Top Tips for IELTS

Write better paragraphs – start with a simple sentence

Part of your job in answering IELTS essay questions is to give a clear answer that the examiner can follow. One way you can do that is by following this simple tip

keep the first sentence in each topic paragraph simple – don’t try and say too much too soon

Why is this a good idea?

Typically, it is a good idea to go from the general to the particular – first of all make it clear what you want to say generally, then add details/explanations later. It can also actually be easier to write this way in the exam when you are under pressure. It really can help to follow this sort of routine:

  1. What do I want to say? – general idea
  2. How can I explain it? – reasons
  3. Can I think of any examples? – examples

Problems often happen when reasons and examples get put in the first sentence when you try to explain your idea without saying what it is first.

See two examples

To see what I mean, take a look at these two paragraphs below.  They are both about complex topics and express quite complex ideas. They do, however, start simply. Note how:

  • the shortest sentence in each paragraph is the first one (that’s not a rule!)
  • I don’t give reasons (use “because”) or examples in the first sentence
  • I do use more complex structures (relatives and if clauses), but I keep them for my reasons and examples – once the examiner is clear about my point of view


Do you believe that credit cards will replace cash payments?

It is highly likely that credit cards will replace cash in the foreseeable future. [Yes I do think they will – simple] The main reason why this will probably occur is that it is cashless transactions are more convenient for both consumers and businesses. [Why?]Just one example of this is that individuals will not need to worry about exchanging currency when they travel abroad or purchase goods and services from another country. [I explain more with an example] Likewise, companies are bound to prefer a cashless system in which they are able to reach an international market without the restrictions that cash payments can bring. [Here’s another example and a complex idea explained even though I started simply]

Who should look after the elderly? The government by providing care homes or families?

There is a strong argument for saying that families should take the major responsibility for caring for their elderly relatives. [I think families should do it – simple] This is largely based on the fact that children owe a debt to the parents who brought them up when they young and it would therefore be morally wrong if they abandoned them when they most needed care. [Now the reason why – it’s about duty]So, the children of the elderly should be prepared to make sacrifices in their careers and home life to provide for their parents and this is especially true when they are sick and incapable of looking after themselves. [A more complex sentence explaining the idea]

How can you learn this skill?

Practice helps of course. But it may help you to ask yourself this question before you write that key first sentence:

What do I think?

Only then do you ask yourself the question

Why do I think that?

A simple practice idea

  1. Go back over your old essays and copy out the first sentence of each paragraph.
  2. Can you see what that paragraph was about just by reading that sentence? That’s good.
  3. Does it have reasons and examples in it? That can be dangerous.
Learn more IELTS writing skills



Get more help with IELTS preparation on the main pages of my site

Home page

Speaking Guide

Writing Guide

Essay writing guide

Academic task 1 guide

Letter writing guide

Reading guide

Listening guide

IELTS vocabulary

IELTS grammar

Keep up with me on Facebook - all the updates and even more advice there


Or just get all my free lessons by email

Subscribe to DC IELTS by Email

14 Responses to Write better paragraphs – start with a simple sentence

  1. Ali February 18, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

    thanks for your advise.

    • Joseph August 18, 2015 at 7:48 am #

      It’s ‘adviCe’ not ‘adviSe’ 😉

  2. Indira March 29, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

    ThanK YOU very much

  3. amir April 14, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    you are damn brilliant dominic! I am just shocked how could one teach the points better than this! Wow!!!

  4. Anonymous April 28, 2014 at 12:40 pm #


    Currently, I am preparing for IELTS exam, which I will be giving on 17th of May. As part of my preparation, I have been scouting through various websites that provide practice material online. I really liked the way you have explained things here. As a part of my practice, I plan to write some essays but I need them evaluated so that I understand where I am going wrong, would you be able to do that?

    Your help in this regard will be highly appreciated.


    • Dominic Cole April 28, 2014 at 1:03 pm #


      I don’t have time to do this myself but it is a very good idea to have your work checked so that you know what problems you have and how to solve them. Can I suggest you take a look at my teachers’ page. There are over 20 teachers there who do just this. Try Phil. He’s good I know.

  5. vinodreddy July 6, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    currently, am preparing for ielts test which i would like to take exam on aug09. so my writing skills are too poor so i would like to improve my skills .for the appropriate reason what should i do.

  6. Omid Ch July 29, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    Simple, practical and useful, tnx

  7. anjum October 10, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    i got band 6 in writing need your help.

  8. eljemai October 18, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

    thanks alot for this nice site

  9. Huynh Dinh Thai Hoang December 16, 2014 at 4:02 pm #


    Thanks so much for your guide, yet the sentence ” if they abandoned them when they most needed care”, which contains in the second topic was written in simple past, in that, i can not understand. So, can you explain it?

  10. Seema February 8, 2015 at 11:59 pm #

    Need help in speaking via skype.

  11. sukhjinder June 3, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

    i go very less bands in reading and writing that is in reding 5 and in writing 5 can u suggest me better idea how to improve my reading and writing. need ur help

  12. jian August 6, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

    Dear Dominic,

    I am so lucky to have found your blog for I have been struggling to pass my writing exam on IELTS as well. I even had an online course and a tutor to check my essays and I found it complicated my writing more than it already was. My tutor had given me a course outline and some generic introductions, which at first I thought was helpful but it further pulled my scores down. Having read your sample essays enlightened me once again, for now I know what I was doing wrong the whole time. It is really tricky to find online tutors and I have to thank you for teaching us for free. May God bless you more.

Leave a Reply