How can a native speaker score band 7 in IELTS Writing?

Many native speakers have to take IELTS for immigration purposes. Their writing is judged in exactly the same way as that of non-native speakers, because not all native speakers reach the same level of literacy. Many professionals rarely write in their day-to-day life. In fact, many may not have had to write in any formal way since high school, where they may also have struggled to reach a high level in their English exams.

Native speakers who have achieved a high level of education may assume that this will be recognised by the examiner and rewarded accordingly. They may even feel that they do not need to study for the test. However, IELTS is a formal qualification and, as with all tests, if you want to be successful, you should always be aware of what is involved and how you will be assessed. The criteria used to assess answers are applied in the same way whether candidates are native speakers or not.

The following sample answer from Cambridge Practice test book 8 demonstrates this. First look at the question and sample answer and try to identify 2 main problems.

Hopefully you can see that there are 2 main problems:

  1. there are no paragraphs
  2. the candidate has ignored half of the question

Nevertheless, the language used is very natural and almost without errors, which tells us that this is most likely to have been written by a native speaker.

The examiner has awarded this answer band 7. Let us look at how the answer achieved this score.

The vocabulary and grammar scores are clearly band 9. The main issues are with Task response (the candidate ignored part of the task) and Coherence and cohesion (the lack of paragraphs). These two issues have clearly had a significant impact on the overall score. To help show why, here I have tried to identify the main ideas and divide the answer up into separate ‘paragraphs’:

When we separate the answer in this way, we can clearly see that some of the ideas are not as fully developed as others (band 6 Task response). In task response, references to ‘the task’ and ‘the question’ mean ALL of the task and ALL of the question. We cannot see elements of band 8 or 9 here because half of the task and half of the question are omitted. Band 7 also requires ALL of the task to be completed. In fact, for Task response, this answer would be classed as band 5.  Some may argue that there are ‘fully extended and well supported ideas’ here (band 9) but as this is not done for all of the question, the band 5 features dominate (addresses the task only partially and the format is inappropriate).

Similarly, for Coherence and cohesion we can now see that the organisation is not always logical (the answer jumps from local travel to international holidays, then back to local travel), which is a feature of band 6 Coherence and cohesion.  Thus, the logical sequencing mentioned in band 8 is missing, as is the ‘logical progression’ that shows band 7.  We cannot see a ‘clear progression of ideas’ here, and there is no clear main idea identified within each ‘paragraph.’ In fact, I had to try to identify what these main ideas were myself.  In spite of the accurate use of cohesive devices, and the fact that the ideas are coherent, the answer again shows features of band 6 and band 5. Nevertheless, the band 5 descriptor mainly applies here: ‘there may be a lack of overall progression’ and ‘may not write in paragraphs.’

So, although the vocabulary and grammar fall under band 9, the Task response and Coherence and cohesion scores are a confusing mix of band 6 and band 5, with band 5 dominating. As a result, the overall score is band 7, but could so easily have been band 9 if the candidate had answered ALL of the question, planned their answer, and organised their ideas effectively.

This is a good reminder that, to achieve band 7 or above in IELTS writing, you must study more than just language.

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Recent Comments

  • Puck
    21st August 2019 - 6:55 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a question about one of the sample answers in Cambridge Book 12, test 4. The sample is scored 5 and in the examiner’s comments it is written: ‘Organisation is evident, however the answer lacks contextualisation’.
    What does contextualisation mean here and why is it important in coherence & cohesion in writing?
    Thank you so much in advance.

  • Ruth Kennel
    17th August 2019 - 8:19 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    Thank you for your website and books. In your free book you said that we don’t have argument essays and discussion essays, you actually said there are no task types. In the official IELTS website it says that in task 2 you will be assessed on your ability to
    1) provide general factual information
    2) outline a problem and present a solution
    3) present and possibly justify an opinion
    4) evaluate and discuss ideas, evidence or an argument
    Can you give me an example for number one please? Also I can’t see how this is different from this classification
    1) problem-solution
    2) opinion (to what extent do you agree or disagree)
    3) discussion (discuss both views and give your own opinion)
    I really appreciate your help.

    • Pauline
      19th August 2019 - 1:00 pm · Reply

      Hi Ruth, as I explain in the book, people believe that there are different ways to respond to these different ‘types’ whereas there is only one way (to discuss and make your own opinion clear). The different questions are just a way to force a range of language, contexts, and ideas. The problem with the list you give here is that for numbers 1, 2 and 3, you have to ‘discuss all of the ideas and give your own opinion.’ When people use a list like this they tend to then argue that ‘you must not give your own opinion’ Does this answer your question?

      • Ruth
        20th August 2019 - 10:28 am · Reply

        Many thanks for your reply Pauline, I see your point, but what is the reason for classifying task types in the official IELTS website? Do you think it is possible to classify real test questions from cambridge books according to this classification and say which question belongs to each group? And would you mind giving an example for the first group (provide general factual information)? I really appreciate it.

        • Pauline
          20th August 2019 - 12:10 pm · Reply

          I don’t agree that they are classifying them – they are simply giving examples. The only reason I make this point strongly in my book is because of the misinformation I have seen that keeps people stuck at band 6.5. The difference is that people believe / conclude that each ‘type’ should be approached differently and they then set different ‘rules’ for each ‘type’. This is not correct. They’re just different ways of asking you to produce a formal discursive essay that discusses an issue and makes your position on that issue clear. I have managed to get some people from years of being stuck at band 6.5 to band 7 by simply changing this mindset about ‘types’ because as a result of that belief they often did not discuss all of the task and / or did not give their position on it.

  • Hamza Iqbal
    1st May 2019 - 5:00 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    Please assess my essay.
    Famous pop and sports stars earn millions of dollars each year. On the other hand, most people in ordinary professions like nurses, doctors and teachers earn only a small fraction of the incomes of these stars.
    What do you think about stars receiving very high salaries?
    Is it fair that people with jobs that directly help people are paid less?

    Pay disparity among popular stars and professionals, such as doctors, is universally present. Whereas young sportsmen and media persons make large amount of money and enjoy a luxurious life, noble professionals, like teachers and lawyers, make only enough to fulfil their basic necessities which is not at all fair.
    Sportsmen and artists are famous throughout the world due to the distinguished talent they possess. They entertain people without any discrimination of cast and creed. Therefore, with such extensive following they deserve to be paid well. However, most of the stars realize their duty towards the downtrodden and do a lot of charity as well. Jacky Chen, for example, recently donated almost all of his wealth to a social organization working for unprivileged children.
    On the other hand, people involved in honorable jobs also deserve to be remunerated equally well. They devote their lives in helping others and get almost nothing in return. For instance, Dr. Ruth Pfau, devoted all her life to cure the people of Pakistan, but hardly made enough to own herself a house. Additionally, employees of non-profitable organizations also need to have handsome salaries, as they are the ones who travel to remote areas, risk their lives and help people. Such employees can earn better salaries if they work in multinational firms, however they let go their desires to help others.
    Showbiz stars and athletes attract and amuse masses and also donate money to help poor around the world with their hefty salaries. Doctors, teachers and many others linked with these noble occupations also deserve handsome salaries as their job is far superior to any other profession.

      • Hamza Iqbal
        2nd May 2019 - 11:02 am · Reply

        Hello Pauline,
        I have read these chapters and I was given this question by my IELTS instructor who ensured me that the question is from one of IELTS test. However, I will write an essay taking a question from one of your books. Please guide me with it.
        Regards

        • Pauline
          2nd May 2019 - 11:20 am · Reply

          Previous test question papers are not released. Instead people try to remember the question then share it online. When they do this, they make changes to the question based on 1) their English level (in terms of both their own use of grammar and vocabulary and their understanding and how they interpreted the question), 2) how accurate their memory is, 3) how the think/believe questions are written. Even small changes or omissions make a big difference.

  • sasha
    26th February 2019 - 3:41 pm · Reply

    Hi again,
    for instance the following paragraph on the topic whether museums should be free for everyone

    If museums are not funded by the government, they will be forced to charge for entry, and this will inevitably deter many potential visitors, especially the poor. We should also bear in mind that museums have both entertainment and educational value and are a crucial source of inspiration for many people, and it seems quite unfair to deprive a proportion of the population who cannot afford the entry fee of such a valuable experience. Therefore everybody should be able to visit them regardless of their financial means.

    • Pauline
      26th February 2019 - 5:04 pm · Reply

      It is difficult to judge the paragraph in isolation but ‘We should also bear in mind’ seems an odd connector here – I don’t think you are adding another point, instead you are explaining / expanding on it. (I would say ‘It is important to bear in mind’ and omit ‘also’) I would also argue that you DO provide an example here to support the idea that everyone should be allowed free entry to museums (you state that they are a source of entertainment and education). So you are including an example. I have reworded your paragraph to show how it is serving as an example:

      If museums are not funded by the government, they will be forced to charge for entry, and this will inevitably deter many potential visitors, especially the poor. Modern-day museums have both entertainment and educational value, and are a source of inspiration for many people, and it seems quite unfair to deprive those who cannot afford the entry fee of such a valuable experience. Therefore, in my view, everybody should be able to visit them regardless of their financial means.

      Does that answer your question about examples?

      • sasha
        26th February 2019 - 5:33 pm · Reply

        I can clearly see the point you’re making here, and I understand that your point is that there are many ways of mentioning an example in a paragraph, but the main thing is for the example to support the main idea. I also understand that it is hard (or maybe even impossible) to write an essay with all the features of an 8 or 9 without using examples. But my question is from the assessor’s point of view, does the examiner look in particular for examples to decide on the band score for TR (as they do to see if all parts of the task is covered), I mean does the examiner see examples as a part of the task that MUST be covered?
        (I understand if you lose patience at any point with me asking too many questions)

        • Pauline
          26th February 2019 - 5:49 pm · Reply

          Yes, the examiner will look for the support for your ideas – it may help to see this support as ‘proof’ that what you are saying applies in the real world. This is often examples and these may be examples similar to those that you and I have both used and do not need to begin ‘For example..’ People are told you ‘MUST’ include an example they interpret this to mean that they have to invent one if they cannot think of a study or aunt/uncle/cousin to use. Some people are even being told that they MUST provide an example like that for every idea in their paragraph, which is resulting in 3 ‘examples’ per paragraph each beginning ‘For example’ and each one invented. When someone says ‘you MUST use examples’ they need to think about how people hear that advice. This is my point.

  • Sasha
    26th February 2019 - 11:14 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    I’m a fan of your books and apps, thank you for that. I have a question about the writing section of official guide to ielts, in thay book you’ve written that the answer MUST include reasons, and the answer CAN include relevant examples. But doesn’t this part of the prompt “include any relevant examples from …” mean we MUST include relevant examples?

    • Pauline
      26th February 2019 - 12:01 pm · Reply

      Hi Sasha, the instructions say ‘include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.’ If you do not have any relevant examples from your knowledge or experience then it would be very unfair to insist that you MUST do this. The best way to interpret this instruction is like this: ‘because you do not have access to reference materials, research, or studies in this test, you should use examples from your own experience to support your ideas instead’. My main point about examples is that the instructions do not mean that you MUST write sentences like this:
      ‘If you do not have qualifications it is difficult to get a good job. For example, last year my cousin was unable to get a job because…’
      When people believe that they tend to invent an example, which is then unlikely to be relevant or to help support their ideas.

      Instead, it means you should use what you know about the world (through your experience of it) to explain your ideas, like this:
      If you do not have qualifications it is difficult to get a good job. In fact most job advertisements specify some form of formal qualification.

      Does that help?

      • Sasha
        26th February 2019 - 12:24 pm · Reply

        It certainly does, so it is possible to still achieve an 8 or 9 in writing without including any examples (at least in theory)? In other words, it’s not a requirement of the task and as you said we CAN use examples from our own experience because we have no access to other research materials, am I right? Actually, the reason why I’m asking this is because I saw this in a video by a so-called IELTS teacher that the examiner looks to find an example and if they can’t find any examples, task response is 5 because you have addressed the task only partially, now according to what you have said this sounds nonsensical.

        • Pauline
          26th February 2019 - 12:28 pm · Reply

          My point is that I did include ‘an example based on my own experience’ in the second version. The example I gave was that most job advertisements specify the need for a formal qualification – this supports the idea that qualifications are necessary to get a good job. The examiner will be looking for support for ideas – too often this is missing and people just make statements without explaining or supporting them – that is what will score band 5. When people refer to examples this is not limited to a sentence that says ‘For example….’
          If you have access to Cambridge test book 10, the sample answer on page 162 illustrates this nicely. You will not find the word ‘example’ in the answer, but the ideas are supported using the writer’s experience and knowledge.

          • Sasha
            26th February 2019 - 1:08 pm ·

            I understood that part, but if I can provide enough support for my ideas using explanations, I don’t have to force myself to include an example, right?

      • lieka
        26th February 2019 - 4:40 pm · Reply

        Hi Pauline,
        Can you explain why it is a bad example to say that “my cousin was unable to get a job because …”? Doesn’t it support the idea that qualifications are necessary to get a job?

        • Pauline
          26th February 2019 - 4:49 pm · Reply

          If you read chapter 7 of The key to IELTS Success you will understand why people are asking about this. My main point is that you shouldn’t invent examples.

          • Pauline
            26th February 2019 - 5:06 pm ·

            Absolutely, but the vast majority I see are clearly invented. I really recommend you read chapter 7 of The Key to IELTS Success to understand the point. My point is that not every example has to begin with ‘For example,…’

          • lieka
            26th February 2019 - 5:44 pm ·

            Thank you, I have read the whole book and I really enjoyed it, but honestly when I was reading it I had the same problem with the page “inventing examples”. I mean the examiner has no means to verify whether this is a genuine example or an invented example. If it serves the purpose of supporting it has to be fine to use it.

          • Pauline
            26th February 2019 - 5:54 pm ·

            100% of the invented examples I have seen did not support the main idea and so did not improve the score. These examples were all included because the writer was following confusing advice about examples – often this advice says something like ‘you must have one example per paragraph’ (I have even seen one that said you need 3 examples per paragraph). This results in paragraphs that follow this pattern: Sentence. Sentence. Sentence beginning For example.

            These people are including an example not because it will really help them to explain their ideas but because they have read ‘you must have one example per paragraph.’ What my book says is this: if you can think of an example that is really relevant, and will help to explain your point, great, use it! If not, find another way to explain and support your idea so that the reader is sure of what you mean.

  • Kim
    15th February 2019 - 6:59 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    My friend had the IELTS test today, and this was her question “Some people think that the main purpose of schools is xxx, rather than yyy’. To what extent do you agree or disagree?” For band 7 or higher, do we have to talk about both groups? Those who say the purpose is xxx and those who say yyy? Even if I entirely agree with one side, I need to talk about both sides? Thank you for helping me.

    • Pauline
      15th February 2019 - 10:21 am · Reply

      Hi Kim, I have edited your comment because I do not share exam questions in any way. As with every question where 2 sides of an issue are mentioned, you always need to discuss both equally. Always. So, for example, you would need to discuss why you believe that the purpose of a school is to xxx and not to yyy. You cannot show agreement about xxx without discussing yyy.

  • shin
    11th February 2019 - 2:04 pm · Reply

    hi Pauline,
    in your vocabulary book in one of the sample essays it is written whoever controls the media often has control over what is published or broadcasted, I couldn’t find broadcasted in my dictionary. Is this a printing problem or is this used in British English?

    • Pauline
      11th February 2019 - 4:12 pm · Reply

      Both broadcast and broadcasted are allowed – the latter is more common in the US I believe. If you type ‘broadcasted’ into the Cambridge online dictionary you will find it listed there.

  • Jahangir
    11th February 2019 - 11:23 am · Reply

    Dear Pauline ,
    Thanks for the informative response! I now see what a clear purpose means. I have one more question. What doses a balanced essay mean ?! You belabor the point that one has to address all the parts EQUALLY, if I am not mistaken , to produce such a balanced essay.
    The word EQUALLY seems a bit vague to me. Does this mean we have to present an equal number of ideas for all the parts, say , two advantages and two disadvantages.
    What if we present more advantages, say,3, and two disadvantages because we favour the advantages?!

    • Pauline
      11th February 2019 - 11:33 am · Reply

      It isn’t about making a precise number of points. If you are still thinking in terms of numbers instead of communicating your ideas then you won’t progress. ‘Balanced’ isn’t vague, it means ‘equally’ – in other words, if you write about one side in a paragraph then you must devote a paragraph to the other ‘side’ or other aspect of the question. Not just a sentence or two at the end. It may help you to think about what an unbalanced response would look like. Usually this is an essay where you have been asked to discuss both problems and solutions / advantages and disadvantages / two different opinions / two separate issues related to one topic and the candidate writes 1 very long paragraph or even 2 paragraphs about one part, but only a very short paragraph about the remaining part. This is not equal and it comes from a lack of planning.

  • Jahangir
    11th February 2019 - 5:53 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    Could you please tell me what A CLEAR PURPOSE (GT1) means ?! Does this mean A CLEAR PURPOSE THROUGHOUT the letter ?! If yes , how ?! There are descriptors which make this difficult for me to understand like A PURPOSE THAT IS GENERALLY CLEAR (Band 6) or A PURPOSE THAT IS UNCLEAR AT TIMES
    (Band 5).

    • Pauline
      11th February 2019 - 9:30 am · Reply

      If it meant ‘throughout’ then it would say that. GT task 1 is a letter – you need a reason to write a letter. This is given to you at the beginning, but many people – especially lower level ones, or people who are following bad advice – ignore it. As long as you don’t ignore the information you are given and write in response to that, then your reason for writing (your purpose) will be clear. For example, if you are asked to apply for a job, then the purpose of your letter will be to apply for a job or position. Ignoring the prompts and the situation is what leads to these problems, as long as you are not doing that then you do not need to worry.

  • Jahangir
    9th February 2019 - 6:45 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    Here is the context :
    I am usually coming along that bit of road at about ten.As I was going past the old barn, I saw a single bright blue light going across the road in front of my car. I stopped the car and was watching it for about fifteen minuets.

    My question is whether we can use a duration with the past continuous in English.

    • Pauline
      9th February 2019 - 7:25 pm · Reply

      So, as I said in my last response, the only context I can imagine using the past perfect with a specific duration is one where you are being asked to account for every minuet of your time, as in a polite report. That is what this looks like to me. The speaker is saying ‘during that 15-minute period, this is what I was doing’ If you are doing Gt and were asked to write a report of an accident in task 1, then you might be able to use it then?

  • Jahangir
    9th February 2019 - 6:01 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    Is it natural to use the past continuous with a duration like this?! I stopped the car and WAS WATCHING IT FOR ABOUT FIFTEEN MINUTES.(Grammar and Vocabulary for ADVANCED by Martin Hewings, page 13).

    • Pauline
      9th February 2019 - 6:06 pm · Reply

      It’s not unusual in certain circumstances – i.e. when you are being asked to give a precise account of exactly how you spent your time (e.g. if the police asked for this information!). I cannot think of any occasion when you might need to use in in IELTS though. I’m curious to know why the person was watching the car they had just been driving?

  • Rohit
    9th February 2019 - 4:16 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    I am facing a few issues while attempting certain writings. I think you are the one who can guide me. This is the recent IELTS writing GT
    “Some people prefer to buy local products while others prefer international products. To what extent do you agree or disagree?”
    I am entirely confused about the introduction and conclusion. I think the question should be like discuss both the sides but here it is ” what extent do you agree”
    I shall be thankful to you for this.

    • Pauline
      9th February 2019 - 4:31 pm · Reply

      Hi Rohit, If you have read my free book, The Key to IELTS Success, you will know that you should not use test questions that you find online. If these are presented as a ‘recent’ test question then they are always changed by 1) the memory of the person who shared it 2) their English level 3) the way that they interpreted the question 4) they way that they believe test questions are written. This makes the questions inauthentic. As we see here, the question ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree?” does not match the statement you are given and is not a GT writing test question format. This is probably why you are confused about how to answer it. I would not know how to answer it myself.

  • Vishal
    9th February 2019 - 4:09 pm · Reply

    Dear Madam.
    I need your opinion about the structure I followed in my writing.

    Intro- I mentioned that I believe that it has more disadvantages
    BP1- 1st drawback (Detrimental for health)
    BP2- 2nd drawback (More money will be required as it is expensive to buy fast food from the market )
    BP3- Only one benefit that people who don’t have time out for it, but I have countered this view.
    Conclusion: restated my point that drawbacks are more.
    Do you think I followed the proper structure?

  • Jahangir
    9th February 2019 - 8:11 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    I am grateful to you for all the help you provide here. I’ve read you free e-book, but I still need your help to understand the difference between SEQUENCES INFORMATION AND IDEAS LOGICALLY(band 8) ,LOGICALLY ORGANISES INFORMATION AND IDEAS(band 7) ,and ARRANGES INFORMATION AND IDEAS COHERENTLY(6). Your explanations have been of great help to me. Thanks a lot again !

    • Pauline
      9th February 2019 - 11:52 am · Reply

      Hi Jahangir, in order to show the difference I would need access to band 6,7, and 8 essays written on the same topic. I don’t have access to that. Almost 100% of the people who contact me send me writing samples that are band 6-6.5. That includes the people who are aiming for band 8 and even band 9. What you should try to take away from the extracts from the band descriptors that you have mentioned is that organising your ideas logically is very important if you want to score band 7 or above. I am trying to demonstrate this in my writing workbook.

  • Jahangir
    8th February 2019 - 5:17 pm · Reply

    Dear Pauline,
    Thanks for the reply !
    I still don’t understand how main ideas can be RELEVANT but UNCLEAR.
    I was wondering if you could explain this using an example.

    • Pauline
      8th February 2019 - 5:26 pm · Reply

      Ok, I am just looking at a sample now that shows both. They are both the first sentence in 2 separate paragraphs in answer to the question of whether we are happiest when we are adults or when we are teenagers.

      The first example is relevant but unclear:
      ‘From one perspective, it is felt that being young is being totally supported by your parents financially and emotionally.’

      The second is clear but not relevant:
      ‘However, many counter that old people are smarter and more intelligent’.

      Perhaps it is easier to accept that sometimes there is some overlap in the meaning of the two? (The relevance to the issue or the point is not clear / the point itself if not clear)

  • Jahangir
    8th February 2019 - 10:55 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    According to the band descriptors a band 6 candidate presents RELEVANT IDEAS but SOME may be inadequately developed or UNCLEAR, my question is if these main IDEAS are RELEVANT , in what way they can be UNCLEAR.
    I remember you saying that essays written by those stuck at bands 6 or 6.5 are often OFF TOPIC. Is this because of their UNCLEAR MAIN IDEAS?!
    Thanks for the help !

    • Pauline
      8th February 2019 - 11:26 am · Reply

      This is often what happens when people try to learn answers or parts of a paragraph to use. Ideas are undeveloped and unclear if they are not explained. Being off-topic is a different problem again, this can happen when people try to include examples they have learned or if they try to showcase their knowledge (e.g. medical knowledge or specialist knowledge they have) which often means that they move away from the original question.

      • F. Abaei
        15th September 2019 - 5:34 pm · Reply

        Hi Pauline,
        I read your comment about off-topic. I read somewhere that some essays are on-topic but off-task (tangential-band 4), but when the response is completely unrelated to the task, it is considered off-topic, and receives 1 for task response. Is this true? And if so, can you explain how it is possible to be on-topic but off-task? How is task different from the topic? Thank you so much.

        • Pauline
          16th September 2019 - 7:51 am · Reply

          It will always depend on how much ‘off-topic’ the answer is – what you are describing is typically a score awarded for learned answers where, for example, on seeing a question that mentions some form of technology, a candidate simply writes an answer they have learned about ‘technology’ which ignores the very specific question they were asked to discuss.

          • F. Abaei
            16th September 2019 - 5:59 pm ·

            Thank you, so is it right to say that in a topic like this from book 14:
            ‘The growth of online shopping will one day lead to all shops in towns and cities closing.
            Do you agree or disagree?’
            the topic is online shopping, but the task is whether the growth of online shopping will result in all shops closing down? Is that the right? and if the candidate writes about online shopping in general, this is on-topic but off-task that results in a 4 in TR? And what kind of answer receives a 1 in TR? thanks so much.

          • Pauline
            16th September 2019 - 6:21 pm ·

            Yes, that’s right – it is better to see the topic as ‘ the impact online shopping has on local shops’

          • Meraat
            17th September 2019 - 9:31 am ·

            Hi,
            Thanks for your website. So if the topic is ‘the impact online shopping has on local shops’, what is the task? And if I only write about online shopping,is this considered on-topic, off-task?

          • Pauline
            17th September 2019 - 10:26 am ·

            The ‘task’ is dependent on the complete question – the ‘task’ here was to discuss and then say whether you agree or disagree with the statement in the question. I would need an example of something ‘off-task’ to be able to explain what this means, I don’t have one. Perhaps instead of this the candidate writes about the advantages and disadvantages? I don’t think it helps to invent examples like this though.

  • N. Fullam
    8th February 2019 - 12:25 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    I couldn’t find any posts about paragraphing, I know if I don’t write in paragraphs in task 2, my coherence and cohesion score is 5, but in task 1 paragraphing is only mentioned in bands 8 and 9, so does that mean if I don’t write in paragraphs I can still achieve band 7 if other aspects of coherence and cohesion are good?

    • Pauline
      8th February 2019 - 11:38 am · Reply

      I discuss paragraphing in chapter 7 of The Key to IELTS Success. With task 1, you still need to write in paragraphs – are you talking about GT or academic? Band 7 CC ‘logically organises’ the information – you cannot do that without using paragraphs.

      • M.S
        12th November 2019 - 10:06 pm · Reply

        Hi Pauline,
        Can we say in an essay “to promote the quality of something”? Is it right or should we instead say “to improve the quality of something”? Thank you.

        • Pauline
          13th November 2019 - 8:52 am · Reply

          Have you seen it written somewhere? It depends on the context, ‘promote’ is used in marketing and advertising, so a company might ‘promote’ the quality of their product (in the words, talk about how good the quality is in their adverts). But other than that, you would say ‘improve the quality’ so something.

          • m.s
            13th November 2019 - 5:29 pm ·

            It was not marketing or advertising, so I think improve is the correct word. Thank you very much Pauline.

          • Matin
            26th November 2019 - 5:11 pm ·

            Hi Pauline, I am writing an essay and I want to say that “agriculture has improved/progressed in all aspects”, but I feel that the use of “in” in the phrase “in all aspects” is not accurate. Is it right to say something has improved in all aspects? And if it is wrong, what can I say instead? Thank you for your help.

          • Pauline
            29th November 2019 - 9:26 pm ·

            I think it’s ok but I would need to see the whole sentence – how does it end or is this the complete sentence? Personally, I would probably write something like: ‘All aspects of farming have improved over the last decade.’

  • Leo B
    7th February 2019 - 11:55 pm · Reply

    Hello Pauline,
    I need to ask for a favor, if the opening and ending of my letter are not appropriate for example dear manager instead of dear mr Tray, is this about tone or format, because in TR for 6 it says there maybe inconsistencies in tone, but for 5 it says the format may be inappropriate, so if I make a mistake in opening and closing is my TR 5 or 6? I appreciate it.

  • Mina
    7th February 2019 - 6:27 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    i have a question about examples in the IELTS writing test. I have read your free book from cover to cover and I know that you advise against inventing examples such as “a survey done at … university shows that 50% of children ….”, because they cannot support ideas, but what if this is a real study and it directly relates to the main idea? Is it still a bad idea to mention it? I’m asking this because I have read somewhere that we specifically LOSE MARKS for such examples because the examiner has no means to check this study. In short, if I use such an example will I lose marks? or not receive any extra marks? or will this boost my score if it is closely linked to my main idea? Thank you for your help.

    • Pauline
      7th February 2019 - 6:34 pm · Reply

      Firstly, it will not ‘boost’ you score to add an example like that. Secondly, my advice is ‘don’t learn examples or invent examples because the results are not successful’. However, what you are suggesting is using an example from your own knowledge – which is what the task specifically asks you to do. In chapter 7, if you read the section under the heading ‘I am a doctor, can I use medial examples?” You will see an example of this from a post I shared on Facebook where I encouraged people to write a paragraph using a video I had shared as an example to support an idea. This is the same as you are suggesting, so yes, it is absolutely fine to do that.

  • Quahn
    7th February 2019 - 10:23 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    I’m reading the IELTS key to success, it’s a brilliant read. In the writing chapter under “using personal examples”, there is an example in the box and your version as well, you’ve written that the example doesn’t support the idea, and that you have reorganised the information to support the idea. Can you tell me the exact wording of the question so that I can understand your example better? Than you

    • Pauline
      7th February 2019 - 11:00 am · Reply

      The question came from a follower of my facebook page – often these are inauthentic question that they have found online. I didn’t share it for that reason. The examples doesn’t support the main idea in the paragraph – that is the point I wanted to make – the problem isn’t related to the question itself.

      • Quahn
        7th February 2019 - 11:18 am · Reply

        I understand, but what is the main idea of the original paragraph? To me it is trying to say why practical courses are useful, and the example says that these courses are useful because they improve your chances of finding a job. So I don’t understand what the problem is with the example.

        • Pauline
          7th February 2019 - 11:32 am · Reply

          The problem is that it is not at all clear how the example supports the main idea – the main idea is actually that courses include practical training because there are some professions that require this. But the example supports the idea that people without practical experience find it more difficult to get a job. The link between these two is not made clear. This is what I have attempted to show in my example (i.e. how to show a clear logical link between your ideas)

  • Milad
    6th February 2019 - 11:25 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a silly question which has occupied my mind for a long time, what is the difference between the IELTS task and IELTS prompt? In the examiner’s comments I usually see “addressing different parts of the prompt”, in the band descriptors I see “addressing different parts of the task”. And what about the instructions “”write at least 250 words” or “give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your knowledge or experience”, are these instructions considered as part of the prompt or the task? Thank you for your support.

    • Pauline
      7th February 2019 - 9:07 am · Reply

      Hi Milad, it’s not a silly question, test writing it full of jargon that can make it confusing for many. The task is seen as two whole job you are being asked to complete, while the word ‘prompt’ is used to focus specifically on something that is written within the task. The word is used to avoid confusion that can arise when people refer to ‘the question’ – (some may think this only refers to the direct question at the end). Referring to ‘the prompt’ allows us to refer to all of the words in written within the question. So, ‘write at least 250 words’ is part of the task, but not the prompt. We call those types of instructions ‘rubrics’ In fact, the rubrics can refer to any written instruction on the question paper, including the prompt!

      • Anonymous
        7th February 2019 - 10:15 am · Reply

        This is very clarifying, thanks a million, I have another question about cambridge books, you constantly encourage candidates to use cambridge 9 onwards; I know cambridge 9 was published in 2011 and cambridge 8 in 2009, so my question is if something happened between 2009 and 2011 in terms of test writing, I mean was there a restandardization of test questions? Or maybe a research study that influenced the way IELTS tests were written?

        • Pauline
          7th February 2019 - 10:54 am · Reply

          No, there was no change in the test, but there was a change in the way those books were compiled and written – from 2009 onwards they were written in the same way as the real test i.e. using the same system and people).

          • Anonymous
            7th February 2019 - 11:08 am ·

            Thank you 🙏, is that also true for reading and listening? Do you suggest working on book 9 onwards in those skills too or are 8 and 7 still good to practice?

  • Mandana
    6th February 2019 - 6:14 pm · Reply

    Thanks for the reply, I know that I need to discuss the advantages and disadvantages, but my question is whether I need to mention which one outweighs the other.

    • Pauline
      6th February 2019 - 6:21 pm · Reply

      You could do that in your conclusion? You could also make it clear what you think the main advantages/disadvantages are? I think people often underestimate the extent to which their ‘position’ is shown simply through the ideas they choose to focus on and how they choose to present this ideas. This is something I am trying to make clearer in my writing workbook.

  • Whuang
    6th February 2019 - 5:24 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    I’m an IELTS teacher and I should say I have learned a lot from this fabulous website and your books. I was reading your reply to someone who asked about repetitive conclusions, you said repetitive conclusions is when you literally repeat yourself. In the general training module in cambridge book 9, test A, the candidate has achieved a 6, and in the examiner’s comments it’s written that the conclusions drawn are at times repetitive, but I couldn’t find any repetition, can you help me by saying why this is considered repetitive conclusions? I really appreciate it.

    • Pauline
      6th February 2019 - 5:36 pm · Reply

      I have just looked at the sample answer and in every ‘paragraph’ the conclusion is that it’s difficult to be a celebrity. Also, the final two paragraphs reach the same conclusion: being a celebrity is difficult because they lose privacy (one paragraph gives the example of Britney Spears and her problems resulting from lack of privacy and then the next talks about the paparazzi). I would agree that this is repetitive.

  • Sergy
    6th February 2019 - 3:49 pm · Reply

    Hello Pauline,
    In some of the topics some examples are given with “such as”, like this topic from cambridge 11 “employers sometimes ask people applying for jobs for personal information, such as their hobbies and interests, and whether they are married or single. Some people say that this information may be relevant and useful. Others disagree. Discuss both views and give your opinion”. In these topics should we also address the examples given or should we focus on what the example is given for, in this case personal information. Thank you so very much 🙏🙏

    • Pauline
      6th February 2019 - 4:43 pm · Reply

      That sort of information is given to help you completely understand what the question relates to. If the question simply said ’employers sometimes ask people applying for jobs for personal information’ without explaining what is meant by that, then the candidates may be confused – they may think this refers to giving your address and quite normal information like that. You don’t need to discuss it, but you must make sure that your discussion is only about this kind on information.

  • Wang
    6th February 2019 - 11:04 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    When it says in the descriptors that supporting ideas may lack focus, what does it mean? And how is it different from band 5 that says there may be irrelevant detail. Can you please help me? Thank you

    • Pauline
      6th February 2019 - 4:40 pm · Reply

      In chapter 7 of The Key to IELTS Success you will find examples of writing where the supporting ideas are irrelevant. With lack of focus, this often happens when people learn examples to use in their writing. The examples are very general and not clearly related to the issue being discussed. With irrelevant details, these go away from the topic. With a lack of focus, it is difficult to see how they are related to the topic and the writer doesn’t explain this.

  • Mandana
    6th February 2019 - 10:04 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    As you’ve always said, we need to make our position clear throughout the response. I assume the task should therefore ask me a direct question against which I can work out a position. While some tasks ask me whether I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages (which give me the chance to express an opinion in the conclusion), others simply ask me to discuss the advantages and disadvantages. Should I also express my opinion (whether there are more benefits or drawbacks) for such topics? I really appreciate your help.

    • Pauline
      6th February 2019 - 4:35 pm · Reply

      You’re probably looking at older test questions – it has always been assumed that candidates would read the questions in the context of the criteria, which clearly state that you must show your position throughout. In the test, you are less likely to find this a problem, as the test questions do aim to make this very clear.

      • Mandana
        6th February 2019 - 5:28 pm · Reply

        Thanks for the reply, but actually it’s not an old test question, this is what I’ve taken from Cambridge book 12 general training test 1 and on the cover of the book it says “authentic examination papers”.

        • Pauline
          6th February 2019 - 5:39 pm · Reply

          To put that claim into context, it means that the test questions (from books 9 onwards) are produced using almost exactly the same process as live test questions. No past papers are published. Thos that appear in books are looked at less rigorously than the real test questions. However, I again repeat that every question must be seen through the idea that you must always show your position. I don’t have book 12, can you tell me exactly what the question says?

          • Mandana
            6th February 2019 - 5:56 pm ·

            The question is as follows: “Today more and more tourists are visiting places where conditions are difficult, such as the Sahara desert or the Antarctica. What are the benefits and disadvantages for tourists who visit such places?” There is also another question in book 10 test B: “Some parents buy their children a large number of toys to play with. What are the advantages and disadvantages?” Are you saying that these are not authentic test questions, because on the cover of both books it says authentic examination papers.

          • Pauline
            6th February 2019 - 6:09 pm ·

            You need to always see these questions as asking you to give your opinion of what the advantages / disadvantages are. You are not expected to be an expert on this who can present objective facts about it. You are only offering your opinion of what these are. I am not at all saying they are not authentic. They are written in the same way as the real test and by the same people, which is what makes them authentic.

  • Seva
    6th February 2019 - 7:57 am · Reply

    Hi again Pauline, I’m sorry to bother you again, I have another question, in the same book it says that the examples we give can be 1)a general example 2)an example from knowledge 3)an example from experience. I can’t understand how they are different. Thank you again.

    • Pauline
      6th February 2019 - 8:32 am · Reply

      I think you should contact the writer of that book to see what they meant. Actually, this is really just telling you what the rubrics of every test question tells you: ‘include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.’ Can you tell me which book you are talking about?

  • Seva
    6th February 2019 - 7:50 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a question to ask about overgeneralisation in the band descriptors for 7, is overgeneralisation only about using “all” and “every” and “always” and something like this or is it also about lack of providing reasons? I read this in an IELTS book that in order to avoid overgeneralisation we should give reasons. For instance, “Teaching thinking at school is essential, even at primary level.” It said that this statement is over general and we should add “because children now find it more difficult to reason.” Is this true? Thank you for helping me.

    • Pauline
      6th February 2019 - 8:32 am · Reply

      Hi Seva, yes, overgeneralisation is making very broad statements without explaining them further or offering further support.

  • Ella
    5th February 2019 - 10:34 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    I should first thank you for your wonderful freebook, I have a question about a piece of advice in the writing section of the book. You have suggested that candidates aiming for a band 8 or 9 score should look at the sample answers written by skilled native speaker writers and try to identify the main point and further explanation and support in each paragraph. However, when you were earlier asked in the comments about the task response in these essays, you said that a skilled native speaker might achieve task fulfilment in such a subtle way that can elude an IELTS candidate, I hope you see why I’m a bit confused here, do you think you can explain this a bit further? I really appreciate it.

    • Pauline
      5th February 2019 - 10:42 am · Reply

      I’m not sure how to answer in a way that will help, Ella. Again, as I said earlier, the band 8 samples may be band 9 in Task response but band 8 in CC, LR and GA. This will be why you can’t see the difference. Often by band 8, Task response has been mastered – it is the natural use of language that is missing. As you can see with the native-speaker sample here, it’s perhaps more likely to be native speakers who are lacking in Task response, because they and to do less preparation for the test. I promise that if I ever find a good example of band 8 task response, I will share it.

      • Ella
        5th February 2019 - 10:58 am · Reply

        Thank you for the quick reply, so you think these samples might not be as helpful in terms of task response as they could be in organisation of ideas and use of vocabulary and grammar?

        • Pauline
          5th February 2019 - 11:11 am · Reply

          I honestly haven’t made a close study of them. I have only focused on samples that people have pointed out to me because they are confused about what they see as a lack of ‘idiomatic language’ (when they are actually looking for the types of idioms they have been learning) or when they look to these to find a ‘formula’ that they can use (there isn’t one). My comment in the book is to look at these samples for reasons other than ‘how I must answer’, because they can only ever show you how one native-speaker IELTS writer chose to answer that particular time.

  • Jahangir
    5th February 2019 - 2:31 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline
    Here is one example:
    In spite of the advances made in agriculture, many people around the world still go hungry.
    WHY IS THIS THE CASE?!
    What can be done about this problem?
    Thanks for the help !

    • Pauline
      5th February 2019 - 10:40 am · Reply

      I assume that the reason you began asking about ‘how many reasons’ etc, is because of questions that ask you to discuss advantageS/ disadvantageS/ problemS/solutionS. As I have tried to make clear, if the question asks for more than one, you must supply more than one. If you are asked ‘Why is this happening?’ or Why is this the case?” You simply need to answer that question giving either several reasons why you think this is happening or, if you truly believe there is only one reason why something is happening, then you need to explain that. Can you see that it is not about quantities, it is about how much you actually believe what you are writing? If you believe there is only one reason for a problem, then you must make it clear what that reason is and why you think this alone is responsible for the problem, because that is what you would be claiming. If however you can see several reasons for something, then that is what you would explain. It really is not about quantities – I have tried to make this very clear in the past, when people focus only on ticking boxes and quantities in their writing, they generally write in a way that does not achieve above band 6.5. Aim instead to think about the question and then answer is honestly. You cannot manufacture band 7 or above by focusing on quantities.

      If you know that there are several reasons why something is happening but choose to focus on only one of them, something will be confusing in your essay – your ideas are likely to be not developed as well as they could be, or there is likely to be repetition. For example, in answer to this question you gave as an example, if I think that the 2 main reasons for this hunger are 1) poverty and inability to afford food and 2) in poorer countries they don’t have access to new technology to grow more. But in my essay I decide to only write about poverty, then my paragraph about this is likely to ignore agriculture, which is what the question asks me to do.

  • Mostafa
    4th February 2019 - 6:07 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    I was reading the 3 sample you have written about making recycling a legal requirement. You have taken 3 different positions in these samples and in 2 of them (that you completely agree and completely disagree) you have presented your own arguments without refuting the arguments from the other side (or maybe you have refuted the other side but I couldn’t see it in your essays). So is this considered as a balanced essay without refuting people who disagree with you?

    • Pauline
      4th February 2019 - 6:09 pm · Reply

      I am being asked this quite a lot at the moment. Why do you think that you must always refute an argument? Which argument are you refuting? What advice are you following on this? I haven’t heard it before I have to admit.

      • Mostafa
        5th February 2019 - 6:13 am · Reply

        My teacher has told me that we completely agree or completely disagree with something, we MUST refute the side that disagrees with us, so when I read your sample and I couldn’t see this I was confused, so you’re saying it’s not true?

        • Pauline
          5th February 2019 - 10:26 am · Reply

          Firstly, as I explain in chapter 7 of The Key to IELTS Success, you can only use the word ‘must’ if the same idea appears somewhere on the question paper or in the band descriptors used to assess your writing. Whenever you try to add a new ‘must’, your writing becomes less flexible and are more likely to lower your score in some way because you are trying to ‘always’ follow a strategy that will not ‘always’ apply. Having said that, I do refute the argument for making a law to govern recycling in the second body paragraph. Why do you think that I did not do this?

          • Mostafa
            5th February 2019 - 10:45 am ·

            Yes you are right but I think I couldn’t make myself clear, by refuting my teacher means that refuting the arguments for the side that disagrees with us. In this example my teacher says something like this: those who believe recycling should be governed by law claim that if it is not obligatory people will not cooperate (and I need to refute this), but I think it is wrong because … In other words, my teacher means we need to present the claims from the other side of the argument and then refute these claims because our position is strong agreement or disagreement (similar to what you have done in the other 3 samples on community service for high school students), but you’re telling me this is not a must and cannot always be used, right?

          • Pauline
            5th February 2019 - 10:47 am ·

            I think you need to think of that as a backup plan, something you can use if you cannot think of what to say. It is not a ‘must.’

  • Jahangir
    4th February 2019 - 11:52 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    Thank you for the quick response !
    I would also like to know if we have to give at least two reasons for the following questions in writing task 2 where we have to discuss causes of a problem.
    ” Why is this the case ?! or why is this happening ?!

    • Pauline
      4th February 2019 - 1:00 pm · Reply

      You simply have to explain why you believe something is happening. There is no rule about how many reasons. However, can you show me a test question like this?

  • Karla
    4th February 2019 - 11:02 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    I got an 8 in writing last year and have been studying hard to get a 9, but I got my result last week and I’m still an 8 in writing, maybe because I can’t tell an 8 from a 9 in task response, the descriptors say an 8 sufficiently addresses all parts of the task, but a 9 fully does it. How are they different in practice? Thanks for your help.

    • Pauline
      4th February 2019 - 12:59 pm · Reply

      Hi Karla, send me a task 2 answer through my Facebook account and I will try to help. It may not be Task response, it may be something else – all elements need to be 9 to score band 9.

    • Miura
      5th February 2019 - 7:50 am · Reply

      Hi Pauline,
      This is also my question, I’m an IELTS teacher but I can’t ever understand this, could you briefly explain the difference between fully addressing all parts of the task in 9 and sufficiently addressing all parts of the task in 8? I’ll be forever grateful

      • Pauline
        5th February 2019 - 10:21 am · Reply

        It isn’t something that can be easily and simply explained – it takes years of experience and would require us both looking at many examples of band 8 and band 9 task response to teach someone that. I am hoping to demonstrate band 9 more fully in my writing workbook. But I don’t have band 8 responses to be able to compare it to. The majority of band 8 samples I see are band 8 for reasons other than Task response.

  • Jahangir
    3rd February 2019 - 1:35 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline
    When there is fact about the topic in question, which followed by (a) viewpoint(s), do we have to discuss the fact as well?! I mean is the fact mentioned part of the task or , as you said it is there just to make the topic clearer?!

    • Pauline
      3rd February 2019 - 2:29 pm · Reply

      That’s impossible to say in any definitive way. Sometimes there is an objective fact that helps to make a point. For example, ‘In 1970 there were 19 million cars in the UK, today there are 38 million.’ A fact like this is given to help make a point and is not something for you to discuss. Other times, there may be a sentence that exists to set the context. For example: ‘In many homes, not enough waste is recycled.’ Again, this is not necessarily something you need to discuss, but it is something you need to mention and it is as idea that sets the context for all of your essay – if you go on to discuss waste produced by businesses, then you will not be answering the question. So, it will always depend on the question and your own reaction to it. Does this help?

  • Lothar
    3rd February 2019 - 10:52 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    I’m doing an online writing course by IDP, is it true that in essay writing we are always given a topic, a viewpoint, and a specific question? Because this is what I am told in this course, but when I look at some samples in cambridge I only see a viewpoint and a question. Thank you for your help.

    • Pauline
      3rd February 2019 - 11:15 am · Reply

      That is not accurate – Sometimes there may be a sentence that makes it clear exactly what the topic is, this is then followed by something else, often a viewpoint but it may also be a fact about it (for example if you are being asked to discuss problems and solutions) Sometimes there is only a viewpoint.

  • Mira
    3rd February 2019 - 9:01 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    Can you please help me with this question? nowadays we are producing more and more rubbish. Why do you think this is happening? What can governments do to reduce the amount of rubbish produced?
    Should I only talk about what governments should do and if I instead talk about what people should do, I will lose marks in task response?

          • Pauline
            3rd February 2019 - 11:25 am ·

            Ok, if you read Chapter 10 of my free book you will see that I recommend using books 9 onwards as these are the most up-to-date. However, to answer your question, you would need to talk about 1) why there is so much rubbish and 2) what governments should do. If you want to talk about what people should do, you could add a comment in the conclusion about this, but you will lose marks if you ignore the question or try to change it by focusing on what people should do.

  • Chimang
    2nd February 2019 - 7:35 pm · Reply

    Hi mrs cullen
    I really learn a lot by reading your blog, I have a question about vocabulary, in the band descriptors under lexical resource for band 7 we see less common lexical items and for 8 uncommon lexical items, how are they different? Are they the same as C1 and C2 levels in CEFR?

  • Jahangir
    2nd February 2019 - 12:34 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    Thanks for the quick response !
    Could you please tell me how examiners adjust the questions to the test taker’s level?! Is it possible for them to ask a low level candidate(a band 4 test taker) personal questions because such a candidate can’t comprehend part 3 question?! I would also like to know whether test takers lose marks if they ask examiners for the meanings of unfamiliar words in questions of parts 2&3 or for more clarification or examples in part 3 when they are unable to understand a question ?!
    By the way, had I seen your previous response to my question, I would have never troubled you again.
    Thanks again !

  • Chao
    1st February 2019 - 9:33 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    I have read your freebook and you have introduced the peel technique for writing a paragraph. I have a question about it. In the band descriptors for coherence and cohesion for a 7 it says presents a clear central topic within each paragraph, some books say we should write this at the beginning of each paragraph, other books say it is better to put this at the end of the paragraph as a conclusion. Which one is better do you think?

    • Pauline
      2nd February 2019 - 11:13 am · Reply

      I think either is fine but I wouldn’t teach the latter idea unless I had a class that were band 8+. THat’s not to say it will magically make your writing band 8 or 9, but that it takes skill to be able to achieve this.

      • Chao
        2nd February 2019 - 11:54 am · Reply

        Thanks for your response, in the peel technique you said that the last sentence should link the paragraph to the question, I have also read in some writing books that the last sentence should work as a bridge and it should coonect your paragraph to the next paragraph (I have noticed that you too use a bridging sentence at the end of some paragraphs from time to time), now which one is more important linking the paragraph to the question or bridging it to the next paragraph?

        • Pauline
          2nd February 2019 - 12:05 pm · Reply

          There is no easy answer to that. It will always depend on what you are trying to say within your paragraphs. The linking between paragraphs is ore likely to occur when you feel that a paragraph is too ling and that it would be better to split it into two separate paragraphs each dealing with a different point but which is still linked in some way.

  • Shanlee
    1st February 2019 - 8:57 pm · Reply

    Hi Ms. Pauline
    I have seen that in many samples the examiner has commented that main ideas are underdeveloped, so my question is if I explain it very much, may I be penalised? Because the band descriptors say the idea is not developed enough but it doesn’t say it is developed too much

    • Pauline
      2nd February 2019 - 11:15 am · Reply

      They are usually underdeveloped in that a point is made then a new point is made and no explanation is given at all. Writing too much will be penalised in that you will run out or space and time to check your answer and it may be repetitive or seem unbalanced (with too much time spent on one issue). Don’t explain ‘very much’, just explain if and when necessary.

      • Shanlee
        3rd February 2019 - 6:50 am · Reply

        Thank you, but how can I know something needs explanation, sometimes it is clear for me but my teacher says you have to explain it, is there a rule to know when should I explain?

        • Pauline
          3rd February 2019 - 10:34 am · Reply

          If it is a commonly held view or commonly known fact, it probably does not need explaining. If is it personal to you, or is something limited to where you live, then it needs explaining.

  • Kaamel
    1st February 2019 - 1:40 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    In your previous posts you said when the question asks if this is a positive or negative development we should talk about both positives and negatives of the development and if we talk about only positives OR negatives we will lose marks. So why not when the question asks if we agree or disagree, wouldn’t we lose marks if we only say why we completely agree?

    • Pauline
      1st February 2019 - 3:47 pm · Reply

      I have actually discussed this several times before in detail. Briefly, in the GT module, you may be presented with an opinion and asked ‘Do you agree or disagree?’ Of course it is perfectly fine to say I agree, and then explain why. Hopefully you can see that this is not at all the same as being asked ‘What are the positives and negatives of this development?” One offers a choice, the other does not.

      My advice on answering these questions is this: if you are confident in your ability to write about the topic from a point of view of why you agree, then do that. Uf you are confident that you can do that without repeating yourself, then this is completely fine. However, many band 6-6.5 candidates cannot do this without repeating themselves. To those people, I say, you can avoid being repetitive by talking about 1) why you agree and 2) why you disagree with the alternative. This allows you to avoid being repetitive.

      There is no ‘must’ about how to answer. There is only this rule: ‘always answer the very specific question you are given.’

      • Sinkar
        1st February 2019 - 4:50 pm · Reply

        Hi Pauline I read your answer to Kaamal, Sometimes the question asks to what extent we agree or disagree, and sometimes it only asks if we agree or disagree, should I answer the two questions in different ways because to what extent means how far, so if the question asks if I agree or disagree can I just say I agree or should I also say how much?

        • Pauline
          1st February 2019 - 4:52 pm · Reply

          The difference is that one is GT only and one is Academic only. So, it depends on which module you are preparing for.

          • Pauline
            1st February 2019 - 5:50 pm ·

            I’m sorry but I can only see your comment and not the comment it is attached to – can you tell me what you are referring to with ‘them’? If you are asking about ‘Do you agree or disagree’ V ‘To What extent do you agree or disagree?” the questions will force you to answer in a different way because one is for academic and one is for GT.

          • Sinkar
            1st February 2019 - 7:52 pm ·

            Yes I’m actually referring to “do you agree or disagree” vs “to what extent do you agree or disagree”, you said the question forces us to answer them differently, can you tell me how I should answer each?

          • Pauline
            2nd February 2019 - 11:17 am ·

            If you are preparing for academic, then you will see that the questions are quite different – e.g. often less personal than for GT – this is how the question forces you to write in a different way. You don’t need a different approach for these 2 questions, but academic questions will force you to write in a different, more general way.

  • Samara
    1st February 2019 - 12:31 pm · Reply

    Hello Pauline,
    In a video about essay writing I saw that if you copy more than 3 words from the question in your essay, these words will be deducted from your total word count, I didn’t see this in any book and because you wrote the official guide I’m asking you. I’m thankful because you help everybody.

    • Pauline
      1st February 2019 - 3:59 pm · Reply

      Always be wary of advice that uses a specific number like this – there is no such rule and there are times when the words and phrases in the question are the most natural ones to use. Working hard to replace every word in the question can result in unnatural language, which will lower your score. Read the vocabulary chapter of The Key to IELTS Success to learn about this.

      • Samara
        1st February 2019 - 4:25 pm · Reply

        I have read your free book, I understand that but I made a mistake, the video did not say just 3 words, it said if I use 3 consecutive words without paraphrasing, these words will not be counted

        • Pauline
          1st February 2019 - 4:30 pm · Reply

          That’s isn’t true to my knowledge and no rule like that could be enforced. What if the question asked you to discuss ‘learning a foreign language’? How many different ways can you say that without sounding unnatural and without using ‘a foreign language’?

          • Sinji
            1st February 2019 - 6:14 pm ·

            Hi,
            If I write 220 words for the essay, does it mean I address the task partially and my task response is 5?

          • Pauline
            1st February 2019 - 6:29 pm ·

            If you have managed to answer within 220 words then there will be problems across all of the criteria (you won’t have shown enough vocabulary and grammar to achieve a high score, you won’t have completed the task – which is to write at least 250 words, and you are more than likely to have left our something important as your paragraphs will be very short.) But yes, you will be penalised in Task response in particular for a very short response.

          • Sinji
            1st February 2019 - 7:23 pm ·

            Thank you Pauline, I know that I will be penalised in Task Response in particular, but is writing 220 words the same as addressing the task only partially as is mentioned in the band descriptors even if I have addressed all parts of the task but maybe insufficiently?

          • Pauline
            2nd February 2019 - 11:18 am ·

            No, it is simply being penalised for writing too little, which is different. If you read the sample here you can see that the candidate wrote more than 250 words but ignored half of the question.

  • Jahangir
    1st February 2019 - 12:28 pm · Reply

    Hi Pualine
    I am grateful to you for all the constructive feedback you’ve been providing to help us understand the test better so that both IELTS candidates and teachers acquit themselves well. I need to grasp the difference between the types of questions in parts 1&3 of the speaking paper. It is said that part 3 questions are abstract and general, whereas the ones in part 1 are personally-focused. So we’re not expected to personalize the answers to part 3 questions. However, there are 2 personal questions in part 3 of the practice test on page 67 of VOCABULARY FOR IELTS. They are as follows :
    1) If YOU could buy any new gadget YOU wanted , what would YOU choose and why?
    3) Do YOU always want to buy the latest technology or are YOU happy with and older model?

    • Pauline
      1st February 2019 - 3:56 pm · Reply

      Hi Jahangir, did you see my previous response to your earlier question about this? Here is what I wrote then and the same applies here: I wrote: ”Hi Jahangir, the examiner will often ask a few follow-up questions based on the talk in part 2 before moving on to the more general questions in part 3. I have tried to reflect this here. Also, it’s important to remember that this is a course book, so it is aiming to teach more than to simply test. So, each exercise aims to help you practice the vocabulary topic in as many ways related to the test as possible. Here, I have tried to help you produce and practice the kind of language that a higher level candidate can produce. So, these questions are a little more leading (i.e. giving you a hypothetical situation so help you practice producing conditionals etc.”

      Also remember that the examiner will adjust their questions to your level. This first vocabulary book is aimed at all levels up to band 6-6.5. Though I have had candidates use it to reach band 7 in all parts of the test. The Advanced version of the book is for candidates already at band 6-6.5 and need to score band 7 and above, so the questions reflect that.

  • Niaz
    31st January 2019 - 2:47 am · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    I saw this in an IELTS webinar that in almost all essay questions, there is a word that helps you work your position against, words such as “the only way”, “the best way”, is that true? Because I can’t see this in many questions, or maybe they have it in other ways?

    • Pauline
      31st January 2019 - 11:48 am · Reply

      Hi Niaz, it is true that when writing questions we always consider that the question must help you to show your position. However, I am reluctant to simplify this in this way (by saying you just need to look for a key word or phrase). That is certainly one way, but it may not be the only way this is done. Remember, you must always consider the test question in light of the criteria you will be assessed by. You will always be assessed on your ability to show your position. The reason you will find older questions that don’t use words like ‘only’ and ‘the best’ etc is because it was always assumed candidates would write according to the criteria. The text questions aim to be as helpful as possible so that people don’t ignore this important fact. Use test books 9 onwards to find the most up-to-date questions. And with older style questions, always answer in a way that shows what your own position is and why you think that.

    • Pauline
      30th January 2019 - 7:10 am · Reply

      No problem, glad I could help. I didn’t mean to sound dismissive of your first query about this – I don’t often get asked about the native-speaker side. 🙂

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