Are .5 scores used for each criteria in writing and speaking?

I am often asked about scoring and whether the examiner will give half bands for each criteria in the writing and speaking test. I assume people ask this because they are hoping that 4 scores of 6.5 could then be ’rounded up’ to make an overall writing or speaking score of band 7.  I am afraid this does not happen. This sort of rounding up only occurs with your overall test score, based on the total of your scores for Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. The same does not happen with the 4 criteria used for speaking and writing because, as I explained in a previous post (see the link below), in order to score band 7, you must show this level consistently, in each criteria.

In The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS, the writing and speaking scores were all awarded by a current examiner located in Cambridge. However, as this is a book aimed at teaching, not testing, there are times in the book (e.g. on page 155) when the examiner has indicated a score of ‘between a 5 and a 6’ for different criteria in speaking or writing. The aim of this is to teach you about the level. For Saida, the candidate you can see in the video, there are elements of bands 5 and 6 within two of her speaking criteria, so it is more helpful to say this than to only refer to one band.

When teaching, I find it helpful to use .5 scores for individual criteria because it shows students where they still need to improve and where they are already making progress. From the speaking test scores on page 155, we can see that, if Saida needs to score band 6 in speaking, she needs to work most on Fluency and coherence (where she is band 5), and has a little work to do on vocabulary and grammar (where she is between band 5 and band 6), but her pronunciation is fine. So giving this sort of feedback is very useful for students. In the real test, the examiner will make a firm decision for each criteria, which may result in a .5 score overall.

Buy The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS to master all of the skills you need for each part of the tests and get 8 complete practice tests.








You’ll find the previous post here:


Recent Comments

  • Reza
    11th August 2020 - 5:02 pm ·

    Hi Pauline ,
    What is the task response score for an advantages/ disadvantages essay where only one advantage but at least two disadvantages are discussed. Is it 6 or 5 ?!


    • Pauline
      11th August 2020 - 5:32 pm ·

      It’s impossible to say – everything in task response depends upon how the whole response is managed and whether a clear position and argument has been made. If the position and argument being made is that there really is only one clear advantage, and the writer can see no other advantages, then that’s ok – unusual, but ok. If the writer has simply neglected to plan carefully and has only covered one advantage, then how this affects their score would also depend on the argument they have made. It could be a band 6 (with some parts more fully covered than others) but it isn’t necessarily a band 5. Out of context (and without seeing the answer) it really is impossible to judge.

  • Juma
    11th August 2020 - 1:09 pm ·

    Good day Pauline. I have a question related to Speaking session. How should I answer to the “What has the environment to do with us?” ? I look up a dictionary about the phrase( have smth to do with smb/smth) which question includes it means “smth connected with smb/smth”. So, should I answer to the question about the connection between us( for instance: we use things what was made from materials of nature…) or our impact on the environment we live.Please answer my question specifically (about the meaning of the question …) if you can and can you send a model answer for the question. Thanks in advance.

  • Mohammad
    23rd May 2020 - 5:03 pm ·

    Hi dear Paulin,
    This is another phrase from the aforesaid model answer(vocab for ielts-task 2 for unit 17 in the answer key) that the dictionary (Longman) named it SPOKEN type: “be neither one thing nor the other SPOKEN”
    The phrase “neither one nor the other” is used in the conclusion part of the mentioned essay. So what should we do to deal with these types of vocab?

    • Pauline
      24th May 2020 - 10:15 am ·

      Hi Mohammad, I don’t have the Longman dictionary to see the entry or why they are labelling this as ‘spoken’ language (or even what the implications of this are – do they say ‘spoken = casual / informal and you must not use this in writing?’ but it is certainly not too ‘casual’ or ‘informal’ for the essay. Perhaps check what the labels mean in that dictionary? For example, saying that a word or phrase is used in spoken language does not automatically suggest that it is ‘too casual’ for written language.

  • Mohammad
    23rd May 2020 - 11:07 am ·

    Hi dear Pauline,
    Is it ok to use informal phrases/words in writing task2? for example in your invaluable book “vocabulary for IELTS”, in model answer task 2 for unit 17 (in the answer key), you used this phrase: “when it comes to…”. for example, The Longman dictionary says that this is an informal phrase:
    ” when it comes to something. INFORMAL: when you are dealing with something or talking about something”
    I have seen many writing task2 sample answers in different IELTS books using phrases/ vocabulary that are considered as INFORMAL in dictionaries.
    I would be grateful to help me with this issue.

    • Pauline
      24th May 2020 - 10:16 am ·

      Hi Mohammad, see my earlier reply, I don’t have the dictionary you refer to but I have never used language in my essays that you should not use in your writing test.

  • Hoàng Anh
    1st April 2020 - 2:55 am ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I was wondering if I can exceed the word requirement for Writing Task 2. I often hear that you should limit your word count in 250-290 words, but I find for some type of essays (such as “do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?”), it can be difficult to do so because I tend to divide the essay into 3 main body paragraphs: advantages, disadvantages, and my opinions. Is it true that I should only write adequately in 250-290 words instead of exceeding over 300 words for an essay?

    • Pauline
      3rd April 2020 - 7:29 am ·

      I’m giving advice on this in my new book but I wouldn’t worry about exceeding 290 too much. I would say aim to stay under 350 if you can? With some question types and some topics, there is naturally more to say.

  • Reza
    13th March 2020 - 8:57 am ·

    Hi Pauline ,
    In part 2 of the speaking paper , according to the instructions, the candidate is asked to speak between one to two minutes. Now I wonder if one can speak for one minute and still get a high score, say 8 or 9 .

    • Pauline
      16th March 2020 - 8:18 am ·

      If you speak for just one minute, the examiner will try to prompt you to speak for longer. If a candidate has answered everything in less than 2 minutes, this could be because of a lack of language, and so the examiner will move on rather than trying to stay on this task. Aim for 2 minutes total.

  • Reza
    8th February 2020 - 6:46 am ·

    Hi Pauline ,
    I’d like you to know how we sould HIGHLIGHT THE KEY FEATURES in Academic Writing Task 1.
    I would appreaciate it if you could explain this to me so that I can understand it.

    Thanks for the help in advance !

  • Hasan
    10th January 2020 - 2:41 pm ·

    I have gone to many writing workshops. I have a question about such advantage and disadvantage questions in Task2.
    when we are asked to explain whether the advantages of the topic outweighs its drawbacks, some tutors say, there are more advantages than disadvantages, for example, and because of this, they give two ideas for the point which they agree and only one point for the other side. Is this true? I don’t think so as the question is clearly asked about the advantages and disadvantages?
    I feel frustrated because those saying this is true have a certificate from IDP!

    • Pauline
      10th January 2020 - 4:09 pm ·

      This seems an overly simplistic way of looking at the question – it doesn’t ask you whether the advantages ‘outnumber’ the disadvantages, there may be more advantages than disadvantages but if the advantages are relatively trivial and the disadvantages are serious then the disadvantages clearly ‘outweigh’ them. You are quite right in saying that you must discuss the plural of each. This post explains why:

      Can you explain what you mean by ‘those saying this is true have a certificate from IDP’? What sort of certificate do you mean?

      • Hasan
        10th January 2020 - 5:22 pm ·

        Thanks a lot. It seems so so logical.
        I just mentioned some teachers in my country. because they have taken some courses in Cambridge or IDP, they are famous. I am reluctant to name them since you may know them and it is not true, I think. As I said, I felt frustrated when I heard such answers.
        The Question clearly asks the plural forms of advantages and disadvantages.

  • Reza
    1st December 2019 - 7:53 am ·

    Hi pauline,
    You might have written the model answer to exercise 1.1 on page 120(unit 23-Vocab for IELTS Advanced) in 2010 because the simple present is the only tense used in the answer, right ?!

    Thanks !

  • Reza
    1st December 2019 - 7:42 am ·

    Hi Pauline,
    Here is the sentence in the last paragraph of the sample answer in exercise 1.3 on page 121(unit 23-Vocab for IELTS Advanced): when comparing the two years , it is clear that there HAS BEEN a significant increase in the number of obese people in Newtown,and there was a general drop in the number of underweight people between 1950 and 2010.

    Thanks !

    • Pauline
      7th December 2019 - 5:02 pm ·

      Hi Reza, I was writing the book between 2010 -2011 and this is whay I used that tense here (2010 was the present at the time!) We try to make sure books will last well in to the future but sometimes something like this slips through.

  • Reza
    30th November 2019 - 3:07 pm ·

    Hi Pauline ,
    I’d like to know whether the tense of an overview in writing task 1 has to correspond to that of the diagram. There’s a sample( unit 23- vocab for IELTS Advanced) where you have used the present perfect in the overview, whereas the time period in the diagram refers to the past (1950-2010).
    Thanks for the help in advance !

  • Chris
    12th November 2019 - 8:19 am ·

    Hi Pauline,

    I came across your blog from a recommendation by a colleague. My name is Chris and I’m a native, qualified English teacher living in Melbourne (originally from the UK).

    I was recently awarded writing band 7.0 and I am struggling to comprehend how my awarded mark was so abysmally low. I am familiar with other teachers who have the same experience, so I know I am not alone!

    The most depressing thing is that there are particular sample essays in the back of the official Cambridge books which are apparently of a similar level!
    – Cambridge IELTS General Training Book 13 (Test 3) – band 7.0
    – Cambridge IELTS General Training Book 11 (Test 4) – band 7.0

    Do you have other native, qualified teachers contacting you with the same dilemmas?

    I would love to hear your response on why my level would maybe considered so poor. I am very familiar with the band descriptors and I understand ceiling statements.



    • Pauline
      12th November 2019 - 9:00 am ·

      Hi Chris
      Firstly, I want to thank you for getting in touch with this. I think it is very easy for native speaker teachers with this problem to see it as proof that the test is faulty and ‘subjective.’ The native speaker problem is one that I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to until I was researching for my current book (The Key to IELTS Writing). I hadn’t appreciated just how much of a problem the many ‘model answers’ were. I also hadn’t appreciated that not everyone is taught how to write a discursive essay (I have had to do it as part of my studies since a teenager). I think the assumption that everyone will just ‘work it out’ or ‘pick it up as they go along’ is the real cause of the problem. At high school, it does seem as though native speakers are only taught these skills if they happen to study an essay based subject (economics , history etc.) and if they happen to have a teacher who prioritises this at the time (this has been my experience with my son and daughter). I am identifying the key problems in my book and explaining the issue as clearly as I can, but in the meantime, these are some points I am making in the book about this issue:
      1) the main problems with native speaker candidates can be seen in several videos on youtube, which is how these issues are then passed on to non-native speaker students
      2) in the videos, they tend to write their own questions to use (see my free book, The Key to IELTS Success, to understand the problems this causes).
      3) as the videos clearly show, they look at the question then begin writing. This means that the essays are produced sentence by sentence and, as a result, the ideas do not form a logical argument and often stray away from the main issue in the essay (they write in a general way about the central ‘topic’ and not in a discursive way about the issue raised in the question. Writing ‘live’ to screen like this produces main ideas – it is like watching brainstorming done in complete sentences – but there is no support for these ideas and some should not be included in the essay.The fact that they are written in (almost) perfect sentences makes the viewer easily persuaded that they are looking at good writing, but if we try to follow the argument, we cannot, and we begin to see that it lacks logic and the ideas are even contradictory at times.
      Writing can’t be done this way. Native speakers and non-native speakers alike need to plan and think before writing – it is a step that can’t be skipped, especially if trying to reach above bands 6 or 7 in TR and CC. Practising with the wrong materials encourages candidates to ignore parts of the question and to write in a vague way, all of which mean they don’t manage to show the writing skills needed for the test. As I say in The Key to IELTS Success, writing is thinking we can see. Without clear thinking first, you won’t produce clear writing.
      If it helps, in order to write my new book, I have had to slow my own planning right down to make sure I was producing helpful models. I realised that I too was doing less planning than was ideal. That’s because my writing is done at my own leisure and I can go back and change things as I like or need. To produce the same result within a 40-minute test, I realised far more planning was needed at the start. I hope this helps and I do really appreciate that you got in touch. You’re welcome to send me a task 2 answer if you want some more detailed pointers?

  • Samedi
    6th November 2019 - 2:44 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have read your free book (and am waiting eagerly for your writing book), and I am aware of the relationship between grammar and coherence in writing. As you have written in your book, coherence is about the clarity of your message and the ease with which the examiner can read your essay and it’s easy to understand how bad grammar can affect coherence. In other words, coherence is how easy it is to read and understand what we have written (and please correct me if I’m wrong about this). However, I was reading a book by Jeremy Harmer (if you know him), and it was written that coherence in writing is about the order in which we present our ideas, and that coherence is about how connected the passage is at idea level, and cohesion, on the other hand is about how connected the passage is at sentence level.

    Since this definition of coherence was different from what you have said in your book, and seems to be unaffected by grammar, I looked into the definition of the assessment criteria on (the official website for ielts), and here’s what I found: “Coherence refers to the linking of ideas through logical sequencing. Cohesion refers to the varied and appropriate use of cohesive devices (for example, logical connectors, pronouns and conjunctions) to assist in making the conceptual and referential relationships between and within sentences clear.”

    The same thing is mentioned in the band descriptors as “the logical sequencing/organization of information and ideas”. So if coherence is about the clarity of message because of both the right order of information and the appropriate use of grammar and vocabulary, why is there only a mention of sequencing information in the band descriptors? Ans another question is if my grammar mistakes cause difficulty for the reader and distorts the clarity of my message (band 5 in GRA), what band will be given for CC? Because there no mention of the clarity of message in the descriptors for CC.
    Sorry for the long message and thank you so much for your support.

    • Pauline
      6th November 2019 - 3:13 pm ·

      Hi Samedi, I don’t disagree with any of those descriptions for coherence and cohesion. However, I would add that coherence can also be a problem within a single sentence – if the result is so long an complicated that the reader cannot follow the idea within it (a common problem when people aim to write ‘long complex sentences’. In the book I was trying to show that CC is not simply a case of learning connectors and using them – it is more complex than that and it is about how easy is it to follow your ideas (both from a logic point of view and from a language point of view.) There is some overlap between the descriptors – poor grammar can affect coherence and our ability to follow meaning. There is no single description that will apply to very candidate answer – all answers produce problems that are as individual as the writers themselves. A native speaker will produce band 5 CC for very different reasons to a non native speaker. I’m not sure if what I have written here helps, is there a particular reason you are asking about this?

  • Sheri
    4th November 2019 - 6:56 am ·

    Dear Pauline,

    I have got IELTS General band score 7 ( L 7.5 , R 6.5 , S 7 , W 6 ) 5 month ago. Now I intend to take the test again to get each band 7 but now I need a help to make a study plan again . What is your advise for me If I could study 5 hours a day ?

  • Reza
    28th October 2019 - 8:27 am ·

    Hi Pauline ,
    Imagine there is only one opinion (or one side) in writing task 2 and I completely agree with it by giving , say , 2 or 3 different reasons without any repetition.
    But I present,extend,and support all my main ideas in ONE large body paragraph like the following outline. I wonder if I would lose marks for CC and as a result get stuck at band 5 in terms of CC.

    Paragraph 1 : introduction
    Paragraph 2 : my 2/3 reasons( completely agree)
    Paragraph 3 : conclusion

    I need to know what they mean by PARAGRAPHING MAY BE ” INADEQUATE”.



    • Pauline
      29th October 2019 - 8:23 am ·

      Hi Reza, my first question is, why would you want to do this? But that I mean, what is the aim or purpose of NOT using clear paragraphs? Paragraphs help the reader to follow your ideas – the longer the paragraph, the more difficult it is to follow. If you have 2 or 3 reasons for agreeing with something, why not explain these with a separate paragraph for each one. Paragraphing is inadequate quite simply means that the paragraphing is not adequate for the task – there can be any number of reasons why paragraphs present a problem to the reader, the difference depends on the level of the candidate (a band 3 candidate may produce one long paragraph for the entire essay) and the end result of the problem caused. If the end result is that the reader gets lots and confused then the paragraphing is a problem. People often try to in down the meaning of precise phrases within the descriptors, but it will always come down to seeing examples that meet that description.

  • Reza
    21st October 2019 - 6:40 am ·

    Hi Pauline ,
    I am grateful to you for the help.
    How about this task from Cambridge 12:

    At the present , the population of some countries includes a relatively large number of young adults, comared with the number of older people.

    Do the advantages of this situation outweight the disadvantages ?!

    This one is also a bit difficult for me to answer mainly because of the phrase “THIS SITUATION”. I wonder if the following outline helps to address all parts of the task :

    Introduction : paraphrase of the statement in the task
    Body parag 1 : benefits and drawbacks of a relatively large number of young adults
    Body parag 2 : benefits and drawbacks of the number of older people
    Conclusion : my opinion

    Thanks in advance

    • Pauline
      21st October 2019 - 9:16 am ·

      Again you have changed the focus of the question – this is not about old people V young people, it is about what happens when there are more young people than old people. Your two sides are 1) the advantages of this 2) the disadvantages of this. You refer to the use of the word situation – that is the word being used to refer back to the issue given to you.

  • Anonymous
    10th October 2019 - 8:12 am ·

    Hi Pauline,
    Indeed your website is very helpful for students and you are doing a great work. You mentioned that in opinion discussion type of task 2 (discuss both views ), own opinion should be described in conclusion. but I heard from some teachers that it is an old style and now someone should give his/her opinion in the introduction while writing an opinion discussion essay. Please guide me, I am very confused.

    • Pauline
      10th October 2019 - 9:57 am ·

      Hi Munawar, actually I don’t give any fixed rules about where to write your opinion. As I say in chapter 7 of The Key to IELTS Success, the conventions vary from country to country and so what you are taught will often depend on how your teacher was taught and where they come from. IELTS is an international test and does not penalise anyone for using a writing convention from the UK or from the US. I really recommend reading my book if you haven’t already. Here is a link:

      • Reza
        19th October 2019 - 7:49 pm ·

        Hi pauline ,
        Could you please tell me how you would address the following question from Cambridge 7 :

        Some people prefer to live a house , while others feel that there are more advantages to living in an apartment ?

        Are there more advantages than disadvantages of living in a house compared with living in an apartment ?!

        Here is my planning :
        Introduction : a paraphrase of the statement in the question

        Body paragragh 1 : advantages of living in an apartment

        Body paragragh 2 : advantages of living in a house

        Body paragraph 3 : disadvantages of living in a house

        Conclustion : my opinion

        I wonder if I would miss any parts of the task using such a plan or structure. I would also like to know whether COMPARED WITH LIVING APARTMENTS is a key part of the task and so has to be addressed. If yes , how ?
        The reason why I am asking this question is that some speaking or writing questions contain a comparison like this .

        Thanks in advance !

        • Pauline
          20th October 2019 - 2:16 pm ·

          Hi Reza
          ‘Compared with living in an apartment’ is indeed a very important part of this essay question. In fact it is the central idea of the question. You are being asked to compare living in an apartment with living in a house and determine which one has more advantages. Because of this, your outline (this isn’t a plan) would produce problems. You need to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of living in a house, then the advantages and disadvantages of living in an apartment, and decide which one is more advantageous.

    • Pauline
      24th September 2019 - 8:37 am ·

      Hi Jaber, Flexibility is something that you have or you don’t have, it allows you to speak or write on any subject. To become more flexible, you need to broaden your vocabulary. Re-read the vocabulary chapter of The Key to IELTS Success to see how to do this and to understand what flexibility means.

  • jaber
    26th August 2019 - 9:18 am ·

    Hi Pauline. Could you please give an example of Linear and Circular model? I want to learn how these models are written and compare them with each other.
    Thank you in advance.

    • Pauline
      26th August 2019 - 7:16 pm ·

      I assume you are referring to my explanation in The key to IELTS Success? If so, what I meant by writing in a circular way is an essay that repeatedly comes back to the same point – you will find this in many samples that are band 6 and below. The linear way of writing I describe can be found in samples at band 8 and 9.

      • Mina
        1st September 2019 - 5:38 pm ·

        Hi Pauline,
        But the band descriptors also say that each paragraph should have a central topic, which means we need to repeat the same theme in the paragraph. So how is it possible to write a paragraph about one topic and avoid repetition at the same time?

        • Pauline
          2nd September 2019 - 8:48 am ·

          Hi Mina, the CC band decriptor means that each paragraph should have one main idea – don’t confuse this with the topic for your essay, which is the ‘context’ for all of your ideas and will be the same throughout your essay. For example, if your essay is about the advantages and disadvantages of ‘computers in schools’, then one paragraph can have the main idea / topic of ‘the advantages of computers in schools’ and the next can be ‘the disadvantages of computers in schools. In a circular argument, the writer makes one point and keeps coming back to that – e.g. stating over and over that ‘computers in schools are a good idea.’ Does that help answer your question?

          • Mina
            2nd September 2019 - 2:54 pm ·

            Yes Pauline, it helps a lot. But imagine I want to write a paragraph about why the loss of species of plants and animals is a big environmental concern. So how can I avoid writing in a circular way when my whole paragraph is about this? In this paragraph I need to get back to it throughout the paragraph. So doesn’t this count as repetition because I am writing about one main idea in a paragraph?

          • Mina
            15th September 2019 - 5:55 pm ·

            Hi Pauline,
            I have been searching for your answer to my question for weeks, but I couldn’t remember where I had posted it, and now I finally found it. Thank you for your response Pauline. For instance a paragraph like this:

            ‘I believe that the loss of species of plants and animals is the main environmental concern. It is true that the existence of humans depends on the existence of other animals and if we do not protect them, it can also endanger us. Humans are part of the food chain and anything that can upset this balance may threaten us in the future as well. In other words, our destiny as one species is not separate from the destiny of other animals and plants, and therefore it is a great concern to see these species become extinct.’

            The main topic in this paragraph is that the loss of species of plants and animals is a big environmental concern. So do you think my paragraph is written in a circular way or is it linear? I really appreciate that you take the time to help us.

          • Pauline
            16th September 2019 - 8:05 am ·

            Hi Mina,
            First of all, it is your whole essay that should provide a linear argument – not a single paragraph. This paragraph discusses and explains one main idea, which must be part of your whole argument – if the next paragraph, or elsewhere in your essay, you keep coming back to this same main idea, then you are writing in a circular way.

            Secondly, the main problem here is that you have chosen NOT to show how some of the sentences are connected – the first 3 sentences have no clear connectors to show the reader that they are linked or how they are linked – I think that if you added the link you will see that at least one sentence is a repetition of a previous one. This is a common problem and I am writing a lot about it in my new book. In general, your ideas here are good (although there are some language problems and one idea is a repeated) what is missing is better cohesion. Your final sentence does this well.

          • Mina
            16th September 2019 - 3:37 pm ·

            Thank you Pauline for your feedback, the reason why I was confused about this point is that one of my friends sent you an essay one year ago and you were kind enough to give her feedback. In one of the paragraphs about the disadvantages of being famous, she had mentioned lack of privacy and you had written in that paragraph she had repeated the same idea, that’s why I thought maybe if we repeat the same idea in one paragraph, it becomes circular.

          • Pauline
            16th September 2019 - 4:14 pm ·

            No, it’s repetition here, though there is a link between writing in a circular way and repeating the same idea throughout. I point this out in The Key to IELTS Success to make people think about how they write an essay or discuss an issue in their own culture – if this is usually a circular discussion then this can lead to repetition in an IELTS essay. Can you see how to improve your paragraph and understand the point I made about cohesion?

          • Mina
            16th September 2019 - 5:28 pm ·

            Now I see, so you think my paragraph has two problems, one is with cohesion and the other one is repetition? Can you please rewrite this paragraph without repetition and with better cohesion? Thank you so much.

          • Pauline
            16th September 2019 - 5:43 pm ·

            I did this quite quickly but this fixes the main problems:
            ”In my view, the loss of different species of plants and animals is the most pressing environmental concern that we face today. We humans are just one part of the food chain and so anything that upsets the balance of this system will ultimately affect us too. This shows that the existence of humans depends on the existence of other animals and that, if we do not protect them, their loss may, in turn, endanger us. In other words, our *destiny as a species is not separate from the destiny of other animals and plants, and therefore it is of great concern to see any species become extinct.”

            *I think ‘survival’ would be better here

          • Mina
            16th September 2019 - 6:29 pm ·

            Thanks Pauline, I see how using small words helps the paragraph sound more comprehensible, this is great, just one question, does the paragraph you have written contain repetition or is it considered a good example in terms of development and progression?

          • Pauline
            16th September 2019 - 6:31 pm ·

            I changed one of the ideas slightly to show a difference but I was hesitant over including the final sentence (it does seem a little unnecessary now). It would depend on the essay question – you may be able to link it more to that.

          • Mina
            17th September 2019 - 9:09 am ·

            Thanks again Pauline. This is the essay question from cambridge 14:
            ‘Some people say that the main environmental problem of our time is the loss of particular species of plants and animals. Others say that there are more important environmental problems.
            Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.’
            So do you think the last sentence is unnecessary or would you use it to link it to the topic? And would you mind saying which one of the ideas you changed to avoid repetition? I really appreciate it.

          • Pauline
            17th September 2019 - 9:39 am ·

            Ok, in that case, I assume that this is your second or third paragraph, or even your conclusion, where you are ‘giving your own opinion.’ Your opinion agrees with the first view, so I would change your paragraph to show this:
            ”Personally, I agree that the loss of different species of plants and animals is the most pressing environmental concern that we face today. We humans are just one part of the food chain and so anything that upsets the balance of this system will ultimately affect us too. This shows that the existence of humans depends on the existence of other animals and that, if we do not protect them, their loss may, in turn, endanger us. Our survival as a species is not separate from that of other animals and plants, and therefore it should be of great concern to us all when any species becomes extinct.”

          • M. Yavar
            17th September 2019 - 9:46 am ·

            Hi Pauline, I read the paragraph that you have rewritten for Mina. You seem to have only changed the parts that required change, and in that you have replaced “I believe” at the beginning of the paragraph with “In my view”. Can you explain why and if there is a difference between the two. Thanks for your support.

          • Pauline
            17th September 2019 - 10:21 am ·

            Hello, when you are asked to ‘discuss both views and give your own opinion, You need to signal clearly which part of your essay is ‘giving your own opinion’ – ‘In my view’ does this more clearly than ‘I believe’

          • Mina
            17th September 2019 - 9:59 am ·

            Thank you Pauline for your answer, I read this paragraph closely and I saw you have omitted ‘in other words’. I suppose it is unnecessary because these two sentences can link without it, am I right?

          • Pauline
            17th September 2019 - 10:14 am ·

            Yes, it isn’t necessary and I don’t think the purpose of this sentence is to explain what you have already said (which is when I would use ‘In other words’)

          • Mina
            18th September 2019 - 10:51 am ·

            Thank you so much Pauline, you’re the most caring teacher I’ve known. I hope sales for your books grow by the day.

          • Monsef Ali
            25th September 2019 - 1:21 am ·

            Hi Pauline,
            I posted a question under one of your other posts earlier, I read the final version of your paragraph in response to Mina, I’m sorry if my question sounds irrelevant, but may I ask if your paragraph uses inductive or deductive reasoning? Thank you in advance for your help.

      • Hamed
        2nd September 2019 - 3:25 pm ·

        Hi Pauline, I have a question about writing a paragraph. I know that each paragraph should have a topic, but I have problems with the explanations. How can I provide explanations? Some people say that explanations are the same as the main ideas but in other words, some people say that we should give comparison in our explanations, some people say we should use conditional sentences, so I’m actually confused and I don’t know how to give explanations, specially now that I read your comment about writing in a linear way.

        I’m sorry that I’m asking two questions, but I have another question about explanations. I heard one IELTS trainer say that we must give as much explanation as possible even for something that is clear to us, but doesn’t explaining too much lead to repetition and hurt progression in CC? So my question is how much should we explain the main idea, and when should I know to stop explaining because my idea is clear to the examiner? I really appreciate your help. Thank you so much.

        • Pauline
          2nd September 2019 - 5:26 pm ·

          Hi Hamed, I think your main conclusion comes from following people who highlight the use of complex sentences and grammar. Grammar (and high-level vocabulary) should not be your main concern. When explaining a main idea, all you need to think about is letting the examiner why you believe / think this (you do not need to think about grammar – the grammar follows the idea, not the other way round.) I don’t agree that you must give ‘as much explanation as possible’ but I do agree that you should see yourself as explaining your ideas as though you are talking to someone who does not live where you live and does not know what you know. An explanation for why you believe something to be true should not lead to repetition. See yourself as teaching – stop when you have explained / taught it enough.

          • Hamed
            2nd September 2019 - 6:29 pm ·

            Thank you Pauline for your great advice. Actually my concern is not grammar or vocabulary and all I intend to do is explain my ideas as clearly as possible, and I don’t mean to impress the examiner with my language, I just didn’t know how much I should explain, so you’re saying that there is no exact amount of explanation and I should explain until I see it is enough. So, for instance if I say that one of the ways to decrease pollution in big cities is to encourage people to use public transport, I think it is self-evident and doesn’t need further explanation, but according to the IELTS trainer I told you about I should say that when people use public transport they don’t use their cars, and when they don’t use their cars there will be fewer cars on the street and fewer cars means less CO2 from exhaust pipes and this means less pollution. So do I need to explain it so much detail or should I stop explaining when I feel my idea speaks for itself and is so universal that everybody can understand? Thanks again for your support.

          • Pauline
            3rd September 2019 - 7:42 am ·

            Hi Hamed
            I mentioned focusing on grammar because you had said ‘some people say that we should give comparison in our explanations, some people say we should use conditional sentences, so I’m actually confused.’ It is a mistake to focus on grammar (or vocabulary) before meaning and ideas, so I am simply suggesting you don’t listen to or follow advice like that.

            To answer your follow-up question : ‘if I say that one of the ways to decrease pollution in big cities is to encourage people to use public transport, I think it is self-evident and doesn’t need further explanation,’ Can you see that this is only ‘self-evident’ if the reader adds in the missing details / link? The reader needs to understand it this way ‘if people are using public transport, perhaps this means they are using cars less and so creating fewer omissions.’ You are making the reader work to see the link and understand the argument. In this particular case, the problem is that this is not a direct link (it relies on the reader understanding that 1) cars are being used too much, and 2) this means cars that pollute (so not electric vehicles) 3) public transport does not pollute as much as cars). You do not need to write this out in a very long explanation, but you need to show the reader that this is your thinking. E.g. by writing: ”One of the ways to decrease pollution in big cities is to encourage people to use their own cars less and instead take take public transport.”

            When there is a direct link, this is not as necessary (though it can be helpful to the reader to see you’re thinking. E.g. ‘One of the ways to decrease obesity is to encourage people to eat a healthy diet.” (here the link is clear but we can still help the reader and show our thinking by adding ‘…is to encourage people to eat a healthy diet and avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar.”

            Notice that it is the extra information ‘a healthy diet’ and ‘food that is high in fat and sugar’ that helps the reader understand the argument. Your sentence has simply ‘pollution’ and ‘public transport’ so the argument needs more information.

          • Hamed
            3rd September 2019 - 8:16 am ·

            Thank you Pauline, this was great, honestly I didn’t expect to get such a detailed answer, and it’s amazing that there are still people like you who genuinely care about others and take time to help someone they don’t even know. For that I am extremely grateful and I wish you all the best in life. Look forward to your writing book, I think it’ll be the best book ever written on IELTS writing. Thanks again.

          • Pauline
            3rd September 2019 - 8:23 am ·

            Thanks, Hamed. My greatest fear is that people will not buy it and will instead look for illegal copies online. If this is what happens then I’m afraid it will be my last book for IELTS. I am hoping that my fears are proved wrong 🙂

          • Hamed
            3rd September 2019 - 10:52 am ·

            I hope so, too. I’m an Iranian who studies and lives in Canada. I got to know your books and apps through my IELTS teacher in Iran, who I think you know. I know a lot of Iranians here who need an 8 or 7 in writing, and I will put the word out there to buy your books, not just your writing book but the grammar and vocabulary books as well, because your books and your fabulous blog have helped me a lot. I know for a fact that many Iranians here look forward to your next book and I certainly hope this will not be your last book.

          • Miad Hirsi
            3rd September 2019 - 1:50 pm ·

            Hi Pauline,
            I’m an IELTS teacher and I bought your grammar book 3 weeks ago and I should say thank you for this amazing book. I had never seen a grammar book with so many listening, reading and writing activities, so I really enjoyed reading it and I told my IELTS students to buy it too. They also like it very much mainly because they feel they are working on all the skills and not just grammar. I’m planning to buy your vocabulary book next month. I also have four questions about the model essay you have written for unit 6 and I should apologize in advance because this is going to be long.

            In your last book you said that one of the problems many candidates have is that their first body paragraph does not begin a new argument, instead it starts with repeating parts of the introduction. But in your model essay on page 226 your body paragraph also repeats part of the introduction. Shouldn’t it start with something like: ‘One of the problems this can cause is that fewer people will be working…’ because your introduction ended with ‘What effect will this have on our society?’ In other words, isn’t the first body paragraph a continuation of the introduction and the second body paragraph a continuation of the first and so on? And isn’t this one of the ways we control and achieve cohesion between paragraphs?

            I read your reply to Hamed here and my second question is about the same thing. In your first body paragraph you have written ‘This means that fewer people will be working, and therefore fewer people will be paying income tax. In the future it may be necessary to increase the official retirement age to 70 or even older.’ So doesn’t this require more explanation because I don’t understand the link here. Also in the second body paragraph you have written ‘In 2030 the younger generation will need to work much harder to support the large number of older people.’ But again there is no explanation about what you need by supporting older people.

            My third question is about the first body paragraph. In this paragraphed you have mentioned that as a result of this drop in birth rate goverments may have to increase the retirement age, so it is unlikely that the old generation then will enjoy the relaxed lifestyle that old people today can expect. But the last sentence is ‘Government will therefore need to make sure that this older generation is healthy and fit enough to continue working.’ It seems that this sentence hurts coherence & cohesion in this paragraph because this paragraph is about one of the effects of the decline in birth rate, which is that older people in the future may not have a relaxed lifestyle, unlike old people today.

            And my last question is about the organization of information in this essay. There is an introduction, two paragraphs on the effects that this problem can have and one paragraph on two possible solutions, which also works as a conclusion. So my question is that in essays which present an issue and ask us to write about the causes/effects and give some solutions, can the solution paragraph also be a conclusion, and is this something that you advise? Or is it something that native educated people such as yourself can do and might prove problematic for candidates at bands 7 or 8?

            I’m sorry again for the long message and so many questions, and I understand if you don’t have the time to answer them all. Thanks for your help.

          • Pauline
            3rd September 2019 - 6:23 pm ·

            Hi Miad, that’s really great to hear that you find my books useful. With my vocabulary books, I realised a few months ago that, as with the official test books, the model answers are not as helpful as teaching aids as they could be. I am rectifying this. My aim is to produce new models for all of my books that will reflect the advice I give in The key to IELTS Success and in my next book, The Key to IELTS Writing. I will be posting the new models in my website. I hope you will find it useful.

          • Miad Hirsi
            3rd September 2019 - 7:03 pm ·

            That will be great Pauline, but the sample was from your grammar book and not vocabulary, is this also true about the samples in the grammar book? And if so, would you say that these samples are at band 9 despite the points I mentioned in my previous comment? Thank you for your help.

          • Luwan
            24th September 2019 - 12:10 pm ·

            Hi Pauline, you have written fewer emissions, is emission countable? Should we say less emissions or fewer emissions? Thank you.

          • Luwan
            24th September 2019 - 12:29 pm ·

            Hello again,
            I read your answer about explaining our ideas. I have a question. For example if I say that one of the causes of obesity in children is that nowadays they spend a lot of time at their desk playing computer games. Is this explanation enough and is there a direct link? Or should I add more detail to help the examiner understand me? And in that case, can you tell me what I should/can add? Thank you so much.

          • Pauline
            24th September 2019 - 2:13 pm ·

            It’s enough on its own, I think, especially as this is a commonly held view (it is your own personal theories that need explaining the most). If you wanted to add more, you could do it several ways:
            1) by adding ‘rather than doing physical activities.’
            2) by referring back to it in the next sentence: ‘This lack of physical activity can lead to….’

          • Luwan
            24th September 2019 - 8:33 pm ·

            Thank you so much. So if I say that ‘they play computer games, which means they burn few calories and as a result they gain weight’, would that be extra or can it help the reader?

  • Mory
    20th August 2019 - 12:09 pm ·

    Hi Pauline. I have a question about the sample essays written by the examiners and regarded as”very good answer”. what mark would they get?
    My teacher thinks that these samples are written only to educate students how to write an essay so they cannot necessarily get 9, although they are labeled as “very good answer”.
    He claims that if such simple samples didn’t have educational purposes, they would be written at more advanced level. In other words, if these samples were not written at simple level, the candidates wouldn’t be able to learn from them.
    I would appreciate if you clarify this vague issue.

  • jaber
    14th August 2019 - 10:51 am ·

    Hi dear Pauline.
    Again, I have a question about the level of vocabularies. According to your book, in order to get 7 in lexical, we should use the vocbularies which are ranged between B1-c1. But there are words(in front of some of them are written “formal” in longman) that when I look for in Cambridge dictionary, they are ranged in neither of levels of CEFR. So, should we use such words in essays?

    • Pauline
      14th August 2019 - 3:12 pm ·

      1) Can you tell me which part of my book you believe ays that? 2) CEFR is not a complete / comprehensive system. There are many gaps as far as I am concerned – the aim of CEFR is to tell book writers and test writers which words can generally be understood at certain levels – it does not claim to be a syllabus for students to learn and it isn’t something I recommend at all.

  • jaber
    12th August 2019 - 12:19 pm ·

    “With your question about ’emphasise’ V ‘place emphasis on’, neither is ‘better’ than the other”.
    Dear Pauline do you mean it doesn’t make difference to use ’emphasise’ or ‘place emphasis on’ when it comes to getting more score in lexical.?

    • Pauline
      12th August 2019 - 3:54 pm ·

      Yes, because that’s not how language works or is assessed. Imagine a band 5 candidate’s essay. Add either the word or the phrase to it, and their score will still be band 5. It is about using words and phrases accurately and at the appropriate time. Again, I really recommend you reread the vocabulary chapter of The Key to IELTS Success to understand this.

        • Pauline
          13th August 2019 - 9:31 am ·

          I’m surprised you still think that there are ways of boosting your score by focusing on vocabulary then. As I state in the book, vocabulary has to be put alongside grammar, and skills in order to have any impact on your score. No single element of language will ‘boost’ your score.

  • jaber
    11th August 2019 - 9:51 pm ·

    Hi dear pauline.
    I have some question again about vocabulary and lexical resource.
    First, In your opinion how many topic-related vocabs should we use in our essay to show flexibility and get a 7?
    Second, Is it better to use single words or collocations in essay or speaking? For example instead of writing “ the government should emphasize sth” we write “the government should place emphasis on sth”?

    • Pauline
      12th August 2019 - 8:51 am ·

      It is simply showing that one of the possible reasons people at this level are not band 8 is because of their use of cohesive devices. Generally, by band 8, the use of all aspects of language is more natural – cohesive devices are used only if and when necessary. At band 7, candidates are still at the learning stage of trying to show off language rather than trying to just communicate their message well.

      • Saeb
        24th September 2019 - 12:40 pm ·

        In the descriptors for band 9 it says that the candidate can use cohesion in such a way that it attracts no attention. Does it mean candidates at band 9 do not use typical cohesive devices such as ‘firstly, for example, having said that, etc’ and instead they control cohesion in other ways?

        • Pauline
          24th September 2019 - 2:14 pm ·

          No, it means that they use it so naturally than you don’t even notice it. When you are reading normally the cohesive devices Deon’t normally stand out because you are just following the meaning and ideas.

  • jaber
    5th August 2019 - 6:30 pm ·

    Hi dear Pauline. I’ve read your free e-book and found it really useful since it changed my view about what kind of vocabulary I should use in the writing, However I have A question about the word “extreme” when you compare band 6.5 with band 9.what do you exactly mean by the word “extreme” in Ielts writing task1 and task2?
    I appreciate it if you clarify this issue.
    Thank you very much

    • Pauline
      6th August 2019 - 7:10 am ·

      Hi Jaber, I’m glad you found my book useful. I assume you are talking about the use of vocabulary. I did give examples to illustrate the idea – e.g. at band 6 and below candidates use words such as ‘plunge’ in writing task 1 or ‘controversial’ and ‘calamitous’ in task 2, when it is far more accurate to say that the figures ‘dropped’ or ‘fell’ (they didn’t in fact ‘plunge’) and that the issue being discussed in task 2 is often far more ordinary than their words suggest. They are using the words to try to boost their score, not because those words are needed.

      • Anonymous
        10th August 2019 - 11:02 am ·

        Thanks dear Pauline for your response.Another question about flexibility in vocabulary is that how many topic-related vocabularies are needed to get a 7 in lexical?
        and is it better to say,for example schools should emphasize core subjects or schools should place emphasis on core subjects?
        Thank you so much

        • Pauline
          12th August 2019 - 8:54 am ·

          There is no answer to that – (no such number or concept about vocabulary exists in IELTS). I’d suggest you read or re-read The Key to IELTS Success, especially the vocabulary chapter. With your question about ’emphasise’ V ‘place emphasis on’, neither is ‘better’ than the other.

  • Nima
    1st August 2019 - 10:07 am ·

    Hi Pauline,
    Thank you for your support. I have a question about some structures in academic task 1. Can we use the word “margin” in task 1? For instance in these examples:
    1. The figure for Argentina was 20% while that of Brazil was lower by a narrow margin.

    2. The figure for Argentina was 20% while that of Brazil was lower by a margin of 2%.

    3. The figure for Argentina was 20% while that of Brazil was marginally smaller.
    Is the use of margin acceptable in IELTS task 1? Thank you again.

  • maryam
    1st July 2019 - 11:20 am ·

    in the end of Cambridge books there is a table named IF YOU SCORE…it contains three sections…i would be appreciated if you let me know the maximum number of true answers written in the middle section would show which score in IELTS exam??

    • Pauline
      2nd July 2019 - 12:55 am ·

      Hi Maryam, I don’t understand your question. Can you explain what you mean by ‘the maximum number of true answers written in the middle section’?

      • Anonymous
        10th July 2019 - 12:32 pm ·

        for example in cambridge ielts 13, test 3, the middle section of the table named ” if you score…” shows if i get 17-24 right answers in reading i might an acceptable score under examination conditions.i would like know if i answer right to 24 question out of 40 which score would i get?
        thanks for your response

  • Reza
    18th June 2019 - 2:21 pm ·

    Hi pauline ,
    I’d like to know if contractions such as “don’t, isn’t etc’ are allowed to be used in IELTS Academic writing task 2.

    Thanks !

    • Pauline
      20th June 2019 - 9:03 am ·

      I’m prone to using these myself and only change them in my final edit because I get so many followers saying ‘You used a contraction!’ You’ll find them sometimes used in model answers and in reading test passages too, so it isn’t a ‘mistake’. However, they are seen as a feature of spoken and less formal language, so practice NOT using them as much as possible.

      • Reza
        15th September 2020 - 2:03 pm ·

        Hi Pauline ,
        What is the difference between A WIDE RANGE OF STRUCTURES (BAND 8) and AVARIETY OF COMPLEX STRUCTURES (BAND 7)?!
        When it comes to explaining COMPLEX STRUCTURES almost everyone thinks they are complex sentences only . What do band descriptors mean by complex structures for band 7 ?!

        Thanks for the help !

        • Pauline
          17th September 2020 - 4:31 pm ·

          Hi Reza, there is not simple answer – more importantly, there is no magic list of ‘complex’ structures to use or that is ticked off by the examiner. This is something you can see when it is there and you notice it is missing when it is not – I think it’s interesting that ‘complexity’ is more of an issue at band 7 (and 6) than at band 8 because this is where people are trying to write in as complex a way as possible – by band 8, the language is more natural blend of complex and less complex. I think it’s best to see it as an issue not a bonus to be honest!

    • Pauline
      17th June 2019 - 4:16 pm ·

      One is ‘to be used to —ing something’ (it means ‘to be accustomed to doing something’ – the opposite would be ‘I am not used to doing it – it is a new experience for me. E.g. ‘I didn’t mind opening the shop because I was used to getting up early’ and the other is ‘used to do’ , which always has a past meaning and is used to describe a past habit (i.e. this is something that I did habitually in the past. e.g. I used to get up at 6:00 every day and go for a run.)

    • Simaxi
      24th September 2019 - 12:53 pm ·

      Hi Pauline,
      Can you please say what is the the writing score if a candidate gets 6 for task 1, and 7 for task 2? I know task 2 is worth more, so would he get a 7 or a 6.5 for writing? Thank you for helping me.

        • Simaxi
          24th September 2019 - 7:28 pm ·

          Thank you I appreciate it. Because task 2 has more weight so it only makes sense if the writing score is closer to 7. So I thought the writing score would be 7 and not 6.5. I really appreciate it if you can check with examiners because nobody can answer this question for me.

          • Pauline
            21st October 2019 - 2:08 pm ·

            Hi Simaxi
            I did ask an examiner and they believed the score would be band 7, but they also told me that the examiner does not work out the overall score (they used to in the past, but I am not sure how long ago this changed). As numbers of candidates have increased, perhaps in some places examiners are now more likely to work on specific tasks rather both tasks. So, the overall score is calculated by more senior examiners.

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IELTS Author Pauline Cullen

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