Top Tips for IELTS

Reviewing your essay – part of the process of writing

Writing an exam essay is different from writing an academic essay or even one for homework – you are under time pressure and you have only one chance to get it right In practice, what this means is that very often exam essays do not get reviewed. This, I believe is a mistake and in this lesson I suggest a practical way to review your essays in exams. It is based on 4 ideas:

  • any time spent checking should be focussed -don’t look for “mistakes”, look for particular mistakes
  • don’t leave it to the end when it may be too late to help you
  • reviewing what you have written can help you write better
  • checking in stages allows you to keep a clear head

I explain these ideas briefly, then suggest a model review plan that you can adapt to your needs. The key idea is that reviewing your essay is part of the process of writing it, not something best left to the end. In the exam,the last thing you do is write your conclusion – you will already have reviewed essay before then.

Idea one – focus on particular problems

This idea is simple. Everyone has mistakes that they make: so to use your time efficiently,look for problems/mistakes that you know you make. To do this,you need to review your writing before you get to the exam and have a mental checklist in your head of the type of mistakes you make and how to solve them.

A second idea here is only to check for one type of problem at a time: first spelling, then articles etc. This will certainly make you check more efficiently,but this may be too time-consuming under exam circumstances.

Idea two – check as you write and not just at the end

A further suggestion is that you go back and check each part of the essay after you have written it. Too time-consuming? Perhaps. Though with a little practice, it can work for you. Consider these thoughts:

  • time is of the essence in the exam – you want to use your 40 minutes efficiently
  • if you spend time reviewing your writing and find no or only few mistakes, that is inefficient
  • it is much easier to check a paragraph than a whole essay – there is less to read! You are much more likely to find grammar/vocabulary problems you might otherwise miss this way

Idea three – make reviewing part of the process of writing essays – checking for Task Response and Coherence too

I highlight this idea in red as it is in many ways what this series of lessons is about. Your IELTS essay is made up of different parts that require different writing skills. Before you write each part of the essay, you should focus on what you aim to in it. Here the idea is that after you write each part of the essay, you go back and re-read it and then

  • you may find problems with coherence/task response that you can fix there and then, but you can’t fix at the end – too late!
  • you will get words and ideas for the next part of the essay – making your essay “flow” better and become both more coherent and cohesive

Idea 4 – keeping your head clear and relieving stress

This idea is a little different. 40 minutes is quite a long time to concentrate full on. Different people work differently, but one suggestion is to take mini-breaks in the test when you clear your head. For example, if you spend 15 seconds sitting up straight, stretching or rolling your neck, then you may concentrate better when you start writing again. Sometimes 9+9+9+9 is more than 40!

If can’t force yourself to take mini-breaks, then why not spend that time checking what you have written? It is still a break from writing, but this way you are spending the time doing something useful.

A suggested review plan

There is nothing necessary about this plan. Every learner is different and it needs to be adapted to your needs. Experiment with it to see how it may work for you and how much time in practice you spend on it. I have deliberately included “too much” and repeated some ideas in different stages to give you a choice as to what to do and when to do it.

In each phase you will check for grammar/vocab issues of course.

Step 1. Read and understand the question

Generally, you want to check that you understand the question before you write the intro.

review ideas:

  • Can I rephrase the question in my own words?
  • How many parts of the question are there?
  • What is the task?

Step 2. Introduction

Generally, you want to check that your intro matches the question and leads into the essay you want to write.

review ideas

  • Have I identified all parts of the question?
  • Have I identified the task?
    Is my position clear?
  • Have I repeated too much vocab from the question?

Step 3. Content paras

Generally, you want to make sure that each para is clearly about one main idea, those ideas link back to the intro and fit your essay structure. Reviewing these paras often means looking back at your intro which is a map to your essay. Something I often do with my own essays is to make sure that my language is consistent throughout the essay. You may want to change the words in your intro a little at this stage to match the language of your main paras.

review ideas:

  • Is the main idea obvious from the first sentence? (This is a common problem and if you have a problem, a quick fix is not to rewrite the whole para but add one sentence at the end to summarise the main idea)
  • Does the first sentence refer back to the introduction?
  • If the content paras make different points is this clear from the introduction?
  • If they make the same point in different ways, is this clear in the intro?
  • Do I repeat one word too much?

Step 4. The conclusion

Generally, this is the step you are most likely to miss out. You may well be out of time by this stage. My best suggestion is that you review the whole essay before you write the conclusion.

review ideas;

  • Do I refer to ideas in  both/all 3 content paras in my conclusion?
  • Do I use some of the same language in my conclusion as in the content paras to help cohesion and coherence?
  • Do I explicitly answer the question as it is asked?
  • Does my conclusion mirror what I say in the intro?

Footnote – sometimes the quick way to edit is simply to delete

You don’t have much time to spare in an exam. A practical suggestion for when you are stuck on how to edit something is to either rub it out or delete it neatly. You need to make sure that your essay is still complete and what is left makes sense.




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11 Responses to Reviewing your essay – part of the process of writing

  1. meme August 31, 2012 at 5:08 am #

    it looks useful ..

    but i wish if u could write smthing much simple like how we can start and such like that

    thanq alot

  2. oldooz January 16, 2013 at 4:26 am #

    Hi, Can you tell me what band score will be I take for this letter in ielts exam?
    *a stylist at a salon completely ruined your hair.
    Dear Sir/Madam,
    The reason I am writing this letter to you is poor service that I received in your salon the day before yesterday.
    I regret to inform you that I was a customer on 12/12/2012 in your salon at 6 pm. On that particular date I would like to change the style of my hair because I was invited to a birthday party, so I selected a model of haircut from an album which was exist in your salon and your stylist started doing it. But after a long time I was frankly quite shocked because that style was unlike my favorite mode. I was very late and I was afraid could no arrive to the party at time and I was too upset all time at party. This gross negligence on your salon was quite beneath the standard of a reputable salon such as yours and I am very dissatisfied from your stylist.
    I am hoped that you will found mutuality an acceptable solution that the matter rectified amicably. It is expected that you refund my payment in full as soon as possible. I believe this matter deserves your urgent attention because I am your permanent customer.
    Yours faithfully,
    Mrs. Rezaie.

  3. oldooz January 16, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    I corrected my letter. Now, Can you tell me what band score will be I take for this letter in ielts exam?

    Dear Sir/Madam,
    The reason I am writing this letter to you is the lack of service that I got in your salon the day before yesterday.
    I regret to inform you that I was a customer on 12/12/2012 of your salon at 6 pm. that date I wanted to change the style of my hair because, I was invited to a birthday party, so I selected a model of haircut from an album which existed in your salon and your stylist started to cut my hairs. But after a long time I was absolutely quite shocked because that style was unlike my favorite mode. It was very late and I was afraid that i could not arrive at the party on time and I was too upset during party. As a reputable salon, this negligence was so disappointing so , i can say that your salon is not really at the level of standard salons.
    I hope that we can find such a friendly solution to this problem It is expected that you refund completely my payment as soon as possible. I believe this matter will deserve your urgent attention because I am your permanent customer.
    Yours faithfully,
    Mrs. Rezaie.

  4. dsouza January 17, 2014 at 12:35 am #

    hi oldooz,
    I feel you have to re-think and write again. It does not really looks like a strong complaint.

  5. Ankur January 19, 2014 at 9:45 pm #

    Can anyone please review my essay and tell me how much i can score in General IELTS Writing out of 9?

    Today our communications, medicine and transport systems all depend on computer technology. Our reliance on computer technology has created a dangerous situation. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the statement

    Computers have become the backbone of communication, medicine and transport systems. with the ever increasing use of computers in these feilds, our dependency on computers has enormously increased. consequences of a small defect in a computer used in any of these feilds can be devastating.

    All the wireline and wireless comunication is solely dependent on computer which run the softwares supporting these systems. a slightmalfunction and careless use of

    computer can create a gret loss. Recently a minor defect in software system of a telecom giant stopped its billing system for a few hours. The result was a huge loss as the telecom service provider could not bill its customers for those hours. When it comes to finance industry the losses due to communication failure can be much more as transactions of millions of dollars occur in just a few seconds.

    Failure of computers in health systems can lead to irreparable loss. Various equipmentrs used in hospitals have several computers running at the backend. If a computer stops working when a pateient is being operated, the patient may die.

    These days transport systems rely heavily on computer systems. Air and railway traffic is controlled by computers. A small problem in computers controlling the air or railway traffic can lead to loss of hundreds of lives. Mangalore air crash is a recent example where a computer stopped working while the plane was about to land. More than 50 passengers lost their lives.

    To conclude, our dependency on computers is dangerously increasing in the fields like communication, medicine and transport. A small problem in a computer supporting software for these fields can lead to a great loss.

  6. Pieter March 10, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    I would be glad to receive feedback!!!

    ” In some cultures, children are expected to follow very strict rules of behaviour. In other cultures, children are allowed to do almost anything they want. What are the merits of each opinion? What is your position on the matter? Include relevant examples in your response.”

    Clearly, the way children are asked to behave is strongly depended on the country where they live. Some nations prefer clear rules and their youngest have to obey them. Other countries allow their kids to do what they want and leave them completely free. Both ideas have their advantages.

    Firstly, the more rigid way. By offering a strict pattern of expectations and creating clear rules children get used to discipline. They will experience that when they listen to their parents and obey the teacher they will reach something. When this is taught in childhood they will use this skill as an adult. As a result they will do better at school and it will be easier to stay focused on their study. A better study will give them more career opportunities.

    However, allowing children to do what they want has also its advantages. In this way children are given the opportunity to develop creativity. When children are not told what they should do, they will experiment. Experimenting means learning by trial and error. This encourages their ability to be creative and teaches them that they can do things their selves. For example when a child after many attempts eventually manages to repair a bike’s tire, it is a major boost for its self esteem.

    In conclusion both ways have their merits. Therefore in my opinion there is no preferable way how children should behave. I think it is strongly depending on the child and the situation. Therefore adults should adjust their expectations constantly for an optimal development.

    • ivy August 8, 2014 at 9:03 am #

      firstly, i think your essay is very convince. there are just few thing like “however” should not be placed ahead of the sentence and “also” should be placed in front of “has”. Hope this help ^^

  7. Landon July 27, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    It would be great if someone can give me some comments or feedbacks on my essay. :]

    The question:

    Children today play very violent games. This must be the reason for the increase in violence and crime in most major cities of the world.
    What are your opinions on this?

    My essay:

    In most metropolises around the globe, there are research done by famous institutions shows that the number of crimes has mounted steadily since the mass introduction of violent games. Is the number of crimes committed relate to playing violent games?

    There are psychologists say that playing violent games over a pro-long period of time has a direct relation to the growth of aggressiveness of the player. In other words, playing violent games does indeed exacerbate the increase of the number of armed robbery, kidnapping, arson and murder cases. This is mainly because playing violent games somehow affect the chemistry of the brain, changing the way people behave, leading an increase of crime in most major cities of the world.

    Despite the blame from the field of professionals , however, the gaming corporations disagreed with the allegations and say it is based on nothing. These gaming companies claim that their products do more than entertain their customers, but also allow players to do things that are illegal in the real world so as they do not have to experiment it themselves in the physical world. In that sense, playing violent games should in fact help decrease crime rate, but not the other way around.

    In a nutshell, I do believe the gaming industries need to bear part of the responsibility, however, several other factors such as poverty, unemployment, even adolescent boredom may be responsible for the rise of wrongdoing in most megalopolises of the world. Therefore, it is important to see the whole picture before drawing the conclusion otherwise it is biased.

  8. Nadeesha Premadasa July 27, 2015 at 7:18 am #

    Hi, Please anyone could correct my essay. Thanks


    Many newspapers and magazines feature stories about the private lives of famous people. We know what they eat, where they buy their clothes and who they love. We also often see pictures of them in private situations.


Is it appropriate for a magazine or newspaper to give this kind of private information about people?


    In the current world media’s become a dominant factor for publicity and many celebrities’re shown in the media because of their popularity among people. Quite often, people see a life story of a famous person and some times newspaper and magazines have provided in-depth stories as well. In my view, it’s fairly important to publish their habits and stories because people would like knowing who they support.
    Some people around the world worship these famous people, so therefore these people have become icons in the society and they are given the responsibility and opportunity influence a lot of people, especially younger generation. For example, some kids from school have joined certain sports activities because of their idols play that type of sports. And those players are responsible for showing good behavior because some day those kids might follow sportsmen’s’ foot step. Famous people behavior might have direct impact on people.
    People would like to know who they are supporting and without a support there won’t be any popular people. And that’s how people bond with those people. Even though they don’t know the famous personally, they could trust the person. President is a famous man in community and people support the nation’s leader because he’s openness to the community and people trust and back him up. Perception could result in support and confidence.
    Most people in the current world have a lot of day-to-day stressful jobs. And because of that perhaps people would like to escape the reality and focus on a fantasy world or read harsh stories rather than dealing with people’s problems. For example, a day time soap celebrities’ life in America are mostly used as an escapism among viewers. Therefore, Famous people life stories could help to escape from reality.
    However, it’s harsh to provide in-depth stories of a person, because every person’s entitled to have a right keep secrecy and particularly celebrities value privacy. On the other hand, famous people must share their lives among the public in order to grow publicity.
    In conclusion, It’s fairly appropriate to share their stories with public because public have brought them to that level and It’s good to provide something in return and let community know who they supported.

    • Gasim August 13, 2016 at 4:16 am #

      For me you went off topic . So you will get low mark in task response .The task was , is the way by which media show famous people appropraite? one nice idea you present was that childern might simulate those celebrities .howeve, this idea was niether fully sopported nor given related examples . Likewise, the rest of essay ,in my oppinion , was completely off topic.

  9. Gasim August 13, 2016 at 4:15 am #

    For me you went off topic . So you will get low mark in task response .The task was , is the way by which media show famous people appropraite? one nice idea you present was that childern might simulate those celebrities .howeve, this idea was niether fully sopported nor given related examples . Likewise, the rest of essay ,in my oppinion , was completely off topic.

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