IELTS Writing: Don’t Make This Mistake

One of the best things you can do in your IELTS Writing preparation is to carefully look over the official IELTS Writing band descriptors.

Look through the Coherence and Cohesion section and something should stand out for achieving band 7: Presents a clear central topic within each paragraph.

What does this mean? This means that you must talk about one idea and one idea only in each paragraph. One of the biggest and most common mistakes students make is that they try to fit two or three ideas into one paragraph. This is not good!

Now, you might be thinking: “If I just wrote about one idea per paragraph, I’d end up writing the shortest paragraphs in the world!”

Not so.

The trick is to look a section to the left of Coherence and Cohesion, to the Task Response. Read this closely, and you will see that you must present, extend and support your main ideas. Follow this, and you take your one idea from one short sentence to three or four sentences. The idea has been extended and supported. It has been developed.

Let’s look at an example. The question being asked isWhat are the advantages and disadvantages of studying abroad?

An advantage might be that studying abroad allows you to explore a new culture. This is our one central topic for the paragraph.

One advantage to studying abroad is that it allows us to explore new cultures. 

There. Simple first sentence. It’s clear what we are about to discuss, and it’s clear what we think. Now we need to extend it, by adding a reason for why this is an advantage:

This is important because experiencing new cultures can enable us to see things from a  new perspective, which often helps when we are struggling in our studies. 

This sentence is grammatically clear, and we have an idea about what the writer means. But it could be made even clearer with an example. This is where we support the main idea.

For example, a British art student might have trouble understanding Japanese art. However, if he went to study in Asia, he could overcome that problem because the new culture would have helped change his perspective. 

The sentence above is grammatically quite tricky (conditionals, modals). If you are comfortable using conditionals, they can be a perfect way to give an example whilst demonstrating your grammar abilities. But the most important thing is to be clear. Use the example to help clarify your idea, not to show off your language.

So. What do we have when we put it together? We have one central topic which has been presented, extended and supported, turning it into a fully developed idea. And that, friends, is very good indeed.

One advantage to studying abroad is that it allows us to explore new cultures. This is important because experiencing new cultures can enable us to see things from a  new perspective, which often helps when we are struggling in our studies. For example, a British art student might have trouble understanding Japanese art. However, if he went to study in Asia, he could overcome that problem because the new culture would have helped change his perspective.

One comment
  1. zulya March 15, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Very good. Understandable. Thanks