Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

You must proofread your IELTS essays!

Today we share why checking your essay is so important.

The last episode we did on proofreading was episode 513.

Definitely listen to that one if you missed it, as we share the 3 main things to check for.

  • Repeated vocabulary
  • Common words that are easy to replace
  • Verb tense

Today we will share 2 more things to look for.

We also provide you with a system to use to prepare.

These tips are from our 3 Keys Writing module, so for all the proofreading tips you need, sign up for 3 Keys IELTS!

Why proofread IELTS essays?

One of the biggest rookie mistakes IELTS candidates make is they use all the time to write.

They often don’t brainstorm or proofread.

Your Vocabulary and Grammar scores will be lower if you don’t proofread.

However, it is difficult to catch your own mistakes.

You need a system!

Today’s question

One of our 3 Keys students asked us a question about proofreading.

I have a practice question about the exam.

In the writing session, should we write in pencil?

How can we write and rewrite parts of the text, doing the adjustments after checking?

Or do we have time to transfer our essays to another paper in pen?

Should you erase and rewrite?

You don’t have time to erase anything!

You need every extra second to check vocabulary, punctuation and grammar.

Instead, cross it out and write above it.

In order to do this, it’s wise to skip lines if you’re taking the paper version.

You definitely don’t have time to rewrite your essay on another sheet, so don’t plan on doing that.

There’s nothing in the scoring system about how neat your essay is.

IELTS proofreading system

First, look over your whole essay for repeated vocabulary.

Then, go back to the beginning of your essay and look for easy vocabulary.

  • People
  • Happy
  • Nice
  • Get
  • Linking words like “firstly”

These linking words are especially important to check because repeated linking phrases pull down both Vocabulary and Cohesion/Coherence scores.

You will then check verb tense and nouns.

Students often make mistakes with plural nouns.

Why to replace repeated vocabulary

Vocabulary repetition pulls your Vocabulary score down.

Avoid using words directly from the question.

If you don’t know a parallel for a word, you can replace them in other ways.

  • Pronoun reference
  • Rephrase the sentence
  • Get more specific

Instead of repeating “computers,” you could say, “these tools.”

Instead of “the obesity epidemic,” you can say “this trend.”

Or get more specific and say “overweight adolescents.”

Strategies Created By a Former Examiner

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How to check plural nouns

Nouns will likely be plural when they are general.

Usually topic sentences will be general with plural nouns.

Reasons are also general, as you’re bringing the world at large into it.

Then, when you get into specific details, you will start using singular nouns.

There can be exceptions to this, but you can use this as a general rule when proofreading.


Having a system and strategies will reduce your IELTS anxiety!

Leave 5 minutes to proofread your essays.

Practice using a system so you know exactly what to check.

Check for repeated vocabulary, easy words, verb tense and nouns.

For Task score and Cohesion/Coherence, you need feedback from an expert.

Sign up for 3 Keys IELTS to get feedback you know you can trust!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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