Top Tips for IELTS

How to use reasons and examples in IELTS essays

 

In this lesson I look at why it is so important to use reasons and examples in IELTS essays. The short answer is that they can affect you score in both coherence and task response. That makes them doubly important – it’s a double whammy as we say. If you get them wrong you may lose out twice. The key points are

select the reasons and examples to develop main points  – better task response

order the reasons and examples in your writing so that they connect to the main point – better coherence

The good news of course is that if you get them right you can improve both task response and coherence. Let’s see how.

reasons and examples in IELTS

 

Coherence and reasons and examples – overview

The coherence is how easy your writing is to read – how well it flows and the different parts connect together. If you use reasons and examples well your writing should be easy to understand. It can be just like this:

here is my main point – here is why I think it – here’s an example 

That should be easy to understand. Leave out the reasons and the examples or don’t order them and then your coherence score may dip. This is going to be much harder to read as there is no logical progression

here’s a point – here’s an example – here’s another point – this one is similar too – that’s what I think

To get better coherence and reasons and examples – think order and connections

Your aim is band score 8! Part of the criteria there is to

sequence information and ideas logically and use paragraphing sufficiently and appropriately

What does that mean? It means you want to build paragraphs that fit together with each sentence naturally following on and expanding the previous one. This is where reasons and examples fit in.

Order – ideas first then reasons and examples

The first point is to see that every paragraph has a main point – normally found in the opening sentence and reasons and examples simply develop the main point of the paragraph. To do this you normally want place reasons and examples after the main point.

Look at this example adapted from a  student’s submission. I start with the main point and then add logically a reason and an  example

The main problem is that there is huge traffic congestion due to too many people having their own cars and that this leads to air pollution, health issues and and accidental injuries. This is partly caused by the fact that wealthy families have more than one car than they need and people generally prefer to use private vehicles rather than share journeys. For example, recent statistics show that in a certain zone in the rush hour only 4% of cars had a passenger.

Now look at the original (and slightly edited version) the colours should tell you that it gets slightly confused:

First and foremost, wealthy families have more than one car than they need. It seems as a country’s economy develops there are more cars on the road while situation in under developed countries is not far different. As per recent statistics shared by Capital Development Authority that almost one thousand cars travels on one location during busy hour and it observed that most of time only one or two persons are in one car. During year 2015-16 around ten thousand new cars has been sold out only in Pakistan. Huge traffic congestion cause air pollution, health issues and accidental injuries as well. Due to unavailability of alternate solution of fossil fuel, the price is also increasing. From college going students till professionals in office individual prefer private vehicles because it is easier to move around.

 I hope you see instantly that the better version follows a logical sequence:

main point – why I think it (reason) – here’s an example

All that information is in the original version but much harder to find – it isn’t organised. Which are the reasons? Which the examples? Which the main idea? It isn’t clear. You need to concentrate on clarity and order information it’s not enough just to include reasons and examples – they need to come in the right place and be signposted.

Learn to plan your paragraphs and think about the order of your sentences. Main ideas almost always come first

Connections – be clear about what each sentence does

This is a similar idea. To make your writing flow it helps to signpost the main ideas, reasons and examples. This way the examiner has to see how the writing is organised. Look again at my model:

The main problem is that there is huge traffic congestion due to too many people having their own cars and that this leads to air pollution, health issues and and accidental injuries. This is partly caused by the fact that wealthy families have more than one car than they need and people generally prefer to use private vehicles rather than share journeys. For example, recent statistics show that in a certain zone in the rush hour only 4% of cars had a passenger.

Here the bolded words show clearly – or signpost –  how my reason connects to the main idea and the example to the reason. It’s actually a fairly easy skill to master. Before each sentence you ask:

is this a main idea? then start “the main point is …”

is it a reason? Then start “This is because…”

is it an example? Then start “For example..”

Of course as you get better you’ll learn to do this in different ways but the skill is the same. You make sure each sentence clearly relates to the previous one.

Show how your sentences connect by explaining what role each sentence has

What about task response and reasons and examples in IELTS?

Task response can also be affected by how you use reasons and examples. This is in part because the question tells you to use them! Note also for band score 8 you need to

give a response with relevant, extended and supported ideas 

What does this mean? It includes using reasons and examples to build your ideas. This time though you concentrate not so much on the order of information but its relevance – how well it adds to the main idea.

Select reasons and examples that explain your main point clearly AND relate to the question

There are two points here.

  1. Your reasons and examples need to fit your main point
  2.  They must help answer the question.

The fairly common mistake is to include irrelevant examples and reasons. Look at the student example again

The weak example

The problem is some of the reasons and examples are irrelevant – they don’t relate closely to the question (task response).

The main point I have marked in pink. The problem is that the reasons/examples in green are largely irrelevant to the question. The details about underdeveloped countries and the figures for Pakistan and the point about fossil fuels either don’t relate to the question of the problem of cars being used privately or the main point of the paragraph about congestion.

More and more cars are bought every year for private use and this causes a number of problems.
What are these problems?
What can be done to reduce the problems?

First and foremost, wealthy families have more than one car than they need. It seems as a country’s economy develops there are more cars on the road while situation in under developed countries is not far different. As per recent statistics shared by Capital Development Authority that almost one thousand cars travels on one location during busy hour and it observed that most of time only one or two persons are in one car. During year 2015-16 around ten thousand new cars has been sold out only in Pakistan. Huge traffic congestion cause air pollution, health issues and accidental injuries as well. Due to unavailability of alternate solution of fossil fuel, the price is also increasing. From college going students till professionals in office individual prefer private vehicles because it is easier to move around.

 

The corrected version

This is much shorter of course but all the details (reasons and examples) relate to one main point – the problem of private cars.

The main problem is that there is huge traffic congestion due to too many people having their own cars and that this leads to air pollution, health issues and and accidental injuries. This is partly caused by the fact that wealthy families have more than one car than they need and people generally prefer to use private vehicles rather than share journeys. For example, recent statistics show that in a certain zone in the rush hour only 4% of cars had a passenger.

What have I done? It’s almost as easy as one -two -three

I started with the main point by focussing on the question

I asked myself why – to get a reason

I asked myself when/where/how much – to get an example

To make it really work though you need to go back and read the sentence you have just written before you write the next always focussing on the question as you write.

Always read the sentence you have just written before you write the next
Part of the planning process should be to select ideas that clearly relate to the question

Connected lessons

One way to learn to write more structured and coherent paragraphs is to take a sentence by sentence approach.  Try this older lesson about paragraph coherence if the idea is new to you.

Paragraph coherence: the PEE model

Planning is crucial to coherence and task response. This lesson on structuring essays may help you see how the whole essay fits together and help you with the planning process.

How to structure IELTS essays

Not all examples need be in their own sentence. This lesson shows you ways to use shorter examples.

How to give shorter examples in IELTS essays

Other resources

If you are looking for another – shorter –  explanation of coherence try:

Wheaton edu: paragraph unity coherence and development

If you want a video explanation of task response try:

British Council Vietnam: task response 

   

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4 Responses to How to use reasons and examples in IELTS essays

  1. Yogesh September 20, 2016 at 6:37 pm #

    I really liked the approach main point –reason and example, thanks a bunch!!

    • Dominic Cole September 22, 2016 at 12:09 am #

      One thing to emphasise is that it is a good starting point. How well it will work for you depends a bit on where you are now with your writing and what you need. It can be dangerous to depend on one technique only especially if you’re aiming higher. To go further you need to learn to vary this technique as well – it doesn’t work all the time necessarily. People quite often go wrong by overseeing one technique. The more flexible you are the better you’ll write.

  2. Nirupma verma September 22, 2016 at 5:17 pm #

    Very useful and helpful material and valuable guidance.Thanks

  3. Omkar September 29, 2016 at 9:23 am #

    Hi sir, first of all ,let me say thanks for your efforts to help the students to get through the herculean Ielts exam. Shall we write the introduction sentence like below?.
    As too many people have their own vehicles that leads to the environmental pollution so as the health problems and road accidents.

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