Keeping your IELTS essay clear and effective

Keeping your IELTS essay clear and effective

In the IELTS essay (task 2), I find that students often either easy to overcook it, and undercook it. The former means your essay is difficult to understand. The latter may mean that there isn't enough, and your ideas lack explanation; they need a bit more bulk.

Overcooking it

  • Students may use too many clauses, and not break their ideas up enough because they want to seem 'academic'- this only hinders the core idea
  • Students can overdo it with too many connectives but not enough explanation in between
  • Students can be overly formal and use 'big' words, when functional words are perfectly fine. The more complex the word, doesn't necessarily mean the sentence is actually any better
  • Students can mix up informal and formal, this can be seen in;
  1. contrasting complex language with slang words. i.e people/tiny tots (the former is fine, but tiny tots should be replaced with children)
  2. using etc- do not apply etc to any of your sentences
  3. putting small parts of sentences in brackets- in general, avoid brackets in your writing
  4. using speech or dialogue, similarly, avoid this
  5. using rhetorical devices, i.e. 'wouldn't you agree? Haven't we all experienced this?- stick to the essay format where you are not personally addressing the letter to anyone

Undercooking it

To put this simply, by undercooking, I mean that the student hasn't been careful enough and has not applied:

  • appropriate vocabulary
  • has the right level of formality
  • missed punctuation and incorrect grammar

IELTS Essay Samples

Let's look at some examples that show an inconsistency. These are essays of students preparing for their IELTS exam, to give you a more realistic example.

Key take aways

  • Always write clear sentences. Think of them as lego- they need to connect to each other easily and quickly. Your sentences need to do the same thing.
  • Check how many connectives you are using. You do not need them at every sentence, this would be overcooking it
  • Choose words and expressions that are formal for an essay, but not overly complicated

This is an exaggerated example and of course you are not replacing all your words with a thesaurus! But remember this Friends clip? there is a key reminder to keep things simple and easy to understand in your writing and avoid overcooking it.