Can you use personal pronouns in IELTS Essays?
This is a question I have been asked a few times and there is some confusion even among IELTS teachers about this. The quick answer is that it is fine to use personal pronouns in IELTS essays. There is nothing in the marking criteria that says you should not use them either. As long as they are kept to a minimum that is ok.
Pronouns are words like: I, You, We , Us , Them, They. There is a common belief among people doing IELTS that they are too informal and not suited to an ‘academic’ IELTS essay.
If you are at university and are asked to write an academic essay you would have to use citations and sources. In an IELTS essay you do not have time to do this so you must rely on your own examples and experiences. Therefore a university essay and an IELTS essay are quite different.
Click here to see the marking criteria for IELTS writing task 2, you will not find anything about personal pronouns.
Lets take a look at some example essay ‘call to action’ phrases, I will show you how it is unavoidable to write an essay without at least a couple of personal pronouns.
In each of these examples you will see that they are asking for your own opinion or examples from your own experience.
It would be very hard to write your opinion without using the word ‘I ‘ or ‘my’
So you would need to use these phrases below:
- ‘ I am of the opinion that….’
- ‘ I think….’
- ‘I believe…’
- ‘In my opinion…..’
- ‘I would argue that…..’
However, do not use the phrases below because they are used informally in speaking:
- ‘ As far as I’m concerned..’
- ‘ I reckon…’
- ‘ I’d have to say that….’
- ‘To be honest , I reckon..’
A more formal style that is very useful when giving your opinion in the introduction is:
- ‘This essay agrees with…..’
- ‘This essay does not agree that…..’
Also when we are writing an essay, we often have to give a general or public opinion and use referencing such as in this sentence I found from a student essay recently.
‘Many people believe that global warming is caused by Co2 from cars and emissions from factories.. They say that regulations need to be put in place……..’
Here the word ‘they’ is used to reference ‘people’ , so it is necessary to use pronouns here.
How about in Writing Task 1 Academic?
Do not use personal pronouns in Writing Task 1 academic, this task is very different to an essay. You need to write a factual report so personal pronouns are not needed. I advise using the passive voice such as: ‘It can be seen from the graph that….’ or ‘As the chart illustrates, sales of automobiles dropped sharply….’ and so on..We never give our opinion or personal experience in IELTS Writing Task 1 academic reports. In Writing Task 1 general ,we obviously can use pronouns because it could be an informal letter.
Here is an example of how personal pronouns and a more formal phrase could be used. This was an introduction from an essay I marked recently.
‘Some people believe that school children should not be given homework by their teachers, whereas other argue that homework plays an important role in the education of children. Discuss both views and give your own opinion’
‘Many are of the opinion that it is not a good idea for teachers to assign homework to school children. Others argue that teachers should provide homework because it is an essential part of learning. I believe that school kids need to be assigned home study tasks to develop their knowledge and help their exam results.’
Just remember to not over use personal pronouns, they need to be used when giving an opinion and giving examples in your essay. The introduction and conclusion will most likely contain a personal pronoun.
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