Many of the students I work with are looking for the one key to getting a high score in the IELTS Writing exam. The fact is, there's isn't one single factor which will guarantee you get the score you need, but there are a few do's and don'ts which are worth remembering.
While you are preparing for the exam:
- Do focus on making your language easy to understand. If your teacher is always writing question marks on your essay, you are not making your meaning clear. If the examiner does not understand what you are trying to say, you have failed to communicate your message and you cannot get the high score you are hoping for.
- Don't get obsessed with linking words and phrases. Of course you do need to use these effectively in order to get a high score, but you won't get a higher score by using unusual or obscure words and phrases. You definitely won't get a high score if you put them in the wrong place. Learn to use a small range of linking devices correctly.
- Instead, do work on developing a really wide range of ideas and opinions about all the common IELTS topics. Read the newspapers and your coursebooks, listen to the news, watch YouTube videos and, most important of all, make an ideas book.
- Don't try to memorise long lists of model sentences out of an IELTS book. Of course you need a range of good vocabulary to get a high score, but it's better to find a few good phrases then use them as soon as possible in your writing until you are really familiar with them, and sure that you are using them correctly. Then repeat the process with a few more.
On the day:
- Do make sure you only spend 20 minutes on Task 1. You cannot get a good mark overall if you do not spend enough time on Task 2.
- Don't panic if you don't fully understand the question. It's not the end of the world. Read the question carefully several times, and if you really, really don't understand it, don't just give up. Make the most sensible guess that you can and take the opportunity in the introduction to clarify what you think the question means. This will make it less confusing for the reader, who will understand where you are coming from. You will still get some credit if you write a good essay.
- Do jot down your ideas and make a quick plan before you start writing the essay. A lot of the marks are for how well organised your essay is, and it's very difficult to do this as you are writing.
- If you do get to the end of your essay and suddenly think of a really, really good idea you should have put in the second paragraph, don't just put it in the conclusion. Leave a space after the end of the conclusion, write down your great idea, then link it to where it should have gone in the essay by using a long arrow.
I hope these ideas are useful - good luck with your preparation!