Archive for category: IELTS Speaking

IELTS Writing Task 2 Guide for Academic and General Exams

Q. What is the best structure for IELTS writing task 2?

The structures below are based on extensive analysis of IELTS Band 9 model essays written by IELTS writing examiners. The templates taught in this course are designed to satisfy all the task requirements (Task Achievement), present ideas in a logical order and provide crystal-clear transitions between ideas (Coherence and Cohesion), as well as suggest sentence skeletons with appropriate vocabulary (Lexical Resource) and complex structures/passive constructions (Grammatical Range and Accuracy).

Memorizing these structures allows you to completely forget about Task Achievement and Coherence and Cohesion and focus on vocabulary and grammar. The reason why is these templates guarantee that you will provide the required information in the best possible order. Memorizing these templates means that you can focus on your message and not worry about whether or not you are including enough information or arranging it correctly. That is taken care of for you completely!

Full templates, explanations, and Band 9 examples are available in the course.

Q. How many paragraphs should my essay be?

I strongly recommend 4 paragraphs for all essay types. The reason is that it’s very difficult to develop more than 2 body paragraphs in the given time of 40 minutes. The templates below are based on many years of experience training students. They are not the only way to structure your essays, but in my opinion, they are the best way given the constraints of the IELTS examination:

  1. For agree/disagree essays, the 2 body paragraphs cover the 2 supporting reasons for your position.
  2. For 2 perspectives plus opinion essays, the 1st body paragraph summarizes the perspective you disagree with while the 2nd body paragraph summarizes the perspective you agree with and indicates that this is also your opinion.
  3. For advantages or disadvantages essays, the 2 body paragraphs cover the 2 supporting reasons for your position. There is no need to cover both sides of the issue for this essay type.
  4. For advantages and disadvantages essays, the 1st body paragraph summarizes the 1st perspective and the 2nd body paragraph summarizes the 2nd perspective.
  5. For advantages/disadvantages plus opinion essays, the 1st body paragraph summarizes the perspective you disagree with while the 2nd body paragraph summarizes the perspective you agree with and indicates that this is also your opinion.
  6. For causes and solutions essays, the 1st body paragraph deals with the causes of the problem while the 2nd body paragraph deals with the solutions.
  7. For double questions, the 1st body paragraph answers the 1st question and the 2nd body paragraph answers the 2nd question.

The introduction always follows the same structure:

  • Paraphrase the prompt.
  • Write a thesis statement which gives a direct answer to every part of the question. Your position on the issue must be crystal-clear! You do not need to summarize your reasons at this point, and there is a clever but very simple way to do this, which is taught in the course. This is one of the few “secret hacks” that will save you effort, time, and mistakes.

Overall, the best body paragraph structure for fully developed responses is T.R.E.E.S.

  • Topic
  • Reason
  • Evidence
  • Example
  • Significance*

The conclusions always follows the same structure:

  • Write a full thesis statement which directly answers every part of the question and summarizes your reasons.
  • You can end your essay with an observation and/or prediction. This is not a requirement of the task – it is not in the instructions or on the rubric – but helps to round off your essay if you feel that it has ended too abruptly.

 

This is the most powerful all-purpose writing template ever developed. It works because you only need to remember one, and it’s infinitely adaptable.

In the past, I used numerous templates for different types of essays, but this confused students in terms of which one they needed to use. Using this one eliminates confusion. It works in ALL situations.

This template is easily adaptable to any writing situation. Sometimes it makes sense to describe an example before explaining your point in detail. At other times, you will need to provide more than one reason. Occasionally, not every T.R.E.E.S. element is needed (this is rare). You can also write one paragraph that describes a research study in detail, and then the next paragraph with an extended personal example. However, if you stick to the T.R.E.E.S. template for your body paragraphs, IT WORKS 100% EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Everything is explained in detail in the course:

  • Full explanations
  • Detailed paragraph templates with sentence skeletons (suggested template sentences for ALL SENTENCES in the essay)
  • Writing exercises
  • Band 9 models written by current and former examiners, with analysis that shows you how all the parts of the essay work together
  • As well, you can have your writing checked by a former examiner and academic writing teacher with 20 years of academic English training experience. We follow the same process that professional writers use to improve their writing skills. It will work for YOU too!

*Note

  • The significance statement at the end of a body paragraph explains how your example supports the main point you’re making in that paragraph, i.e. it connects directly to that paragraph’s topic sentence. It often starts with “Thus, for that reason…”

 

What’s the difference between Band 5, Band 6, and Band 7 speaking?

These are official speaking samples from IELTS. They are marked according to this rubric (click here for the PDF):

IELTS speaking assessment criteria

 

Band 5

The examiner gave this a Band 5 for the following reasons:

  • Fluency and coherence: Despite the long answers, coherence is lost due to hesitation.
  • Lexical resource: Good vocabulary; errors do not interfere with communication.
  • Grammar: Uses only a limited range of complex structures; frequent errors with verb tenses, subject verb agreement.
  • Pronunciation: Speaking is overly syllable-timed; stress and intonation are okay; some words/sounds are mispronounced.

 

Band 5.5

The examiner gave this a Band 5.5 for the following reasons:

  • Fluency and coherence: Despite the long answers, coherence is lost due to “repetition and self-correction”, linking words/phrases not always being used appropriately, and word order problems.
  • Lexical resource: Problems with word classes (“famous” vs. “fame”, “social workers” vs “social work”); errors somewhat interfere with communication.
  • Grammar: Significant word order problems; frequent errors
  • Pronunciation: Rapid speech rate negatively affects rhythm; flat intonation (and sometimes inappropriate rising intonation at the end of sentences); problems with certain sounds (“vork” vs “work”, “evryting” vs “everything”)

Band 6

The examiner gave this a Band 6 for the following reasons:

  • Fluency and coherence: Despite the long answers, coherence is lost due to “repetition, self-correction, and hesitation”; being unable to answer one question; linking words/phrases not always being used appropriately; excessive use of fillers such as “how to say/how do you say”.
  • Lexical resource: Problems with collocations (which rarely interfere with communication)
  • Grammar: Despite the variety of sentence structures, overall control of grammar is inconsistent (although these errors do not hinder communication).
  • Pronunciation: Speech is divided into “meaningful word groups with good use of stress and intonation” (vs. being syllable timed); problems with certain sounds (“bose” vs “both”, “zen” vs “then”, “word vs “world”) somewhat hinder communication.

Band 6.5

The examiner gave this a Band 6.5 for the following reasons:

  • Fluency and coherence: The candidate is able to speak at length without much repetition.
  • Lexical resource: There is a wide range of vocabulary, including correct collocations. Word choice problems do not interfere with comprehension.
  • Grammar: Despite verb tense problems, there are frequent error-free sentences with a range of complex structures.
  • Pronunciation: In general, the candidate speaks clearly. Despite a strong accent, only individual words are mispronounced..

Band 7

The examiner gave this a Band 7 for the following reasons:

  • Fluency and coherence: “speaks at length without noticeable effort or loss of coherence; may demonstrate language-related hesitation at times, or some repetition and/or self-correction; uses a range of connectives and discourse markers with some flexibility”
  • Lexical resource: Occasional word choice issues
  • Grammar: Uses a variety of complex sentence structures and produces many error-free sentences. However, there are verb tense issues.
  • Pronunciation: “Very natural pronunciation”; good use of intonation and stress; accent does not impede intelligibility. Some problems with certain sounds.