Why does this essay score Band 5.5?

Analysis of a Band 5.5 essay, plus a model answer.

Most people doing IELTS have trouble getting above Band 6 in writing, in fact a large percentage of IELTS test takers around the world end up with a Band 5.5 in Writing.

Probably the most important thing to do before you begin writing an essay, is to make sure you fully understand the question and find the issues in the question. Never write just generally about the topic, identify the issues and base your essay around those.

Another key skill is paraphrasing, if your vocabulary is weak then paraphrasing may be a challenge so work on this skill. The thesis statement in the introduction is also key, the whole essay expands on your thesis statement and the conclusion paraphrases the thesis statement and your main points.

 

 

Let’s take a look at an essay a student recently sent to me.

Task question:

The prevention of health problems and illness is more important than treatment and medicine. Government funding should reflect this. To what extent do you agree?

Students Answer:

You should prevent health problems and illness from occurring rather than having treatments and taking medicines. Government has to distribute funds based on this. I can’t agree with this opinion completely because I think that this it has both positive and negative aspects.

First of all, I will discuss an advantage of the opinion. In general, therapy and medicine are more expensive than prevention of diseases. For example, if you get a cold and have a high fever, you have to go to see a doctor and you will pay a lot of money for the diagnosis and medicine. If you would like to keep yourself from getting a cold, you have to just wash your hands and mouth before you enter the house or eat food. Also, its cost is not expensive. So, you don’t have to pay a lot and have to do just easy things for prevention of health problems and illness.

In contrast, I will write about disadvantages. Paying money for preventing health problems means paying money for healthy people. So, you pay money though you are effectively healthy. This expense may not be need. and , some diseases are difficult to prevent, for example, some types of cancer. I consider that treatment and medicine is significant as well as prevention for those illnesses and you also have to use money for the therapy and medicine.

In conclusion, this opinion is double edged sword, so I can’t agree fully. It is important to use money depending on cases. For instance, in case of diseases which are relatively prevented with ease, you should pay for the prevention more.

(270 words)

Click below for my analysis.

Task question:

The prevention of health problems and illness is more important than treatment and medicine. Government funding should reflect this. To what extent do you agree?

The essay is asking for an opinion, I advise taking one side in an opinion essay as you do not get extra marks for a balanced approach. That means body 1 – first reason why you agree/ disagree. Body 2 – second reason why you agree/ disagree.

Introduction:

You should prevent health problems and illness from occurring rather than having treatments and taking medicines. Government has to distribute funds based on this. I can’t agree with this opinion completely because I think that this it has both positive and negative aspects.

Analysis:

  • The introduction should paraphrase the task question, in this case the paraphrasing was weak. Also the introduction should contain a thesis statement which includes a specific opinion. The student has only stated ‘ I think that this it has both positive and negative aspects.’ This is a weak thesis.
  • Here is my version of a thesis statementI completely disagree with this view because some diseases are incurable and need treatment, in addition, funding for new medicines should be a priority.
  • Another point to consider is the opening sentence : ‘You should prevent health problems and illness from occurring rather than having treatments and taking medicines’ it seems informal starting with ‘you should..’ and the paraphrasing is poor. The student also has mistakes with uncountable nouns.
  • This would sound better: It is often argued that Government funds ought to be used for preventing health issues and illness from occurring, as opposed to focusing on cures and medicine‘ . Here I have taken the task question and paraphrased it effectively.

 

Main body 1:

First of all, I will discuss an advantage of the opinion. In general, therapy and medicine are more expensive than prevention of diseases. For example, if you get a cold and have a high fever, you have to go to see a doctor and you will pay a lot of money for the diagnosis and medicine. If you would like to keep yourself from getting a cold, you have to just wash your hands and mouth before you enter the house or eat food. Also, its cost is not expensive. So, you don’t have to pay a lot and have to do just easy things for prevention of health problems and illness.

Analysis:

  • There is too much repetition of the word ‘you’. This makes the essay seem informal and shows poor use of grammar and weak complex sentences. Most sentences are not varying tenses, although there are not many grammar mistakes the range of grammar and vocabulary is poor.
  • There are a lack of cohesive devices ( therefore, furthermore, although, however etc).
  • Another thing here is that the task question shows that this is an ‘opinion essay’ but it has been answered like an ‘advantage disadvantage essay ‘ there are in fact 5 types of essay in IELTS.
  • This sentence I will discuss an advantage of the opinion…’ is not necessary, especially in a main body paragraph and indicates that it is an advantage disadvantage essay.
  • It seems too general and the example is not specific enough.

 

Main body 2:

In contrast, I will write about disadvantages. Paying money for preventing health problems means paying money for healthy people. So, you pay money though you are effectively healthy. This expense may not be need. and, some diseases are difficult to prevent, for example, some types of cancer. I consider that treatment and medicine is significant as well as prevention for those illnesses and you also have to pay money for the therapy and medicine.

Analysis:

  • Too much repetition of the phrase ‘paying money’ This shows that vocabulary range is weak and paraphrasing needs a lot more work.
  • I also had problems understanding the meaning, it seems general and unclear so the score for coherence is low.
  • Again, the word ‘you’ is overused here. Repetition is an issue due to the students poor vocabulary.
  • The student needs to use the passive voice to give the essay a more academic feel.
  • The opening sentence I will write about disadvantages...’ yet again this is not necessary and makes the essay look like an advantage disadvantage essay. Task response would score low here.
  • The student has tried to write a balanced opinion, but this is quite tricky and does not gain extra marks, so I always advise choosing one side and sticking with it.

 

The Conclusion:

In conclusion, this opinion is double edged sword, so I can’t agree fully. It is important to use money depending on cases. For instance, in case of diseases which are relatively prevented with ease, you should pay for the prevention more.

Analysis:

  • Straight away I noticed an idiom (a double edged sword)  Idioms should not be used in an IELTS essay because they are informal. IELTS essays need to show more formal language.
  • The correct cohesive device was used ‘In conclusion’ to introduce the conclusion.
  • The word ‘use money’ is incorrect..it should be ’spend money’ this is a collocation, these are marked in the IELTS marking criteria under Lexical Resource.
  • Again I can see the word ‘you’ which shows that the use of passive is poor. Personal pronouns are fine in an IELTS essay, if they are used sparingly and are mainly used to express an opinion. In this case there are far too many.

The student has tried to follow the structure as there is an attempt at topic sentences, supporting sentences and a specific example. However, because of poor grammar and vocabulary it scores low here. Word count is perfectly fine with 270 words.

Paragraphing is good, there was an introduction 2 main body paragraphs and a conclusion. Task response would score lower as it seems to be written as an advantage disadvantage essay and the key issues are not fully supported. Cohesion needs more work too and cohesive devices are underused.

In an opinion essay I advise just choosing one side and sticking with it, balanced approaches lead to problems for students with intermediate level English.

 

Click here to see a Model Answer.

Question:

The prevention of health problems and illness is more important than treatment and medicine. Government funding should reflect this. To what extent do you agree?

Answer:

It is often argued that Government funds ought to be used for preventing health issues and illness from occurring as opposed to focusing on cures and medicine. I completely disagree with this view because some diseases are incurable and need treatment, in addition, funding for new medicines should be made a priority.

To begin with, following a healthy lifestyle such as eating the right food, keeping fit and staying in shape is certainly beneficial to health and preventing illness. Nonetheless, there are some diseases that are incurable and occur based on genetics, such as cancer. For example, my uncle led a very active and healthy lifestyle, did not smoke and had a good diet, however, he developed lung cancer when he was 65 years old. Therefore, I hold the view that finding new ways to treat these kinds of illnesses is in need of consistent funding which the government has a responsibility to budget for.

Secondly, In many countries there is desperate need of investment in healthcare especially for the development of new ways to combat serious diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. To illustrate this, in the USA over the past two decades there has been huge advances in the treatment of Parkinson’s with new types of medicine, which was the result of many years of investment by administrations. If the government in other countries had this at the top of their agenda, then I believe that many more terrible illnesses could be cured with cutting edge medicine within the next decade.

To conclude, although some argue that Government money needs to be set aside for the prevention of health problems rather than medicine and treatment. I firmly believe that funds need to be used for treatment of incurable diseases and the development of better medicine to combat serious illnesses.     (298 words)

 

Note: In my model answer there is still some repetition with words such as: medicine, treatment, illness, the government,  but in some cases this cannot be avoided. A little repetition is fine, but if you can find a fitting synonym then use that. Be careful, as synonyms can be dangerous because the meaning can change.

The model answer is also a little long at 298 words , aim for around 270 – 280 words in an IELTS essay but remember that a really long essay (over 320 words) does not necessarily mean you will get a higher band score, also a long essay is challenging to write if you have only 40 minutes.

 

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