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IELTS Writing – Examiner Secrets!

Most candidates score higher on IELTS Reading and Listening!

Generally, Speaking and Writing are the lowest scores, and often prevent a candidate from getting the overall score they need!

The Good News

Two-thirds of the Writing Test score comes from Task Two, and there is a very simple to learn method that guarantees a high score for any Task 2 question!
(NOTE: This is assuming that the candidate’s English writing is at an acceptable level to start with!)

The Argumentation Essay!

When we think of the word argument, we might picture two red-faced people speaking quite
loudly and making dramatic gestures.

That’s because face-to-face arguments often become emotional. Argumentation essay writing is quite different!

What is Argumentation Writing?

This involves providing proof to support your claim, in a calm and composed way. An argumentation essay requires a logical presentation of the evidence to support your view (your argument)!


Just stating your view is not an argument!


Both sides of the topic are explored to justify why one side or position (your opinion or argument), is the correct one.


Argumentation is considered one of the four main methods of verbal & written communication; the other three being exposition, description & narration!

Task 2 Assessment Criteria

Before looking further at argumentation writing, we need to understand why it is needed, which requires us to take a quick look at how IELTS writing is assessed.

There are four assessment criteria for IELTS writing assessment. ‘Criteria’ basically means the standard that is set, and which the examiner is looking for.

  1. Task Response
  2. Coherence & Cohesion
  3. Lexical Resource
  4. Grammatical Range & Accuracy

The first two are the most important and are the first the examiner will assess. Using a correct argumentation essay response format will guarantee a high assessment score for these two parts! Furthermore, this is something that can be learned very quickly, taking a few days, rather than the usual months and even years!

  1. Task Response: This assesses how well the question is answered.
  2. Coherence & Cohesion: Coherence assesses whether the information and ideas are logically organized and flow smoothly. Cohesion assesses whether everything connects (links) together well.

Note: A response that does not provide a full and complete answer to the question, will be restricted to a band 5 for Task Response.

Fully answering the question is, therefore, very important, but causes problems for many!

In a stressful situation, which the Writing Test is; failing to answer some parts of the question is common.

How can this be avoided?

Having a clear and logical writing structure to follow, will reduce the risk of such errors.

This is where we come back to argumentation writing!

Before that, however, we need to look at the types of Task 2 questions!

There are two main question types!

Type 1. One or more related statements connected to a single viewpoint, followed by one of the following question formats:

i. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

ii. Are there more advantages or more disadvantages to this development?

iii. What do you think are the reasons for this situation? Is it a positive or negative development?

Question example

The crime rate nowadays is decreasing compared to the past due to advanced technology which can prevent and solve crime.

Do you agree or disagree?

Type 2. Two opposing views on a given topic, which the candidate is asked to discuss and provide their opinion on!

Question example

Some people say that when deciding how taxes should be spent, governments should prioritise health care. Other people say that there are more important priorities for tax-payers money.


Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.


All IELTS Task 2 questions will fall into these two categories and can be answered using the standard argumentation essay format!

Using the same format/structure for every Task 2 question provides the following benefits:

  • A ready-made structure, for candidates to use, so they can spend less time thinking how to say it and focus more on what to say!
  • More time to plan the response, and avoid missing anything out, and damaging the Task Response score!
  • An essay format that examiners will be very familiar with, making it easier for them to read and understand!

How to Structure the Essay

All essays, whether long or short use the same basic structure, which consists of three main elements!

  1. Introduction
  2. Main Body
  3. Conclusion

Basic argumentation essay

The classic five-paragraph essay is an extension of the previous three-part essay and is the ideal structure for any short argumentation essay!


It has three main body paragraphs.


Normally, it is used as an essay teaching method and is restricted to a few hundred words in length, making it ideal for IELTS Task 2 responses, of around 250 words!

The structure:

Paragraph 1: INTRODUCTION.

Paragraph 2: The first MAIN BODY paragraph. (The writer’s view/opinion)

Paragraph 3: The second MAIN BODY paragraph. (Concession)

Paragraph 4: The third MAIN BODY paragraph. (Rebuttal)

Paragraph 5: CONCLUSION.

Argumentation Essay Writing in Action

A complete response is provided to the following question, broken down into all the individual elements, which reveals the simplicity of this writing method.

Some people say that when deciding how taxes should be spent, governments should prioritise health care. Other people say that there are more important priorities for tax-payers money.


Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

Paragraph 1: INTRODUCTION

  1. Introduce the topic
  2. Present the two views
  3. Present your view


Example

‘Currently, there is a debate regarding the use of taxpayers money in relation to health care spending. It is believed by some, that spending on this should be a government priority. Others, however, think that health care is not as important as spending in other areas. In my opinion, a healthy society is crucial to the success of any country, so health care should be prioritised.’


Paragraph 2: The first MAIN BODY paragraph.

Name and explain the most important reason for your stated view/opinion/position.

‘The world is becoming much smaller, and for a country to survive and prosper in the new global economy, they need to be competitive. The most important asset of a company is its workforce; they make the difference between success and failure! In today’s global market a country is just like a huge company. A healthy workforce is, therefore, necessary for growth and stability.’


Paragraph 3: The second MAIN BODY paragraph.

Present the opposing position (concession), with one of the best reasons why some people may hold that view.

‘Others may argue that unless the workforce is well educated and highly skilled, the economy will never do well. The economy is always going be trapped at the bottom end of the supply chain, providing products and services heavily reliant on price! Such a situation places the economy at constant threat from countries where salaries and living conditions are lower.’


Paragraph 4: The third MAIN BODY paragraph.

Explain why the opposing view is either wrong or not as important as your view. (rebuttal)

‘I agree that spending on education and training is also necessary. However, being well educated and skilled will not help someone make a full contribution to the economy if they suffer from poor health!’


Paragraph 5: CONCLUSION

Rephrase and recap your position on the issue and reasons for it.

The conclusion should focus on the key reasons for your view/position. It can offer a solution, or express hope or prediction for the future. (It should never contain new facts!)

‘Prioritising government spending on healthcare is a necessity, rather than a luxury. Fewer missed days due to illness, and a workforce fully able to capitalize on its abilities will help drive innovation, growth, and prosperity.’


NOTE: The above essay content, in blue text, is 259 words long, nine more than the minimum required! However, it is very easy to write, as it is just following a template. To amount of time and effort required to prepare the response is minimal. All that is required is to have two reasons to support one of the arguments and one to support the opposing view – it is that simple!

Points to note

Even in essays containing two opposing viewpoints, only the writer’s view should be mentioned in the conclusion.

The idea in this type of essay is to always present more of our view, than the opposing view and to sandwich that view between ours.

The last paragraph, (conclusion) is the last thing the reader remembers, which is why we only mention our view here!

For anyone paying close attention, you may be wondering about how the above argumentation essay can be used in Type 1 questions! After all, an argumentation essay is based on presenting two opposing viewpoints on a particular topic.

The crime rate nowadays is decreasing compared to the past due to advanced technology which can prevent and solve crime.

Do you agree or disagree?

The above question appears to require only one view or argument; the writer is asked to indicate whether they agree or disagree. So how can we use an argumentation essay to answer this type of question?

The answer is very simple: In presenting your view, either agreeing or disagreeing, the opposing view can also be delivered, in the second main body paragraph. Although the writer is not specifically requested to introduce an opposing argument, there is nothing that says they should not!

Additional Points

Besides reducing the amount of time and effort required in planning the essay structure, a five paragraph essay also removes the concerns about how to write at least 250 words on a particular topic!

It is difficult to write less than 250 words, using this method!


Typical essay word count structure:

Introduction – 10% to 15%

Main Body – 70% to 80%

Conclusion – 10% to 15%


Final Thoughts

For the examiner, it presents a structured response to the question, in a style familiar to any English teacher (IELTS Examiners are all experienced English Teachers!) leading to a high Task Response score!

Also, it will make the writing coherent and cohesive, satisfying the second assessment criterion, Coherence & Cohesion.

Coherence: Information and ideas are logically organized, and there is a good flow!

Cohesion: Everything connects together (links) well. This includes between and within sentences and paragraphs!

The other two criteria; Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range & Accuracy do not have such a simple solution!

To do well here requires the writer to have a reasonable vocabulary and a strong grasp of using grammar correctly, not just knowing the rules. (There is a big difference!)

However, band six can be achieved in Lexical Resource even with a ‘restricted range’ of words and without using a single idiom.

Only at band 7 are less common words, collocations and idioms required!

‘Warning Notice’

The use of memorised phrases and chunks of text, to answer rehearsed questions does not work!

Examiners can identify them very easily, because the candidate will normally use them out of context, or inappropriately.

Where a candidate can use them in the correct context and appropriately, they don’t need to memorise any responses!

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