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How to give shorter examples in IELTS essays

It’s extremely important to use examples in IELTS essays – not least because the question tells you to. Some people have difficulty with this and this lesson is designed to show that it needn’t be too hard. In particular, I look at:

using shorter examples to avoid generalisations

putting the examples in sentences with the main idea (embedding them)

not using “for example”

giving you different ways to introduce examples

Understand a key skill – examples aren’t separate – they link

not-all-exmaples

I think where a lot of people go wrong is that they think of examples as separate things – something that belongs in a different sentence.  This is why some people find them hard to think of.

While they can be used in separate sentences, they don’t need to be. If you’re having problems, I suggest you think of the following:

Examples help explain what you have just said – often by adding detail
Examples can go in the same sentence as your main reason/explanation
Examples can be quite short

Shorter examples and how they can help you

short examples in IELTS

This is a type of example that many people forget about. They may look too easy but they’ll still improve your writing even at an advanced level.

Use them to improve general statements

The first step is to see when you need to add examples. Put simply this is when you have made a very general statement.

Commuters spend a lot of time travelling

Congestion causes more pollution

The problem here is that what you say is too general and you want to make it more specific. The more specific you are, the better your explanation will be and the better your language will be. Being specific in what you write makes you use better words:

Think specific and improve your vocabulary

Find examples by asking yourself simple questions

ask yourself some questions

A common complaint is that candidates can’t think of examples. This is perhaps because they think examples are complex. They don’t need to be. All you need to do is ask yourself one or two simple questions – normally the wh questions.

Commuters spend a lot of time travelling (e.g. which? = commuters who travel by car)

 Commuters spend a lot of time travelling (e.g. when? = commuters who travel in the rush hour)

Commuters spend a lot of time travelling (e.g. how much/long? = up to four hours a day)

This means we get to:

Commuters who travel by train by car in the rush hour often spend up to four hours a day travelling.

I hope you see that this is far better than what we had before. Is it an example? Well yes, I think it is. You are explaining with detail a general statement – this is just what an example does.

A bonus is that you often get to use some “complex grammar” too – here the relative clause.

How to add shorter examples – 3 ideas

The next step is to see how you can add these examples. I’m going to offer you three key words/phrases. There are more but these are a good start nd used well can score very high.

such as 

relative clauses that add information or define (wh0/which)

and

such as

This is used to give a specific example of a general item:

It can lead to different forms of pollution, such as air pollution from car emissions

Typically we use it in the middle of a sentence and not at the start of one and we place a comma before it. Tosee more examples, read this entry in the Cambridge dictionary

relative clauses

This is slightly different and can be used either to define what we have just written or give extra information about it.

Some people who travel to work by car can spend up to 4 hours a day commuting

The grammar here is more complex but you score better for it!! I have my own quick explanation/guide to using relatives here or you could visit the British Council’s explanation for more grammar.

and

What? I hear you say. Well, and is a very useful word in English and can be used in different ways. Look here:

There are two principal problems that the increased number of privately owned cars cause. The first of these is that more cars on the road mean greater congestion and longer travel times for commuters who sometimes need to spend around two hours twice a day on the road.

All the part marked in red is an example. I could easily have started a new sentence with “For example” or “An example of this is” and said the same thing. It is just easier to do it this way.

This is also the technique that is most likely to score you 9.0!! The very best form of coherence/cohesion is almost invisible.

See how examples can work

These examples are used in answer to this question submitted to me by a candidate:

More and more cars are being 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?

Note none of these examples are in a separate sentence and I do not use “For example” or “For instance”.
It can be easier to find examples if you connect them with what you have just written in the same sentence- the reason/explanation

An answer without examples

This is a problem paragraph because it doesn’t have any examples. One result of this is that it is too short. The ideas are not extended.

There are two principal problems that the increased number of privately owned cars cause. The first of these is that more cars on the road mean greater congestion. Another connected issue is that this increase has led to greater levels of pollution

An answer with short examples 

This is a much better paragraph as it does have examples. These examples are short and give more information.

There are two principal problems that the increased number of privately owned cars cause. The first of these is that more cars on the road mean greater congestion and longer travel times for commuters who travel by car. Another connected issue is that this increase has led to greater levels of pollution such as air pollution.

An answer with extended examples

This is the best paragraph. There is much more language and the examples are slightly extended/longer. With a little practice, you too can write examples like this.

There are two principal problems that the increased number of privately owned cars cause. The first of these is that more cars on the road mean greater congestion and longer travel times for commuters who sometimes need to spend around two hours twice a day on the road. Another connected issue is that this increase has led to greater levels of pollution such as air pollution through carbon dioxide emissions.

A practice activity

A simple one. Just look at some of your old writing and try and add some more examples to it by using the techniques in this lesson. See which version you prefer.

It’s best to start with your old writing as all the words are there anyway. You can concentrate on the specific skill of adding examples not thinking of new ideas.

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Get more writing skills advice Find more language for introducing examples

 

 

   

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9 Responses to How to give shorter examples in IELTS essays

  1. Anonymous September 12, 2016 at 4:40 pm #

    Thank you sir. I have this problem and I was thinking hard to overcome. Then you came with correct solution. Much appreciated website.

  2. Anonymous September 13, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

    Thank u sir,your blog has really helped me

  3. Kaltham September 13, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

    Thank you Dominican for informative lesson , that will be helped me in my essay writing to support my main idea instead of using boring phrase (for example .).

  4. Rupali September 13, 2016 at 7:08 pm #

    Hello sir.. I have a problem of tenses in speaking such as where to use can or can be, could, would, have neen and so on. Please help me. My ielts exam is on 1 Oct 2016.. I want to crack my exam

    • Dominic Cole September 14, 2016 at 5:01 am #

      Good question. I’ll try and get something else posted n this today. You could start though by looking at this older lesson of mine which shows you a general technique that may be useful

      http://www.dcielts.com/ielts-speaking/reflective-listening-a-skill-to-improve-your-speaking/

      • Dee September 24, 2016 at 10:56 pm #

        Good day Sir. I just would like to ask if the task is considered to be a balanced argument, do we need to discuss two or more points for each argument or could we come up with only one point for each? Thank you very much.

  5. Xuan September 13, 2016 at 7:20 pm #

    Dear teacher! I really enjoy your lessons with significant details for me to understand about English language in high levels as well as in general ones. Thanks to your ideas, English is more colorful and meaningful. I love you! I hope to hear more data from u.

  6. SdBakhshi September 13, 2016 at 7:58 pm #

    Thank you very much for your great help regards essay writing and more efficient and clear explanation . When I started studying IELTS skills I found it hard and as nightmare but by your email and tips I got my hope for success

  7. cally September 18, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

    Thank you for your email.can you tell me more on how to prepare for reading. I have issues with it more especially the one that has to do with matching of headings.

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