Are there any secret keys to IELTS Writing Task 2?

A student asked me this recently and, unfortunately, the answer is no. There is no secret formula that will magically unlock the score you need.

There are, however, some simple things you can do to make sure you don’t lower your score unnecessarily.

1. Use separate paragraphs, with a full line under each paragraph (see the examples below).

2. Talk about all parts of the topic.

For example, for the question below:

Individuals on their own can’t do anything to help protect the environment. Only the government and large companies can make a difference. Do you agree with this opinion?

You should talk about both [1] individuals and [2] the government and large companies.

An easy way to do this is to make sure you use those words (or synonyms) in your body paragraphs.

3. Have just one main idea in each body paragraph. Develop this one idea fully for the whole paragraph.

For example, if the question is about advantages and disadvantages, just give one advantage or disadvantage in each body paragraph. Develop this idea with appropriate explanations and examples. DON’T give another advantage or disadvantage in the same paragraph.

4. Always ‘finish’ your essay.

If you only have one minute left and you haven’t finished yet, just write a one-sentence conclusion. Never leave an incomplete sentence at the end.

5. Don’t use obvious linking words and don’t use linking words at the beginning of every sentence.

Avoid saying: Firstly, … Secondly, … or On the one hand, … On the other hand…

Also, avoid saying words like In addition, … As a result, … and Thus, … at the beginning of every sentence.

Using those words too frequently will make your writing look ‘mechanical’. Instead, only use linking words when they’re necessary and try to use less common linking words instead, like, That being said, … (instead of however) or As such, … (instead of thus/therefore).

6. Give a direct answer to the question and write like you speak.

When you read the question, pretend it’s from the speaking test and imagine what you would say to the examiner. For example, if this is the question:

Individuals on their own can’t do anything to help protect the environment. Only the government and large companies can make a difference. Do you agree with this opinion?

Say something like this in your introduction:

I totally disagree with the idea that individuals can’t do anything to help protect the environment.

Writing like you speak can also help you to explain your ideas clearly and use vocabulary that sounds natural.

Finally…

Keep this list of tips with you and try to do all of these things every time you write a practice essay. This will make it less likely that you lower your score unnecessarily during the actual test.

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