Analysing paragraphs for Task 2 IELTS – lesson 2

Analysing paragraphs for Task 2 IELTS – lesson 2

We have already posted a number of pages about improving your writing in the IELTS test (see Writing more academically, Avoiding pronouns and Using the correct register).

In these lessons, we will be looking at specific paragraphs and how they can be improved.

The paragraph is from an answer about whether formal tests are a good measure of English language ability:

Student answer:

Analysing paragraphs for Task 2 IELTS - lesson 2The International English Language Testing System IELTS is a really good measure of ability in English. They developed the first test in the early 1960s. You can do two types of test; Academic, if you want to study in English, and General Training for people who want to live in a country that speaks English as its first language. The examiners assess four different things and it is not marked by a computer, so it’s better.

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On the negative side:

The main problem here is that the paragraph reads like an instructional leaflet, not a formal Task 2 response. The only reference back to the question is in the first sentence, and that is copied directly from the title. The paragraph does not have a suitable register. Phrases like ‘really good’ and ‘different things’ should definitely be avoided in Task 2. Although the grammar is accurate, it is basic, with simple, active phrases being used (‘They developed the first test’) where a passive sentence would have been better (‘The first test was developed’). The writer has used personal pronouns (‘You’) which would have been better presented as third person structures (‘test takers’ or ‘candidates’). The candidate has also used contractions (it’s) which should be avoided in formal writing.

On the positive side:

The paragraph has a mix of simple and complex sentences and there is some good punctuation. There are no grammatical errors and the meaning of each sentence is clear.

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So how could this have been improved?

One common testing method that is used is the International English Language Testing System IELTS, which many believe is a reliable standard to benchmark language skills.  Developed in the 1960s and with two options available, the test could be said to be effective because it has both history and a range of options. Abilities are assessed based on four criteria and are evaluated by examiners, not automated systems, which arguably makes it more effective than other testing systems.

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