How to combat common IELTS writing mistakes:

We all make mistakes, like the saying goes, ‘you learn from your mistakes.’ But when it comes to sitting the IELTS exam, mistakes are not something we want to make.

 Practice Makes Perfect

Practicing your writing as much as possible will help, but unless you review your work or get a teacher to check it, then you are basically going to make the same mistakes over and over again. What to do? Write – read – correct- write – read – correct. Once you have finished writing a paragraph, go back and read it again before writing more. If you sign up to E2language.com: www.e2language.com, we offer face to face feedback. It is vital to be aware of your mistakes in order to improve your overall IELTS writing score.

IELTS Writing
Practice makes perfect!

Common writing mistakes In IELTS writing

Not understanding the whole essay question

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” (John Powell)

 All IELTS essay questions will have an instructional sentence, telling students exactly what they are supposed to do in their written response.

TIP: use a highlighter or underline the instruction: discuss, analyses, argue, etc.

There will be trigger words, such as; discuss, analyze, argue, support and the student is expected to respond accordingly.

For example:

Some people argue that universities should provide students with more practical training for their future career. Should university education be more vocational or academic? Discuss and state your opinion.

In this example be aware of what it is you are supposed to do, i.e. discuss the argument that Universities should provide students with more practical training for their future career. Then give your opinion, do you agree or disagree? Why or why not? Be sure to analyse both sides of the argument.

When giving your opinion, it is always a good idea to draw upon your own experience, that way you will be writing about something you are comfortable with.

 Writing about something that does not directly answer the essay question

Mistakes are the usual bridge between inexperience and wisdom.   (Phyllis Theroux)

When answering the essay question, make sure you actually answer it. For example:                     Question. Cats are more loyal than dogs, discuss?

When answering this question make sure you address the statement, Cats ae more loyal than dogs. Look at why people may believe this and then discuss the other side of the argument as well, i.e. dogs are more loyal than cats. The examiner doesn’t want to read a story about your cat and its adventures with the local barn yard mouse, they want clear arguments backed up with evidence. They want to see more than one opinion. It is fine to use examples, but use them wisely sand make sure they relate to the actual IELTS essay question. You can repeat words that appear in your essay question to keep you on track, sometimes trying to rephrase the question can confuse you and you will end up answering it incorrectly. If in doubt read the question again and again!

Making too many grammatical mistakes

“Consider every mistake you do make as an asset”. (Paul J. Meyer)

One of the most common grammar mistakes students make when writing their IELTS exam are sentence fragments, run-on sentences, improper preposition usage, verb tense issues and mistakes in a student’s lexical selection. The best advice I can give here is to go back and practice some good old grammar exercises, refresh your memory and sharpen up you grammar skills before the big day. If you sign up with E2language.com we have a large variety of grammar exercises at all different levels. Having someone review your writing and help you identify you most reoccurring mistakes it also helpful.

Another TIP is to compose your essay entirely of short, concise sentences and to link these sentences with cohesive phrases.

Common IELTS Writing Mistakes: Grammar errors

  1. Use of the word ‘the’

We use the:

  • when there is only one of something: the internet
  • with cardinal numbers: the first
  • with superlatives: the worst
  • with places where the name refers to a group of islands or states: the USA
  • before nouns which describe general things: exercise is good for the body,
  • before abstract nouns used to describe a situation, process, quality or a change2.
  1. Countable and Uncountable Nouns: She has three dogs. I own a house.
  1. Noun Verb Agreement

The verb must agree with the noun. If you use a plural noun, you must use a plural verb and vice versa.

  1. –ing or to + infinitive

We use to + infinitive verb after the following verbs: learn how, would like, want, seem, refuse, promise, prepare, offer, learn, hope, help, deserve, decide, afford, and ask.

  1. Use of Articles before Noun Phrases

You should include a/an before adjective singular noun combinations: a very small percentage, a really strong argument.

Some exceptions include the word ‘of’ after the noun phrase: a wide range of, an equal number of, a large/small number of, a small/large/equal proportion of.

Exceptions: quite a few people, to a certain extent/degree

  1. Use of Commas

In the IELTS writing test we often use phrases called ‘discourse markers’ or ‘liking phrases’ to link our ideas together, such as, firstly, secondly, in conclusion, in summary.

We normally use a comma after a discourse marker that introduces a sentence:

  • Firstly, the main cause of pollution is motor vehicles.
  • On the one hand, motor vehicles are said to be the main cause.
  1. Verb Tenses

Always consider which of tense you should use

  1. Prepositions after Adjectives and Nouns

Students often get confused about which prepositions to use after adjectives and nouns.

Some more TOP TIPS to improve your IELTS test score:

  • Link your paragraphs
  • Be clear about what you want to say, don’t over complicate it.
  • Don’t leave out any key ideas
  • Write about a topic you feel comfortable with.
  • Make sure you use examples that connect to the main idea.
  • Don’t write a book, be aware of your word count, writing more than you need you is not going to earn you extra points.

In conclusion, no matter what the quote or saying may be, it is very important that you learn from your mistakes if you want to get a great IELTS writing score.

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