Giving effective examples in IELTS essays.

ielts examples in writingHow to write specific examples in IELTS essays.

When writing an IELTS essay it is very important to be able to extend your ideas and explain your main points. This can be done with supporting points and most importantly, specific examples. This is necessary to get a good band score in task response and helps with overall cohesion of the essay. By using examples the examiner can clearly see how you are developing your main idea in the main body paragraphs. However, the examples given must be specific to the task question and your main idea, they should also be clear, easy to follow and concise.

They do not have to be real but they must look plausible. This is different from an essay you would write at University where you need true factual information and citations. IELTS essays are not the same as University essays.


1. What does the marking criteria say?

In the IELTS marking criteria, there is no mention of giving examples but in task response it says:

  • Band 8 task response: ‘presents a well-developed response to the question with relevant, extended and supported ideas .
  • Band 6 Task response it says: ‘presents relevant main ideas but some may be inadequately developed/unclear’

It is clear that if your main idea is not supported or developed then you will end up with a lower band score in task response.


2. Where is the best place to put the example?

When giving examples it is best to put them after your main idea or topic sentence. They can be used in the middle of supporting sentences or they can be used to start a new sentence. There is no rule for where exactly to give examples in essays, logically they would come after your main idea/topic sentence or just after a supporting sentence. In many of my model answers, they come near the end of the main body paragraph.

For instance here is a paragraph from an essay based on this task question:

Most people agree that money cannot buy happiness. Why is happiness difficult to define? How can people achieve happiness?

The concept of happiness is a very difficult thing to define because many people have different ideas as to what contributes happiness. Some feel that money is key, others would say that family is the main factor and yet others believe that freedom and self-expression contribute to a happy existence. To illustrate this, a study carried out by leading psychologists in the USA in 2007 over a two year period, which polled over ninety thousand people, showed that opinions varied greatly. A vast majority said that freedom and creativity were paramount while many others cited a multitude of other reasons for happiness, one of those being financial gain.

The example is introduced with ‘To illustrate this’. I quoted a study, a year and a number of people polled. There are other ways to do this, see below.


3. What kind of example should it be?

You can give personal examples but be careful that the essay doesn’t look too informal. You can quote a newspaper report, a government report, a survey, a UN report, a University poll, a magazine article, a think tank report etc… none of the examples has to be true, you can make them up but they must look realistic. I would advise using language rather than a statistic as the examiner wants to see how you use English. You can use a statistic as you will see in some of my model answers but if you do this it must look believable, but I would advise using language.

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 or disagree?

Secondly, In many countries, there is a desperate need of government investment in healthcare, especially for research into new types of medicine to combat serious conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. If the governments around the world had funding for cures and drugs 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. For example, in the USA there have been huge advances in the treatment of Parkinson’s with new types of medicine, which was the result of many years of investment by successive administrations.

In the example above I have not quoted a study or a UN report or a newspaper article etc.. but the example I gave connects directly to my man idea


4. What should be in the example?

In the example, you can use a business name, a university name, a year, a place (country, city) or a phrase that shows a trend. See two examples below I took from a recent essay.

1.  For instance, a recent report in Business weekly magazine stated that since 2016, the number of shoppers making purchases online has risen considerably due to low costs and free delivery.

2.  For instance, a recent report in Business weekly magazine stated that since 2016, the number of shoppers making purchases online has risen by 61% due to low costs and free delivery.

The first one is actually better as it uses language rather than a statistic. In the example, I used a magazine name (business weekly) and a year. This example was made up and is not true but it looks believable.

Here are other examples of what I mean:

1.  To illustrate this, a UK government report in April 2017 showed that over 59% of criminals reoffended within 2 years of being released from prison.

2. To illustrate this, a UK government report in April 2017 showed that a large proportion of criminals reoffended within 2 years of being released from prison.

3. To illustrate this, a recent UK government report showed that a large proportion of criminals reoffended soon after being released from prison.

In the third example above, I have not used any numbers or years or statistics, I have used language instead. The first two examples are ok but the 3rd one is much better,  if you can use language then it is better for your overall vocabulary score.


5. Can you give an example of “bad example” and a good one?

Take a look at two example body paragraphs below…which one is better?

Task question: An increasing number of people are buying what they need online. 
What are the advantages and disadvantages of this?

1. One main advantage of purchasing online is that it is much cheaper than buying from a high street shop. Thus more people use credit cards than cash these days. In addition, we do not need to travel to a bookshop or clothing store. For instance, transport is expensive as gasoline prices are increasing. Most people do not have cars in my town so we have to take a train 10 kilometres to the nearest department store, so it is better to buy online.

2. One main advantage of purchasing online is that it is much cheaper than buying from a high street shop. This means that buying items such as books, clothes and household goods is much more cost effective if consumers get them on the internet because of the wide range of shopping sites. To illustrate this, a recent report in Business weekly magazine stated that since 2016, the number of shoppers making purchases on Amazon has risen considerably due to low costs and free delivery.

It is clear that the 2nd example above is better, the first paragraph has too many ideas and it is too general, the 2nd example is clearer, more specific and concise while sticking to a central idea


6. What should I do if I have no idea of an example?

In this case, you can make up an example, invent a government poll, a newspaper report, a university study, or just explain your main idea clearly. There is no rule in the IELTS marking criteria about how to give examples, only that you can explain and support your ideas. Remember the marking criteria states:

  • presents a well-developed response to the question with relevant, extended and supported ideas’

Take a look at this paragraph below:

Task question: Some people think that violent sports such as martial arts or boxing should be banned from international competitions. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

The second reason why I agree that worldwide martial arts or combat events should be banned is that many competitors in these kinds of sports retire with long-lasting health issues. Boxing, in particular, has many instances of great boxers who became brain damaged and had to stop boxing at a relatively young age. For example, Mohamed Ali who was an Olympic and world champion developed brain damage from years of high profile international fights and developed serious health problems such as Parkinson’s disease. There are many other cases similar to this in world combat sports events.

The example does not include any newspaper report or university study or government poll etc… there are no statistics, no business name, no dates but it still clearly supports the main idea that combat sports should be banned.

 

Work on one main idea in your paragraph and explain it without going off topic, the main idea must be relevant and specific to the task question. Keep it simple and concise too.


Any Questions? Leave a comment below…