Why is this essay band nine?

 Each week, we send out an IELTS writing question to our subscribers. The following week, we send out our version of that essay. While we think that getting a band nine is overrated, we get a lot of questions about it. In this article, I'm going to take a look at one of our essays…

Task Response

Task response is all about how well you answered the question. For a band nine, the criteria say:

  • Fully addresses all parts of the task.
  • Presents a fully developed position in answer to the question with relevant, fully extended and well supported ideas.

This means you need to answer the whole of the question and go into lots of detail in your body paragraphs. I’ve answered the question by giving a really clear answer to the question. In the introduction I say

In this essay, I will agree with this view. First, because working for yourself allows you to set your own priorities, and second, because it allows people to earn more money.

This lets you know exactly what my position is and what the main reasons for it are. In my body paragraphs, I give arguments, explanations and examples to support those reasons. This means that my arguments are well developed. For the conclusion, I reiterate my main point as well as the reasons for it. As you can see, all the way through the essay, I’ve been contributing to the central idea of the essay. This means it’s a really good response to the question that should get a band nine.

Coherence and Cohesion

Coherence and cohesion is all about how your essay is organised and how ideas flow into one another. For a band nine in coherence and cohesion, the criteria are:

  • Uses cohesion in such a way that it attracts no attention
  • Skilfully manages paragraphing

In terms of using cohesion: I have my thesis statement in the introduction. The thesis statement is a sentence that contains my main idea. I then tell you what my main reasons for that thesis statement are. Each of the body paragraphs explains one of those ideas. At the end of the essay, my conclusion repeats the main points and my thesis.

For the paragraphing, we should pay attention to the body paragraphs. Each one contains a topic sentence and three supporting sentences. The topic sentence tells you what the paragraph is about, then the supporting sentences give you reasons that support that idea. If we look at the first body paragraph, the first sentence is the topic sentence. It gives the main idea of the paragraph: that freelancers can choose what they value at work. All of the following sentences support that idea.

Lexical Resource

Lexical resource is all about what language you use. For a band nine, the criteria are:

  • Uses a wide range of vocabulary with very natural and sophisticated control of lexical features.
  • Rare minor errors occur only as ‘slips’.

Importantly, there aren’t any vocabulary errors in my essay. However, that isn’t enough to get a band nine. We also need to use a wide range of language and use words naturally. An example of range how I’ve described self employed people. Because we are referring to them many times in the essay, it’s easy for it to get repetitive. To avoid this, I’ve used a few different ways to describe them including:

  • Freelancer
  • Working for yourself
  • Freelancing
  • Entrepreneur

Another aspect of this is collocation. This means using words that tend to go together. Here are some examples of words that fit well next to each other.:

  • Break free from the traditional workplace
  • Pick and choose
  • Extracted as profit
  • Fruits of their labour

Pick and choose is perhaps a really good example of this. If we say ‘choose and pick’, it sounds very unnatural. To get a band nine, you need this kind of awareness of what words go together well.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy

Grammatical range and accuracy is all about using a lot of different types of complex grammar without making many (or any!) mistakes. The band nine criteria read:

  • Uses a wide range of structures with full flexibility and accuracy.
  • Rare minor errors occur only as ‘slips’.

First, there aren’t, as far as I know, any grammatical errors in the essay. However, to get a high score for grammar, having no mistakes isn’t enough. We also need to show off a wide range of different types of grammar. Here are some examples:

  • If you are a freelancer, you have, to some extent, the option to pick and choose what work you do.
  • While some people may want to prioritise earning as much money as possible, others will opt to take on projects that interest them or that will allow them to have more free time.
  • If you are a freelancer, you have, to some extent, the option to pick and choose what work you do.
  • When you work for a corporation, some of the money you make for that company needs to be extracted as profit.
  • Conversely, although working hard for a company may eventually lead to a pay rise, there is less of a direct link between your performance and earnings.

The reason these sentences are complex is because they contain more than one idea. As you can see, there is a wide range here. If I had used ‘while’ over and over again, all of my sentences would be complex, but I wouldn’t be showing range. It is also also notable that most of these sentences are fairly short. Sometimes students think complex grammar means really long and hard to understand sentences. Those are more like complicated sentences than complex sentences. Small but well crafted sentences are preferable.

If you’d like to learn how apply some of these techniques in your writing, we cover a lot of them on our free IELTS writing self study course.

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