Conquer IELTS Writing Task 2 w/ Barrie Brown & Reza Tasviri from IDP – E2Talks #3

welcome to e2 talks it's a podcast in which we chat about the English language landscape conversing about topics relevant to students like you in this episode Jay sits down with Barry Brown and Reza ties vary from IDP to discuss how to conquer IELTS writing task 2 hello guys it's very very nice to have you here I'm very pleased that you would come down from the offices of IDP to visit e to language so thank you very much for being here you're very welcome thanks for the opportunity just before you introduce yourselves I just thought it'd be good to sort of set the context as to why I've invited you down to e2 language and that is we're sort of getting to a size now where we have a bit of a social responsibility to make sure the information that we're giving IELTS candidates is as accurate as can possibly be 100 percent accurate would be great so on our IELTS YouTube channel for example we've now just reached quarter of a million subscribers which is a lot we're now getting 50,000 views per day we've had 12 million views in total which means that we've had actually people have watched our videos for 1.6 million hours Wow fantastic Reach is great it's amazing isn't it yeah it's a hundred one hundred and eighty two years of watching IELTS videos on on our channel and we're now signing up about actually in January we just signed up 17,000 members to e2 language so Wow yeah so the point is to give people the best information possible so with that background would you be able to introduce yourself please yeah sure my name is Barry Brown I'm one of the ESN managers at IDP now my responsibility is looking after the conduct of the test the marking of the test and monitoring the performance of examiner's to ensure that everyone's marking to the standard my personal background is I've been my career has been in teaching and for the last 20 years or so I've been involved in language teaching and for most of that as an IELTS examiner or or examiner trainer and worked for many years in Bangkok in fact for IDP interesting and is it true that you were once involved in physics I was originally I was doing research in particle physics in fact and decided it was a very turbulent time in Australian history and decided I wanted to do something more useful to became a teacher in a very tough working-class school right Reza it's good to be here and talk to your listeners my name is reza tes fury and i work as a senior team leader for IDP i oversee the writing marking the writing part of the computer-delivered IELTS test okay and as for myself I've been in the English language teaching industry for 21 years and for 11 years of that I've been involved in different ways with IELTS okay I've been working with IDP and I've had different roles currently I well as I said I oversee the marking of computer-delivered IELTS writing Suites fantastic well couldn't have bit of people here to talk about IELTS writing that's for sure yes so as I may have mentioned the focus of this podcast will be on IELTS writing task 2 so basically we want to give candidates the best possible information so they can get the scores that they need I thought we might start off by just talking about just some sort of common errors that examiner's might see and some things that people should just avoid yet probably the biggest problem that we see in task 2 is where the test taker doesn't actually answer the question that they've been asked now you can understand that in the pressure of a test situation which is often extremely important to the test taker that they might read the question quite quickly think they've understood it and then start to write their answer and quite often it's not answering exactly the question that's been asked and I can give you a simple example it's is that a question is asking about the causes of some problem and what the solutions are now we would see a number of candidates who would respond to one part of that and not the other part right and I can tell you that if you look at the public descriptors you will see that that kind of partial answering of the question is given a band five for task response for how well they've answered the question so it's a huge penalty to someone whose English ability is actually very high to not fully answer a question so that's the that would be the number one thing that I would say that that you've got to be really careful to make sure you're answering all parts of the question that seems yeah because people may have perfect language skills and yet write slightly off-topic and there could be the difference between the score they want the school yes exactly and the penalty is huge if they do that if they're very good if they're for example in native speaker right and and after the test that person probably won't remember and one they've done they're going to think I wrote a really good answer to that and they probably did to the question that they were answering it's just not what they were asked so what's your suggestion then what planning obviously the in the number one is to simply read the question very carefully and answer the question that you've been asked don't jump to any conclusions read it very very carefully and then as as the test taker writes the essay they need to be reflecting about what part of this question by answering so they do their introduction they get into their first body paragraph and reflect back on what was the question am i answering some particular part of the question and that step should go on all the time through the essay so when they move to paragraph two what am I now answering my getting more support to this part two the first part of the question or am I now starting to answer the second part of the question so they need to constantly reflect on what am i answering in the essay that I'm writing which part of the am i focusing on yeah yeah yeah that's right and test day is a different day because the pressure the anxiety exactly exactly yeah so you can read something quickly and and think you've understood it and I would include myself in this right it's all I seen that before I understand that now read it carefully because you may not have understood it and just to add a bit the stress of the test they may get to someone so track as a piece of practical advice it is always important to for the candidate just to completely ignore the time constraint for a few minutes and not to worry about the time at all and think critically about a question just look at the question and try to analyze it that for sure is going to save them time when they're actually writing their the answer yes so if they don't spend that three four five minutes at the beginning to completely understand the question and well organize their ideas then it's going to eat up their writing time yeah well if they do it's going to help to speed up their writing so that might help in a sense good one yeah I agree the analogy that I use when I'm talking to my students is your friend has just moved to the other side of the city are you going to use the map or you're gonna get in the car and just use your intuition to get to the other side of the city to find that precise destination so that's a good example exactly you want to map out what you're gonna do first cool yes okay so that's the most common area good one okay Barry you mentioned something about a public ban descriptors and I want to talk about them specifically but what are they first let's define that and the public then descriptors are available originally from IELTS all I think they can be found but I can never find them on the IELTS or website I just Google for IELTS task 2 writing banned descriptors and you'll get them very easily and they are a very accurate reflection of how a candidate is assessed in the exam in fact when I used to train new examiner's I would give them a homework exercise before the training I'm based on the public public ban descriptors and there's really everything that a test taker needs to know in those public band descriptors things like only partially answering a question it will tell you what the penalty is so don't worry about the penalty worry about what you've got to do it means I've got to answer fully what the question is right there's other things related to task one that it tells you clearly in the descriptors right that you must use numbers for example when you answer questions you must have an overview so they're they're extremely useful in knowing exactly what you need to do the problem with the public band descriptors is that they're hard to understand right and you the test taker may need the assistance of an expert like yourself to to help them understand exactly what the different profiles mean at the different levels good yeah well they definitely inform everything we do here at e2 language obviously everything's directed towards them is there a big difference between the public band descriptors and the ones that the examiners use no significant differences between the two everything is there if you wanted a band serve in a band aid even a band nine every piece of information that you need is in the public band descriptors to do that okay okay great cool all right well let's start with the first one which is task achievement risen what does task achievement mean perhaps we should say task response that's fine it's basically in simple language how well you answer the question and that goes back to how well you have understood the question gotcha so any in any IELTS test you're given a question for task two or what we call the prompt and it asks you to do something to express an opinion to compare something to something else or to for example describe two different views and then express your own own opinion it all depends on how well you answer that question and depending on how well or how completely or how fully you have answered that question you will get a for task response okay interesting does your opinion matter like if you have a different opinion to the examiner or something that may offend the examiner for example it does that matter any marked on that necessarily you shouldn't write because it's not a test of your knowledge or what you think it's not a test of your ideas yeah but the thing is that your the opinion you're expressing should be logical enough in light of what you have already put forth yeah so you explain something you describe something you give some ideas within your writing and then you reach some personal opinion as a conclusion for example that should be logical yeah you cannot say something and then something say something else which is completely irrelevant got it okay relevance is key there and given that it's a test situation it's it's it's an it is a structured test situation you wouldn't want to say something outrageous but people are not judged on their ideas that's what I can see good yeah I I I have a personal tendency to get way too philosophical in these exams and sometimes I need to simplify my ideas rather than you know try to impress someone with how outrageous they can be you know that's a really good point in fact because it's possible to get a really good score a very high score in the IELTS exam but being fairly simple and straightforward yes in the response you know making sure you're answering the question that's been asked making sure you're backing up your answer and if you look into public band descriptors at band 7 for task response it talks about expanding on your ideas right so someone who presents for example just a main idea with no support that's not going to get a very high score because it's not supported and tells you that at band 7 right so you've got to have your main ideas and then those ideas have got to be expanded with supporting information and you can do that in a very simple way you don't have to have huge amounts of knowledge to be able to do that but as Reza said it's got to make a logical argument right it can't be internally contradictory for example you asked before about opinion a test taker has got to be consistent in what their opinion is so um you might be asked about the advantages and disadvantages of something and what what's your opinion about these are more advantageous than disadvantages so the test taker in that case would have to talk about both advantages and disadvantages and at the same time make their opinion clear about which side they're on in the argument and you don't need complicated arguments you do that my strong advice would be do it simply I use the example of some of the best writers in English write and write in a simple way that's that easily communicates your ideas yeah clarity clarity exactly all right great fantastic so what about the various prompts that people might see on test I understand there's a variety and we've sort of been able to identify about sort of five main ones would you be able to speak to that sure there are there are a range of questions that get asked I looked at one time few years ago for my own students when I was teaching in Bangkok and I looked at there was about 20 different sorts of questions that were asked now I can't be specific about the kinds of questions that do get asked in the exam but I can tell you that the they are publicly available in in the sense that Cambridge publish IELTS the Cambridge IELTS books numbered one through I don't know what the last one is it's up 1012 somewhere around there now I think and in each one of those books they have four academic tests and to GT a general training tests and the prompts that are used in those books are real test questions and so what you would do if you were a test taker and you wanted to see what's what's the likely form of questions you can be asked you'd go and find the latest issue of one of those Cambridge books and have a look at some of the examples of questions that are in there looked as good and bad information on the Internet yeah my concern is with the terrible information that's out there I've I've read IELTS blog sites that have given sample essays and said it's been nine hmm and it's a string of main ideas and so the ideas are not expanded as we just talked about and and to give that as an example to students is a terrible thing but there's also good information out there as well and just by googling IELTS task 2 writing questions you get literally hundreds and and hundreds of examples and whilst there will be some rubbish among them if you're familiar with what's available in the Cambridge books you'll have a pretty good idea of what form of question gets asked in the exam hmm yeah yeah I spend a lot of time talking to candidates about being careful on on the internet with YouTube or things their friends have told them or even teachers to give them some terrible advice and on that memory I what I see is a teacher a lot is template answers and one of the things I tell my students is structures fine memorizing a structure and si struct everyone you know that's what you're learning in high school that's what you should take in in your mind into the exam but what's you know the difference between a template and a structure can one of you talk to that oh look I certainly used to teach my students structure for essays about and I used to teach students to start with an introduction that addresses both sides of the issue of this two questions you've got our answer and makes your opinion clear right there upfront at the start and then in the body of an essay in the in the paragraph I would tell students have a topic sentence on the paragraph have a couple of main points and have a support one and the support – for each of your main points right now that's that results in for me quite a wordy paragraph of a paragraph that's really a bit too long but it's a basic structure it's a really good structure to use now you could take that model and apply it to any essay question and if you follow it you'll get a fairly good score simply because you've got main ideas and the ideas are developed and provided they're logical and provided they're connected to the question then you're going to score quite well the problem arises when teachers and I've seen teachers do this where they say begin with this sentence hmm and there's a couple of gaps and they say fill the gaps with the main noun from the question you know that is the absolute worst advice even if the candidate is able to do that and pick the right now and so that the sentence actually makes sense anyway at some point the Canada is going to have to use their own language skills to put to put content into the essay and the difference between the learn sentences and their own sentence grammar and structure is going to be plainly obvious it's there's no secret about that it's just you can't do it right and it's the worst possible advice and just as an aside when I was in charge of a DPS Language Centre in Bangkok I would not employ a teacher who did that and if I found a teacher who did it they been warned and if they continued to do it I would not continue to employ them it is it pays a terrible disservice to candidates yeah well yep great advice I agree templates are dangerous you asked about the difference between structures and and templates I would say that candidates or test takers should avoid templates at any cost yeah because as Barry said learning how to structure your writing is the way to go in the sense that you read the question you analyze the question and understand it and ask yourself quite your this question okay I have this are these ideas how should I put them in a good logical order to write a piece yeah and then we've got the the ways of doing it bring in support sentences and things like that now the problem with templates is that I know there's this tendency among some teachers that would categorize different types and then they would ask their students or they would recommend their students to memorize certain templates for example they said that if you've got an agree or disagree question right like this and that's where the danger is because although the prompts might be the same but the idea is that you have to develop are not always the same and you fall into this trap of writing templates reproducing a template which is not suitable to the prom that has been given so practicing structuring your essay is very important but maybe you should all keep your distance from templates and if anyone comes up with the idea that you should stick with the template that I'm giving you be cautious I just add one thing to that it brought back a memory to me where I had a young man in tears in front of me because his school had told him that there were three types of questions type 1 type 2 type 3 and that he needed to learn responses to each type now the Dane you mentioned before about having five main types of question the danger in thinking of IELTS questions as a type is that sometimes they're not sometimes it's a mixture of one type and another and that's why the only advice I ever give to students is read the question and answer the question you'll be able to do that it won't be hard you will be able to do it but if you start with the headache of thinking well what type is this and okay now what do I do how do I answer that time that's a whole lot of extra baggage you've got to carry that may not help you in the end of may actually be a disservice in the end it's quite funny that such a critical piece of advice is answer the question there's such great lengths to sort of memorize things and think themselves under enormous pressure to imagine memorizing a 250-word exactly yeah that's extraordinary instead of remaining flexible answering the question they'll probably do much much better absolutely that's quite funny good one just quickly on word counts what is it important to reach the 250 word it is important in this sense that the the word can of 250 words is an indicator of how much you're probably going to have to ride to produce a good response to the question there's no doubt you can write an answer to an a a task 2 essay in 80 words but we talked about having main points and then developing those main points you're probably not going to be able to do that in 80 words so the the fact that that word count is indicated as 250 words it's a flag to say look you're probably going to need to write this much in order to get a good score on on this task because you're going to need that many words to develop the ideas that you're going to come up with in the essay so it is really important from in that sense because a complaint all parts in fact of the of your response write to help you get a higher score so write to the word length the recommended word length would be my strong advice don't write more right you wouldn't want to go much over 250 words you use the time if you're a really good writer use the time for better planning or for reviewing your work to pick up errors that you might have put in your word in your work it's much better to do that than produce a 500 word essay or a 15 hundred word essay and have lots of little errors that you could have fixed if you'd gone back to look at it so the word count that's given is really important from that perspective it's interesting I've taken both exams paper-based and computer-based and I've noticed that I can type a hell of a lot quicker than I can handwrite so I'm guessing that you're seeing responses that are a lot longer on the computer is that is that right it's not unlikely yeah it's not unlikely what would be good for the candidates to remember that on the computer-based IELTS platform there is no spellcheck so if there are fast typing and they can write long pieces it's always good to pause or to stop before the test finishes and go back and have a look at what they have written get rid of the typos or those spaces that you might have entered we're spacing is not necessary or in things like that you might have created a paragraph which shouldn't be there so in terms of the length yeah if you're good at typing it is you might get carried away and write a 700 piece word if there's no point is there to do that yeah well you can't do it and you won't lose any marks for doing that but there's always the risk the risk is that you may not be clear about everything you have written so you might lose clarity it might affect how you develop your ideas and also the bigger risk is you might create more errors spelling errors grammar errors errors with paragraphing for example as I mentioned punctuation errors it is good to use your time wisely if you can write 250 words which are clear and it gives you some time to go back and review use that time to go back and review instead of writing more good one yeah yeah I found it enormously helpful actually in the computer-based exam I just had more time so I could go back take my time edit make sure there were no errors make sure my ideas were clear make sure I had supported them and had examples so yeah we'll get to the computer-based test at the end I think okay the next criterion is coherence and cohesion can somebody please just explain what does this mean is coherence and cohesion is really looking at how the essay is written how does it hang together does does does it follow logically from paragraph to paragraph from sentence to sentence hour how are the paragraphs linked together how are the sentences linked together is there an internal logic within the entire response so that's what that coherence and cohesion good hearing is looking at okay interesting and okay so we talked about sort of macro structure which I'm guessing it has some bearing here but also micro structure so the way that the paragraphs are structures well what what would be your tip for structuring paragraphs and connecting sentences what's the linguistic aspect that well I've kind of given you the way that I would structure a paragraph I mean different people have different ways of putting paragraphs together this connecting sentences well the important thing there is to make sure that ideas flow smoothly so if you if you're building in a an exception writer using something like however you connect that idea with the one that went before or a consequence of something so using a word like therefore to connect that idea to the to the previous one that that's quite important so that the language flows fairly smoothly through the through the paragraph and it's not just jumping from one idea to another idea so that's one of the things that's measured in CC and pronouns are important here for connecting the noun to the referent pronoun well yes in fact if you look in the public band descriptors it talks about referencing and substitution and that's use of pronouns so that you don't have to repeat the same word over and over again that you you find some other ways of referencing so there's a number of different things that get looked at right one is how how sentences are connected together and then referencing so using pronouns to refer back to maybe the main noun that that's in the sentence in in the essay and substitution which is the same kind of thing but using another word that essentially means the same so all of those things come into that category good you mentioned a couple of discourse markers there however and therefore one of the criterion says something about overuse and under use of discourse markers so sometimes I see essays that are just peppered with discourse markers every every sentence has it therefore as a result you know and I think well too much it's clunky so what's the how do we strike a balance between using discourse markers and using enough of them yeah it's not so often that you'll see essays where you you've got that kind of situation right it's more a case of where you'll have overuse for example we'll link to different ideas together and if I continually say and and and and then that's the clear example of overused alright because I don't have another choice which is also a cohesive device but if the only relative clause structure that I use in the essay is which which which which and then that again is overuse of of that kind of connecting device are you feeling anxious about your upcoming IELTS exam not sure where to start need an extra push or just a reliable person to talk to e to talks are a one-on-one a 45-minute session just you and a dedicated IELTS expert our team has taken the same test as you so they know what you're going through and what's ahead of you we're qualified to give you the right answers all you need to do is ask oconee to tutorial by signing with e tu language today one of the piece of advice that I give is if you're using discourse markers like however and therefore for example is to sometimes put them in the middle of the sentence rather than at the beginning is that a good way to sort of excellent advisor yeah absolutely excellent advice it's it's one of the first examples I used to give to my students in fact in an in a sentence like although it was raining we went swimming now lots of people will put the discourse marker at the beginning of the sentence but of course you can say it the other way around and say we went swimming although it was raining now what the research shows is that higher-level language users will put that discourse marker in the middle of the sentence more frequently than they will put it at the beginning of the sentence in relation to lower-level users of the language so just from a research perspective you know what you probably should do in the arts exam and let's use a mixture of the two approaches so it's excellent advice you're giving good good good next one is everybody's favorite grammar but this criterion is split into two range and accuracy what's what's what is this main range and accuracy well when it comes to range sometimes you can write or you can speak using very simple language in the sense that you can make all your sentences simple sentences without any errors right is that a bad thing not necessarily but for the test that is not a good thing okay because the test is going to see how well you can use language and because of that you have to aim at using both simple structures and complex structures so for example if you say I'm a student I'm studying English at e2 language I love my school so these are three perfectly formed sentences and if all your writing is like that you're not going to get a good mark for your grammar you need to do a bit of work on your grammar in the sense that you have to use subordination for example you have to use some linking words and you have to mix these structures to show that well I can work with different grammar structures so that's when the question of range comes in now you use a different set of structures at the same time you have to be careful not to make a lot of mistakes because it is possible that when we are mixing different elements for example you're writing a passive structure or you're using a second conditional you don't use one of the verb forms correctly that's when accuracy comes in so range is there because we do not use English or any language in simple form all the time yeah so we need some complexity to be able to express complex ideas and that's when we need to write some complex structures so we instead of used making those three sentences that I mentioned we can simply say I go to e to learning language or e to language school to learn English and I'm happy because it's a good school so I have done a very simple way of mixing these structures to make a complex structure just to give you an example and that's how we use the language on an everyday basis the same way we should do it in the test do not stick with simple structures all the time because we feel confident that we are going to produce perfectly well-formed simple structures we need to use different structures and just further to that I mean it might come as a surprise to people that you could write a grammatically perfect essay and get a low score for it but if you did what Reza suggested and use just simple sentences to structure an entire essay and the public ban descriptors will tell you that you're going to get banned for for that because it banned for and grammar range and accuracy it says subordination is rare so if there's no subordination at all it's absolutely is rare and you're going to get banned for for your grammar even though every sentence was perfectly correct but the range wasn't there just briefly described subordination to the audience and the concept of subordination is that you can fit more information into a shorter sentence and there's different forms of it so relative clauses are one example so I like food which is hot mmm I like food which is spicy that's a relative clause it actually does exactly the same job as I like spicy food but that's a more complex structure and puts more information into that sentence so you've got relative clause type subordination and then you've got other subordinate structures like the use of although that I did before although it was raining we went swimming anyway and then you've got choices about where you put the subordinating conjunction at the beginning or in the middle of the structure so that's a couple of different examples of subordination there are a number of others but those are two very common ones well advice would you give to somebody who's grammar is not that good should they be focusing more on accuracy or should they still try to extend themselves a little bit with range yeah good question both of those things matter and they made it equally okay I'm so you can't get a high school if you've got one and not the other I mean a candidate might have a huge range of sentence structures and they know it will be wrong and that's going to bring their score way down the range might be good enough to get a band-aid but if nothing is correct now they're going to be very much lower than that maybe as well as a band for so both things matter you can't consider one without the other but the range is absolutely important as we saw with that criterion at band or that says without subordination you won't go above band four so there's lesson number one I've got to learn some subordination and I can't memorize that I've got to actually learn how to do it that's right that's right because it has to express an idea that's right yeah yes okay great interesting alright and the last criterion is lexical resource which is a complicated phrase for vocabulary right so again with vocabulary as I understand it they need to have precision and range and one of the problems that we have with actually there's problems with both of those I see a lot of essays that have words that people have tried to put in there because they sound fancy can you just talk about precision for a second look with lexical resource it's very similar to grammar range and accuracy because two things are important one is the accuracy and the other one is the range and you're dead right that an essay can be peppered with very high level vocab that may or may not fit in the essay and we see lots of examples of high level vocab that actually doesn't it's not used correctly it's not doesn't fit in the particular essay and so so that's that score is going to come down because of that because it fails to be accurate yes it's got some high level vocab but that's not good enough it's not enough to simply learn high level vocab it's got to be used accurately in in the essay so you know I've certainly met students that have been told by teachers to learn okay there's a few YouTube videos out there that say use these five words to Kanaya eight yes it's terrible terrible advice yeah and again you know I think the research shows that on average in English native speakers use about 4,000 words per month or so in their normal language native English speakers actually don't use huge numbers of high-level words and if you read newspapers and magazines you can often tell before you look at the author whether they were a native speaker or not because non speakers will use much better vocab than native speakers will in their writing look having a wide range of vocab is a really good thing right learning new words all the time is a really good thing but you only use the language you need in in the test that answer the question that's in front of you and if you've got some really good vocab that you can use in that process and you know for sure that it fits exactly the the purpose that you want it for then use it right go ahead and use it but don't try to learn a series of words and then put them into an essay regardless right sure go away and learn bow can but don't automatically try to squash it into any essay question you can and just to add a bit to what Barry said when candidates want to get better scores at higher levels and they are thinking about how to use words one of the things they have to be careful about is collocation tense what shows whether you can use language precisely or not I can give you a simple example for example you're talking about your experience at a supermarket and talking about the items and you want to say that things were expensive I'm using pretty simple language here things were expensive I can say well the cost of the items were high so I'm using slightly more complex vocabulary because I'm using cost and high now I might try to use more complex language but I may not use it precisely for example I might say the costs were lucrative while I should have said well actually the cost were exorbitant so that's where the precision comes through I might use a bit of a range there in using lucrative or I don't know things along those lines if I have memorized lists of synonyms but I may not use them precisely so it is important to use the words precisely what sits with what so what word goes with what other word which noun goes with what other for example adjectives or which adjective goes with which none that's where the precision comes I had a student recently three two language who couldn't pass his writing and I looked at his writing and his command of English was excellent and what he'd done is he'd taken collocations natural sounding phrases and he'd changed them by putting a more fancier word in because he thought he did a higher score and and it ruined this sort of naturalness natural you know the language didn't sound natural anymore when in fact he should have just used the simpler collocation yeah I mean that was actually his era that was his era that was it was a point five difference that he couldn't get and it was simply noticing that okay this is what you your little issue is but it's actually having a profound effect on the readability of your essay because yeah I'd have to read his paragraphs twice three times and think oh okay what he's trying to say is this but he's changed the collocation okay interesting one of the questions that I have from students all the time is about synonyms and people get quite obsessed with you know there'll be a key word in the prompt and now they'll you know they'll try not to mention that same word twice and they'll come up with a range of synonyms and of course imprecision kicks in and the other thing is that I've found is some words don't actually have synonyms like the work child for example or high school it's very difficult create synonyms what should a candidate do there well they shouldn't create synonyms that don't fit so words like those and there's some technical words to that you you probably wouldn't try to find a synonym for so it is important to vary language where you can write so for example in a task one a test taker might say that the sales of apples go up and every time they talk about an increase they use the that language go up and go up go up and that indicates they've got no other way to describe that and so that's a weakness in their language whereas there's a whole lot of other words that they could have used to mean an increase and and then what part of an increase it was so in those sorts of obvious cases yes the same word should not be repeated but where it's a more technical word like a high school for example or a child I mean you can replace child with young person but young person is maybe a bigger range then than child I wouldn't try it into it do it where it's possible and sensible to do it and not in other cases actually you know you talked about my experience in physics before when I changed from physics to writing articles in fact for newspapers and magazines I did some work on how I should best be able to write and I read a book that was written by I think was the then editor of The Wall Street Journal when it was a good newspaper and he talked about a journalist who was writing a story about a company in Central America that produced bananas and at one stage in the in the article he talked about the bent yellow fruit so they didn't have to reuse the banana and that's a classic example you know that actually in professional writing a main noun might get reused multiple times and in the case of a banana what else do you say that's right and the other thing is that I know some candidates are worried about copying or about not copying the actual question onto their response and well they're supposed not to do that but that fear gets them into using synonyms for every single word that is used in the in the question through and then they end up having written a sentence which doesn't make sense so if they want to paraphrase the question material and write it back onto their response perhaps it's better not to look back a lot read a question try to remember the idea and then use your own language to produce it and if you want to use synonyms perhaps use synonyms for adjectives and adverbs okay if you focus on the nouns well you will be struggling to find a synonym for metropolis or big cities or I don't know children you would be struggling for them because these are words that are commonly used repetitively so that's one thing to remember which might help just just last thing on this is what about word forms of if I use the word popular and I don't want to use the word popular again but I use the word popularity is that considered a range of vocabulary restructuring the word is fine in the test I mean even you see you'll see test takers do that where they restructure the the words that are in the rubric itself in the in the prompt itself and that's regarded as fine if the test taker does say yeah that's good yeah paraphrase good paraphrase all right so that's we've just spoken about the criteria and the criteria really encompass everything there's the is there anything else outside the criteria that the candidate needs to be aware of or is everything in there I suppose there's always the psychological aspects but yeah I mean probably that advice about just being a little bit relaxed don't I know you know that's useless advice coming from me when your your whole life might depend on to score you you're trying to get in the exam you your visa or your university entrance right it's it's high stakes for a lot of test takers so for me to say relax it's pretty useless but that's kind of what you've got to train yourself to do because I know when I'm at an airport I lose my passport every time I go to the airport because I put it in a pocket somewhere I forget which pocket I put it in and I panic and and then I can't find it and it's kind of that situation right that you've just got to calm yourself down a little bit so you don't get caught out by miss reading a question in the test that that's really important advice not easy I'm not suggesting it's an easy thing to do and and some people suffer worse than others as well in test situations so it's difficult but certainly you've got to somehow calm yourself down so you can read carefully what you being asked to do reading can actually really help if you actually sort of instead of focusing on yourself focused and trying to understand that prompting you sort of forget your anxiety for something exactly yeah I agree we buried that it's a tough task to not be stressed when you're actually going to do a test which might have a big impact on your life but still it is very important to be relaxed a piece of advice that are used to give to my students and I followed it myself I do follow it whenever I have to see the test not I ask though is that if you can't afford to spend the day before the test or maybe one afternoon before the test if you're going to do the test in the morning the day after just do nothing with the test try to enjoy English in the sense that read what you enjoy watch the movie that you enjoy listen to the podcast that you enjoy talk to the people you like in English and that puts you in the right headspace it activates everything that you have learned and it keeps you sharp for the test day so if you are interested in reading novels just just pick a good novel read a good magazine that you like or as I said go out with friends have a good chat in English that helps you unwind a bit before the tests good one yeah yeah and I'll just add a couple of things because having set this test myself a big breakfast is important because this is it's a bit of a marathon on test day it's good how long is it two and a half three hours there's nearly three hours the written ban yeah I mentioned we're burning a lot of energy so if you go with an empty stomach that's not good and that can also increase anxiety as well so a nice big breakfast is a good idea the other thing that I'll sort of sprue key to language here is we're running these live online classes for writing and we do sort of mock tests where you'll be safe you're at home in front of on your couch with your laptop but we put you under time to pressure and that's excellent because you get to you get to go through that whole process of planning and writing excuse me I need to Pacific board that's excellent advice actually yeah I've seen this in in practice where I've had students in class who wrote every time they wrote for me they wrote absolutely excellent essays hmm and the problem was the time when they meant to do an exam they were getting banned files constantly and it turned out that they were spending three to four times the amount of time writing their essay when they were doing them for me than they had in the exam so the ability to write the essay in the allowed time that's really important to practice doing that and be it's you know when you're doing it on your own it's really easy to give yourself an hour for a task – well you're gonna have 40 minutes approximately for a task – in about 20 minutes for a task one is the way that you're kind of should split up your time and you need to practice writing – those requirements now what I used to do with students is I would give them exactly 40 minutes for a task – or 20 minutes for a task 1 and they'd have to stop writing at that point and then yes I would have to be rewritten from scratch and if you do that you don't have to do that a huge number of times you're not doing that for a month you you you will increase your speed of putting your ideas together fairly quickly if you do it that way then if you write for an hour and say okay well next time I'll write for 50 minutes don't do that give yourself just the time that you're going to have in the exam to practice it putting your essay together one of the shocks that I had on test day was writing with the paper based exam was writing with a pencil – so if you are taking the paper-based exam don't type your essays as practice exactly write them by hand because you know you know we–you may not have done that for a long time so you know you know feeling that muscle in your hand going oh my god yeah so that's and also if you're doing the the paper-based test Australia we don't do that anymore but if you are doing a paper-based test use the paper that they use in the test event you can download it from my asad all the samples on there so download it and use that paper it also gives you a good idea of your word count exactly yeah yeah yeah all right so everything we've spoken about it's been about writing tasks – what what applies to writing task 1 the letter for general or the graph description or image description for academic pretty much everything that we've said applies for example in the letter for general training there'll be three dot points that have to be addressed there might be multiple parts within a dot point and as we said before read the question and answer the question so that means that you're going to answer three dot points don't answer to the penalty for answering to and the public band descriptors tell you is banned for so make sure you fully answer the question with academic I would say the same thing make sure you're answering the question but here life is a little bit more complicated because you have graphs and diagrams and all sorts of things that you can get asked but there's additional things to worry about too and the public bad descriptors point this out for example they tell you that at band 5 if you don't have an overview sort of a summary statement of what does this data show that will get been fine in the exam so you know you can be a native speaker and certainly when I began to look at IELTS it's not something I would have automatically done written an overview that would have gotten me a high score but that's a requirement in the exam and the public ban descriptors make it clear it's also possible to write a really good answer to a task one and not use a single number but give a good indication of what's been happening and if you do that in the exam again the public ban descriptors tell you you will get banned five for doing it you must support your answer with data from from the graph or diagram whatever it is that you're looking at so those are a couple of things or overviews and data that candidates miss quite regularly and and I mean quite good candidates can miss those things there's a lot juggle isn't there in it from this conversation I've sort of realized the importance of getting somebody who fully understands the public band descriptors and puts it into a good teaching practice for you because I imagine there are a lot of good writers who aren't getting the scores they need simply because they're just not paying attention or they haven't been taught the right information yeah look that's right and I mentioned before how I had used the public band descriptors as a homework exercise for a group of examiner trainees and to my surprise when we began the training to a man they told me and to women in the group they all told me that they didn't understand the public band descriptors and yet every one of those people were teaching IELTS prep and I asked them how can you teach a prep course if you don't understand the public band descriptors so just because somebody tells you that look I teach IELTS to people it doesn't guarantee that you're going to get good advice right you really need someone who knows what I do who's really spent the time and delved into the descriptors to understand them – to help give the clarity to them that's needed to get a good score in the exam as I said earlier all the information you need to get a really high score is available there in the public band descriptors but every word means something that's right you need somebody to translate it almost because there's a lot of technical linguistic jargon in there like subordination yes if you miss that would you know the impact can be enormous yeah great so yeah I'm comfortable everything we do here at e2 language our teachers know all of this back to front and we also have the ability to explain it in a way that the candidate can understand without the technical NSTIC jogging's they after the exam they they don't need to know what subordination is anymore exactly good I just thought lastly we're talking about the what I think is really exciting developments with the IELTS is the computer-based test I've taken this test and I thought it was it was a great experience it was really comfortable it was convenient I thought because of the the environment the test was still challenging but I thought it was a simpler experience so Reza I understand you're sort of managing part of this and I also understand that there's now I just read yesterday there's 55 computer-based testing centers around the world right yes and growing well as you said it's a different experience for and I assume for some or many candidates it might be a less daunting experience and more familiar experience of sitting behind the computer screen and doing things they may like the cleaner shape of things you just type in your responses and they go away yeah and you can deal with the next part when it comes to the writing section of the test and I think I already mentioned this it's not different to the paper-based Isles in the sense that the questions are the same the word length that you have to stick to is the same and you have to you will be assessed on the very same criteria for which the paper-based scripts are assessed perhaps the only thing you should be mindful of is that because the platform is different and now you're typing you need a different set of skills if you are not particularly good at typing you might be at a disadvantage or if you are particularly good at typing you might produce long responses that may contain spelling errors for example and the test platform doesn't have a spellcheck so you might confidently taught a lot of words without thinking that a word well I may have missed spelt certain words there and that's not a good risk to take well apart from that I don't think there is much to add it's essentially the same thing it's just the convenience of doing it on the screen and also the advantage of getting this course or do report form a bit earlier than you would in a paper-based test right yep so you guys are happy with the way the computer-based test is rolling up the success of it and yeah it's been ramping up fairly quickly in fact it's it's much better from our perspective because it's typed and we don't have to worry about reading handwriting which can be struggled as struggle to do that at times the other thing that I'd add with with the computer-based is is soon as Reza said do need to concern themselves about their typing skills to some extent so how do you show a paragraph right what should you do at the end of a sentence those sorts of technical things if you're not used to typing they they should be a concern and make sure you find out about those things before I'm doing the test because it can lead someone for example it's return at the end of every sentence then now they've created paragraphs right now if it's the only thing they do throughout the essay then that would be an issue for examples so there are some additional skills but as you mentioned before about being able to type more quickly than you can write by hand that's certainly in general the case and so we tend to see longer our responses to questions and as we said before you don't need to go much over 250 words you know in a task to to be happy with the content of your answer make sure you see the test takers got some time to review what they've done and particularly to pick up things like typos and other errors that they might have made cool good stuff great well thanks very much for coming down and appreciate enormously all right yeah thanks for the opportunity and thank you also for the work you do in in making visible the and transparent through the rules by which the the exam is marked we think that is extremely important so well done from your end thank you it's good to be here thank you thanks for listening to e to talks next month J talks with Alex e to expert teacher about e to school remember to check out ET language comm for all your test prep needs Thanks

32 Replies to “Conquer IELTS Writing Task 2 w/ Barrie Brown & Reza Tasviri from IDP – E2Talks #3”

  1. Thank you for this nice podcast. I have got another question , what score is rewarded for a memorized or off topic essay with good CC, LR, and GA ? What it be say (0+7+7+7)/4=5.5 ?

  2. Hello jaaaaay 😍
    I watched most of Ur videos they are awesome
    And I wanted to thank U my scores have increased like crazy!
    Recently i took a mock and the results were unbelievable!!!
    R:5.5(Timing Problem yet)
    And i achieved these without test takings and just watching ur videos
    TnXx ♥️

  3. Listening 8 Reading 8.5 writing 6.5 Speaking 8 Overall 8. Thank you so much Jay for these videos. I only prepared a week and mainly through watching YouTube videos.

    They asked me about my favorite music band in speaking part two. I used the past present future technique and also talked about 3 different bands. Part 1 was about my accomodation and part 3 was also something related with music.

  4. Hi there. Thanks so much for the useful tips. My question is if we could make up statistics and research or scientists who don’t actually exist to support our opinions in writing?

  5. Hey i want to thank Jay and Alex for all their efforts just to help examinees like me who does self review for ielts only in their spare time from work. Every tip really counts. Band 7.5, SWR-7.5,L-6.5.

  6. Great Jay:) I like everything you do.
    Greetings from the Netherlands.
    My IELTS exam on the 7th of July. Hope I will get it.

  7. Hi guys, i just received my ielts result
    L=9, R=8.5, S =8, W = 6
    I am devastated with my writing score. I know that I had written well in the exam. Is applying for a remark good idea? I need minimum 6.5 in W.

  8. I have been teaching ESL/EFL for more than 17 years, but I should honestly confess that your methods have brought a lot of new things for me. I really appreciate it. Good luck!

  9. Hello sir thanks a lot for ur advice i am glad to tell u that i got 8877 in one go thats just bcoz of u really you are great teacher and all those reading my comments please go as per his advice.You will definitely get the desired scores.

  10. First of all, a big thanx to Jay for this podcast. System – Markings are more clear now. Questions asked by you have solved all the doubts pertaining to public band descriptors. Thanx again!

    People, start sharing this with everyone who's preparing for IELTS.

  11. Thanks E2. Got introduced to your site a week before my exam. Just checked my results: overall 8.5 L 8.5 R 9 W 8.5 S 8.5.

    Thanks. I highly recommend this site.

  12. I just want to send my thanks to Jay & the channel as i got an overall of 8.0 (listening 8.5, speaking 8.5, reading 8.5 & writing 7.0) (Exam date: 11th of May 2019). The writing tips (on structure) most especially were vital in helping me get that score. I am going to recommend you to my family & friends. Great job and thanks again. Love from Abuja, Nigeria.

  13. hye Jay
    I am from india. I got less marks because of irrelevant ideas. please suggest. how to represent ideas as relevant

  14. Is it true that ielts has turned to a money-making test and intentionally instruct examiners not to pass students and ensure that one aspect of the test is failed and will only pass such student if he or she contests the result? This is all I've been hearing though my love for ielts remains. This breaks my heart. I'm beginning to believe that's true because that's exactly what I'm going through.

  15. thats helpful .. dont be stressed and dont use high vocab it will mess up ur essay and dont worry too much abt it …. drink alcohal before exam that will keep you away from stress and you can also recall lot of ides even coco is much better

  16. My honest advice for you my brothers and sisters is go for any other possible exam Oet PTE tofel are all good and accepted , ielts is subjective rather than being objective.
    I won’t deny it , It’s really rewarding getting the aimed score but it would be better considering other possibilities

  17. Thank you Jay, Barrie and Reza for this insightful podcast. It has helped me understand better the requirements. I did attempt IELTS before and scored a 6 in writing. E2 is incredible in helping me learn better so far for my second attempt. I hope by the time of my test, I become more confident of my writing skills. Thank you all once again.

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