Tag Archives: IELTS

Beat the IELTS Task 1 Writing: Application

In the previous post, I provided tips on dealing with the IELTS Task 1 writing prompt. This post will provide an application of the various suggestions made. Below is the prompt

The graph below shows how married men and women spend their unpaid work hours. Describe the information shown below in your own words. You should write at least 150 words. Allow yourself 20 minutes for this task.

Table: Unpaid Work Hours per Week
Without Kids               With 1-2 Kids               With 3 or More Kids
Gender
Male                20                                     20                                  18
Female            30                                     50                                  58

Remember there are four approaches to writing the prompt

  1. A simple fact from the graph/table
  2. Compare information in the graph/table
  3. Contrast information in the graph/table
  4. Summarize information from the graph/table

In addition, it is wise to work from left to right when deciding what data to write about.

Always start with an outline. It does not have to be this formal. However, you need to know where you are going when you write and just a little bit of scribble can help in writing clearly especially when English is not your first language

Outline

  1. Fact
    1. Women without kids spend 30 hours a week in unpaid work.
    2. Women with 1-2 kids spend 50 hours a week in unpaid work
  2. Comparison
    1. Men without kids and men with 1-2 kids both spend about 20 hours a week in unpaid work.
    2. Men with 3 or more kids spend almost the same amount of time in unpaid work as men with no kids and men with 1-2 kids
  3. Contrast
    1. Female with 3 or more kids spend 58 hours a week in unpaid work but men with 3 or more kids only spend about 18 hours a week in unpaid work.
  4. Summary
    1. Women spend more time in unpaid work than men

Example Essay

The table shows data on the amount of time men and women spend in unpaid work depending on the number of children they have. Women without kids spend 30 hours a week in unpaid work. Men without kids and men with 1-2 kids both spend about 20 hours a week in unpaid work. Female with 3 or more kids spend 58 hours a week in unpaid work but men with 3 or more kids only spend about 18 hours a week in unpaid work. In conclusion, it can be said that women spend more time in unpaid work than men.

IMPORTANT

If you count the number of words in the example above it is only a 100. The directions asked for at least 150. This means that I would receive a lower score because of the brevity of my paragraph. My writing is too concise and I need more than one fact, comparison, and contrast. How many do I need? It depends. You need to be familiar with your writing style. Do you tend to be brief? Then you will need to pull more data from the graph/table. Do you tend to have a lot to say? Then you need to pull less data from the table. You need to know your style before the test not after because then it will be too late. Practice, practice, practice is the only way to discover how you write. Below is a modified outline and essay example

Modified Outline

  1. Fact
    1. Women without kids spend 30 hours a week in unpaid work.
    2. Women with 1-2 kids spend 50 hours a week in unpaid work
  2.  Comparison
    1. Men without kids and men with 1-2 kids both spend about 20 hours a week in unpaid work.
    2. Men with 3 or more kids spend almost the same amount of time in unpaid work as men with no kids and men with 1-2 kids, 18 hours versus 20 hours
  3. Contrast
    1. Female with 3 or more kids spend 58 hours a week in unpaid work but men with 3 or more kids only spend about 18 hours a week in unpaid work.
    2. Women with 3 or more kids spend more time in unpaid housework than women with fewer or no children.
  4. Summary
    1. Women spend more time in unpaid work than men

Modified Example Essay

The table shows data on the amount of time men and women spend in unpaid work depending on the number of children they have. Women without kids spend 30 hours a week in unpaid work. In addition, women with 1-2 kids spend 50 hours a week in unpaid work. Men without kids and men with 1-2 kids both spend about 20 hours a week in unpaid work. Men with 3 or more kids spend almost the same amount of time in unpaid work as men with no kids and men with 1-2 kids, 18 hours versus 20 hours. Females with 3 or more kids spend 58 hours a week in unpaid work but men with 3 or more kids only spend about 18 hours a week in unpaid work. Women with 3 or more kids spend more time in unpaid housework than women with 1-2 or no children. In conclusion, it can be said that women spend more time in unpaid work than men.

In this example, I have 165 words. For me, I need more data from the table to have success. For you, you have to figure out what works.

Beat the IELTS Task 1 Writing

The Task 1 writing prompt on the IELTS normally involves the interpretation of some sort data or a diagram. In my experience, the Task 1 is much easier for students to write than a Task 2. The reason being that in a Task 1 you are taking numbers or pictures and putting them into simple English. With a Task 2, the students have to actually develop an original thought rather than interpret someone else’s data. Creating is much more challenging then describing something for most people especially in their second language.

There are some basic guidelines that can help people to improve their performance on a Task 1. Below is an example with an explanation of how to approach it.

The graph below shows how married men and women spend their unpaid work hours. Describe the information shown below in your own words. You should write at least 150 words. Allow yourself 20 minutes for this task.

Table: Unpaid Work Hours per Week
Without Kids            With 1-2 Kids               With 3 or More Kids
Gender
Male                20                                     20                                              18
Female           30                                     50                                              58

The prompt above tells us to describe the graph. This is important. For the most part, your opinion does not matter. You could make statements that women are being oppressed by the men because they are doing more unpaid work. This may be true but is this describing the graph in terms of its numbers or an expression of your opinion? The word count is short (150 words) so there is not much space for sharing an opinion. It is wiser to just describe the information as instructed. The injustice can be express after the test.

When working with my students, I always tell them to describe the data from left to right if possible. Look to the far left and describe that information first. Then move to the right. This helps in making sure that the entire graph is described in the essay. Many times students sit at their desk and have no idea where to begin. Telling them to start on the left-hand side is an easy way to get them started. It gives them a starting point and speeds up the ability to make a choice about what to write.

Normally, you only need to describe four elements of the graph to reach 150 words. You don’t want to write more than you have to as it does not increase your score but increases the chance you will make grammatical mistakes. Below is one approach I have used with students that include four different elements.

  1. A simple fact from the graph/table
  2. Compare information in the graph/table
  3. Contrast information in the graph/table
  4. Summarize information from the graph/table

A Simple Fact

A simple fact is just that. Taking data from the table and putting it in simple English. A fact for our purposes is one description of one data point in the table/graph. Looking at the example in this post here is an example of a fact.

Males without kids spend 20 hours a week in unpaid work.

The reader can check to see if this is correct. In addition, notice how I use as many components from the table as possible. I use the term  male, I use part of the title of the table “Unpaid Work Hours per Week” and I use the hours “20.” The more components from the table that you put into the sentence the clearer the sentence should be. I have my students right little checkmarks next to each component they use in a sentence so they can see how they are translating the table into simple English.

Compare Information in the Graph

Comparing the information in the graph involves taking two facts within the passage and pointing out how they are similar. Looking at the table above here is an example.

Males without kids and males with 1-2 kids both spend 20 hours a week in unpaid work.

Here I compare males without kids with males with 1-2 kids. They both spend about 20 hours a week in unpaid work. This provides yet another description of the table in simple English.

There are an infinite number of comparisons that can be made. However, following the principle of moving from left to right helps to eliminate choices, which helps in making a faster decision. Remember, we only have 20 minutes so we are not going to make in-depth exhaustive comparisons. Always keep it simple in clear English to maximize your score

Contrast Information in the Graph

This is the opposite of comparing. Here you indicate how to facts in the graph are not the same. Here is an example.

Females with 1-2 kids spend 50 hours a week in unpaid work but Females with 3 or more kids spend 58 hours a week in unpaid work.

The important part to mention is that when contrasting you need to use a contrasting word such as but, however, in contrast, etc.  This implies opposite and serves as a signal to the reader.

Summarize

The summary is usually one of the last sentences in the essay. It provides an overall theme of the graph. Again there are an infinite number of possibilities but you need to pick what you think is most important. Below is one example of many.

In conclusion, women spend more time than men in unpaid work.

Of course, there are other ways to do summarize such as emphasizing how men work less instead of women working more. Try to provide the reader with a one-sentence summary of the graph.

In the next post, I will provide an example of an application without so much description.

Beat the IELTS Task 2 Writing: Application

In the last post, I provided some basic tips for dealing with the IELTS Task 2 writing prompts. In this post, I will apply these tips in order to show how they can help someone to perform better on the IELTS.

Below is an example of a potential writing prompt for the Task 2

Smoking is bad for you. Do you agree or disagree? Use reasons and examples to support your answer.

Writing Process
Step 1: Break down the prompt to determine what to do

The prompt has three components to it
An opinion: Smoking is bad for you
Your job: Do you agree or disagree
Advice: Use reasons and examples to support your answer

This prompt is a one job task as we only have to do one thing, which agrees or disagree that smoking is bad for you.

 Step 2: Develop outline

You need to think and plan before writing. It is common for people to take off and start writing without any idea of what they will say. Writing is different from speaking. We can speak without thinking but our body language can help in expressing what we want to say. In addition, when speaking to people, they can ask us for clarification. Both body language and follow-up questions are not possible when writing. This is why planning is so important. If you are unclear there is nothing that can be done.

Your thesis is whether you agree or disagree. It is the ultimate main idea of your essay. Your reasons are explanations of your thesis. Lastly, examples help illustrate your reasons. Keeping this in mind helps with the internal consistency of your argument. Many times students make unrelated points that do not support each other. Remember your thesis is supported by your reasons and your reasons are supported by your examples. This has less to do with your English ability as it has to with thinking and organizational skills. There are native speakers who cannot organize their thoughts to pass the IELTS.

Outline Example
The standard five-paragraph essay will be employed in the outline below.

  1. Introduction
    1. Topic sentence-There are people who believe that smoking is bad for you
    2. Thesis-I agree that smoking is bad for (remember agreeing or disagreeing is the easiest way to write)
    3. Reasons
      1. Causes health problems
      2. Is a waste of money
      3. Is a bad example for children
  2. Reason 1-Smoking causes health problems
    1. Example-grandfather smoked many years. He got cancer and died a terrible death (NOTE: examples do not have to be true. The goal is to illustrate the reason)
  3. Reason 2-Smoking waste money
    1. Example-Friend spent money on cigarettes and hand constant financial problems
  4. Reason 3-Smoking is a bad example for children
    1. Uncle smoked. Eventually, his kids smoked. My uncle always regretted that his children smoked even though he did it. His kids said that they smoked to be like him.
  5. Conclusion
    1. Smoking is not good for a person because it leads to many problems

Your outline does not have to be this formal. A few notes on a scratch piece of paper is enough for most people. You do need to think before you write. Since people who take the IELTS are non-native speakers they must be much more careful in how they approach writing. Planning allows them to focus on English while writing. Failing to plan leads to trying to plan and worrying about the English at the same time. This leads to cognitive overload and loss of points.

One other point, the Task 2 prompt requires at least 250 words. Give them only about 250 words. The more you write the more mistakes you will make as a non-native writer, which will lead to an irritated reader. Writing 500 lousy words is not going to help you pass if instead, you write 275 excellent words. It is quality with a minimum amount of quantity that matters.

Step 3: Write the Essay 

Essay Example
Below is a write up of the outline

Smoking is bad for you. Do you agree or disagree? Use reasons and examples to support your answer.

There are people who believe that smoking is bad for. I agree that smoking is bad for you. I have three reasons why I believe this. First, smoking leads to health problems. Second, smoking waste a lot of money. Lastly, smoking is a bad example for kids.

One reason smoking is bad for you is that it harms your health. For example, I know of someone’s grandfather who smokes cigarettes for years. Eventually, he becomes really sick with cancer. The disease destroyed his body and made his life miserable. After suffering for some time, he died. His death was caused partly by his decision to smoke cigarettes for many years.

Smoking is also bad for you because it wastes money. I have a friend who smokes. He spends several dollars a day on this habit. Since he is always spending money on cigarettes he is constantly short of cash. Even though he has a good job his habit is eating a hole in his finances. He is always asking people if he can borrow money. If he stopped smoking he might have more money.

Lastly, smoking is a bad example for children. I have an uncle who smokes. When his children grew up, they started to smoke as well. My uncle always regretted that his kids smoke even though he smoked himself. He was worried about their health. His kids told him that they smoked because they wanted to be like him. His influence led to their poor choice.

I believe that people should avoid smoking. There are physical, financial, and social concerns when people choose to do this. It benefits everyone if people choose not to smoke.

Conclusion

In this post, we learned that there are three steps to writing which are breaking down the prompt, developing an outline, and writing the essay. These steps will hopefully help anyone who needs to take the IELTS

Beat the IELTS Task 2 Writing

The task 2 writing on the IELTS calls on students to express their opinion about a topic. This is not as easy as it sounds even for native speakers. There are many common pitfalls such as not responding to the question or not understanding what the question wants you to do. One of the first steps to take in writing a response to task 2 question is to break down the question to determine what you need to do.

Many Task 2 writing prompts have three components to them. They are listed below

  1. A statement that is a fact or opinion
  2. What you need to do (the job)
  3. Advice on how to complete the task

Let’s look at an example

  • Schools should ask students to evaluate their teachers. Do you agree or disagree? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

In this example, we have all three components.

  1. Schools should ask students to evaluate their teachers. (This is the opinion you are reacting to)
  2. Do you agree or disagree? (Your job is to explain why you agree or disagree)
  3. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer. (Here is the advice to complete the task)

In this example, our job is to agree or disagree about whether students should evaluate teachers. This example is a one job task. In other words, you have to only do one thing which explains why you agree or disagree. Some writing prompts call for doing more than one job such as compare and contrast in which you compare and then you contrast. One job tasks are the easiest to respond to.

Another important point is that if the prompt asks you to agree or disagree this is what you should do. It is too complicated to try and agree and disagree because it takes a much higher level of English to express a nuance opinion. Keep it simple and maximize your score through simply agreeing or disagreeing. Everybody knows the world is more complicated then that but if you need to take the IELTS you might not be ready to express this yet. Don’t try to show the reader how smart you are save that for the future.

Outline
The biggest mistake many students make is they jump right in to writing without developing any sort of outline. This is similar to jumping in your car to drive somewhere you have never been without directions. You’ll eventually get there but you journey is longer and unpredictable because of lack of preparation. It is important to make a simple outline of what you want to say.

Below is one way to approach a one job Task 2 writing prompt. It uses a traditional 5 paragraph essay format.

  1. Introduction-Paragraph has three component to it as explained below
    1. The 1st sentence should restate the statement or opinion. Indicate what the topic is even though the reader already knows.
    2. Indicate whether you agree or disagree. Tell the reader if you agree or disagree right away. There is no time to be indirect and mysterious
    3. Give your reasons for agreeing or disagreeing. In order to have five paragraphs you will have to develop three reasons why you agree or disagree. Each reason will have its own paragraph in which you explain it. It is common for students to struggle here. They have an opinion but they do not have any well thought out reason for the opinon. This is one reason why the IELTS is not only an English test but a test of thinking ability.
  2. Body paragraph-The three body paragraphs follow the same format as explained below
    1. 1st sentence should state the reason-Your first sentence in each body paragraph should restate one of your reasons why you agree or disagree.
    2. Example-Every reason needs some sort of illustration that further explains the reason. For example, if you think smoking is bad for someone because it causes health problems. You might share a story about how smoking killed a close relative. This illustration further clarifies why you think smoking is bad for you
  3.  Conclusion-Restate your opinion and reasons using different English if possible. There are other ways to end an essay but this is the simplest.

Examples will be provided in the future