IELTS Essay Writing Guidelines and Tips

ielts essay writingWhether you are taking the IELTS, or the International English Language Testing System, exam as a prerequisite to enrolling in a college or university in an English speaking country, or you are taking it for the purposes of finding a job or for immigrating to an English speaking country, one of biggest challenges you will face is mastering the essay portion of the exam. Udemy’s Express IELTS Preparation Course can give you all the tools that you need to study for the exam in a hurry. However, there are some things that you should know in order to do the best work possible on the writing portion of the exam – specifically, the second writing task.

Understanding the IELTS Writing Tasks 

The second task of the IELTS examination will change depending on whether you are taking the Academic or the General version of the IELTS examination. However, in both instances you will essentially be writing an essay. For the Academic version of the IELTS exam, this essay will be a response to an argument of the type that you would encounter and be forced to respond to in an academic setting. With the General version of the exam, this is a general essay that will generally ask the writer to discuss a point, to give an opinion on something, to discuss a cause and effect, or anything else of that nature.

Using Proper Grammar and Language

Mastery of the IELTS essay begins with mastery of basic English language skills. The ins and outs of English grammar can be tricky to navigate, but a course such as Udemy’s The Elements of English Grammar can give you a brief overview of the language and can help you prevent some of the most common grammar mistakes that people – native and non-native speakers alike – make. Leading up to the date of the test you may also consider engaging in daily grammar practice, which will help to cement the grammar rules that you have learned and to make them much more natural to you.

Be sure that you are reading plenty of quality sample IELTS essays as well, as well as academic and journalistic writing pieces that can help you to better understand the type of word usage and the tone of voice that works best for these kinds of essays. You want to be able to prove not only that you can write with proper spelling and grammar, but also that you understand how to use the right language in the right situations.

Reading and Understanding the Question 

Once you’ve read the question you’ve been presented with as a part of your IELTS examination, you probably want to go ahead and jump right in. However, do remember that without careful and thorough reading of the question, you might write an essay that isn’t really want the exam makers are asking for.

For example, a question could ask you to give your opinion on a certain subject, but without reading the question carefully you might end up writing about both sides of the argument, without coming to any real conclusion. Even if you have crafted a great essay, the people scoring the test will not be able to grade you as highly as they otherwise would have been able to.

Making this kind of error may indicate to them that you are not as capable of understanding the finer details of the English language at worst, so be sure you read the question carefully and have a full and accurate idea of what it means before you start writing. To help you with this, here are some of the more common types of questions that you may be asked, and some tips on identifying the type of essay you would need to write in order to fit the essay requirements.

  • Agree/Disagree: If the essay asks you to write about your opinion on a subject, you are essentially being asked to either agree or disagree with the argument that has already been made in the essay prompt. Be sure that you not only make your position clear, but that you support your position with a variety of facts and examples.
  • Discuss Two Opinions: Sometimes you may be asked to discuss two sides of an argument equally, writing about the pros and cons of each opinion. Remember that if you are asked to discuss two differing opinions, you need to give them equal measure – even if one or both opinions are not ones that you necessarily support.
  • Discuss Advantages and Disadvantages: As is the case with discussing two different opinions, remember that you need to give equal weight to both sides when you are asked to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a certain idea or practice. And, again, remember that both sides must be supported by facts.
  • Problems and Solutions: Sometimes the essay prompt may discuss a problem of some kind. You will then be asked to propose some sort of solution, or else to discuss a potential solution and why it may be a valid (or invalid) option for dealing with a problem.
  • Cause and Effect: A cause and effect type essay can appear in connection with any of a number of subjects, ranging from sociology to history. In a cause and effect essay, you will be asked to discuss the correlation of two events and to discuss why one was the direct cause of the other. Remember that in a cause and effect essay it is important to draw as clear a conclusion as possible.
  • Compare and Contrast: You could potentially compare and contrast any of a number of things, but for the most part you will likely be asked to compare and contrast two different sets of ideas or philosophies. This is much the same as discussing two opinions, but it is even more crucial to keep your own opinions out of a compare and contrast type essay. Also, be sure that when you are comparing and contrasting two different things in this type of essay that you give both sides equal weight.

Basic Essay Writing Strategy 

Whenever you are writing any type of essay, there are some things that you can keep in mind in order to improve its quality and its readability.

First, remember to always lead an essay with a clear introduction that discusses the topic. This introduction needs to be as short as possible – after all, you only have 40 minutes to spend on the essay, and it is the body of the essay that is most important. However, do avoid introductions that simply tell the reader what you’re going to be talking about.

For example, “I am going to discuss…” or “Today I am going to talk about…” (As a matter of fact, one great essay writing tip that can help you craft a better end product is avoiding the use of the word “I” altogether… even in an opinion essay!)

After the introduction, you’ll move on to the body of the essay. You should only write two or three paragraphs for the body. Remember that each paragraph should discuss a different idea. Udemy’s Quality Paragraph and Essay Writing course can teach you how to build stronger and more cohesive paragraphs for your essays, and can be great for improving your ability to stay on topic and to create a better argument.

The conclusion of the essay will only need to be a few sentences long, and should essentially emphasize the point that you are trying to make (if it was an opinionated essay) or to restate the general idea of the entire essay.

Tips for Crafting a Stronger Essay 

If you speak English fluently, or at the very least semi-fluently, you likely already have most of the skills that you need to do well at the IELTS writing examination. However, there are still some things that you can do in order to improve.

First, never underestimate the power of practice not only for improving your essay writing abilities, but also for improving your ability to write and speak in English overall. Be sure to not only practice writing this style of essay, but to get as much English practice in as you possibly can. Read the language, speak the language, and write the language as often as possible.

Remember that the IELTS essay doesn’t have to be flashy or packed with complex words, language, and thoughts. While you may enjoy playing with different English words or even writing poetry in English, remember that this test is a simple assessment of the basic English language skills. Trying to “show off” or to write in a very flashy manner can backfire on you and actually lead to a lower score.

And above all, remember – don’t get too stressed out. You’ve already learned English, so the hard part really is over! Now, all you need to do is refine what you have already learned. If you would still like a little help, check out Udemy’s course on acing the IELTS and TOEFL writing sections. They can give you an even more in-depth look at these tests and can help ensure that you make the best possible score.