Tips for IELTS Writing
Part 1 Writing in the academic section of the IELTS exam is one of the most challenging parts of the test. This is due to both the nature of the task, which is to analyze data, and due to the time restraints of only 20 minutes coupled with the need to produce over 150 words. Therefore in this article I will provide 5 simple steps to help with this process.
Step 1: Deciding what information to focus on.
This decision must be made quickly due to limited time and yet if done incorrectly then it can lead to a lower score. When deciding which information to focus on the candidate should look for trends within the data whilst being aware they cannot explain everything and avoid making any personal comments on the data given. For example:
The Table below shows the results of a survey asking 6800 Scottish adults (aged 16 years and over) whether they had taken part in different cultural activities in the past 12 months.
The candidate could first focus on the most popular cultural activities for all groups, “Any performance” and the least popular, computer based. Further trends to highlight include visual arts are significantly more popular among young people than older people, who prefer taking part in craft activities. What shouldn’t be done is to speculate, so avoid making statements such as “I think this is due to the fact young people like playing video games but older people do not.”
Step 2: Writing an introductory sentence.
This stage requires the candidate to read the question carefully and then provide a paraphrased version as a first sentence in their writing to show understanding of the question. For example:
The Table below shows the results of a survey that asked 6800 Scottish adults (aged 16 years and over) whether they had taken part in different cultural activities in the past 12 months.
This could be changed to:
The table highlights the outcome of a survey in which 6800 people over 16 from Scotland were asked about their participation in cultural activities over the year.
The information the candidate provides should be exactly the same as the question but the way of expressing in their own words.
Step 3: Structure
In a part 1 writing aim for 4 main sections. The introductory sentence (as above), the overview, the other trends and a final comment on general trends. The overview is where the candidate looks at the general picture the data shows. Often this begins with a statement such as “Overall it can be seen that…” and then the main point can be highlighted. For my example question:
“Overall it is clear that the most popular cultural activity among all age groups is “Any participation” with 22 percent of the total, while the least popular is use of computers which only has a 6 percent participation rate ”
Then the candidate can write about the other trends she wishes to focus on in more detail before finishing the writing with a general comment.
“From the data shown it is clear there is a significant difference in cultural activities according to the age of the participants.”
Step 4: Vocabulary:
The above advice will provide a candidate with decent structure to their essay in part1, but if a candidate wishes to achieve a high score they must show their vocabulary range. Vocabulary range can be shown through use of synonyms rather than repetition. For example an increase can also be described as a rise or as something going up, thus showing that the candidate can use a variety of vocabulary. In addition to this using different words types effectively will aid a high score. We can talk about a rise or we can say something rose. If the candidate then starts to add colour and make their answer more specific with adverbs and adjectives; a significant rise, or the figure increased dramatically or the figure gradually went up then a better piece of writing emerges. Finally when showing vocabulary range the candidate should also consider how the type of data he or she is describing can be expressed differently. In the previous example we looked at participation in cultural activities, this could also be expressed as people taking part in cultural activities or people engaged in cultural activities. If the candidate can show the examiner that they can describe this data in a variety of ways they will obtain a better score.
Step 5: Proof reading and editing.
This is perhaps the simplest stage and only requires around 3 minutes but is often forgotten by candidates. Allow time to read over your work and look for spelling mistakes, misuse of word type, grammatical slips and mistakes in the numbers used. This can be practiced with any writing a candidate does and if a candidate knows anyone else studying for the test peer evaluation and correction can be useful to practice and to get some help in noticing errors the candidate commonly makes.
In this article I have looked briefly at 5 steps for a candidate to improve part 1 writing skills. Though part 1 is challenging due to the time constraints, it does follow more of a formula than part 2 writing where the candidate must express their feelings, so with practice and applying some of this advice, a candidate is likely to improve their score.
By Robert Watson