Wednesday, February 12, 2014

IELTS writing task 2 - let's stick to the topic

One of the things that always causes stress for my IELTS students is the time limit.  Many people feel overwhelmed with the idea of writing a full essay in 40 minutes.  So what do many IELTS candidates do?  They rush.  They rush to start writing & that of course can be disastrous.  I know that I have mentioned in previous posts how important it is to take some time to brainstorm but before you get to that, you must be very certain that you have understood the task!

One of my students was recently given a task 2 question about the environment. The question was something like, "Preserving the environment is an important issue today.  How can individuals protect the environment? Why don't people play a more active role in environmental protection?
What I see some students do is, in their mad rush to start writing, they see that the topic has something to do with the environment, so they start writing what some of the threats to the environment are.   Or maybe they spend their essays discussing what can be done in general to protect the environment.  Both approaches, of course, are wrong.  The first sentence of the prompt is just an introduction to the topic.   What you are supposed to write on is very clearly laid out for you in two questions:  How can individuals protect the environment?  Why don't people play a more active role in environmental protection?  If you spend a paragraph answering each question, you are well on you way to getting a good band score for Task Response.  Remember, how appropriately and completely you answer the question accounts for 25% of your Task 2 mark. 
So what do I suggest?  Spend a couple of minutes looking at the question.  Pinpoint key words or phrases.  Sometimes it helps to rephrase the prompt, although this might be a little risky.  Take a look at this task 2 question:  It is generally believed that some people are born with certain talent, for instance for sport or music, and others are not. However, it is sometimes claimed that any child can be taught to become a good sports person or musician. Discuss both these views.  Hmm,  a lot to take in.  So, let's see what they want us to do: Discuss both these views.  Which views? some people are born with certain talent and any child can be taught to become a good sports person or musician.
All your brainstorming & subsequent writing will be centered on these two main ideas.  Anything off-topic runs the risk of falling into the "answer is tangential,"  territory of Band 4 for Task Response.