The introduction above was sent to me by a follower of mine asking for feedback. It was written in response to a writing task in my book The Key to IELTS Success. The question says:
‘Many people believe that playing video games is a waste of time and can even have a negative effect on the health of players.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?’
The sample introduction contains some common problems. Try to spot any yourself before we look at these in detail.
Problem 1) ‘Translating’ the words in the question
The most common problem I see in band 6 or 6.5 introductions is candidates trying too hard to avoid copying any words from the question. For many people, this means substituting the words in the question with a synonym. This often feels like a translation that is not quite right. If you have read my free book you will know that you do not have to avoid using all of the words. Sometimes a word in the question is used because it is the most appropriate or the most natural – replacing this with a synonym may mean you are using a word that is not appropriate or is not natural.
In the above example, we can see some instances of this:
Many = Numerous
People = individuals
A waste of time = a distraction
Health = well-being
The problem here is that these words are not exact synonyms and are not naturally used in this way. I often see the word ‘individual’ used like this when the word ‘people’ I much more natural.
This is what you should do instead:
- Rather than translating the words in the question, aim to interpret the meaning as precisely as you can.
- Before writing anything, think about what the question means and try to identify the key central idea.
- Without looking back at the question, explain the central issue at the heart of the question. Not looking back at the question means that you are more likely to use your own words and phrasing.
For example, the key issue in this question is that many people are concerned that playing video games not only wastes our time but can also have an impact on our health. Remember, your introduction must introduce the topic, so the following is a good way to start this essay:
Video games are a common form of entertainment nowadays. However, many people are concerned that playing them not only wastes our time but could also pose a risk to our health.
Notice that, although I used some of the same words, I often used them in a different way.
Look again at the sample. Can you find another common problem that is not related to vocabulary?
Problem 2) Finishing your introduction
In the final sentence, the writer has talked about what they are going to do in the essay. A lot of people try to write a sentence like this, and these are often referred to as a ‘scope sentence’. I talk about this in a lot more detail in Chapter 7 of The Key To IELTS Success. I will only briefly add here that a sentence that draws attention to what you are doing (‘here I am, about to throw more light on this issue’) can feel too personal and inappropriate for IELTS. This is how a journalist might write an article and does not reflect the tone needed for a formal discursive piece of writing. Many people prefer to finish their introduction with a thesis statement. Again, I have talked about this a great deal in chapter 7. In brief, the most important point to remember is that your ‘thesis statement’ can only be called that if it accurately reflects the thesis in your essay – the vast majority that I see do not.
To write a thesis statement:
- Be fully aware of your main thesis (your main argument that will be explained in your essay)
- Sum up your main thesis in one sentence
Plan before you write anything at all and always remember to focus on writing in a clear, natural way rather than simply focusing on producing a range of high-level vocabulary.
Here are some final key ideas to remember about writing an introduction:
Can you see any further problems in the sample introduction? Look at the comments and feedback below to see if you found them all.
Don’t forget to read my free book: The Key to IELTS Success for more help with IELTS writing.