IELTS Writing: Keeping it simple

Being concise and keeping it simple.

I quite often get essays that contain ‘flowery’ or convoluted sentences and vocabulary which makes it hard to understand what point is being made. My advice here is to keep your wording simple, direct to the point and concise.

It seems that many students try too hard to use  ‘complex sentences’ or ‘high level’ vocabulary and completely miss the point of communication, so in the end the reader (the examiner in this case) has trouble understanding.

Some students like to memorise lists of words and then just put those into the essay without actually knowing fully what the word really means. This will end up ruining your band score in coherence and cohesion as well as grammar and vocabulary. In fact, complex sentences are not actually complex or complicated, here is a lesson on those, click here to see it

Many IELTS candidates use very complicated sentences or memorised phrases thinking that they are impressing the reader. To be honest, this is not impressing anyone and it is having an opposite effect. The IELTS examiners are trained to spot memorised phrases and will most probably mark these kinds of essays down to a Band 5 or 6 for coherence and cohesion.

In the IELTS marking criteria, coherence, cohesion, grammar and vocabulary are linked. This means that if your sentence structures, grammar and vocabulary are not right then it will affect the overall ability to understand what is being communicated in the essay. Bad news for overall coherence and cohesion as well as grammar and vocabulary.

The same goes for Writing task 1. Just keep it clear and concise.


Dictionary definition of concise and convoluted.

 


Take a look at these 2 examples

 Task question 1

Which of these introductions would be better in the essay?

Example 1:
There are global concerns over environmental problems caused by the growth of air travel. Tax hikes on tickets have been suggested as a measure to limit the number of air travellers. I completely disagree with this because more research and development to reduce carbon emission should be the focus instead of taxing travellers.

Example 2:
As air travel gains more prominence among the populace, there are great concerns over the environmental problems as a result of airports and flights. Putting higher tax on tickets has been suggested as a measure to control air travel from certain quarters, but I am inclined to disagree with this. More research and development should rather instigate and reduce carbon emission from aviation sources, while environmental assessment tests should be looked into in the positioning of airports.

Answer:

If you said the first example then you are right. This is because it is concise and contains a clear thesis statement.

The second example is far too long at 68 words and it is going into the topic of building airports. There is also language used that does not really fit well such as:

  • gains more prominence among the populace..
  • control air travel from certain quarters…
  • should rather instigate and reduce carbon emission from aviation sources..
  • should be looked into in the positioning of airports…..

This is a little hard to follow and seems to almost be going off-topic. It is too ‘convoluted’ and misses the point of writing.

An essay must convey ideas clearly with the reader in mind. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this make sense to someone reading it for the first time?
  • Is it clear what point I am making?
  • Is my language too ‘convoluted’?
  • Am I still on topic?


 Task question 2

direct question essay ielts

Which of these is a good introduction?

Example 1:
Of all mankind’s manifold creation, the internet must take pride of place. But sadly, not all information on the internet is true, which makes it a victim of its own portrayal as an unreliable platform to some extent. Perhaps this issue can be battled by constructing some authenticating software and by other means that can lay aside the issues.

Example 2:
The internet is a huge source of knowledge which has enabled people worldwide to learn new things. However, not everything on the internet can be trusted, therefore, regulations need to be implemented to curb the spread of fake information and misleading websites.

Answer:

If you chose the second example then you are right. The first example is way off, even as a native speaker I can’t completely understand the points that are being made. This is a good example of being too ‘convoluted and flowery’.  Let’s look at example sentences from the first example.

  • mankind’s manifold creation…
  • take pride of place….(never use idioms in IELTS essays)
  • makes it a victim of its own and portrayal…
  • this issue can be battled by constructing some authenticating software ….
  • lay aside the issues.

This is trying too hard to impress the reader but fails. It will be most likely be marked as irrelevant by the IELTS examiner.


Here is a conclusion from another essay

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?

Conclusion:

In a nutshell, 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 people in hospital which are relatively prevented with ease, you should pay for the prevention more.

  • In the conclusion above the student has used the phrase ‘In a nutshell’ . This is memorised and it is also informal, it doesn’t belong in an IELTS essay.
  • There is also an idiom: ‘a double-edged sword’ . My advice is to stay away from using idioms in IELTS essays as most of the time they are informal and it is easy to use them incorrectly.
  • The last 2 sentences were hard to understand, poor coherence here.

The example above is trying too hard to use grammar and vocabulary that the student is not familiar with.


My Advice

It takes time and effort to build your grammar skills and build vocabulary. Use the grammar that you are comfortable with until you can use more advanced structures. There is no quick fix here as it takes a while to develop your English. Reading is important for building vocabulary and reading and listening at the same time is a good way to develop your vocabulary. Never memorise words from word lists either.

There are various free websites to help you with this. TED Talks, BBC News, The Times, The New Scientist, Podcasts and so on, see the link below.

Check this page out to see links to useful free websites.

Learn exactly what a complex sentence is and practice writing them. You do not have to use high-level grammar to get a Band 7. In fact, a Band 9 essay uses surprisingly straightforward grammar structures and is very easy to read.

Click here to see a Lesson on Complex Sentences.

Find a good teacher in your area and make sure you get good feedback on your writing. Ask yourself these questions below when you are practicing your writing.

  • Does this make sense to someone reading it for the first time?
  • Is it clear what point I am making?
  • Is my language ‘convoluted’ or ‘flowery’?
  • Am I still on topic?
  • Am I memorising phrases and putting them in the essay?

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