IELTS writing – the editing process [pic] Sunday, June 14, 2009 Posted by Dominic Cole [pic][pic][pic] Writing for IELTS is quite different from academic writing for at least one very good reason: timing. In IELTS you only have 60 minutes to produce two pieces of writing, there are no second chances and it isn’t practical to draft and redraft. However, in IELTS you still need to find time to check your writing and edit it for mistakes. Here are some very practical suggestions on how to go about this process. When to check The first step is to decide when to check.
You may think the obvious time is after you have finished writing, but there are other options. None is necessarily correct: as ever I suggest you need to try each approach and see which works for you as an individual. 1. Check at the end The conventional advice is to leave 3-5 minutes at the end to review your writing. The reason to do it this way is that you can see read the whole essay and check it for coherence as well as grammatical problems. One problem with this approach is that sometimes you run out of time and do not check. Another problem is that it is more difficult to find mistakes when you check a longer piece of writing.
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If you are a higher level candidate and you have few problems with grammar, this is possibly the approach for you. [pic] 2. Check as you write An alternative option is to check as you write: either at the end of each sentence or paragraph. This idea may surprise you, but there is a very significant benefit to this approach: you are much more likely to find grammatical errors if you look at a sentence of 15 words than an essay of 250 words. If you know that you have consistent problems with grammar, you should certainly consider this approach. It really is much easier to find mistakes this way. 3.
Check as you write and at the end This is probably the ideal choice as it allows you to find grammatical errors as you write and problems with coherence after you have written. The one difficulty is that it probably takes more time. How to check Here I have two very positive suggestion to make: 1. Check with a pen in hand so that you make sure you look at every word. It’s very easy to see what you think you have written and not what you actually wrote. Reading with a pen is a good way of slowing yourself down and makeing sure you read every word. 2. Read in complete sentences and not word by word.
Very often mistakes happen because all the parts of the sentence are correct, but those parts of a sentence do not fit together. What to check for This is the big one. There are a number of different items you can check for and what follows is a longish list and I suggest that in an exam it may not practical to check for all of them. You need to make your own personal checklist before the exam: to do this you need the assistance of a teacher to advise you of your mistakes. See this exam tip for more detail. Grammar The main point to note here is that not all mistakes are equal.
You will be penalised more heavily for basic mistakes than more complex ones, therefore you should check your basic grammar most carefully. 1. Verb tenses: make sure they are consistent and in task 1 that your tenses match the time frame in the graph 2. Articles: this is something for everyone to check for. Articles are the most common words in English and often go wrong. To get band 7 or over most of your sentences need to be correct: this means your articles need to be correct. See my post on articles. 3. Subject-verb agreement: this means “he does” not “he do”.
Even to quite a high level this is a relatively common mistake. The problem being that it is also a basic mistake that examiners will penalise more heavily 4. Parts of speech: this is another relatively low level mistake that is also quite common – particularly with Asian language speakers. Check that you use nouns, verbs and adjectives when you need. This is particularly an issue in task 1 when using trend language (a sharp rise, but to rise sharply). 5. Range of sentence structures: this one may surprise you, but it is important if you want band 6 or above to vary your sentence structures.
It is not enough always to use simple but correct language. Vocabulary I suspect that this is something that few candidates bother to check. A mistake. Vocabulary is as important as grammar and in a way it is easier to correct. 1. Repetition: under exam conditions looking for repetition is perhaps the area where a candidate can most improve their writing. It is relatively easy for a candidate to see that they have repeated words and to correct this mistake. 2. Repetition (2): check that you have not repeated whole phrases and sentences from the question 3. Spelling: check that you get at least the basic words right Coherence
Again, this is another area that sometimes does not get checked. You do need to think about this as it accounts for a large part of your mark. 1. Topic sentences: each paragraph starts with a topic sentence that clearly relates to the question 2. Paragraph development: each paragraph is developed with explanations and examples of the topic sentence. In task 1 this includes having enough detailed information and facts. 3. Connecting words:make sure that the connecting words you use are accurate. A frequent mistake is to overuse connecting words. Answering the question
If you don’t answer the question, the examiner is likely to penalise you very heavily. Really speaking, it is too late to check this at the end, this is something more for the planning stage. 1. Introduction: check that your introduction addresses all parts of the question 2. Conclusion: check that your conclusion gives an answer to the question What not to do Whatever you do, don’t count the words. That is a complete waste of exam time. If you are worried, count how many words you write in one line and then count how many lines your writing is. (Words like “a” and “an” still count as words).