Common IELTS Writing Mistakes: Bad structure

Poor structure is one of the biggest reasons students fail the IELTS writing exam. If you're worried about structure, you don't need to be. By the end of this article, you'll know why so many students struggle with structure when it comes to IELTS writing and what you can do to fix this problem.

What’s the mistake?

When you are doing your IELTS writing task two, you don’t have a lot of room to write. A typical essay will have an introduction, two body paragraphs and a conclusion. Because these IELTS essays are quite simple, you don’t need to use lots of structure to help get your message across. However, while you don’t need a lot of structure to communicate in the IELTS test, you do need to include that structure to demonstrate to your examiner that you know how to structure an essay.

Why do people do it

One reason for this mistake is that people simply don’t know the grading criteria well enough. For structure, you need to take a look at the task response and coherence and cohesion sections. We’ll take a look at what you need to do to meet the requirements of the grading criteria below. That said, it’s still a good idea to have a look at the grading criteria to know exactly what you need to do.

Once you know what the examiners are looking for, it’s time to deliver it. One step you can take is to go into the exam with a strong plan for how you are going to structure your essay. It may sound strange to think of planning your essay before you’ve seen the question. However, there are only a few types of IELTS questions and you should be using the same number and types of paragraphs each time you write an essay.

One last reason people make this mistake is that they don’t realise all of the places they can show off their structure. The introduction and conclusion can both refer to both of the body paragraphs. You can also show off your structure within each paragraph by having a specific idea for each one and sticking to that idea for the whole paragraph.

How to fix this mistake

In the introduction

The introduction should do three things. First, you should give a summary of what the current situation is. You can draw inspiration from the question but you shouldn’t copy it word for word. Second, the introduction should have a strong thesis statement. This is a sentence that explains what the argument of your essay as a whole is. Finally, the introduction should introduce what your body paragraphs are going to do. You don’t need to do this, but it’s an easy way to show off your essay structure.

In the body paragraphs

In your essay, it’s best to use two body paragraphs. You could use three, but you don’t gain much from having the extra paragraph there. It’s better to spend more time perfecting two body paragraphs than to try and spread that time over three paragraphs.

For each of those body paragraphs, you need a topic sentence and three or four supporting sentences. The topic sentence introduces what the paragraph is about. One common error is to have a topic sentence that says ‘there are some good points’ or ‘there are some bad points’. If you try and make a general point like this, it’s difficult to go into a lot of detail. Instead, it’s better to pick a specific topic so that you can go into detail about it.

The supporting sentences should be closely linked to the topic sentence. Students often start closely linked to the topic sentence but slowly drift away from it. You can use these sentences for explanation, arguments and examples in favour of the topic sentence.

In the conclusion

The conclusion is the simplest part of your essay. In the conclusion, you should first recap what the key points of your essay were. These should be the same as what your topic sentences were. Then you should give your answer to the question as a whole.

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