A lack of ideas leads to repetition

Common problem: People often tell me they don’t know what to write about in writing task 2 and they find it hard to get ideas.

When candidates don’t know what to write about, the result is often at least one paragraph where the same idea is repeated over and over. This type of writing will keep you stuck at band 6 or 6.5.

Here is an example from an essay I was sent recently. I have corrected the language errors so that you can focus only on the ideas.

The paragraph begins well but the main idea is not developed. Instead, the same idea is repeated and even presented as though it is an ‘example’. This shows why using a fixed template to create a paragraph is not enough. It also provides a good example of  band 6 task response: ”…the conclusions may becomerepetitive.”

Solution: Develop good thinking strategies for the test

If you need to score band 7 or above, in the test, you must

  • form an opinion about the issue raised in the question
  • explain your opinion to the examiner and
  • produce a balanced argument showing that your opinion is justified and well thought-out

Here are some ideas to help you develop these skills:

  • think about the issue from your own perspective – how does it affect your life now or in the future?
  • if it does not affect you personally, does it affect a friend or someone in your family? Does it affect your town or businesses nearby?
  • how do you feel about this?

In The Key to IELTS Success, I give you more ideas for developing the thinking and planning skills you need to develop for the test.

Recent Comments

  • Hoàng Anh
    25th March 2020 - 2:33 am ·

    Hi Pauline. I have some questions to ask:
    1. I want to know more about the “paragraphing” requirement. In task 1 and task 2, it is said that “paragraphing” needs to be sufficient and appropriate to reach more than band 7. When I send my essays to an online platform for assessment, they say that you need to write 3-5 sentences per paragraph in order to satisfy this requirement. I find it pretty confusing since many sample answers in the Cambridge IELTS series also have paragraphs with 2 sentences only. I wonder whether I have followed the wrong advice or not.
    2. I usually read the sample answers on the Cambridge IELTS series. I wonder if the answers written and recognized as “very good” in this book is equivalent to band 8 above?

    • Pauline
      25th March 2020 - 9:57 am ·

      There is no such rule about how many sentences should be included in a paragraph. I would always advise that you doubt rules concerning numbers unless this refers to the total word count. Writing is a skill that goes beyond writing words on a page. The skill of writing involves thinking and planning – this is what your paragraphs show and the paragraphs are how you show your planning and organisation. Following strict advice about the number of sentences often results in a lack of clear planning because more (unnecessary) sentences are added for no apparent reason.

      I can’t comment on the answers provided as ‘very good’ and what band they are. I suspect they aren’t given a band because they were not produced in test conditions. I am addressing this with the models in my next book.

  • Solmaz
    1st March 2020 - 1:14 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I posted a question yesterday evening, and I’ve been searching your blog high and low ever since, but I can’t seem to find my question. I’ve been following your blog for sometime now, but it was the first time I’d posted anything, and I’m not sure how things work here. I just replied to one of the messages that was related to my question, wrote my name, and posted the comment. Can you please tell me if there is anything else I should do? Thank you.

    • Pauline
      1st March 2020 - 1:38 pm ·

      Hi Solmaz, your question arrived in my inbox at 5pm Saturday (yesterday). It is now Sunday morning, so I get to the questions as soon as I am able. I receive 1–15 spam messages every day, so every message is held in a queue until I can approve it and answer it. I am a little slower to respond at the moment as I am trying to finish my writing workbook. I’ll answer your previous questions now. Best wishes Pauline

      • Solmaz
        1st March 2020 - 2:12 pm ·

        Thank you so much Pauline for the response. I have a better idea now how to turn my ideas into a paragraph. I am also very excited about your new book, I can’t believe I’m going to read your book in 3 to 4 weeks. Can you tell us what books you are planning to choose the questions from (for the model answers). I think it helps if I work with my students on these questions in this time so that we can spot the weaknesses and take the most of your book.

        • Pauline
          2nd March 2020 - 12:54 pm ·

          The book focuses on the task 2 questions in Practice test book 9 as well as new questions I have written. There will eventually be at least 18 model answers in the book, though I may publish sooner with fewer models and then update. In the book, I encourage you to look through old essays and improve them, so if you have completed all or some of these that would help.

          • Solmaz
            7th March 2020 - 3:43 pm ·

            Thank you very much Pauline. I’ll be looking forward to the release of your book.

    • Pauline
      22nd February 2020 - 12:22 pm ·

      Hi Marzi, my 2 vocabulary books cover all of the topics likely to come up in IELTS writing. My next book will also help – it focuses only on writing task 2 and covers getting ideas and shows the step by step process of how to plan and write an essay. It will be available next month.

  • Neli
    14th January 2020 - 10:28 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a question about the word ‘substitute’. In have looked it up in many dictionaries but I still can’t figure out how to use it. I have 2 questions in particular about how the word is used, and I would appreciate it if you could help me with it.

    1. In the sentence ‘Gas-fired power stations will substitute for less efficient coal-fired equipment.’, does it mean that gas-fired power stations will take the place of less efficient coal-fired equipment? And if so, can we omit the word ‘for’ after substitute (Gas-fired power stations will substitute less efficient coal-fired equipment) and use it transitively in the same sense?

    2. More confusing is when the word is used in a passive voice. For instance, in the sentence ‘dried rosemary can be substituted for the fresh herb’, does it mean that rosemary can take the place of fresh herb, or the other way round? And can we say ‘dried rosemary can be substituted WITH/BY the fresh herb’ in the same sense?

    Thank you so much Pauline for your help.

    • Pauline
      15th January 2020 - 7:57 am ·

      It is complicated, I agree. Essentially, the meaning is ‘replace with.’ You can’t omit ‘for’ so the correct use is: to substitute something for something else, which means to replace something with something else. You can also say ‘to substitute something with something else’.

      To use your examples, in number 1, the context helps you understand it (‘less- efficient coal-fired equipment’ helps understand that this is being replaced with the gas-fired equivalent). With the second, the meaning is: I don’t have fresh rosemary so I substituted it with dried rosemary. In the passive: dried rosemary was substituted for fresh rosemary (i.e. took the place of or replaced the fresh rosemary).

      In other words, A is substituted for B (where I don’t have B so need to use A instead or B is not as good and needs to be replaced so we use A instead). In football (or similar sports) the playing team consists of 11 players, but the full team has extra players – the extra players sit on the side and are called substitutes. If someone is hurt or injured, these substitutes will be asked to take their place. That might help you remember the meaning.

      • Neli
        24th March 2020 - 9:32 pm ·

        Hi Pauline,
        Thank you for the explanation. I just came across the answer (I couldn’t find my question on the website). So am I right in thinking that:
        1) A was substituted FOR B = A took the place of B (somebody used A instead of B)
        2) A was substituted WITH B = B took the place of A (somebody used B instead of A)

  • MA
    29th November 2019 - 8:46 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    Good day to you,
    It is pretty tough for me to introduce and develope 2 different ideas in just one paragraph. Will i loose score if i introduce and develope only one idea? I mean is there any especific rule for the number of ideas in each paragraph?

  • Nima
    4th November 2019 - 4:30 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a question about over-generalization. In the descriptors for band 7, it says that a candidate at this band tends to over-generalize. So I know for higher bands we should avoid absolute statements such as ‘everybody’ or ‘always’, but what if something is true for everybody? For instance, is it an over-generalization to say “Everybody has experienced bitter moments in life”, and should I instead say that “Most people have experienced bitter moments in life”? Thank you for your help.

    • Pauline
      5th November 2019 - 3:51 pm ·

      Hi Nima, no, that is making a general point, which is not ‘overgeneralisation.’ That happens where there are only general points (often without support) in an essay. Many native speakers have this problem (you can find examples in videos on YouTube where people write an essay without any thinking or planning). The issue arises when people discuss a topic but ignore the question they were given. It is exacerbated when people practice with inauthentic questions that are quite vague and so encourage this type of writing.

      • Nima
        6th November 2019 - 10:31 am ·

        Thank you Pauline, but I’m a bit confused, you said many native speakers have this problem, did you mean making a general point or overgeneralizing? Is making a general point also a problem in essay writing?

        • Pauline
          6th November 2019 - 11:29 am ·

          I am referring to overgeneralising. As I said, people with this problem tend to ignore the very specific issue they are asked to discuss and instead make general statements about the overall topic. E.g. writing about ‘technology’ in general instead of discussing ‘the effect technology has had on the workplace.’ Of course you will need to make general statements about this, but when almost all of the statements do this then that is OVERgeneralisation.

          • Nima
            6th November 2019 - 11:58 am ·

            So is that what the descriptor in band 7 means by overgeneralizing? Because I thought this was mainly about statements which are too general, e.g. “As an immigrant, you need an advanced command of English to find a job”. Here I am discussing one of the practical problems of living in a country where the language is difficult (which is the exact topic, and not an overgeneralized interpretation of the topic), but still I’m making a statement which is overgeneralized, because NOT ALL immigrants need an advanced command of the language as NOT ALL jobs require this. I thought making statements like this is a feature of band 7 and not writing about the topic in a general way. I thought the latter was a feature of bands 4-6 where there is lack of precision to an extent that the essay might be tangential.

          • Pauline
            6th November 2019 - 12:31 pm ·

            Hi Nima, general statements are not used to ‘discuss’ they are used to introduce a topic. So, they are typically the first sentence in a paragraph or introduction. You aren’t ‘discussing’ here, you are introducing your own personal viewpoint or position – You are giving a personal perspective on the issue. Following this, you need to go on to explain why you think of believe this to be true, because this may not be everyone’s experience in every country. If you don’t go on to explain this idea and support it then this is not a problem of ‘overgeneralisation,’ instead this would be a case of band 6 TR: ‘presents relevant main ideas but some may be inadequately developed/unclear’ -this is a very common feature in band 6 writing.

          • Nima
            6th November 2019 - 2:21 pm ·

            Thank you so much Pauline, but now I’m even more confused. So let me ask my question in this way:

            1) Are you saying if I write about the topic in a general way, that’s the feature of band 7? For instance, as you said, if the topic is about “the effects technology has had on the workplace”, and I write about technology in general, could that be band 7? Because I thought that would be a tangential answer and given band 4.

            2) In the example I gave, if I go on to explain my view, but it is still too general, is that overgeneralization (band 7) or inadequate development of main ideas (band 6)? Let me give an example:
            “One of the practical problems immigrants face is to find a job because you need an advanced command of English for that. These days when employers want to hire workers, they look for people who can use the language perfectly so that they will not make a mistake when writing a letter or giving instructions to customers.”
            So I have tried to explain my view, but it still sounds a little overgeneralized, because we know for a fact that this is not the requirement of all jobs, so MANY employers or MANY jobs would be more appropriate. So my second question is if this paragraph shows features of band 7 or band 6?
            Thank you so much for your support.

          • Pauline
            6th November 2019 - 3:04 pm ·

            Hi Nima, I’m a little worried at the idea that ‘if I write about the topic in a general way, that’s the feature of band 7?” Overgeneralisation is a problem and not something to aim for. The complete descriptor says ”presents, extends and supports main ideas, but there may be a tendency to overgeneralise and/or supporting ideas may lack focus.” Which is what I have tried to show in talking about native speakers (without realising, they often give the best examples of this in videos on YouTube – the problem is that those who are not native speakers and who try to copy this way of writing will achieve a much lower score.). Your example is good, it’s just not finished yet – you explained and supported the idea by saying that ’employers want employees with a good command of language’ but now you need to connect the two ideas logically (i.e. by saying migrants often don’t have the language level needed to do this.) This isn’t Overgeneralisation, it is lack of support. Overgeneralisation would be:
            One of the practical problems people face is to find a job. An advanced command of English is required for working in any sector nowadays. Employers want to hire workers who are competent and highly qualified for the job.” (Each of these is a general idea that could fit in any essay about getting a job – they aren’t related to problems that migrants face. This is why it is a problem in Task response – the writer is ignoring the essay question. A tangential idea would be to go off on a different topic such as: ”Technology is very important in workplaces nowadays and these skills are highly desired.”
            Your paragraph, if completed, would show features above band 7. As it is unfinished and out of context, it isn’t possible to say what level of TR it shows.

          • Nima
            6th November 2019 - 3:53 pm ·

            Thank you so much Pauline, I think I understand it to an extent now. I’m not aiming to write in an overgeneralized way, but because I’m an IELTS teacher I’m trying to understand the descriptors better so I can give good advice to my students. My last question is that if those are not examples of overgeneralization in the paragraph that I wrote (if I finish the paragraph), what are they and how do they affect TR? Imagine I complete the paragraph in the way you suggested:
            “One of the practical problems immigrants face is to find a job because you need an advanced command of English for that. These days when employers want to hire workers, they look for people who can use the language perfectly so that they will not make a mistake when writing a letter or giving instructions to customers, and immigrants do not have these language skills”.
            We know that 1) not all jobs require an advanced command of language; 2) therefore not all employers look for this; and 3) many immigrants DO have an advanced command of the language
            So if we compare this paragraph with the following paragraph (which I think shows a higher band score in TR), how can we explain the effect of overgeneralized sentences on TR in the first paragraph other than saying there is tendency to overgeneralize?
            “On a practical level, one of the problems many immigrants face is to find a job since an advanced command of the language is the requirement for most jobs these days. And this is what employers look for if they want to hire an office worker to deal with correspondence or a salesperson to persuade people to buy a product. As many immigrants lack these language skills, it is not surprising that finding a job is a great struggle for them”.
            Thank you again for your help

          • Nima
            6th November 2019 - 5:27 pm ·

            You said that the problem with my sample paragraph was not overgeneralization, but lack of support. So I have completed the paragraph by linking the lack of language skills to immigrants as below:
            “One of the practical problems immigrants face is to find a job because you need an advanced command of English for that. These days when employers want to hire workers, they look for people who can use the language perfectly so that they will not make a mistake when writing a letter or giving instructions to customers, and immigrants do not have these language skills”.
            But we can still see that there are sentences that seem too general, these are: 1) not all jobs require an advanced command of language; 2) therefore not all employers look for this; and 3) many immigrants DO have an advanced command of the language.
            So the question is that doesn’t the completed version contain overgeneralization because of these sentences, and doesn’t it therefore qualify for band 7?
            Also I tried to rewrite the paragraph but this time without sentences that are too general:
            On a practical level, one of the problems many immigrants face is to find a job since an advanced command of the language is the requirement for most jobs these days. And this is what employers look for if they want to hire an office worker to deal with correspondence or a salesperson to persuade people to buy a product. As many immigrants lack these language skills, it is not surprising that finding a job is a great struggle for them”.
            So my second question is whether this second paragraph belongs to a higher band, and if so what have I improved if there was no overgeneralization in the first version?
            Thank you for your time.

          • Pauline
            6th November 2019 - 7:18 pm ·

            Firstly, typically what happens with questions like this is that people make assumptions based on their personal situation (e.g. that the language is English). As part of my degree, I had to go and live (and try to find work) in France and Spain for 6 months. Many people travel to live and work in another country, sometimes just for a short while, to learn the language – they aren’t always permanent migrants and it isn’t only English they are trying to learn.

            Looking at your first version:
            “One of the practical problems immigrants face is to find a job because you need an advanced command of English for that. These days when employers want to hire workers, they look for people who can use the language perfectly so that they will not make a mistake when writing a letter or giving instructions to customers, and immigrants do not have these language skills”.

            I see a main idea (your first sentence) followed by an explanation and example (your second sentence). This is exactly what your students must do. All that is missing now is a second point (this is too short for one paragraph about the ‘practical problems’). There are a couple of language issues but these do not impede communication. If you add at least one more practical problem, and explain it as well as this, we are looking here at band 8 depending on how well you make your point overall and how this fits into your overall argument. (TR is judged overall, not within a single paragraph.)

            This is how I would write it:

            “One of the practical problems immigrants face is earning a living because you need a very good command of language to get anything but the most menial of jobs. For better paid jobs, employers want staff who can use the language perfectly so that they will not make a mistake when writing a letter or helping customers, and immigrants generally do not have these language skills. Another problem they face is…’’

            Think about some of the changes I made and why (e.g. now the staff are helping customers not giving them instructions; immigrants tend to get menial jobs, so they can get a job, just not a very good one! I cleaned houses and made a lot of beds when I was a student in France and Spain!) I added ‘generally’ to show this is not all migrants.)

            Your second version is definitely not a higher band. The language is more problematic (the first sentence in particular) It is also a little more repetitive (you say ‘an advanced command of language is required’ and then you say ‘this is what employers are looking for’ (this is the same meaning.) The specific example of an office worker seems odd without ‘for example.’ I would write it like this:

            ‘On a practical level, one of the problems many immigrants face is finding a job because a good command of language is a requirement for most jobs these days. An Employer who wants to hire an office worker to deal with correspondence, for example, or a salesperson to persuade people to buy a product, is unlikely to choose a newly arrived migrant as most lack the necessary language skills. Another problem…’

            Again, notice the changes I made. It might be useful to discuss these with students. Again, the paragraph is still not complete – we need to discuss another ‘practical problem’ to do that.

          • Nima
            6th November 2019 - 6:00 pm ·

            Sorry if I’m confusing you, but my question is very clear. You said that the problem with my sample paragraph was not overgeneralization, but lack of support because my paragraph was not finished. So now I have finished the paragraph by linking language skills to immigrants:
            “One of the practical problems immigrants face is to find a job because you need an advanced command of English for that. These days when employers want to hire workers, they look for people who can use the language perfectly so that they will not make a mistake when writing a letter or giving instructions to customers, and immigrants do not have these language skills.”
            So my question is whether or not this complete version has problems with overgeneralization.
            Thank you again.

          • Pauline
            6th November 2019 - 6:01 pm ·

            No, I mean the writing task question 🙂 This is a good example of ‘talking at cross purposes’! 🙂

          • Nima
            6th November 2019 - 6:27 pm ·

            I thought that the questions I was asking were not clear. So can you now answer the questions I asked in the comment I posted before the last where I wrote a second paragraph to address the problems I thought the first paragraph had?

          • Nima
            6th November 2019 - 8:28 pm ·

            Thank you so much Pauline, I know you are very busy and it means a lot that you take the time to answer my questions. I can’t wait to buy your writing book and I will encourage all my students to do the same thing, I’m sure it is THE best book on IELTS writing ever. Thank you again.

          • Solmaz
            29th February 2020 - 4:57 pm ·

            Hi Pauline,
            My name is Solmaz, and I’m an IELTS teacher. I’ve been following your blog for sometime now, and I should say it’s really brilliant. Thank you for that.

            I’ve recently bought your vocabulary book (advanced), and I really enjoy the reading and listening exercises, they’re great. Can you please give us an update on your new writing book, and when it will be available. My students and I are all waiting eagerly for its release.

            I also have a question about a writing question from Cambridge book 13. The question is “Living in a country where you have to speak a foreign language can cause serious social problems, as well as practical problems. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?” My plan is to write one paragraph about the social problems and another paragraph about the practical problems. I have some problems with the paragraph on social problems, as I don’t have enough ideas. I can only think of not being able to communicate with others, and so not being able to find friends, and feeling lonely, and I know that this is too short for a paragraph. What I have written so far looks something like this:
            “One of the social problems that people who move to another country usually face is that since they may not speak the local language well, they will have problems socializing with others. This is part of their integration into their new community, and if they cannot do it well, they may not find any friends and end up feeling lonely.”
            I also feel what I have written is a bit repetitive, or maybe the organization of information is problematic. But can you please help me finish this paragraph or give me some new ideas for this paragraph so I don’t sound repetitive? Thank you so much for your support, I really appreciate it.

          • Pauline
            1st March 2020 - 1:48 pm ·

            Hi Solmaz, I am really glad you are finding my blog posts and books helpful. I have completed the skills section of my writing book (12 lessons teaching the planning and writing skills needed for task 2) and I am currently working on the test practice and model answers section. I am hoping to be ready to publish it by the middle of March, though it may be closer to the end of March. I will keep everyone updated once I have a firm date.

            My writing book is dealing with the question you ask here about the writing task question from book 13. I will show you exactly how to get more ideas when you are stuck and how to plan effectively. What you have identified here is a planning problem – you need to find a way to finish this paragraph and you can do that by looking back at the question. I don’t think there is repetition here. You have several ideas that you have reduced into one sentence – if this is a separate paragraph, then it would be better to divide it into the separate ideas and explain each one: 1) ability to make friends 2) sense of loneliness 3) lack of integration. Explain each one and think about how to link this back to the question. I hope this helps for now.

      • Nima
        6th November 2019 - 6:22 pm ·

        Oh I see now, sorry. The question is from Cambridge book 13
        “Living in a country where you have to speak a foreign language can cause serious social problems, as well as practical problems.
        To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?”

  • Catalin
    7th October 2019 - 8:31 pm ·

    Hello Pauline
    I’ve read most of your books but I am very interested in your writing workbook, as I have to sit again IELTS to improve from 6 to 7. You said in a previous comment that if you find a solution to serialize it, you would publish it sooner. Have you considered Patreon? This is a great way for people to properly thank you for your work and receive some undisclosed information.

  • Sadia
    23rd July 2019 - 3:09 pm ·

    Mam how can I approach you for evaluation of my writing… I m trying hard to fulfill the criterias you mentioned in your book, but have no idea if I m going in right direction. I just want at Leat one task to b evaluated by an expert to help me know my current status coz I scored well in all other modules bt my writting was 6 bands

    • Pauline
      24th July 2019 - 7:52 am ·

      I’m afraid I can’t give feedback right now. I have broken my wrist, which is in plaster for the next 7 weeks, and I am trying to finish my writing workbook.

  • Stephen
    24th June 2019 - 5:18 pm ·

    Dear Pauline,

    I have one question related to the number of words that we need to complete in the answer sheet. When the limit is three words, it often happens that Cambridge IELTS books provide different approaches to how to fill it. For example, a question asks “What are SS Maternity Payments” and I answered “individual grants”; however the answer is just “grants” in the case when I can write two words. OR another question asks “Where can the pick-up point be found” and I answered “outside Concorde Building” and in this case I can write three letters, but the answer is just “Concorde Building”. By the way, I think the answer without “outside” seems to me to be wrong. Or in another example the answer is “academic calendar”, but I wrote “the academic calendar” because the world limit is three words. Finally, I wrote “pre-arranged permits”, the answer is just “permits” and this is when I can write three words. In some other places, the answers are given with the “the” or “an” article, at least in brackets. I feel this uncertainty is unfair to test takers. I have read your post related to how write numbers, but could not find anything about words. Are there explanations for such various among Cambridge IELTS books? Is there a uniform approach to similar situations. I am thankful to you in advance.

        • Pauline
          25th June 2019 - 7:29 am ·

          Ok, I haven’t bought that one yet but I will be looking over it in the next few weeks. Until then, there is a clear rule that is used – words that are acceptable in the answer (up to to maximum word limit) are put in brackets in the key. In the real test, the list of possible answers can be very long (e.g. if you need to write a time or a date there is a long list of different ways to do that!) In printed books, they need to save space and cuts are made to the key so that only the most important details are there – I will need to check if your possible answers are in fact incorrect. I’ll take a look soon and let you know.

          • Skat
            27th August 2020 - 8:06 pm ·

            Hi Pauline,
            I have the same query as stephen.. is “Outside concorde building” correct or not?

          • Pauline
            28th August 2020 - 8:45 am ·

            Yes, it would be accepted in the real test if there is a 3-word limit. The ‘outside’ is not necessary (which is why it isn’t in the key) as I pointed out in my last reply, in the real test the list of possible answers is often longer / more detailed. ‘Outside’ isn’t needed here because of the phrasing of the question and the use of ‘can be found’ – the pick up point IS ‘outside that building’, in answer to the question ‘where can it be found,’ Concorde building is enough.

  • F. Rea
    2nd June 2019 - 9:38 am ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I am an IELTS teacher and I should say that I very much enjoy your books. In your free book you have talked about people who turn their introduction into a body paragraph because of following bad advice. However, I have also seen many candidates who begin each of their body paragraphs with a sentence that actually belongs to the introduction. When this happens, does it hurt the progression or paragraphing?

      • F. Rea
        2nd June 2019 - 4:19 pm ·

        This is an introduction from one of my students which I think has the same problem. The question is:
        “Some people say that History is one of the most important school subjects. Other people think that, in today’s world, subjects like Science and Technology are more important than History.
        Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.”

        and here’s his introduction:

        Some people believe that it is important for school students to study History while others claim that in today’s world other subjects such as Science and Technology are more relevant. I tend to agree with the former group.

        On the one hand, some people say that History is of great importance at schools. They say that students learn about their past and …”

        I think the introduction is really good but don’t you think the first sentence in the body paragraph prevents the progression of the essay?

        • Pauline
          2nd June 2019 - 4:57 pm ·

          The first sentence of the body paragraph is (in my view) the beginning go the argument being presented and it should signal the first main point in that argument. The problem with this sentence is the repletion of the sentence from the introduction. I do see this a lot and yes, it is a problem, but I see it as a repetition of ideas problem and not related to progression. This post points out some other common problems in the introduction :https://keytoielts.com/common-problems-when-writing-an-introduction/

          • F. Rea
            2nd June 2019 - 5:49 pm ·

            Thank you Pauline, I read the other post and it raises interesting issues. So would you say that this is a good way of starting the first body paragraph or do you think this still need improvement?
            “The advocates of studying history claim that students can learn about the past …”

          • Pauline
            2nd June 2019 - 6:00 pm ·

            Yes, that’s a good way to start a paragraph that is about that side of the question.

          • Niako
            4th June 2019 - 9:51 pm ·

            Hello Pauline,
            I have one question about the introduction, can I use the phrase “it is beyond debate that …” instead of the phrase “it is true that”, I’m very grateful for your help.

          • Pauline
            5th June 2019 - 8:19 am ·

            There is a collocation problem here – we do not use ‘debate’ in this way. You can talk about ‘a continued debate’ or describe a debate in some other way, but we don’t say that something is beyond debate. We can say ‘Without a doubt, or ‘undoubtedly’ which would be closest in meaning.

  • Riki
    1st June 2019 - 6:23 pm ·

    Hi Pauline, I have recently started to read all the samples from your books and analyze them about the development of idea in the main body paragraphs, but I still can’t understand how you do it. Can you tell me one way to develop my ideas?

  • Rustam
    30th May 2019 - 8:51 am ·

    Hello Pauline.
    Would you mind please explaining about ideas. Some teachers advise to include 2 ideas in B1 with roughly 2 to 3 sentences for each one, while others say it is better to include only 1 relevant idea within a paragraph. This should include explanation, example and linking sentence. Which one is better or may be less riskier? For students who want to get 7. Thank you very much!

    • Pauline
      30th May 2019 - 9:31 am ·

      There is no magic number – as I explain in chapter 7 of The Key to IELTS Success, every time I have seen a focus on numbers (2-3 sentences per paragraph; 2 ideas; 3 ideas; one example per idea etc) the end result is an essay that completely forgets that the point is to communicate your ideas and argument clearly. When trying to fit into a set of rules that says ‘you must have 3 ideas / examples per paragraph etc’ students start inventing ideas or examples that simply do not fit. the number of ideas they write must depend on the number of ideas that they have when they think about the question and want to explain their views on it.

        • Pauline
          30th May 2019 - 10:12 am ·

          Because writing is hard for everyone – native speakers, professional writers, students, everyone! As humans we look for ways to cut corners and make a job easier, it’s in our nature, and focusing on numbers is a way to help us feel like we are in control. But with writing, it doesn’t help. I’m really working hard in my workbook to make the task easier for everyone.

          • Rustam
            30th May 2019 - 10:43 am ·

            I think I will copy your entire post about ideas and have somewhere in front of me at all times so as not to forget. I cannot get rid of this “number approach”, it will take some time 🙂

          • Pauline
            30th May 2019 - 10:45 am ·

            That’s a good idea – yes it does take time and you need to retrain yourself. Again, my workbook aims to ‘train’ you to think and write in the way that you need to in the test. I’m doing my very best to get it finished.

  • Nefeli
    30th May 2019 - 7:27 am ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I am an IELTS teacher from Greece, I have read all your books and seen your videos on youtube, but I’m still struggling to find the answer to a simple question about coherence and cohesion. I know that coherence is about the order in which I present my ideas, so we can see in the descriptors that a band 8 candidate “sequences information and ideas logically”. However, there is no mention of this in the descriptors for band 9. Instead, it says that a band 9 candidate “uses cohesion in such a way that it attracts no attention”. There is also a mention of paragraphing in band 9, just as in band 8, but no mention of a logical order of ideas. I really appreciate your support.

    • Pauline
      30th May 2019 - 9:42 am ·

      Hi Nefeli, the criteria attempt to describe the aspects of language that result on that score. By band 9, you should assume that candidates can do everything that a band 8 candidate do, they just do it more naturally and without calling any attention to it. When we read, we generally notice 2 things about writing 1) errors or 2) writing that is wonderful (think of your favourite author and what they can achieve with words). Band 9 is not aimed at literary greatness, it is aimed at the native-speaker level where a skilled writer can clearly express themselves so naturally that we don’t even notice the writing – we only notice the ideas being expressed. I use ‘native-speaker’ here with some caution – please don’t assume that many native speakers reach this level in writing. Many don’t because they simply aren’t taught the skills needed (I say this as someone who has edited dissertations for 6 native speakers at degrees and masters level). I’m not sure if this helps, but the writing workbook I am working on (which I plan to also market to native speakers!) should help make it clearer.

      • Nefeli
        30th May 2019 - 2:18 pm ·

        Thank you Pauline, I completely understand that, but my question is why there is no reference to coherence (organization of ideas) in band 9 but only reference to cohesion?

        • Pauline
          31st May 2019 - 9:29 am ·

          Coherence relates to the readers ability to understand your writing. It actually isn’t mentioned above band 6 – if there is a part of your writing that the examiner cannot understand, you won’t reach band 7. By band 9, you should assume that this means ‘everything in band 8 and more!’ Cohesion relates more to organisation of ideas, but there are times when confusing organisation of ideas also created problems of coherence.

      • K.S
        31st May 2019 - 8:31 am ·

        Hi Pauline, I have read in many writing books about unity and coherence, but in IELTS and your writing chapter there is only coherence and cohesion. Is unity different from coherence or cohesion? Thank you.

        • Pauline
          31st May 2019 - 9:27 am ·

          I can’t tell you what other writers have in their mind when they write, I can only tell you that I had the criteria used to assess IELTS in my mind when I wrote all of my books, which is why I refer to coherence and cohesion.

        • Pauline
          31st May 2019 - 9:25 am ·

          Think of coherence as the reader being able to understand or follow your ideas. Cohesion is how the ideas all connect together (including the logic of the order of your ideas). I hope you can see that it’s sometimes difficult to separate these two ideas because if your ideas are in a confusing or illogical order then it makes them difficult to follow.)

          • Stu
            31st May 2019 - 10:30 am ·

            I think I understand that, but in the descriptors for 6 it says organises information and ideas coherently, and in 7 it says logically organises information and ideas. So isn’t the way we organise information about coherence rather than cohesion? I also read in the British Council guide to writing that coherence is about sequencing your ideas and cohesion is about connecting your ideas and sentences.

          • Pauline
            31st May 2019 - 10:43 am ·

            I’m not sure that it helps to see them separately as they do overlap (they are together for a reason!). Yes, when ideas are sequenced logically they are more coherent, but there is often not a clear line between this and cohesion problems – (e.g. when people stick to a template of cohesive devices they often then present their ideas illogically – so it isn’t really clear whether the problem is with the devices themselves or with the illogicality of the order (did they write ‘For example’ because they are using the cohesive device incorrectly or because they are presenting their ideas in a confusing order – I see this problem a lot because people are told to add examples and they often do that even when the example doesn’t fit or isn’t necessary!). The point is that by band 9 there is none of this confusion. There are elements of ‘coherence’ with the meaning of ‘our ability to understand and follow ideas’ within the CC criteria. Think of the opposite (incoherent) which means both ‘cannot be understood’ and ‘lacks coherence’. Is there a reason you think this is important?

          • Chanta
            31st May 2019 - 10:39 am ·

            Hi Pauline,
            I read this conversation and I am confused. My teacher says that sometimes I have to change the order of my sentences because it is not logical and this is a problem with coherence, so you’re saying this is a problem with cohesion?

          • Pauline
            31st May 2019 - 10:47 am ·

            As I have said in other replies, they are together for a reason – the ideas overlap. Your teacher is saying that the organisation of your ideas (perhaps due to cohesion problems – it depends on the individual writing) makes it difficult to follow your ideas (coherence). It always depends on the language problems present in the writing so I don’t think it helps to try to pin it down and generalise. Is there a reason you think that it matters?

          • Stu
            31st May 2019 - 10:54 am ·

            Thank you Pauline, now it’s clear, I just asked because I wanted to see how examiners see this, so a paragraph may be cohesive but incoherent, but the other way round is not usually the case?

          • Pauline
            31st May 2019 - 11:04 am ·

            I’m still not at all convinced they can be separated. I’d need to see an ‘incoherent’ paragraph that was cohesive to understand what you mean better. The elements that make a paragraph ‘cohesive’ can really only be judged by the impact they have on coherence. (I.e. using some learned cohesive devices but in a way that shows no understanding of them wouldn’t mean to me that the ‘cohesion’ is good but the coherence is not).

          • Pauline
            31st May 2019 - 11:10 am ·

            Just to be clear, I’m only asking for clarification of the problem because it helps me see where the confusion is so I can make sure I am clearer in my books and posts.

          • Milanda
            1st June 2019 - 4:55 pm ·

            Hi Pauline, You have written about using forced cohesive devices. We know one way to achieve cohesion is using pronouns and determiners (referencing). My question is when in the band descriptors it talks about overuse/underuse or mechanical/faulty use of cohesive devices, does it mean transition signals (just as in your example) or does it also mean use of pronouns and determiners? Thank you for your help.

          • Pauline
            1st June 2019 - 6:09 pm ·

            It measns any of those when they are being used repeatedly (band 5 and below tend to overuse because, so, and, but, because this is all they know) but they also overuse determiners too, again because to lack of understanding about when and how to use them.

          • Milanda
            1st June 2019 - 6:14 pm ·

            Thank you Pauline, but it is also true that in a cohesive piece of writing all the sentences are connected and this can be achieved in many ways, and by that I don’t mean using linkers between every two sentences, So how can we connect all the sentences with the means of cohesion and still not overuse them?

          • Pauline
            2nd June 2019 - 12:40 pm ·

            ‘overuse’ means repeatedly using the exact same words and phrases. If you look at some band 5 samples it is easy to see this – read the sample on page 170 of Cambridge practice test book 10 and notice how many times the word ‘and’ is used.

          • DR.Ayesha
            27th September 2019 - 5:15 pm ·

            hi pauline, you are a saving grace to all of us demotivated and frustrated ielts takers.may god give you and your family all the happiness in this world.
            i understand coherence and cohesion in this way-IF YOU ARE COHESIVE ENOUGH,YOU ARE BOUND TO BE COHERENT.

          • Pauline
            27th September 2019 - 7:02 pm ·

            Yes, though I find a lot of people misunderstand the idea of cohesion.I’m glad you’re finding my advice useful 🙂

  • Riaz
    28th May 2019 - 5:32 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    Thank you for this great website. I have a question about writing an introduction. I read in your IELTS book that we need to introduce the topic and possibly state our position. However, I have seen it in your sample essays and read it in many other books that it is better if we start with a general statement about the topic. Which one do you suggest? Thank you.

  • Rustam
    27th May 2019 - 9:51 am ·

    Hopefully my next book (The Key to IELTS Writing) will help you develop this skills for yourself ?
    Dear Pauline, please tell us already about the release date 🙂 I’ve been waiting for this book for more than a year. I even think to postpone my IELTS until I read your book.

    • Pauline
      27th May 2019 - 10:30 am ·

      It takes a very long time to write a book well – I only began it this year and I am hoping to release it sometime in the next few months, but I am still writing it.

        • Pauline
          27th May 2019 - 1:49 pm ·

          I’m working as fast as I can on it but my main focus has to be on making sure it does what everyone hopes it will do: train you to think and write. In order to get that right, I have been doing a lot of research into the best way to present and develop an argument. I then need to find a way to explain this very clearly in the context of IELTS test questions and write exercises so that you can test and check your understanding. It’s a long process but it will be worth it in the end – If it helps, I am very pleased with what I have so far! I am working on the ‘skills’ section – where you will learn and practice the individual skills needed to write an essay and then there will be a ‘test practice’ section so that you can put the skills into practice in test situations and check them again.

          • Rustam
            28th May 2019 - 7:44 am ·

            And this is why we are all waiting for it so much. I am sure that this book will be the best in the market and this is not an exaggeration. 🙂 I have also a question about conclusion. I see it every now and then that a student can lose marks if a conclusion is repetitive. When i write it myself I feel this also, but how to avoid it?

          • Pauline
            28th May 2019 - 8:37 am ·

            I hope you are right about the book, though I lose heart often because I know many will simply try to find ways to steal it as they do with my other books. I’ll finish it anyway, but I may not write another book after this, even though I would dearly love to write an IELTS series of course books from bands 5 to 7 and onwards.

            The conclusions you are talking about are not in the final conclusion at the end – your argument is made up of conclusions – I will be showing this in the new book (Just writing that part at the moment!)

          • Rustam
            28th May 2019 - 11:14 am ·

            I see. Well if it makes any difference I will definately buy the book 🙂 And persuade my friends, who are also into ielts, to do the same. We really need you to continue to do this great work! there also must be some ways to procect the rights…

          • Monsef Ali
            25th September 2019 - 12:50 am ·

            Hi Pauline,
            This sounds great. I can’t wait for the book to come out. May I ask if there is going to a discussion on inductive and deductive reasoning in essay writing in your book, and if so are there going to be exercises for us to practice those techniques? Thank you for your support.

          • Pauline
            25th September 2019 - 8:22 am ·

            I am going to be teaching you how to make an argument and showing 3 different ways to build one. But I won’t be discussing inductive and deductive reasoning in detail as I don’t think it will be helpful. I read several books and watched hours of videos about ways of reasoning to extract the ones that are useful and relevant to IELTS Writing.

          • Monsef Ali
            25th September 2019 - 10:51 am ·

            That’s great Pauline, you said you will not get into the details of inductive and deductive reasoning, but am I right in thinking that almost any argument that we build is either deductive or inductive? If that is the case I hope some discussion of the basics will be covered.

          • Pauline
            25th September 2019 - 11:16 am ·

            If I was writing for an academic audience then I would discuss issues like this using those terms and at length. However, my audience is people struggling to understand far more important ideas related to relevance, progression, development, and coherence and cohesion. So I am taking the most important and relevant elements of building an argument and making those clear. Using terms such as inductive and deductive reasoning would require spending a great deal of time explaining these very complex ideas (that native speakers struggle with at university level) and then working on how to distinguish between them. This would not be helpful to the vast majority of the people who are looking for a book like this. It isn’t a philosophical look at argumentation, it is a very practical look at how to build and develop a logical and clear argument. I will be using layman terms to explain this process and showing both the language and the way to choose ideas that are relevant and logical. As I said earlier, I watched several hours of video before writing the book. One showed a group of native speaker Oxford university students trying to understand inductive and deductive reasoning and producing illogical and inaccurate language as a result. That showed me that this isn’t something that is necessary or helpful in terms of IELTS Writing.

          • Monsef Ali
            25th September 2019 - 11:32 am ·

            That makes sense. I am an IELTS teacher and I don’t use the terms myself, As you rightly said, as fancy as it seems, this can only lead to more confusion. What I do instead is to focus on two different ways of building an argument: either I say what I believe to be true and then explain why I think this, or I give reasons and explanations to arrive at a conclusion which is my main argument. Do you think this is a good way of teaching how to build an argument?

          • Pauline
            25th September 2019 - 11:34 am ·

            Yes, that’s a really good way of showing how to build an argument. I also look at 3 different ways of explaining / supporting your main idea.

          • Pauline
            25th September 2019 - 11:46 am ·

            I have had a big delay because of my broken wrist and I also started again because I looked at native speaker models and realised there were more problems than I had realised. You can’t solve a problem without really understanding the causes and I had assumed I understood all of the causes. When I analysed the native speaker models found online (that call themselves Band 9) I realised that I needed to take a different approach. It also made me realise the purpose of and need for good models, so there will now be more models within the book (at least 25, I think) as well as looking at how to improve band 6.5 models to turn them into band 7-8 ones. It’s taking time to do it well and I am getting feedback from examiners to make sure what I am saying is accurate. I am also including a listening aspect (I firmly believe there is a closer link to listening and writing than to reading and writing), so the recording side will take time too. In short, I don’t have a date yet but I’m doing my best!

          • Monsef Ali
            25th September 2019 - 12:19 pm ·

            It seems your book is going to change our understanding of IELTS writing. I don’t know how you can connect listening and writing, but I can tell you I like the sound of it, and I hope you will include advice for those aiming for a 9.

          • Pauline
            25th September 2019 - 1:37 pm ·

            I hope I can persuade you of my theory about listening – at the very least it will make writing lessons more interesting and varied. The advice and help will be for anyone aiming for bands 7 to 9, so it will help bands 6 and above the most.

          • Lidia
            2nd October 2019 - 6:17 pm ·

            Hello Pauline,
            I read your comment about the link between listening and writing, I suppose your book will not be available for another 6 months, am I right? If so, can you tell me what videos to watch or what books to read to help me how to develop my arguments and ideas in writing. I should say that I have read your books too, I’m asking this because you mentioned that you have watched many videos and read many books, so I thought maybe you could help me, I need an 8 in writing. Thank you so much for your support.

          • Pauline
            2nd October 2019 - 6:33 pm ·

            Hi Lydia, I am hoping it will be available in less than 6 months and if I could find a way to serialise it I would release it sooner (if people would be happy to buy the whole book which I then update with more contents each week). I had a few delays, one being my broken wrist, but also I came to realise that the problems were more complex than I had assumed. I have been working on people’s writing with good success in getting people to band 7 and beyond and honestly thought that I had a good understanding of the problems and causes of the problems, but then I came to realise that there are very real issues with some native speaker models that need to be addressed too. I have since taken another approach and started again, but I am much more confident that the book will indeed address the main issues. The result is a greater emphasis on model answers, with a link to listening to help ensure users of the book gain the most in terms of changing their language. I am enjoying writing it, but making sure the key messages are clear and easy to follow takes time. I think a lot of today’s problems come from materials that are written far too quickly and then don’t stand up to scrutiny in the long term. I can promise that I am making good progress 🙂

            In terms of videos and books, I decided against adding the ones I have used to a list at the end because they were really only useful in showing me the problems in native speaker answers! The videos were too fast and not relevant to IELTS, so really not helpful. If you send me a writing task here or on Facebook I can try to advise – I feel that I have a better grasp of the argument problems now and no longer see problems in terms of language only (though there are links). If you read a paragraph that Mina wrote and I helped change in another comment then this might help. I’ll try to find a link and attach it here.
            Here is the link (scroll down for the question and discussion with Mina) :https://keytoielts.com/are-5-scores-used-for-each-criteria-in-writing-and-speaking/

          • Pauline
            2nd October 2019 - 6:43 pm ·

            When are you planning on taking the test next? what scores did you receive in the other papers last? Can you send me a message on Facebook?

  • Niu
    26th May 2019 - 5:50 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a question about writing that has remained unanswered for ages. I have a hard time understanding when I need to explain my main ideas more and when my explanation is clear for the reader – in this case the examiner. Or how much development is needed for an idea. Sometimes I feel that my explanation is enough but the feedback I receive says otherwise. I thought maybe you could help me. Thank you for taking the time to read my comment.

    • Pauline
      27th May 2019 - 10:35 am ·

      Reread chapter 7 of The Key to IELTS Success. I will be covering this side of developing ideas more in my next book, but it will not be finished for a few months.

      • Niu
        27th May 2019 - 2:56 pm ·

        Thank you, I have read your free book but I guess I should wait for your next book. Can I give an example for this? For instance if the question asks whether it’s more important for school students to study History or Science and technology, and in the paragraph about the importance of studying history I say “One of the main reasons for studying history is that it creates a sense of patriotism in students.” Is this clear or does it need more explanation? Because I think it is clear and does not require more development.

        • Pauline
          27th May 2019 - 5:58 pm ·

          If you make a statement that is not a general fact then you need to explain it. You have used the simple present, which means you are stating as a fact that this is true for everyone. That confuses me and makes me ask ‘why?” ‘How?” So, this means you need to explain it. If a country has a history that is violent, would students of its history feel patriotic?

          • Niu
            27th May 2019 - 6:25 pm ·

            Thank you, so if I change present simple to a modal verb and add another sentence, would that be ok? Like this: “one of the main reasons for studying history is that it can create a sense of patriotism in students because they can learn about their country’s past achievements and develop a love of their country.”

  • Navaz
    25th May 2019 - 5:07 pm ·

    Hello Pauline,
    I wanted to ask a question about this topic from Cambridge books

    ‘In many places new homes are needed, but the only space available for building them is in the countryside. Some people believe it is more important to protect the countryside and not build new homes there. What is your opinion?’

    I have read it somewhere that I shouldn’t mention my reasons for agreement or disagreement in the introduction, because it hurts the progression. So if I write my introduction like this, does it hurt progression?

    ‘Lack of space for building houses is a common problem in many societies. Some people say we should build houses in the countryside, but I do not agree with that because it both threatens animal life and can have a devastating effect on human life.
    Firstly, destroying the countryside can cause many animals to die. …’

    Can we say that there is progression throughout, or is it better to omit the reasons in the introduction to avoid repetition and help progression?
    This is a very confusing point for me because different books say different things and I can only trust an authority like you. Thank you so much for your help.

    • Pauline
      27th May 2019 - 10:40 am ·

      Re-read my comments about writing an Introduction in The Key to IELTS Success – I do mention this idea there. This sentence:
      ”Some people say we should build houses in the countryside, but I do not agree with that because it both threatens animal life and can have a devastating effect on human life.” Is not ‘introducing your essay’ – it is making an argument. You should only do that in your body paragraphs. In the introduction, just introduce the topic that you will discuss (and if you want, you can also introduce your thesis).

      • Navaz
        27th May 2019 - 3:00 pm ·

        Thank you Pauline, I understand that it is not a good introduction, but my main question is if this hurts progression. In the band descriptors it says “progression throughout”, so this introduction does not with progression throughout, right?

        • Pauline
          27th May 2019 - 6:01 pm ·

          The problem it creates is because it doesn’t belong in the introduction, it isn’t related to progression – lack of progression comes from the fact that the argument does not progress or go anywhere.

          • Navaz
            27th May 2019 - 6:29 pm ·

            Thank you Pauline. In one of your earlier comments you had said that when you mention your reasons in the introduction and then you repeat them in the body paragraphs, that means your essay is not moving forward and that’s why I thought this could hurt progression.??

          • Pauline
            27th May 2019 - 8:02 pm ·

            What I meant earlier is that it shouldn’t be in the introduction – so the issue of whether it would impact on progression doesn’t apply.

  • Hawchen
    23rd May 2019 - 4:59 pm ·

    I have a question about questions where there are two view points and we need to discuss both and give our own opinion. When I want to present both sides in the introduction can I present one side and then use ‘while’ to present my opinion like this?

    “Some people say that History is one of the most important school subjects. Other people think that, in today’s world, subjects like Science and Technology are more important than History.
    Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.”

    Can I say:

    “It is often said that History is a very important subject to study, while I believe that in today’s world, it is more important for students to study science and technology.”

    or should I necessarily say that there are two groups of people like this:

    “It is often said that History is a very important subject to study, while OTHERS, INCLUDING MYSELF, believe that in today’s world, it is more important for students to study science and technology.”

    Thank you so much for your help. This is a very confusing point because I have heard different things from different teachers.

    • Pauline
      23rd May 2019 - 6:24 pm ·

      The second version is best – you are asked to discuss the two views first, before giving your opinion, so you need to mention the other opinion first. It would be even better to break this into two sentences ( I advise 2 sentences for both the introduction and conclusion). It also depends on whether you want to give away your own opinion at the very start (I don’t like to do that, though teachers in the US prefer it). So, to split this into 2 sentences, you could write: “Some believe that History is a very important subject to study, while other say that in today’s world, it is more important for students to study science and technology. Personally, I agree with the latter.” Or something like this: ‘Some believe that History is an important subject to study, while others argue that science and technology are of greater importance. Let us consider which subject is more relevant in today’s world.”

      • Hawchen
        23rd May 2019 - 7:07 pm ·

        Thank you Pauline for your clear answer, but isn’t it a cliche to say that I agree with the former/latter, and shouldn’t we be more creative in our writing? One more thing, I have seen that some people say “others, including MYSELF, believe…” while some people consider this grammatically incorrect and say “others, including ME, believe …” Which one is grammatically correct?

        • Pauline
          23rd May 2019 - 7:31 pm ·

          I have never understood why people refer to ‘cliches’ in IELTS. The only people who have to worry about being cliched are professional writers. I do mention this in the vocabulary chapter of The Key to IELTS Success, so I really recommend you read it (or re-read it). In terms of IELTS, the word ‘cliche’ seems to mean ‘don’t use the appropriate word for this’ – if we put it this way, I hope you can see how this can create problems. The word ‘creative’ does not appear anywhere in the criteria, even at band 9, because it this is not being assessed and is not relevant in IELTS. What IS relevant, is being clear and precise, which means using the right word at the right time, not avoiding these words for the sake of ‘being creative.’

          In answer to your second question, both are correct but I think the second is too informal for writing.

          • Hawchen
            24th May 2019 - 5:09 pm ·

            Thank you Pauline, I thought the part in the band descriptor that says a band 9 candidate uses cohesion in a way that attracts no attention was referring to this, that’s why I thought we should try not to use discourse markers such as “furthermore, firstly, finally, on the minus side, …”. I thought a band 9 candidate can write cohesively using other methods. Maybe creative was not the right word for it.

          • Pauline
            24th May 2019 - 6:21 pm ·

            No, this means that it is so natural that we even don’t notice it. We notice writing that is less natural (and more mechanical) or that is faulty. There is nothing wrong with using discourse markers like that. In fact, when you avoid using them, you make your job and the examiners job more difficult!

      • Taurus
        26th May 2019 - 6:22 pm ·

        In the last version of the introduction which you wrote, the last sentence reads:
        “Let us consider which subject is more relevant in today’s world.”
        When you end your introdution like this, you have not stated your opinion here. The body paragraphs will contain your arguments, and after weighing both sides, you will give your opinion in the conclusion? Is this how you intend to approach this?

  • Ahmad
    22nd May 2019 - 2:44 pm ·

    Hi Pauline
    I would appreciate it if you provide me with explanation and clarification on “flexibility”, “precision”, “less common” and “uncommon” mentioned in the IELTS public band descriptor for both writing and speaking tests.

  • Rasool
    19th May 2019 - 6:22 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have recently bought your advanced vocabulary book on the recommendation of one of my friends (Niloo, you were kind enough to give her some feedback on her writing), and I moved straight to the writing section (I know I shouldn’t do that, but I couldn’t resist the temptation). On top of page 122, there is this topic on the advantages and disadvantages of tourism, but the model answer is confusing. You have started the first body paragraph by talking about the spread of tourism and how much it can change places and the economic advantages this can have for governments, you’ve then moved on to talk about the DISADVANTAGES this might have in terms of employment and the negative effects on the local communities. In the next paragraph you’ve mentioned the advantages that this influx of tourists can have for the local communities, and then the disadvantages this can have for the environment and historical sites, but then right after that a solution is offered. I couldn’t understand the logic behind putting these different ideas in each paragraph, or maybe it’s a printing issue?

      • Rasool
        22nd May 2019 - 5:28 pm ·

        Hi Pauline,
        Actually it is clear where the introduction ends, what is confusing to me is the way you have put the ideas together in the body paragraphs – as I said in my previous message. Do you think you can explain the structure of ideas in your body paragraphs. I should also say that I’m through with the first 3 units I really enjoy reading your book.

        • Pauline
          23rd May 2019 - 9:36 am ·

          My apologies, I thought you were talking about a different model answer where there is no break between the introduction and first body paragraph. With the model answer you are talking about, the first body paragraph. No on has pointed out this error to me before and I can see that there is a sentence that does not belong! It could be that something has been cut or moved in the final stages where the printers are very concerned about how to fit the contents onto the page. I will need to go back to my own drafts to check what has happened and I will rewrite the model. Thank you for pointing this out! I’m glad you’re enjoying the book and please let me know if you have any other questions.

          • Pauline
            23rd May 2019 - 2:49 pm ·

            Yes, I am planning on making a page for each of my book with additional resources and advice / answers to any questions.

          • Pauline
            27th May 2019 - 2:09 pm ·

            Hi Rasool, I am planning on rewriting all of my model essays to reflect the method of developing an argument I will be teaching in The Key to IELTS Writing Workbook. I am still working on the skills section, then I will finalise the test practice section and get to work on previous model answers. This will mean that it is easier to see how to apply the same ideas yourself.

  • Rahil
    19th May 2019 - 3:42 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a question about essay writing. I think it is important for each paragraph in the essay to flow from the previous paragraph and be a continuation from it, but I read in one of your comments that each paragraph should start something new. So do you think it is good to signal at the end of each paragraph what comes in the following paragraph (I think this is what you’ve done in the sample essays of your vocabulary books)?

    • Pauline
      19th May 2019 - 9:09 pm ·

      There isn’t one single way to answer or construct a paragraph. What I teach is a method for people who often make mistakes in coherence and cohesion.

      • Rahil
        23rd May 2019 - 2:43 pm ·

        Hi Pauline, thank you, I know there are many ways to connect paragraphs, I have also read about the PEEL technique you have introduced in your book. But my question is how important it is to connect each paragraph to its next paragraph?

        • Pauline
          23rd May 2019 - 2:52 pm ·

          It depends on your overall argument. Your paragraphs must work together to make your complete argument and the way that they are connected will depend on that argument. Showing how your paragraphs relate to each other helps the reader. The more you help the reader (your examiner) the clearer your argument is. Don’t worry about ideas like ‘avoiding cliches’ – use the words and phrases you need to show ideas like 1) this is an extra point 2) this is a contrasting point etc.

          • Rahil
            23rd May 2019 - 3:43 pm ·

            Thanks for very much the response, I do that at the beginning of my new paragraphs, but I have seen that more confident writers signal at the end of their paragraphs what comes next, that’s why I wanted to practice linking my paragraphs by signalling what comes next.

          • Pauline
            23rd May 2019 - 4:32 pm ·

            That’s probably most likely to happen when the writer is writing about why they completely agree or disagree with an opinion – so both paragraphs are connected. It isn’t necessary even to score band 8 or 9.

  • Mina
    14th May 2019 - 6:27 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a question about a task 2 question in Cambridge book 12, I’m not sure I understand the question specially the first opinion in the question. “Some people believe that allowing children to make their own choices on everyday matters (such as food, clothes and entertainment) is likely to result in a society of individuals who only think about their own wishes. Other people believe that it is important for children to make decisions about matters that affect them.
    Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.” Does it mean that if children are allowed to make these decisions they become selfish in the future? I can’t see any connection between selfishness and being allowed to make everyday decisions, can you please help me? Thank you.

      • Mina
        16th May 2019 - 9:23 am ·

        Thank you Pauline, I read your post, but I have a hard time understanding the question itself, does the first part of the question mean if we allow children to make everyday decisions they might become selfish?

        • Pauline
          16th May 2019 - 10:17 am ·

          My apologies, Mina, the previous reply was to a different question!

          Yes, that is also how I would interpret the question. Essentially, the first people in the question want to tell children what to eat, wear, watch on TV (etc.) and the second group believe children should decide for themselves. The first group of people are worried that allowing children to always choose for themselves will make them think only about themselves (I.e make them selfish and self-centred).

          • Mina
            17th May 2019 - 9:14 am ·

            Thank you Pauline, but how can allowing children to always choose for themselves lead to selfishness, I don’t understand the logic and the question wants me to discuss this side too.

          • Pauline
            17th May 2019 - 9:31 am ·

            In order to get ideas for questions like this, where you perhaps have no personal experience) you really have to use your imagination and think about what you have seen around you. I am sure you will have seen young children behaving badly somewhere. You were also a child once, so think back to that time. Often children behave badly because they are being forced to do something or go somewhere they do not want to go. Imagine this: I tell my children it is time for bed but they demand to watch tv loudly instead. If I have the view that children should always be allowed to make their own choices, what effect will this have? If my children say ‘No, I don’t want to help you’ when asked, what will this teach them? Perhaps you know adults who were clearly never told ‘No’ before and as a result are difficult to deal with? Does this help? You need to think and put yourself in the situation.

          • Mina
            17th May 2019 - 1:02 pm ·

            Thanks Pauline, now it makes a lot of sense. Honestly I sometimes envy you ??, and I wish I could get ideas just like you. It’s great that we can all use your knowledge and I am very grateful for this.

          • Pauline
            17th May 2019 - 3:50 pm ·

            Hopefully my next book (The Key to IELTS Writing) will help you develop this skills for yourself 🙂

          • Xiang
            17th May 2019 - 1:49 pm ·

            Hi Pauline,
            First I want to thank you for your amazing website and books. I took IELTS 3 times, the first 2 times I got 6.5, but after reading your books and posts I changed my style of writing and decided to react to the question honestly instead of writing using a fixed method for each question type, and it totally worked, in my last attempt I managed to get 7.5 and it was only because I followed your advice.

            Now I have set a new goal for myself. I have decided to study for 6 to 8 months and take the test again, but this time I want to score 8 in writing. I was hoping you could give me some general advice on what to read or how to practice writing.

            I also have a question about one of the sample answers in Cambridge book 9. I have read it in your books that a conclusion had better have two sentences: one to summarize the main points and one to state your position clearly. I was reading the sample answer for Cambridge 9 test 1, written by an examiner. The question is this: ‘Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin learning a foreign language at primary school rather than secondary school. Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?’. The sample answer by the examiner has mentioned two advantages: one is that young children can learn more easily than teenagers, the other is that primary timetable allows for more frequent, shorter sessions and for a play-centred approach, which is more fun, and that this can improve their command of language later in life and make learning other languages easier. However, in the conclusion the writer mentions ‘Anything which encourages language learning benefits SOCIETY CULTURALLY AND ECONOMICALLY, and early language learning contributes to this’. I might be able to understand the “culturally” part since it was mentioned that an early exposure can facilitate learning other languages, but there was absolutely no discussion of the economic benefits, yet the examiner mentions that in the conclusion. I was hoping you could help clear this confusion like always.
            I’m sorry if my comment is very lengthy. Thank you again.

          • Pauline
            17th May 2019 - 3:50 pm ·

            That’s wonderful news about your score and I’m really happy to have helped in any way. With regards to the sample answer, I suggest you read my post about the invisible band 10 and the usefulness of sample answers written by IELTS professionals. I can’t explain another writer’s thinking but often in a conclusion a writer will point to a future possibility not discussed in the essay. This is not something I recommend as it is a risky thing to do and in aiming for the same invisible band 10 often results in people missing their target and staying at band 6.5. My next book (The Key to IELTS Writing Workbook) will help you I am sure. IN the meantime, keep working on language (that is usually the main issue in reaching band 8 and above). You can send me a task 2 answer if you like, to see if that is what you need to focus on. Have you read my free book, The Key to IELTS Success? If so, I suggest you read it again as it has lots of ideas for how to develop your vocabulary, grammar and task 1 and 2 answers.

          • Xiang
            17th May 2019 - 4:21 pm ·

            Thank you Pauline for your answer. I have read the key to IELTS Success several times and I have recommended it to all my friends who are preparing for the test. I think it’s THE best book ever written on IELTS. I started reading it when you published each chapter separately on your website and I think it was the main reason I managed to get 7.5 in writing, but I’m going to read it again because every time that I read it, things become clearer. I will be more than happy to see what you think about my writing and what I need to improve, should I send it to your email?

          • Pauline
            17th May 2019 - 4:31 pm ·

            It’s worth re-reading because I made quite a few changes in the finished edition. You send a task 2 in a message here.

  • Taurus
    12th May 2019 - 10:18 am ·

    As I read through your free book, and all the suggestions, they perfectly make sense to me. But, when I get down to writing, I find it difficult to unlearn the previous instructions of using a fixed template to write a paragraph, a readymade formula for everything (which you refer to as Cooked-Can-Food). IELTS is a simple exam, which we have complicated in an effort to break it down to a few simple steps.
    Thanks a lot for your contribution. Great job!

  • zakkar
    6th May 2019 - 3:40 pm ·

    Hello Pauline,
    May I ask a question about a writing question in cambridge book 11, I don’t underrstand this question well and I have no ideas about this, so I don’t know how I should answer it. The question is ‘Many governments think that economic progress is their most important goal. Some people, however, think that other types of progress are equally important for a country.
    Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.’ What other types of progress are there?

    • Pauline
      6th May 2019 - 6:16 pm ·

      Hi Zakkar, so economic progress would mean the country doing well economically (exports, helping business to grow and develop etc.) Other ways that a country can progress is in terms of quality of living for its citizens (their health and ability to enjoy life). That would mean focusing on green spaces and parks, taking care of the environment, providing healthcare etc. Does that help?

      • zakkar
        8th May 2019 - 2:37 pm ·

        Thank you Pauline, but these two types of progress are essentially the same. And is it possible to talk about cultural progress or social progress or are these terms very general? And one more thing, should I explain WHY some governments think that economic progress is the most important king of progress or should I talk about the advantages of economic progress?

        • Pauline
          9th May 2019 - 8:19 am ·

          The question doesn’t ask you why (and you would not be expected to know why) so there is no need to explain reasons for this. You could speculate about reasons why if you felt confident about the topic. I”m not sure why you think that economic progress is the same as social progress or environmental progress. Both of these offer scope for plenty of discussion within a 250-word essay.

  • Stephen
    5th May 2019 - 2:27 pm ·

    Hello dear Pauline,
    In your vocabulary books you sometimes have used so-called split infinitives (to+adverb+verb; e.g. to quickly decide). In writing it happens that I often meet similar situations, but because I do not know whether to use them or not, I try to avoid. Cambridge dictionary states the following “Some people consider split infinitives to be bad grammar, but they are becoming more acceptable”. So it is unclear could this form used in the writing task of IELTS exam or it should be avoided anyway. If yes, will be its use welcomed or not by the examiner. Why there is no any official opinion on split infinitives? Thank you in advance.

    • Pauline
      6th May 2019 - 2:58 pm ·

      A language like English, which is used worldwide and in many different settings, cannot help but adapt and change to the world we live in. Splitting infinitives was criticised by grammar pedants in the past. It has not been seen in that way for quite a long time now.

      • Stephen
        6th May 2019 - 3:36 pm ·

        Thank you for the clarification. I guess their use should be avoided anyway in the IELTS writing if the the process of opinion formation on splitting infinitives is not finalized yet.

        • Pauline
          6th May 2019 - 6:13 pm ·

          If you have time to worry about splitting infinitives then that’s fine, but I don’t believe it will affect your score if you split them or not.

  • Nazem
    29th April 2019 - 3:48 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    This is a question from cambridge book 9, every year several languages die out. Some people think that this is not important because life will be easier if there are fewer languages in the world. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion? I think the question is whether life will be easier with fewer languages to speak. Do I have to also consider the first statement? If so, how? should I discuss it? This question really confuses me. Thank you very much for helping me.

    • Pauline
      29th April 2019 - 4:47 pm ·

      The first sentence gives you the context for your discussion. You could discuss it separately – or mention it in the introduction – but you need to make sure that this is the context for all of your essay. In other words, it is because of this idea that you are writing about life being easier with fewer languages. Do you think it is ok if languages that are not spoken by large populations disappear? How is life easier with fewer languages around the world? Who might NOT like this and why? Is it easier for the populations whose language disappears? What happens to their culture?

  • Nazi.K
    28th April 2019 - 5:28 pm ·

    Hi Pauline, thank you for your wonderful books. In your free book, you suggest using the “PEEL” technique to link the end of each paragraph to the question, I actually find this rather confusing because I always start my paragraphs with the main idea of the paragraph (topic sentence) and this is how my paragraph is linked to the question. For instance if I’m writing a paragraph about the disadvantages of being famous, I might start the paragraph by saying: “Having a celebrity status can cause some problems. Firstly, …”. By writing a sentence at the end of the paragraph to link it to the question I have to repeat the sentence at the beginning of my paragraph, which I don’t think is a good idea. So do you still suggest writing a linking sentence at the end even if the paragraph starts with the main idea? Thank you for helping us.

    • Pauline
      29th April 2019 - 7:33 am ·

      Hi Nazi, that advice is for band 6 candidates – the most common problem I see in their paragraphs is that they feel unfinished. Higher bands (bands 8 an 9) already have the skills to achieve this in a more subtle way. This is not to say that you cannot score band 9 using the PEEL method – you definitely can. Can you give me an example of one of your paragraphs so I can tell you if it feels finished?

      • Nazi.K
        29th April 2019 - 4:39 pm ·

        Thank you Pauline, this is a question from book 13
        ‘In spite of the advances made in agriculture, many people around the world still go hungry.
        Why is this the case?
        What can be done about this problem?’

        ‘It is true that we have made remarkable improvement in agriculture, but despite this, hunger is still a big issue in many countries.

        One of the main reasons why this is happening is because powerful countries have monopolized advanced agricultural technology and they maintain their monopoly to gain economic advantage over other countries. If all countries had access to this technology, fewer people would suffer from the shortage of food. Another reason is the lack of financial resources in low-income countries to invest in modern technology such as sophisticated irrigation systems. Using outdated systems means a wasteful use of resources which reduces productivity and affects crop yields. But these problems are not too complicated to overcome.

        To begin with, international organizations such as …’

        Do you think my paragraph about causes is unfinished? I really appreciate your support.

        • Pauline
          29th April 2019 - 4:53 pm ·

          Your final sentence here DOES complete the paragraph well and leads on to the next paragraph. However, your FIRST sentence does not give the main idea in the paragraph. Your first sentence also begins with a reference back to your intriduction, which is confusing for the reader (‘why this is happening’).
          It would be much better to begin like this: There are several reasons for the continued hunger problems around the world. One of the main reasons is…
          This clearly signals the main idea of your paragraph.

          • Nazi.K
            29th April 2019 - 5:43 pm ·

            Thank you Pauline, I see your point, am I right in thinking that more confident writers often link their paragraph to the next paragraph while more struggling candidates should practice linking their paragraph back to the question? And may I ask what you think about the language of my paragraph? Do you think this language is good enough for an 8 or should I omit some of the big words and write in a more simple way?

          • Pauline
            29th April 2019 - 5:51 pm ·

            It’s more that a higher level candidate will naturally do that – often without even thinking about it. But that is not at all to say that this is what makes their level higher. I think your introduction is a little short (I recommend 2 sentences at least for the intro and conclusion).
            In terms of language, the level is band 8, though you should be very careful with tone and presenting as fact something that is your opinion. This sentence feels too strong to me:One of the main reasons why this is happening is because powerful countries have monopolized advanced agricultural technology and they maintain their monopoly to gain economic advantage over other countries. A higher band would soften it, like this: In my view, one of the main reasons this is happening is that powerful countries tend to have a monopoly on advanced agricultural technology, which they maintain to gain economic advantage over other countries.

          • Pauline
            29th April 2019 - 5:56 pm ·

            It’s also important to note that you will only reach band 8 is you can maintain this level throughout. I often see glimpses of band 8 writing within one paragraph but this is not maintained so the score is not reached.

          • Nazi.K
            29th April 2019 - 6:11 pm ·

            Thank you, this was great advice, I also had a feeling that my introduction is a little too short. I have no problems with writing two or three sentences when there are two viewpoints and I am asked to discuss them. But when the question asks me to think of the causes and solutions I get stuck. The only thing I can add to my introduction is a cliched sentence such as this: ‘While there are various/two main reasons for this, certain steps can be taken to tackle this problem.’ Do you think this works or do you see it as a hackneyed phrase? May I ask how you would write an introduction for this topic?

          • Pauline
            29th April 2019 - 6:42 pm ·

            Never worry about ‘hackneyed’ phrases or cliches in IELTS. You are not writing for a newspaper editor, you are writing to pass a test – to show you have language skills to write in any situation. The sentence you’ve suggested here would be perfect.

          • Pauline
            29th April 2019 - 6:44 pm ·

            Many people write to me in band 8 or even band 9 language, then they switch to an ‘IELTS accent’ and produce band 7 language as a result. Relax and communicate normally and you’ll do fine. Don’t put on any special IELTS voice, just write in your normal voice.

          • Nazi.K
            29th April 2019 - 10:44 pm ·

            This was the best word of advice, not to put on an ielts accent, I’ll try my best, but sometimes the many model answers that I read get on the way, anyway you are the most caring, most responsible and most knowledgeable ielts teacher that I know, my teacher was right about you, I advise anybody who wants to prepare for ielts to read your books and use your apps and nothing else (to avoid developing an ielts accent), and I can’t wait for your next book, thank you Pauline from the bottom of my heart, for dedicating your precious time to people you have never met, you’re the greatest and I want you to know that you’re making a big difference in people’s lives, thank you.

          • Erwald
            31st May 2019 - 10:15 am ·

            Hi Pauline, in your next post you have written “one of the main reasons this is happening is THAT powerful countries …”, is this correct? Shouldn’t we instead say “one of the main reasons this is happening is BECAUSE powerful countries…”

          • Pauline
            31st May 2019 - 10:24 am ·

            They’re just different ways of saying the same thing. We can say ‘this is happening because’ or ‘the reason (that) this is happening is…’ Sometimes people do combine the 2 (the reason this is happening is because…) but to my ear this is more informal (spoken) and the Cambridge online dictionary refers to this as ‘non standard’ (look up the word reason).

        • Aziz
          30th April 2019 - 7:14 am ·

          Hello Ms. Cullen. Thank you for your website. I read this introduction, but I have a problem with this, the question says in spite of the advances made in agriculture, but Nazi has written ‘remarkable development’, isn’t it changing the information in/focus of the question? Because the question has no focus on how much improvement.

          • Pauline
            30th April 2019 - 8:35 am ·

            I don’t have the full question in front of me but, in stating this the writer is giving their view of the developments – we can’t judge the statement without seeing the rest of the essay. Within the essay, the writer will need to show that the developments have been remarkable (and if they have the potential to solve world hunger problems, then surely they could be judged as remarkable?). The writer needs to explain this choice of words through the information they present later – this is what is meant by making your position clear throughout.

          • aziz
            30th April 2019 - 9:30 am ·

            Hello again, the full question is this
            ‘In spite of the advances made in agriculture, many people around the world still go hungry.
            Why is this the case?
            What can be done about this problem?’
            So for instance if I say that ‘despite the fact that agricultural industry has improved in leaps and bounds’, I’m still not changing the focus of the question by adding something that is not in the original question?

        • Mira
          27th May 2019 - 3:07 pm ·

          Hi Pauline, you have said that in this paragraph by Nazi.K the final sentence does complete the paragraph and leads on to the next paragraph, my question is wouldn’t it be better to remove the final sentence from this paragraph and put it at the beginning of the next paragraph because the next paragraph is about solutions and this sentence suggests that this problem has some solutions? Thank you for helping me.

          • Pauline
            27th May 2019 - 6:05 pm ·

            I think I explained this to him in a later reply – it’s just a different way to approach it.

        • Mira
          27th May 2019 - 3:14 pm ·

          I’m sorry Pauline for asking another question, is it good use of “to begin with” at the beginning of the second paragraph because it seems to create a pause in the essay and does not flow from the previous paragraph? And if so, what could be a better alternative? Sorry again for asking many questions, I really appreciate your support.

          • Pauline
            27th May 2019 - 6:08 pm ·

            The fist sentence of the next paragraph is linking back to the last sentence of the previous one – both would need to be changed.

          • Mira
            27th May 2019 - 6:20 pm ·

            Thank you very much, can you kindly suggest how you would change these two sentences, please?

          • Pauline
            27th May 2019 - 8:03 pm ·

            I don;t have time to do that and you’ll learn more by trying to do that yourself.

        • Mirna
          3rd June 2019 - 6:17 pm ·

          Hi Pauline,
          Thank you for this great website. I have a question about this topic. If I say that one of the reasons is that many countries do not have a good climate to grow crops, is this an acceptable cause? I am asking this because this cause has nothing to do with the advances in agriculture. Thank you.

          • Mirna
            4th June 2019 - 10:11 am ·

            Thanks, so it can’t be an argument for one of the causes of hunger because it is not related to advances in agricultural technology?

          • Pauline
            4th June 2019 - 1:11 pm ·

            Yes, that’s right. So you could point out that the lack of agricutural machinery is not the only cause of hunger – there are other issues such as …

  • Niloo
    27th April 2019 - 4:59 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a question about this topic from book 10.
    It is important for children to learn the difference between right and wrong at an early age. Punishment is necessary to help them learn this distinction. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion? What sort of punishment should parents and teachers be allowed to use to teach good behaviour to children?
    I don’t understand how I can answer the second question if I completely disagree with punishment for children (as I do). It seems that the existence of the second question forces us to to take a certain position with regard to the first question, and it’s unfair. Can you help me how to answer it when I completely disagree with punishing children? Thanks a lot.

    • Pauline
      27th April 2019 - 6:39 pm ·

      For this to cause a problem but you would need to have said that no punishment is ever necessary, which would be an unusual argument, though some people do believe children should never be corrected and should be allowed to do whatever they want. Even if you did think this, you still have to accept that within society, parents and teachers generally DO punish children in some way to control their behaviour. And this question is asking you what form of punishment you believe society should allow or not allow. Be careful not to interpret ‘punishment’ as only meaning ‘physical punishment’. Punishment can be anything from saying ‘Ok, no TV for 20 minutes!’ or ‘Ok, you can’t play outside during the lunch break.’ to smacking children or keeping them inside for a long time. Many people oppose smacking children or hurting them physically and it is illegal in many places, but not all. So there is debate over whether this sort of punishment is ok or not. The question asks you what you think SHOULD be allowed in schools and at home. Does this help?

      • Niloo
        28th April 2019 - 3:27 pm ·

        Hi Pauline,
        Thanks for the reply, actually that’s what I thought at the beginning-that punishment is not only physical punishment. But after I read the model answer by the examiner I got confused. The examiner says that “my firm conviction is that punishment does not have much of a role to play in this. Therefore I have to disagree almost entirely with the given statement.” As you can see in this model the examiner disagrees entirely with punishment (and not just physical punishment), but they then go on to accept some sorts of punishment that parents and teachers can hand out. How can this be explained? Isn’t this an unclear position?

        • Pauline
          29th April 2019 - 7:35 am ·

          Hi Niloo, the position in the sample answer is made very clear because he says that ‘punishment DOES NOT HAVE MUCH OF A ROLE TO PLAY’ (therefore it does play SOME role, just not a major one as far as he is concerned) and he also states that he has to ‘disagree ALMOST entirely.’ So he does not COMPLETELY disagree. Does that help?

          • Niloo
            29th April 2019 - 3:28 pm ·

            Hi Pauline, thank you again for the reply. Yes you’re right, the author has left some room for agreement, but the same reasoning could be applied to the sample answer on page 166 of book 10, where the author says “I strongly believe that this modern development is LARGELY detrimental to culture and traditions worldwide.”, but he only argues for why this is an entirely negative development. So how would you explain that? Thanks for your help.

          • Pauline
            29th April 2019 - 4:42 pm ·

            Because ‘largely detrimental’ is being used here with the sense of ‘in general’. I did refer to this example in my post as the writer does mention the counterargument in the final paragraph. Here is the reference in the Cambridge online dictionary.

          • Niloo
            30th April 2019 - 7:03 am ·

            Thank you Pauline, but there are still two issues. First, I don’t think what we see here in the conclusion is a counterargument, because a counterargument is a kind of argument that requires explanation and discussion, but here the author only mentions the other side without discussing it as a way of stating and summarizing his opinion so I’m not sure if this counts as a counterargument. But the bigger issue here is that even if largely means in general, the reader still expects to read about when this development could be positive, just as in: ‘In general, men are physically stronger than women.’ This also implies that not all men are stronger than women; much the same way when the author says that this development is largely detrimental, it builds up the expectation in the reader to see where it actually is NOT detrimental, but there is no mention of how that. That’s why I’m even more confused now ??, do you think you can explain this away?

          • Pauline
            30th April 2019 - 8:20 am ·

            Hi Niloo, I think you are perhaps expecting too much from a 250-word discursive essay. The reader can expect all of those things from a longer article but within a discursive essay, where the writer has cleared shown what their position is throughout, a nod to the counter argument is sufficient. I do state this at the end of my post. In discussing the issue, I am simply describing what band 9 is, but you seem to be attempting to change it? My main point is that exploring band 9 samples is not always very helpful to band 6 candidate.

          • Niloo
            30th April 2019 - 9:26 am ·

            Thanks again Pauline, I hope I haven’t come across as over-insistent, because I’m only here to learn, I see your point about counterargument, I also understand when you say exploring band 9 samples is not always helpful to band 6 candidates, but I took the test twice and got a 7.5 and an 8 in the writing test with a 9 in speaking both times. I’m sorry if I’m bothering you with many questions but the reason is I’m aiming for a 9 this time. I just thought when it says a development is largely detrimental, it also needs to discuss the few occasions where it could be a positive development. Otherwise it should say that this development is entirely detrimental, that’s what confused me. Thanks for your support anyway.

          • Pauline
            30th April 2019 - 11:08 am ·

            No, not at all Niloo. At the beginning of questioning something enough to understand it, there’s a period where there is a lot of resistance to certain ideas. With IELTS I find this is especially true because so many people have held certain ideas for a very long time. It’s difficult to let an idea go. In my view, rather than picking apart one possible answer (which is all that this sample is) you need to focus on how YOU can develop your own argument. Which won’t be done in the same way at all. Our writing and our thinking is as different as our fingerprints. If you focus on training your own writing to fit your own style, you’ll improve. Don’t try to fit your thinking into someone else’s answer – it won’t work. Send me a task 2 answer ( maybe to this question?) and I’ll try to offer some useful feedback. You can send it to me on my facebook page?

  • Eno
    17th April 2019 - 4:15 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    For writing task 2 questions in which I have a different opinion from the two sides, is it ok to dedicate a full paragraph to my opinion. In other words, is it ok to structure my writing as shown below?

    QUESTION is: “Some people think it is good to share as much information as possible in scientific research, business and academic world. Others believe that some information is too important to be shared freely. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion”.

    Para 1: introduction.
    Para 2: side 1
    Para 3: side 2
    Para 4: conclusion plus my opinion


    Para 1: intro
    Para 2: side 1
    Para 3: side 2
    Para 4: my opinion (my opinion is neither for any side, say for example I’m sitting on the fence).
    Para 5: conclusion

    Please, of the two structures above which is best?

    Thanking you in anticipation.

    • Pauline
      18th April 2019 - 11:12 am ·

      Your first plan is the best for a test in which you are asked a 250-word essay. Your own view in this case is part of side 1 and part of side 2. This means that, in order to give your own view, you need to summarise the main idea of para 1 and para 2 and then explain your viewpoint – that is exactly what your conclusions should always do. So, ‘paragraph 4’ in your second plan is a description of a conclusion. If you then added a conclusion, it would simply repeat paragraph 4, which would make your essay repetition and shows that either paragraph 4 or 5 is unnecessary.

  • Reza
    14th April 2019 - 6:14 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a question about this IELTS topic, there is a question in cambridge book 13, it says that “In spite of the advances made in agriculture, many people around the world still go hungry. Why is this the case? What can be done about this problem?”, I wrote an introduction by saying that “It is true that we have made a lot of progress in agriculture, but hunger is still a big problem around the world. But what are some of the reasons behind this and how can we address this issue?” I’m attending two IELTS classes at the same time, one of my teachers told me that my introduction is very good, but my other teacher said that I couldn’t paraphrase the topic well and changed it. He said that “many people around the world still go hungry” is not the same as “hunger is still a big problem around the world”. Do you think this is bad paraphrasing and I might lose marks for that? Thank you so much for your help, I’m sorry but I didn’t know anybody else to ask. Thanks again.

    • Pauline
      15th April 2019 - 9:39 am ·

      Hi Reza
      I think yours is a great paraphrase and sums up the issue very nicely – this is exactly what your introduction should do. There is no single ‘best’ way to paraphrase an idea – many writers could produce different versions. I don’t believe you have changed the main issue, which is that despite progress many people go hungry. Your second teacher is perhaps worried that ‘go hungry’ is not the same as ‘being hungry’ because the first has a sense that the hunger is long-lasting and constant. But I think you have got across this idea through saying that it is ‘still’ a ‘big problem’ – I don’t think that anyone would confuse this with the idea of a person is feeling a little hungry before they eat their dinner. You have certainly conveyed the main problem well.

      • Reza
        15th April 2019 - 4:35 pm ·

        Thanks for your reply, actually my second teacher said that I shouldn’t say it is still “a big problem”, because the question in the topic doesn’t say anything about hunger being a problem, which sounds rather strange both to me and my other teacher. And one more thing, my teacher says that a clear position means that I should agree/ disagree more with one side of the argument and if I say I am in the middle this is not clear position, do you agree with this because I find this strange too. For example when the question says “some people thin history is one of the most important subjects, others say science and technology is more important”, if I say I think they are equally important, this is not a clear position. Do you think so too? Thank you again for your help.

        • Pauline
          15th April 2019 - 5:54 pm ·

          No, your position is whatever your position is! You make that position clear through your argument and language. It isn’t about being on one side or the other that makes it clear – this actually leads to a lot of band 6.5 essays in my experience, because people then believe that ‘making your position clear’ is as simple as saying ‘I completely agree / disagree’ (hint, it isn’t enough!). A band 9 candidate can certainly make a position of being neither strongly for or against an idea very clear.

  • sheri
    8th April 2019 - 5:57 am ·

    Hi Dear Pauline
    I am still looking forward to your writing book. 🙂

    But now, I have a real struggle in Part Two speaking. When I am given by cue card, My brain do not know what should exactly write in 1 minute to catch the question and answer them. I should confess that I do not know What is the best way of rehearsing of this Part, Although I read your book regarding speaking part but you did not mention clearly to task 2 taking note .

    • Pauline
      8th April 2019 - 8:38 am ·

      Hi Sheri, my free book aims to show you how to make the most of my books and apps. It shows you how to study and the best way to approach every part of the test. It also dispels the many myths about IELTS and explains why these myths are not true. It doesn’t take the place of my other books – all of which contain materials to help you develop the language and skills you need (the free book shows you how to learn this language, why these skills are important, and how to practice and use them in the test). The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS has a chapter about note-taking in part 2 of the speaking test. There are also video recordings showing you how successful candidates perform in part 2 of the test. I really recommend you buy the book to improve your speaking skills. You can find a link here: http://keytoielts.com/product/the-official-cambridge-guide-to-ielts/

  • Malek
    1st April 2019 - 2:02 pm ·

    Hi Pauline, I read this writing question in cambridge books 12, but I have no idea how I can answer this, can you tell me how many parts there are in this question.
    Some people think it is good to share as much information as possible in scientific research, business and academic world. Others believe that some information is too important or too valuable to be shared freely. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion. I really appreciate your help.

    • Pauline
      1st April 2019 - 5:41 pm ·

      Hi Malek, I’m not sure what you mean by ‘how many parts.’ The issue or topic in the question is the sharing of information in academic research and business. You are given two different view points: 1) some people say it is good to share this information 2) other people say this information is too valuable to be shared freely. You are asked to discuss both and give your own opinion. So, being by thinking about the issue and which idea you agree with or support. Think of some examples in business (do you think that Coca Cola should share their recipe?) and in science (do you think that scientists who cure diseases should share their research and share this information?) Then plan and write.

      • Malek
        1st April 2019 - 11:34 pm ·

        Thank you Pauline very much for your reply, but as it is mentioned in the question I have to talk about 3 things in particular, academic world, business world and scientific research. I think this is part of the task because these are not just examples, am I right? If so this should be a very long essay, in one paragraph I should talk about why some people believe sharing information in these 3 areas is good, in another paragraph I should say why others believe it is not good to share information in these areas, and in another paragraph I should say what I think about sharing such information. As I have to cover all the 3 areas in all my paragraphs I feel my essay will be repetitive, or maybe I don’t need to talk about all 3 areas in all paragraphs? This is a very confusing topic for me. Can you help with a possible overall plan? I’m very grateful for your help.

        • Pauline
          2nd April 2019 - 4:53 pm ·

          But there are not 3 topics to talk about – only one: the issue of sharing information. Business, science, and academic research are mentioned to help give you something concrete to refer to and to help you think of ideas. You don’t need to discuss each one, just referring to them is enough.

          • Malek
            3rd April 2019 - 12:29 pm ·

            Thank you Pauline, so if I say that some people believe that sharing information is useful, for example scientists can help eradicate diseases if they share research. If I only mention them in my examples, is that enough?

          • Pauline
            3rd April 2019 - 12:37 pm ·

            Yes, this is exactly how I would approach it. Another way is to see it as different types of information – so: ‘ Sharing information can be extremely useful, for example, scientists can help eradicate diseases more quickly by sharing their research. However, in terms of business, charing information…’ etc.

    • Lorae
      4th June 2019 - 9:42 pm ·

      Hi Pauline,
      I have a question about the same topic. Can you please help me with it? How is “scientific research” different from the “academic world”? You said I should refer to all the parts of the question so I should mention all the three of them. Your example about the business world is clear, but how can my reference to the academic world be different from scientific research? Thank you so much.

      • Pauline
        6th June 2019 - 9:49 am ·

        It isn’t different – it is where the information is shared that is being explained. Scientific research can be shared between businesses or within the academic world

        • Lorae
          9th June 2019 - 3:22 pm ·

          Thank you, but the question doesn’t say anything about “sharing scientific research BETWEEN businesses or WITHIN the academic world”. It just says “Some people believe that it is good to share as much information as possible in scientific research, business and the academic world. Others believe that some information is too important or too valuable to be shared freely.” So I thought it meant should scientists, academics and businesses share information. So I thought I should give examples for each one.

          • Pauline
            10th June 2019 - 8:34 am ·

            The question is aimed at letting you know how broad, or narrow, your focus should be. The extra information (business world, academic world) is giving you the context for the sharing that is being discussed. My adding those prepositions is showing you what this means. I’m not sure where or how you think this ‘sharing’ is taking place if it is not within an organisation / field or outside of it (between different groups). I don’t understand the problem you have with the meaning of the question – you appear to be seeing a distinction that I cannot see – can you explain your interpretation of it?

          • Lorae
            10th June 2019 - 4:49 pm ·

            Thank you for your response, actually I have 2 problems with this question, my first problem is with the word sharing, I don’t understand whether it’s about sharing information with ordinary people and on the Internet, or it’s about sharing information in scientific, academic and business communities.

            The second problem is that I know I should address all parts of the prompt, which means I should talk about sharing information and I should specifically talk about sharing information in these 3 areas (scientific research, academic world and business world). I’ve read your previous comments about how to address these areas using examples (recipe for Coca-Cola), but I don’t understand how examples about the academic world could be different from scientific research. I can say that, for instance, if scientists share the result of their research about the health risks of being exposed to sunlight with the general public, people will learn how to protect themselves and fewer people might develop skin cancer. (I’m not sure if this example of sharing information with the general public is actually what the question is asking for or not), but I don’t understand what kind of examples I can use to address sharing information in the academic world so that my examples are different from the scientific research.

            Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, because this is a very confusing topic and I don’t understand how to address these 3 areas with specific examples.

          • Pauline
            10th June 2019 - 5:05 pm ·

            The academic world is where scientific research takes place, and it is where this research would be shared. So they aren’t different. You should use any relevant examples ‘from your experience and knowledge’ so your example of sharing research about sun damage is very relevant and certain fits this topic. When researchers share this information with the public, this is a good thing, if this information is shared with other researchers, this is also a good thing. So, you can see that there might be times where it is good and times when it is not so good (e.g sharing information about how to make a weapon of mass destruction; or, for business, sharing a secret recipe).

  • Ivan
    22nd March 2019 - 11:02 am ·

    Hi Pauline,
    In the band descriptors for writing band 7 it says that the candidate must show awareness of style and collocation, is style the same as register and is it only about the degree of formality of words, or is it more than just register? Thanks a lot for your help.

  • Makara
    22nd March 2019 - 6:47 am ·

    I did my speaking test today. In part two, I felt that I just answered the questions and add little extra information to them, and I don’t think that I could speak up to one minute. Then, the examiner just asked one short follow-up question (not like the big questions in part three). My question is how much that would affect my overall speaking score?

    • Pauline
      25th March 2019 - 8:18 am ·

      Hi Makara, the examiners job is to manage the time in the test and to give you opportunities to speak. Sometimes one question is enough, sometimes there is enough time for more. I am a little confused about your query because Part 2 does not have questions, you are given a topic with bullet points to talk about) and you are asked to talk for 2 minutes. I think you are confusing different parts of the test? Reach the speaking chapter of The Key to IELTS Success to understand what happens in the test: http://keytoielts.com/product/ielts-teacher-the-key-to-ielts-success/

        • Pauline
          1st April 2019 - 5:43 pm ·

          So, these questions are a filler between two parts and will vary depending on the timing at that stage in the interview (e.g. if the candidate spoke for under the 2 minutes). These questions are really a filler to help the interviewer move onto the next series of questions in part 3.

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IELTS Author Pauline Cullen

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