Most Common Writing Mistakes
Try to avoid making the following mistakes:
- Using contractions (for example "I don't think" or "We can't say" ) instead of the full form ("I do not think" or "we cannot say.") Never use contractions in academic writing.
- Writing too few words. If you write much less than the required word count, the examiner has to reduce your score, even if your essay is good quality. You should count the number of words in your essay after each paragraph and keep a continuous total; this way, you can be sure of reaching at least 250 words in 40 minutes in Academic Task 2 writing.
- Writing too many words. The examiner is paid to mark on an "essay per hour basis," and so will not read the end of an essay if it exceeds the minimum word count by more than about 100 words. This means he or she will not see the end of your argument, and your score will reduce considerably. Remember: 250 words minimum, and about 350 words maximum in Academic Task 2 writing.
- Having handwriting that is difficult to read. IELTS is still a handwritten exam, and the examiners will not spend time trying to understand your writing. You must make sure that your handwriting can be read quickly. You should focus on writing clearly when you do your practice essays.
- Using informal words (for example "a nice idea" or "a silly thing to do") instead of academic words (for example "a positive idea" or "a regrettable thing to do.") Remember that academic vocabulary is different from the language you would use in English when talking to friends.
- Giving personal opinion in an IDEAS type Task. Check if the Task is asking for your opinion or not. The first question you should ask yourself is "Is this an OPINION or an IDEAS Task?"
- Telling stories about your personal history, friends or family. The Task tells you to use "examples from your own experience," but this does not mean describing stories from your life or people you know! It means describing examples of things in the world that you know about, have studied or have learned about in the media.
- Giving evidence which is too detailed or specific to a subject. You may be an expert in a particular social or scientific field, but the examiner probably has a different specialty. You need to make your ideas and examples accessible to a general reader. For example, if the Task topic is about money and you are an accountant, do not use specialized accounting terms.
- Being emotional or too dramatic when giving your opinion in an OPINION Task. You may feel strongly about issues such as animals or crime, but academic writing must be unemotional. So avoid phrases such as "a disgusting idea" or "I detest this concept." It is much better to say "an unacceptable idea" or "I disapprove of this concept," which is more impersonal and academic; similar to the type of writing that people use in business reports or university essays.
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