The key to writing a good IELTS essay is to use a process or system. To write an essay that will bring you success in the exam you need to think, not just about the result, but consider the process too. An essay is the product of a process and if you leave out just one step in the process the result may be less than ideal.
Writing a good IELTS essay starts with understanding the steps in the process and what the outcomes should be.
In this article you’ll learn the following.
- Why using a system or process is essential to the success of your essay?
- A recommended process with suggestions on how you should handle each step in the process
- An explanation of what can go wrong and what mistakes you’re likely to make if you skip that step in the process
Right at the end we’ll offer you a practice run
There is no magic formula to writing an excellent IELTS essay. There are other systems that may work equally well, but the secret is to have a system and to adapt that system to one that gives you the best results.
Stick to a process and you’ll avoid two serious problems
Incoherence – disjointed essays that cause confusion
You have a much better chance of ensuring that your essay is coherent if you use a set method to write it,. This is because with a method you would have gone through all the steps necessary to ensure coherence, moving from step 1 to step 2 to step 3 and so on. This means that you have given each part of the essay an equal level of importance. If you start with the end in mind without considering each step along the way, you may miss out on an essential stage of the process and end up with an essay which lacks coherence.
Answering the question with the wrong essay
Many students write essays in preparation for the exam. The problem with this is that, in your eagerness to answer with a carefully prepared essay, you may not answer the question as it has been asked.
It may also happen that the question that you are faced with may not fit any of the pre-planned essays that you had in mind. In which case it is useful to have a reliable process to help you to write that winning essay. If you have a process you can enter the exam room with confidence, knowing that you have a system that will allow you to answer almost any question that’s thrown at you. When you have learnt the process of answering IELTS exams it all gets a lot easier.
Before you start to write
Often this first step in the process is the part that is left out in the nervous tension at the start of the exam. Don’t be tempted to leave this step out.
Step 1 – read the question and understand what the examiner is asking
Make sure that you understand what question is being asked. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to go off on a tangent and fail to answer the question. IELTS questions are precisely worded and they require a specific answer. Time spent reading the question and understanding the requirements is time well spent. It is the surest way to ensure that you answer the question well.
IELTS is very specific and it is not okay to write about the general topic. Instead the answer must be very specific and pointed.
- You completely misunderstand the question
- The question looks like one that you have written in the past. You rewrite the same answer only to find that the question was not the same.
- Your essay is too general and doesn’t answer the question that was asked.
Step 2 – think about what you’re going to write
This is the stage at which you plan the essay, but you can’t just plan. You must think. Don’t just react with a ready-made essay which may or may not answer the question asked. You need to carefully read the question and decide how you can answer it using your language skills, your experience, and your knowledge.
Of course the essay that you have previously written may offer you some insights, vocabulary and even ideas, but make sure that what you use applies without doubt to the question which has been asked in the exam. It is as important that you consider parts of previous essays to include in the answer as it is to know what parts to exclude.
- You set off to write the exam without putting in enough thought and part way through you realize that you haven’t answered the question, or the essay is incoherent. Now it is too late to start again.
- You fail to answer the question asked.
Writing the essay
Every essay should have three parts, so it is useful to consider each part of the essay as a step in the process of essay writing.
Step 3 – writing the introduction
The introduction is an important step in the writing process. It sets the tone and gives the examiner the first impression of your skills and abilities, so if you get the introduction wrong you could start off on the wrong foot.
The introduction should link your answer to the question. You should, therefore, write the introduction considering both the question at hand and the body of the essay that you plan to write.
- You don’t link the question properly and identify its contents
- Your position in answering the question is unclear.
Step 4 – developing the essay ideas, your approach, and your explanations
In approaching the main body of the essay, you must ensure that answer that you give is not only clear, and accurately answers the question, it must also be coherent and well-structured. Divide your essay up into paragraphs that explain just one idea per paragraph. Ensure that you explain how your ideas relate to the question.
- Your ideas don’t adequately answer the question
- You have not supported your ideas with examples or reasons
- You have given plenty of detail but not made it clear how the details relate to the question.
Step 5 – Conclude your essay with a summary that completes the circle
Before you write your conclusion, you need to read through your essay and make sure that it is complete and coherent. Your conclusion should round off your essay and complete it. It should summarise the main points in the body and reflect the connection between the introduction and the question.
A good conclusion summarises the contents of the essay in as few words as possible.
- You fail to write a conclusion at all. An essay without a conclusion is, in fact, not an essay
- The conclusion doesn’t summarise the essay or it fails to answer the question.
Step 6 – read your essay
Unlike research papers or essays written as homework, you only get one chance at writing the exam essay. It’s a good idea to read your essay through at various intervals during the exam. Leaving this to the end may be too late. You should also read it once more when you get to the end to ensure that it makes sense and is a coherent whole.
Now for some practice
Take an essay that you have previously written and rewrite it. This is not an exercise in correcting errors in the prior essay, but rather an opportunity to take note of the process of writing an essay. The reason we use an old essay is because the ideas and vocabulary already exist. So, you can pay attention to the process, or the how of writing rather than the what.
Don’t worry too much about how long its takes, but pay attention to each phrase and ask yourself what you are trying to do all along the way
You can download or listen to the audio version here: