How 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.
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.
4. What should be in the example?
In the example, you can use a business name, a university name, a year, a percentage, 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, but both are still ok. 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:
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?
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:
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.