Top Tips for IELTS

Error correction strategies and an exercise on word families

This is a quick lesson on error correction with a full length exercise below. The idea is that you need to think about how you correct errors in your writing. There are definite error correction strategies possible. Here are three to think about:

1. Sentence by sentence or paragraph by paragraph – NOT at the end

The reality is that if you leave checking to the end you will never do it. That is life. More than that, if you leave it to the end, it’s harder because you have a great long text to check. In practical terms it’s way easier to check sentence by sentence. That way you will actually do it and you will find mistakes.

You will see the exercise below is a sentence exercise – the idea is to show you how it can be done.

2. Check for particular problems not everything

Again, if you just check for mistakes generally, it’s a hard exercise. My experience is that if you look for particular mistakes, the whole process becomes much easier. The mistakes you look for can be:

  • your typical mistakes (so make a list of them)
  • one type of mistake at a time (i.e. spelling or grammar)

If you do the exercise below, you will see that all the mistakes are one kind of mistake – the wrong form of the word. This is certainly a good training exercise and something you can think about doing for yourself in the exam.

3. Only correct mistakes you are certain about

Quite a lot of mistakes happen because students correct something that was perfectly ok! Be sensible. Learn to only correct the mistakes you are at least 75% sure about. Ask yourself the question “Am I certain?”. Do this and your checking will improve overnight. I’d add that if you are uncertain, then the smart thing is often just to start again and write a sentence that you KNOW is right. It doesn’t matter if the English is quite simple – it’s just one sentence.

Try this exercise using my error correction strategies

This exercise is based on one of my essays on the environment. Read it through sentence by sentence and try and pick the right word each time. I explain the answers in brief notes after each question.

If you want you can check out the original essay here – it’s a good one I think.


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