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5 Additional Common IELTS Writing Mistakes

In an earlier post, I looked at the 5 most common grammar mistakes in IELTS writing essays.  Today, I want to look at 5 additional mistakes that I regularly see candidates make in the areas of lexical resource, task response, and coherence and cohesion.

Frequent mistakes are common when learning a new language, but if more than 50% of your sentences have a single error in them, you will get a Band 6 or less on the exam. So, having perfect sentences most of the time is rather important!

Below are 5 very common IELTS writing mistakes that I see which are easily avoidable once you are aware of them.  Knowing these common errors and fixing them now through practice will greatly raise your score.

1. Using Personal Examples

When writing your academic essay, you will want to back up your idea with an example, but too often, I see students giving a personal example.  As this is an academic essay, you need the language and examples to be formal and sound as if they have been researched. Using personal examples will get you lower points, so avoid them.

  • Weak example: “My parents frequently work late in order to make ends meet, and this has a big impact on the amount of time I get to communicate with them.”
  • Stronger example: “Many parents today are working longer hours in order to sufficiently provide for their children, which is having an enormous impact on the amount available time for face to face communication. “

2. Being Too Verbose

When you are too verbose, you are using more words than needed.  Try to cut out phrases and words that are not relevant to the task response.  This will not only help reduce your word count if you tend to write too much, but will also help your writing to be more coherent and concise.

  • Weak Example: “Even if employees engage in their jobs for a long time, they often fail to climb the business ladder, which is regularly the most common goal, therefore, they must face the harsh reality of staying in the same position for years.”
  • Stronger Example: “Even if employees stay in one job for a long time, they will often fail to climb the business ladder.”

3. Not Using Linking Phrases

We have discussed this in other blog posts.  To make your sentences coherent and cohesive, you must use linking words and phrases. Don’t just list sentences, connect them together!

  • Weak Example: “Mexicans will prefer Madrid as their most visited city. Americans will most likely go to Paris. Canadians love traveling to Istanbul the most.”
  • Stronger Example (linking phrases are bolded): To begin with, Mexicans will prefer Madrid as their most visited city.  In contrast, Americans will most likely go to Paris.  Lastly, Canadians love traveling to Istanbul the most.”

4. In vs. On

When to use the preposition IN or ON can be very challenging for ESL students. Here are a few basic guidelines:

IN is used to:

  • indicate that something is contained or inside: “She is in the house.”
  • denote a moment enclosed in time: “I completed my Masters degree in 2014.”
  • refer to the names of cities, towns, and countries: ‘There are many vegetarians in India’

ON is used to:

  • indicate that something is positioned on a surface or just above or outside an area: “The coffee cup is sitting on the desk”.
  • refer to days and dates that are not enclosed with a specific time: ‘I visited your restaurant on 29 June.’
  • refer to street name locations: ‘The restaurant is located on Lakeview Drive.’

5. Not Using High Level Vocabulary

Twenty-five percent of your score is based on your lexical resource, so it is important to learn and use a wide range of high level vocabulary in your essay.  I regularly see students use the word ‘done’ when citing their academic example.  This should be replaced with a higher level word like ‘conducted’ or other alternative phrases like:  ‘carried out’; ‘administered by’; ‘organized by’. Check out these examples:

  • Weak Example: ‘Recent research done by Harvard University shows that 65% of Americans work more than 50 hours a week.’
  • Stronger Example: ‘Recent research conducted by Harvard University shows that 65% of Americans work more than 50 hours a week.”

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