What Everybody Ought to Know About IELTS Essay Paragraph Structure
This tutorial goes into detail about writing strong coherent paragraphs for your IELTS writing task exam, specially task two.
What makes a good paragraph?
Well the first thing to remember is that your paragraphs should be logical, clear and coherent. In IELTS a body paragraph usually consists of 6-12 sentences that relate to ONE topic. In your paragraph, you may:
Explain the idea. Remember, if you have a new idea, start a new paragraph.
Express your opinion.
Give an example.
In IELTS usually all of the sentences in the same paragraph should stay with the same idea. If this is a challenge, if you have problems organising your thoughts you may want to look at the online course available here.
Ideas for your essays
Before you get to expressing your ideas on a paper, brainstorm for the ideas. If you’re now preparing for the exam, write every idea that comes to your mind. (Don’t worry if your mind goes blank, there is a tutorial for that here) Write them on a separate sheet of paper. During the exam, your time will be limited. Therefore, the more you train in generating ideas, the easier and faster you’ll complete the task when time comes. Don’t worry if you don’t like some ideas, you don’t necessarily have to include all of them in your future essay. Making a mind map with words or short phrases related to the topic is a great idea as well.
Remember the IELTS exam is a language exam, not an intelligence exam. Therefore the quality of your ideas is secondary (but they still must be logical!).
Planning your essay structure
Put numbers to your points. This way it’ll be easier to construct your essay. At the exam, you can make a list of ideas, have a look at it and give each point a number in order of importance. Above all, your points should follow a logical order. For example, parts of one and the same idea should be united in one paragraph. Besides, you may organize them in a chronological (time-related) order. Some authors suggest the strongest sentences at the end of each paragraph. This is also advantageous since it would be the last sentences the examiner sees.
Look at your list and start writing according to the numbers expanding the ideas. Do not forget that there are topic sentences and supporting sentences. A topic sentence is the one that states your idea, opinion or topic clearly and gives sufficient information to give details about in the next (supporting) sentences. Supporting sentences are the ones where you expand on the idea, add specific details and provide further explanation.
A Strong Topic Sentence
Pollution is undoubtedly one of the most complex challenges facing the world at the moment.
Why is this a strong topic sentence to start your paragraph with?
It’s clear, contains just one idea, provides enough to write about in your next supporting sentences.
Pollution, crime and poverty are very bad for the world, but environmental problems are probably going to be the most serious.
Why is this a weak topic sentence to start your paragraph with?
Attention too scattered over a few different topics
Pollution, crimeand povertyare very bad for the world, but environmental problems are probably going to be the most serious.
Very general, covers lots of problems with the world -doesn’t focus the examiner on what you will write about.
Strong or weak?
Nowadays pollution is a serious issue, especially for those living near industrial production hotspots.
This is strong, from the start we know the topic (pollution is the second word), and we have a good idea about what comes next in the essay (industrial hotspots).
This kind of sentence sets the paragraph up to follow a very useful rule when constructing paragraphs: GENERAL > SPECIFIC.
Linking Ideas in your paragraphs
Link your ideas and paragraphs. You may use conjunctions and comparison devices. The choice is rather large here. For example, you may use: “Nevertheless”, “Despite of”, “In addition” etc. Once you finish your essay, have a look at it once again. Pay special attention to the linking devices. If you notice “But” or “Also”, you may consider replacing them with “However’ and “In addition”, this will make your work sound more academic. This tutorial covers linking ideas in more detail.
Where do you put your opinion?
The most frequent question most students have is whether they should mention their opinion in the essay. If so, where should they put it. Our answer is – this is up to you to decide. In the majority of cases, it depends on whether you write too much or you can barely meet the required number of words. If it’s about the first case, do not mention your opinion in the body paragraphs. Write the paragraphs so clearly and coherently that the examiner is able to understand what your opinion is by reading them. If you have problems with meeting the required number of words, state your opinion in the conclusion and in any body paragraph.
Anyway, you have to state your opinion at least in the conclusion to fulfil the task. You will get less points if you never say, what you personally think about the problem discussed in the essay.
My personal recommendation here is to write your body paragraphs so your opinion is clear without having to be explicitly expressed. This way you avoid redundant repetition when it come to explicitly expressing your opinion in the conclusion.
A fast way to improve your essays?
If you are feeling a little lost regarding IELTS task two, don’t worry most students face terrible confusion over this task. It’s often the reason a lot of students are stuck at 6.5 🙁
If this is your situation you may want to stop taking IELTS exams for a month or two and focus on really improving your IELTS writing skills. To be serious about scoring a 7 or more in the exam you need to master your language skills and your IELTS exam skills. If you feel stuck at 6.5 then try getting some feedback on your essays. Click here to learn about the IELTSPodcast.com essay correction service. www.ieltspodcast.com/essay-correction-service