Critical thinking for IELTS Reading and Writing

by / Wednesday, 29 January 2014

To gain a higher band in IELTS (above a Band 6), it is necessary to be able to make clear and understand a writer’s opinion:

In Reading, this particularly applies to questions such as Yes / No / Not Given, but also appears in other question types. In Writing Task 2, to gain a higher band, it is essential that the student ‘presents a clear position throughout the response’ and ‘presents, extends and supports main ideas’.

This skill is known as critical thinking and is an essential skill for university work.

Critical thinking

The problem for many students is that writers do not usually state their opinion directly. Take these examples:

Writer 1: I think a tax on junk food is a good idea.Writer 2: Taxing junk food is an effective approach to reducing obesity.

Writer 1 gives their opinion directly; Writer 2 makes their position clear in their choice of words (effective) and evidence (reducing obesity). As Writer 2 is less direct, it involves some critical thinking to extract the writer’s position.

Practice

To practice, read articles on one issue from different newspapers. For example, in the UK, the Times and the Guardian often give different positions on the same news. Read with a pen, and underline the parts that relate to the writer’s position. Then compare the different articles.

 

When doing this, it is useful to ask yourself the following questions and underline the parts of the text that help you to answer them:

  1. What is the writer’s position? How does the writer make their position clear?
  2. How does the writer develop and support this opinion?
  3. Does the writer mention any opposing views? How does the writer refute them?
  4. What differences can you see between different articles on the same issue?

 

 

Example

Read the following factual piece on Bulgarian and Romanian migration to the UK:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21523319

 

Now that you have an idea of the background to the discussion, read the following three opinion pieces. Think about the four questions above and underline the relevant parts.

Conclusion

Practising critical thinking is essential to reach a higher band in the IELTS exam. Being able to identify the writer’s opinion in Reading helps with some question types and more difficult questions. It is also important that you can make your position clear, as well being able to support and develop your ideas. Without these skills, it will be difficult to achieve a Band 6 or Band 7 in Writing Task 2. Use what you read in the newspapers as a model for your own writing.

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