memorised phrases in the IELTS exam

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It is common for students to express concern that the use of set formats and memorised phrases like the three types of essays recommended by ieltsanswers.com will adversely impact upon the quality of their work.  In this article, I will discuss the rational for advocating the use of the set essay formats.

Recently a student asked the following question:
“In the IELTS test Chinese students always get lower marks for their writing.  People say that it is because they all use a similar essay format. So, I wonder if the examiner will deduct marks for using the three types of essays formats recommended by ieltsanswers.com?”

Applying and following the correct essay format should not be confused with the use of set phrases.  The statement is more likely to apply to the tendency of some non-native English speakers to learn certain phrases so that they can reproduce them parrot fashion as a penchant to address a range of different subjects. One example of this is often, no matter what the topic, the student commences every essay with ‘Nowadays one of the most controversial arguments’.  When in fact the statement was about a view that some people have had in the past.  Most controversial arguments, implies an extreme viewpoint expressed in an atmosphere of aggressive conflict and this is not the case with every IELTS task.

Similarly, students might also learn certain words which they also try to apply without really considering whether they are actually suitable for the context.  This impacts on the examiners perception of the work in two ways.  The first consequence is that the examiner has most likely seen the same word, used incorrectly and out of context, to address the same topic, by at least 30% of the work originating from the test that is being marked.  This does adversely on the perception of the respondent’s ability to communicate.  Secondly, incorrectly applied words highlight a lack of lexical resources and a lack of accurate or precise language use.  For instance, the word thus is often used, which originates from old English and is more suited for use in a legal document of a theatrical play.  More elegant alternatives which demonstrates contemporary use of formal English would be therefore or consequently.

Following a set format is a way to control risk and provide guidance during the stress of the test.   That is distinct from a template of words and phrases.  To illustrate this point, consider a large organisation. It is customary for procedures to be in place which provide staff with direction and guidance.  In the event of an emergency, procedures will provide a strategic framework for the management of that crisis situation. The guideline might not be the best or most suitable for every crisis but it will help the decision makers with routine decisions so they can concentrate on the main issues.  So, the  three types of essays advocated are much like the crisis management procedures.

The IELTS test is stressful.  The topic needs to be understood and your answer should be planned and delivered in an expeditious manner.  Using the three types of essays will help with routine matters such as style and framework while you can work on showcasing your talent.

Written by Alain Montocchio

writing correction ielts

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