometimes these just act like a speed bump, a visual speed bump where the person has to pause mentally because of that word and the comma.
So, it just slows the reader down and so I hope that this is something you all gain from this tutorial today that there are a lot of other ways to glue your ideas together, to glue your sentences together. So, kind of try to steer away from some of these words and see if you can try adopting some of these things that we’re looking at here today in this essay.
Okay. So again, the central idea is pretty clear. The person makes it very clear I believe in that first sentence. So, remaining at a company can be beneficial to some people, okay? So, we’re talking about the fact that it’s not just the money. There are other things that make staying in a company an attractive option and so we realize that that’s what this paragraph is going to be about and the whole paragraph really focuses on that overall idea.
In terms of grammar, again, there are no grammatical mistakes that I could find at least. There is a wide range of structure being used. So, we’ve got lots of relative clauses. So, for example, there are those who find the stress of changing jobs overwhelming. We have some– we have a nice conditional statement here where it said if the location is ideal, the benefits extraordinary or the colleagues exemplary, money may not provide enough of a temptation.
Okay. So, that’s a lovely sentence. It’s advanced. It’s a conditional as I’ve already said and if you can use some of these in your writing, I know a lot of people try not to because they’re worried they’re not going to get the tenses quite right, but it’s a risk worth taking. Try to kind of adapt these and put them into your writing. Okay. So, that’s what’s going on in terms of grammar.
In terms of vocabulary, again, I thought there were some really lovely pieces of vocabulary here. So, for example, a lengthy period of time, the collocation of familiar territory, relish routine, dread the unknown, I liked this little expression benefits of a different nature, okay?
Let’s see and then I really liked the phrase money may not be– money may not provide enough of a temptation to leave. It’s just a nice expression lexically and it just flows and I think it’s very nice. Then, of course, there’s also necessary evil and the expression factoring it into the equation. So, some nice expressions. It definitely feels academic. There is some idiomatic language, but it’s the kind of academic idiomatic language that is absolutely appropriate in this setting, okay?
So, looking at the conclusion; clearly in the working world, money is a primary factor for some. People will accept or reject opportunities based on it. For others, a different ideology will lead their careers. Each chooses his path hoping always for the best.
Okay. So, here you might want to say that in terms of task achievement, there is a little flaw here and for me, the flaw is that it doesn’t clearly restate the writer’s position. That’s a little flaw here. I think that the writer could have restated his position just a little more clearly. I think it’s a little too vague. It’s kind of like a yes, some people will do this. Some people do that. In the end, hey, let’s just hope for the best.
So, I think this is a little maybe too literary for this kind of essay. For the purposes of IELTS, I would have liked to see a firmer conclusion really just restating again the writer’s position, but it’s still nicely written. There’s no question about that.
So, in terms of cohesion, there are a handful of things even in this tiny little paragraph that’s only three sentences long, but the writer still manages to get some cohesion in here. We have again pronouns: people will accept or reject opportunities based on it; it, of course, referring back to money.
The next sentence starts for others. So again, we’re talking about people. So, some people will do this, others will do this. So, again, it’s a nice type of cohesion here. And then the last sentence starts each chooses his path, so again referring back to people, but each time with a different word. So, this each here refers to people saying each person in other words.
Grammar again is perfectly controlled. It’s lovely. There’s nothing terribly advanced grammatically, but it’s still accurate and nicely dealt with and then, of course, there are a couple of pieces of vocabulary that are nice. We have in the working world. We have a primary factor and we have a different ideology, okay? So, that’s a nice example of vocabulary too.
Now, one thing I want to say here since this is the end of the essay, is I want to mention something about vocabulary. A lot of people are always very stressed out about their believed lack of topic vocabulary and what I want to point out today is if you want, listen to this podcast again and ask yourself how much specific topic vocabulary did we really discuss here? You’ll notice that all of those nice pieces of vocabulary that I mentioned were not really topic vocabulary.
They were just other vocabulary words. They were other lexical items that just really raise the level of this essay, okay? So, just look at the last example here. A different ideology, dread the unknown, strategic decisions. So, a lot of these are vocabulary items that could fit in many, many, many different essays, okay? So, what people need to understand– what IELTS test-takers need to understand is that overall, vocabulary needs to be at a high level and they don’t have to worry or stress out so much about this topic-specific vocabulary, okay?
So, we looked at this essay. We analyzed it paragraph by paragraph trying to utilize the band descriptors and seeing where it fell really into the different categories. So, as I said already, my assessment of this is that it’s definitely above an 8. I would say 8.5 probably maybe a 9 maybe, but certainly above an 8.
So, I’m interested to hear what you all think if you agree with this assessment or not. So, definitely feel free to send in your comments. I’d love to hear them and any other sort of comments you have about this particular essay. So, with that, I leave you. I wish you all the best of luck with your IELTS preparation. So, until the next time, good luck with your writing and with your IELTS preparation.
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