Writing, writing, writing – yes, I know, it is a big pain for many of you!

There are many things to cover with regards to writing task 1 and task 2, and how you can improve your score, because statistically speaking it is one of the weakest areas in IELTS for Taiwanese test-takers.

All the time we are approached by students who are frustrated with their writing ability or not getting the score they need. They will say things like: “How can I improve my writing quickly?” “I think my grammar is too weak” “I think I don’t know enough vocabulary” “I think it’s because I use, you know, Chinese-logic in my writing.” But this is not actually really true at all. But more about that later.

Today, I want to focus not on how to improve your writing per se, but how to avoid making the common mistakes many students make and which results in them ‘losing’ the majority of their marks in writing – even native English speakers who take the test!

First of all, let’s look at something called the ‘Public Band Descriptors’. This shows us what the IELTS examiners are looking for when they assess a candidate’s writing, and this is a tool we use all the time at the teaching centre to highlight to students exactly what they need to be doing. It is very useful and insightful, but unfortunately not many people pay attention to it at all.

Let’s look at Task 1 to begin with and the column called ‘Task Achievement’, and pay close attention to bands 5 and 6. You’ll notice in band 6 it says “presents and overview with information appropriately selected” and in band 5 it says “no clear overview; there may be no clear data to support the description.” Or even look down at Band 4, you will see it says “parts may be unclear / irrelevant.”

So, one of the most critical things to do in Task 1 is to give a clear overview (a summary of the trends or most important features) and also include data from the diagram to support your descriptions of the key details – that means writing some facts and figures along with the written explanations. Also, don’t go off the topic by trying to explain why the data is like this or that, or try to give some solutions, or express some personal viewpoints or opinions - save all that for Task 2!

So if you thought you’re writing was strong, and that you used good vocabulary, grammar and a good structure, but only got a 5 or 5.5 for your writing score – now you know why!

Keep studying well!