IELTS Writing Skills: What is the examiner looking for?

by / Monday, 28 April 2014

IELTS Writing Skills

Students can feel they fail to progress with their writing, often because they are unsure of what the examiner is looking for. This is the purpose of the Public Band Descriptors for Task 1 and Task 2 – to inform you about what the examiner assesses in your writing, and what you need to do to reach your target band.


For Task 2, to reach the band you need, the first area to work on is Task Response – ensuring that you answer the question fully and appropriately. Many students, however, get a low score for Task Response, as they are unclear what they are being asked to do.


What do the Public Band Descriptors say?


The Descriptors are available online. To reach the band you need – for most students this is a 7.0 – you are given the following guidelines. For Task 2, a student with a 7.0:


  1. ‘addresses all parts of the task
  2. presents a clear position throughout the response
  3. presents, extends and supports main ideas, but there may be a tendency to overgeneralise and/or supporting ideas may lack focus’


What does this mean?


It is important that you understand what this means. If we paraphrase, they mean that in Task 2, a student who gets a 7.0:


  1. covers all parts of the question
  2. makes their opinion clear throughout the essay, i.e. in all paragraphs
  3. provides support, i.e. reasons, examples, results


There is a fourth important thing to remember. This student also:


  1. writes more than 250 words


Can I see an example?


Let’s consider the following Task 2 question:


Large numbers of children and young people use technology in schools. To what extent do you think that technology has a beneficial effect in schools?


Look at the following model introduction:


As using computers and programs such as Word and Excel has become a key part of working life, it becomes increasingly important for teachers to ensure their pupils have a high level of digital literacy. The use of technology in the classroom, in my opinion, ensures young people acquire key skills for both work and their future studies.


In this short introduction, the candidate already manages to do many things asked by the examiner:


  1. Covers all parts of the question: The candidate directly discusses the effects of technology on education. They avoid being too general – a common mistake is to write several sentences about technology in general:


i.e. ‘Nowadays people have computers all over the world.’


The candidate gets straight to the point, and they discuss digital literacy instead of technology in general.


  1. Makes their opinion clear throughout the essay: We know exactly what the candidate thinks about technology in schools: digital literacy is important, and technology ensures young people acquire key skills. They make it clear that this is their position by saying in my opinion. A common mistake is to state no opinion until the conclusion – this candidate has not made this mistake!


  1. Provides support, i.e. reasons, examples, results: This is only an introduction, so the candidate has avoided providing any support. The support will follow in the body paragraphs.


There are signs from the introduction that this candidate will be highly successful, as they discuss the topic directly and make their opinion clear.

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