Perhaps the most difficult part of an English exam is writing good ideas coherently in a short time. This requires a lot of practice.
Do not think that you can get from IELTS 5.5 to 7 by taking a class a week for the month before your next booked exam? That is a waste of your money. This is a major learning experience that will take a lot of practice and a real development of your thinking and writing. I suggest it might take one or two years to get yourself completely ready to do this exam easily. So if you know you need IELTS 7, start early. It may take hard work but you will be a better thinker and writer at the end. The skills you gain can be boiled down to:
- Having an intelligent and authentic opinion based on an awareness of the world around you
- Organising your opinion into a coherent structure
- Writing your opinion persuasively, with some grammatical complexity and accuracy, showing a range of vocabulary.
- Doing all this quickly and by hand
Having an authentic, real opinion. You have to argue a case persuasively. If you are half hearted or pretending to have an opinion your writing sounds hollow and your thinking primitive.
Practise thinking about things while you are alone. What is your opinion on x (anything in your life)? Work out the separate reasons you have for your opinion. Choose the 3 most compelling reasons. Practise talking the essay in your head.
Organising your authentic opinion. When writing on a topic it is so easy to get away from the topic – to go off on a tangent. The only way to avoid this is to PLAN and organise your thoughts, always coming back to make sure you are still on topic.The common structure is:
- Paragraph for each argument point
Have a thesis statement (what you are attempting to argue) at the end of your introduction. Commence each content paragraph with a simple topic sentence followed by supporting sentences that explain or give evidence for your statement.
These essays do not require many words so keep your content to a few main points and make those points quickly (no filler words) and with persuasive support. You should not spend more than 5 minutes on this preparation stage.
Write from your plan. Once your mind is organised you can start writing. Do it in pencil so you can erase where necessary.
Avoid clichés like ‘a coin has two sides’ or empty sentences that fill space but don’t give information. Any kind of ‘filler’ appears unsophisticated in this situation where you need to be as concise and ‘to the point’ as possible.
Don’t make your language so general and abstract that the reader has to guess what you mean; bring it alive with particular examples from real life so that the reader can immediately see your point. You are asked to use your own experience to support your opinions.
You don’t have time to count words. As long as you are covering the topic intelligently you will have enough words. If you write more than required it does not matter as long as you stay on topic, write persuasively and finish the essay in time. Practise hand writing essays at home on sample papers to see what the required word count looks like in your handwriting.
To practise this skill:
- Enjoy your coherent thinking on any topic you like to make up.
- Enjoy planning your argument.
- Enjoy talking yourself through your opinions coherently!
Try these really simple thinking exercises. You can agree or disagree (or both). They don’t need to be long – you may only have two points – or you may have lots. Do them in your head or write them for exam practice.
- It is better to travel with a small amount of luggage.
- Eating dinner with the family is a good experience.
- Hard floors are better than carpets.
- Dogs are better pets than cats.
- Taking the bus/train can be a good/bad experience.
- It is necessary for me to have a car.
- I don’t like my job.
- My boss is a good manager.
- I love this weather.
- Adelaide/ (any other place) is a great place to live.
Make up your own topics like these and practise creating logical arguments in support of the statement.