Top Tips for IELTS

Why you should plan essays in IELTS

This is another guest article, this time from Mike Wattie of IELTSanswers. Mike has lots of experience in examining and his site has all sorts of useful advice for exam preparation and offers an essay correction service that I’m sure will be of interest to many candidates, it’s always sensible to have your writing checked before you get to the exam and there are few people better qualified to help you out than Mike. If Taiwan is the wrong time zone, then why not check one of the other tutors on the Teachers’ page.

In this article he makes a simple point about the need to plan your writing and then suggests some practical ways you can do this. I’d add that there is always time to plan the essay: the better you plan, the better and more quickly you write.

Planning your essays

On a few occasions I have been an invigilator (person to make sure no one is cheating!) in the writing exam. I was amazed to see that only about 10% just started writing their essays without writing any plan first. Afterwards, I asked some of my students who were attending why they didn’t write a plan. “oh we thought we didn’t have time to do it.”

The plan serves three purposes. First, it helps you think about the main points you will write, so it increases your score for Task Response. Second, it helps you structure your essay better, so it increases your score for Cohesion and Coherence. Finally, it saves you time. That’s right! By making a plan first, you won’t have to keep stopping to think what you will write next.

Each essay question is composed of two parts. The TOPIC, which is what the essay is about; and the TASK, which is what sort of essay you need to write. There are three main types of essays. The first asks you opinion, or do you agree or disagree. The second asks you to explain two sides of an argument and then give your own personal opinion on that topic. The third asks you two questions; for example, “discuss the problems and solutions.”

You should learn how to plan for all three types of essays. You can practice your planning by looking at past exam questions and thinking what would be your main points and how would you structure the essay. If you need someone to correct your essays and give feedback on how to improve checkout my service at:

Are you an IELTS teacher? Do you have an IELTS website?

If you are and you are looking for more work, then why not consider advertising your services on my Teachers’ page. It s an entirely free service and there is a good chance you’ll find work from there. Likewise, if you have a website and you would like to reach a different audience, why not contact me to be a guest blogger here. I’ll backlink to you as generously as you like!!




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3 Responses to Why you should plan essays in IELTS

  1. marveltracker July 14, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    Dear Sir,

    I would like to ask a question which really confuse me. I did IELTS exam 4 times and for each time got 6.5 for writing, however other modules were above 7. My last attempt score(General Module) was L- 7.5, S-7.5, R-9, W-6.5. and I need 7 in each, though. 🙁

    I’m a big fan of your blog posts, in particular, band 8 writing posts inspire me a lot.By using your tips and techniques (on Band 8), I wrote some essays and showed to an IELTS tutor. He claimed that my essays were too technical for the general writing module and asked me to use simple words rather than using academic words list. So I got confused.

    I will sit for the exam next Saturday. Is there any difference between general writing and academic writing when it comes to IELTS and your band 8 section only for academic students in IELTS ?

    It would be a great help that you provide me some guidance so that I can have confidence to do the exam.

    Thanks In advance for your kindly consideration Sir.

    • Dominic Cole July 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

      There is little difference between general training and academic essays. I’d add that band 8.0 is not about making things complex, it is about doing the simple things really well. A band 8.0 essay doesn’t have to be clever or difficult. It still needs to make 2/3 points coherently that support the main idea/thesis of your essay. The temptation is if you are looking for a high band score to try and “show off”. There is no real need to do that – without having seen your writing, I’d suggest that you concentrate on clarity and simplicity – explaining your ideas in a couple of sentences then adding examples to illustrate what you mean – and trust your language to take you the rest of the way. My advice would be the same both for GT and academic.

      Best of luck.

    • mike wattie July 17, 2012 at 10:29 am #

      The academic and general exam are marked by the same examiners and the same criteria. In this case, to get a 7 or higher you must correctly use some less common vocabulary, such as academic language. It must be used correctly and in context. Since your scores in other sections of the exam are so high, I would suspect that your lower writing score is not due to language, but more likely due to poor Task Response (not answering the question well) or Cohesions and Coherence (poor structure). I would focus on these two areas.

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