Have you already taken the IELTS exam and felt unhappy with your writing score? Talked to those with experience and listened to complaints about the challenges in writing? Tried to write an essay and could not meet the word count? Have Searched the internet for tips on writing the better essay? If you answered ‘yes’ to at least one of these questions, then this article is for you.
Writing an essay is a skill that requires analysis, idea development, cohesion, accuracy and advanced vocabulary. You should either present, discuss or argue your point of view or just elaborate on the essay question.
WHAT IS A GOOD ESSAY?
A good essay answers the question and has well-developed paragraphs, uses uncommon and advanced words and phrases, and is an error-free piece of writing. Therefore, before you begin to answer, you should read the question very carefully and understand what the task is. It can help to underline any words and make sure that you refer to them as guiding signals to help stay on track.
Let’s go step by step. When you start practising your writing skills for IELTS, make sure you have enough vocabulary, ideas and positions on the topic. I always call essay writing “18+” skill because one needs to have a clear position on the topic, experience and maturity in order to write more fluently and naturally. However, that doesn’t mean that adults do not write weak essays.
Next, plan what you are going to write about and develop in the paragraphs, in other words, outline the essay. The outline can guarantee a logical, well-organized essay with a smooth flow of ideas. Personally, when I start writing an essay, I spend around 3 minutes on the outline. More often, the sentences that we use in our outline, actually become topic sentences for the paragraph.
TIPS FOR WRITING THE ESSAY
The introduction is the first paragraph of an essay. You will really impress the examiner if you write an outstanding introduction. Make sure that your introduction is broad and not too specific. You should save specific ideas for paragraphs as the aim of the introduction is to help the examiners understand what they will receive from the essay. Another important thing to remember is not to use clichés; the examiners easily detect them.
If you feel that writing an introduction takes the longest time, do not force yourself to begin with it. It is perfectly fine to return to it later on.
2. Thesis statement
The thesis statement has the function of organizing the text and it is placed in the introduction. It is never just a fact or a vague statement. It is a claim or reflection of the topic and should be put in one sentence.
Start practising by taking the essay question and trying to answer the question in one sentence. Writing the thesis statement is sometimes challenging as it must be very specific, precise and direct. Try not to use general or vague words and phrases such as “this essay will discuss…” or “the arguments against or for… will be presented”. Be realistic and don’t try to cover too much in this sentence.
When writing paragraphs, try to focus on two essentials: topic sentences and cohesive devices. You must make sure that your topic sentence is related to the thesis. Think of the topic sentence as the “light at the end of the tunnel”. Each sentence in the paragraph is trying to reach that light; actually, all the sentences in the paragraph support the topic sentence. So, keep in mind that the paragraph revolves around the central idea and this idea is supported by the details and examples stated in the paragraph.
Cohesive devices are those nails that fix the sentences to the paragraph. They connect supporting sentences to each other and to the topic sentence and discuss with more details and reasons. These transition words show how the ideas are connected to each other and, even more so, they help the reader to understand the logic of the paragraph without any making any assumptions.
Do not forget about the last sentence of the paragraph, which we call the concluding sentence. You can decide whether to include them or not as they are not mandatory. However, I have read many essays where I felt there was a strong need for a concluding sentence to add to the unity of the paragraph.
To conclude, provided that you make sure that supporting sentences are in logical order, and the ideas are connected using appropriate cohesive devices, you can sit back and relax. You are more than halfway to writing a good essay.
The conclusion is probably the easiest part of the essay to write as you are just summarizing what you have already written. Moreover, you should not write any new ideas in the conclusion. I have noticed many times students who try to write everything again in the conclusion. This is not a requirement. You can rephrase your thesis statement and one more summarizing sentence and it will be enough to include for the conclusion.
Make sure you have time to check your essay. My recommendation is to always start the exam writing your essay and try to finish it in 35 minutes. Then complete writing task 1 in 15 minutes, leaving 10 minutes to check both answers.