Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

In my many, many years of teaching IELTS, I’ve noticed that writing offers unique challenges for students, that are not found for speaking.

More specifically, the ability to be flexible!

As speaking is spontaneous, we are automatically more flexible, as our ideas are flowing more quickly.

In writing, however, there is a lot of time to plan and analyze, and this may lead to students sticking too strictly to a formulaic layout.

You must start with a template, or an outline. This should tell you where to put ideas, how to organize them from general to specific, and provide high-scoring linking words.

Having said that, this is only the beginning of your writing journey. In order to get a 7 or higher. you have to show a bit of flexibility.

This doesn’t mean that you are veering too far from the plan. You are still going to organize your ideas from general to specific, use a variety of linking words, and have the necessary elements.

The necessary elements are included in a 4-paragraph essay format, with your opinion stated clearly in 3 places, and a coherent introduction and a brief conclusion.


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Where we can learn more flexibility is in the body paragraphs.

Many students practice this layout:

topic sentence + reason 1 + example/details + reason 2 + examples/details

I find that this sometimes works, but other organizations are stronger for IELTS.

I recommend trying this:

topic sentence + example + details

For example:

     Having said that, I am of the opinion that there should exist quotas in all university subjects, requiring equal numbers of men and women. This need can be demonstrated most clearly in the area of engineering. In a recent article published by the New York Times, it was noted that male engineers outnumber females 20 to 1. The article featured an interview with an urban planner in Chicago who said that this inequality has led to a lack of diversity in ideas and planning. It is true that men and women approach problem solving differently, and this dichotomy is what brings creative notions to higher levels.

Now it’s your turn to practice!

How would you write a paragraph with this structure?

Share your paragraph in the comments section below!

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