Saturday, February 19, 2011

Skills for the IELTS Writing Module

In Task 1 of the Writing Module, you are given about 20 minutes to write a minimum of 150 words. You are asked to look at a diagram, table, graph or short piece of text and describe the information in your own words. There are three important steps you should follow: preparation, writing and editing. These steps will help you to write a coherent and well organised essay in the time given.

Preparation (about 2 minutes)
You need to spend 2-3 minutes working out exactly what you are going to do. You should pay attention to the following points:
  • Study the question carefully. Most Task 1 writing involves writing a report which describes some information given. You may wish to note the instructions with a high-lighting pen.
  • Think carefully about the topic. Outline some pertinent points.
  • Ensure that your ideas are arranged logically.
Writing (about 15 minutes)
When writing a Task 1 report, include:
  • introductory sentence
  • body paragraphs (1-3)
  • concluding sentence (optional)
Introductory sentence
The introductory sentence explains what you are describing, for example:
‘The table compares the population growth and interstate migration in each Australian state for 12 months to the end of 1994.'
‘The graph shows the growth of computers in Australia between 1975 and 1995.'
‘The pie chart represents the proportion of gases contained in natural gas.'
Body paragraphs
When discussing the date presented in the task, identify significant trends and give examples that relate directly to the given information to support your statements. If you are explaining a process or an object and how it works, you need to group your information so that it follows a definite logical order.
Remember that the use of verbs expressed in the present passive voice is often appropriate when giving a description of a process or procedure, for example:
‘Coffee beans are pulped to remove their casing. They are then soaked in water, rinsed thoroughly and dried. After the beans are sorted, they are roasted in a kiln and blended. Next, they are packed and dispatched to shops and supermarkets.'
Concluding sentence (optional)
A simple concluding statement could include any of the following, where relevant:
  • significant comments
  • a potential solution
  • an overall summary of the ideas
  • future implications.
Editing (about 2 minutes)
Make sure that you have followed the instructions carefully. Be sure that you have written what you intended and that no important ideas are missing. In the last few minutes, check for obvious errors, such as spelling or grammatical errors.

All too often students begin planning or even writing their answers in the IELTS Writing Module before they understand what is actually expected of them. Following the steps below will help you to plan a well-structured and coherent essay or report that addresses the given task.
You may wish to spend about 5-7 minutes working out exactly what you are going to do. There are five steps to consider.
  • Study the question carefully. Most task statements or questions have a key instructional word or words telling you what to do. Note these words with a highlighting pen.
There are also key topic words which point to the most important parts of the question. Underline those words too. Ask yourself how the key words relate to the given instruction.
  • Think carefully about the topic. How do you feel about it?
  • Establish a point of view and list some points for development. The answer normally takes the form of a short essay. The word ‘essay' comes from an old French word essai which meant ‘to attempt or try out', or ‘to test'. In an IELTS Writing Module Task 2 answer, your purpose is to develop your point of view in a convincing way.
  • Decide which points will be written as topic sentences. Think about how they will develop into paragraphs.
  • Ensure that your points are arranged in a logical order.
When you are writing a Task 2 answer, a structure based on the following elements could be used (summarised in the flow chart opposite).
Introductory paragraph
The introduction of a Task 2 answer should begin with a general statement or idea of your own that takes into account the key topic words or their synonyms. The last sentence of the introduction should include a thesis statement which shows the point of  view or direction that will be taken in the answer.
Body paragraphs
Body paragraphs each consist of several sentences that are arranged in a logical way to develop a main idea. You can expect to write about 2-4 body paragraphs for a Task 2 answer. Each of these contains an appropriate connective word to ensure a smooth transition between paragraphs. This connective is then put in a topic sentence which is the main point of the paragraph clearly stated in a sentence. Every sentence in the paragraph must be directly related to it. Try to develop every paragraph adequately. This may be done through the use of examples, explanations, detail, logical inference, cause and effect or making comparisons or contrasts. There are many different ways to organise your ideas for body paragraphs. Be confident of the ideas you choose.
The conclusion
A good conclusion serves several purposes:
  • It indicates the end of your essay.
  • It gives your final thoughts and assessments on the essay subject.
  • It weighs up the points in your essay and should strengthen your thesis statement.
  • Do not simply repeat your opening paragraph. This appears too mechanical and superficial.
  • General statement
  • Thesis statement

  • Topic sentence including connective word
  • First supporting sentence
  • Second supporting sentence
  • Third supporting sentence




  • Final assessment with concluding connective
Editing (about 3-5 minutes)
In the last few minutes, you should check for obvious errors, such as spelling or grammatical errors. Be sure you have written what you intended and that there are no important ideas missing.
Study the checklist for editing. It lists points to think about when checking your essay. Become familiar with the list so that you will know what to check for in the actual IELTS Writing Module.

Checklist for editing
1. — I have used accurate grammatical structures, for example, consistent verb tenses, subject-verb agreement, accurate word formation (especially of nouns, verb and adjectives) and appropriate use of ‘a' and ‘the' as well as prepositions.
2. — I have used a range of sentence structures.
3. — I have used appropriate vocabulary.
4. — I have used accurate spelling.
5. — I have stated the main idea for each paragraph in a topic sentence and all the points are related to this topic.
6. — I have used connective words effectively to link ideas so that the thoughts move logically and clearly from sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph.
7. — I have developed each paragraph adequately.
8. — I have supplied enough detailed information and sufficient examples or facts.
9. — I have developed a definite point of view.
10.— Every paragraph that I have written has definitely helped to address the task.

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