Moving from 6.5 to 7 in IELTS writing is a hot topic. Falling short of a required band score is a common problem for IELTS test takers. This is particularly true for people who go in “blind” without preparing in advance. And because it is not possible to take just one of the four sub-tests in isolation, if you miss the mark on one of these, you have to re-register for the entire exam. If you have already taken the test and fallen short by half a point in your IELTS writing test, you are in the right place, and we need to talk. If you have not yet taken the test, this article will help you avoid some common pitfalls.
We’ve asked our academic team to give us feedback on the most common errors they see in writing samples. We’ve done our best to compile them here, but it’s a long list, and we will not be able to do all of the points justice. Once you’ve read it, you should get in touch so that the process of improving your writing can begin. Before we look at exactly what a band 7 means in IELTS writing, let’s dispel some common misconceptions.
“IELTS Writing is Unfair”
Because IELTS involves an investment of money, time and effort, it’s understandable that people get frustrated. But the fact is, IELTS remains the gold standard in English language proficiency. What is more, the countries that rely on IELTS as part of their immigration policy are thirsty for immigrants. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense that these countries would rely on a vetting mechanism (IELTS) that puts up unnecessary barriers to prospective applicants. In truth, IELTS has earned its global recognition precisely because it is fair, value-neutral and as objective as any test can possibly be. The visa requirements of the many countries who accept IELTS are not likely to change for the foreseeable future. However, something that can change is the degree to which your writing satisfies the stringent requirements of this test.
“I’m Giving Up, it’s Pointless”
This is another fruitless (and false) notion that people often develop before finding Highway IELTS. You must bear in mind that you are definitely not alone, and that people of all educational levels might encounter difficulty clearing this test. The committees that design the IELTS test do so under strict regulation to ensure fairness and consistency. As a result, the marking rubrics for the writing test in particular are extremely thorough and precise. By learning what these rubrics require, then using them to determine what is missing in your writing, we can help you bridge the gap between a 6.5 and the 7 that you need to launch your new career and life. Let’s take a look at them in detail.
IELTS Writing Rubrics for Band 7: Task 1
The examiner rubric for task 1, outlines what a candidate needs to do at every band score level. Let’s look at the row for band 7, General Training:
- Cover task requirements
- Cover bullet points in the question
- Have a clear purpose
- Use an appropriate tone
These four points constitute Task Achievement column. In your writing, did you cover the requirements? These requirements are that you must write a letter to the specified recipient in response to the scenario that the question describes. Did you cover the bullet points? This is not optional. If you leave any of these points out, you will receive a heavy penalty. Importantly, you must never use bullet points yourself. Were your purpose and tone fit to the task? If it’s a letter of complaint, it should sound like one. If you are writing to a friend, you should use language in a friendly and personal way (though not slang). You can find a more detailed discussion of these points here.
For Academic, it’s not very different, except that you need to include an overview. This involves giving a brief, succinct summary of the data in one or two sentences. Getting this right can make a big difference, because the difference between a 6 and 7 revolves around the word “clear”. If your overview is not “clear”, you cannot warrant a 7. For an extended discussion of overviews, watch this. For both genera training and academic tests, bear in mind that the question type you got in your exam could be different the second time round. It’s essential that you prepare in a comprehensive way so that you can anticipate all question types.
Is this Different for Task 2?
For IELTS writing task 2, academic and general training, you have to take a position on the topic, extend it and defend it. One very common mistake that people make here is inserting information that is not strictly relevant to the topic at hand. You will notice that the presence of irrelevant material will lock you below 7 for Task Achievement.
It’s surprisingly easy to do this. Imagine you are writing an essay on national parks. You begin by focusing on this issue, but at some point your strong feelings about animal captivity begin to surface. This prompts to relate an experience of seeing a lion in a small enclosure in a zoo. At this point you might launch into an elegant polemic about zoos, but this wasn’t what you were asked to do.
Sitting on the Fence in IELTS Writing Task 2
Another prevalent mistake is the tendency to avoid taking a clear position. Sometimes people do this because they feel that it shows sophistication or intelligence if they are excessively balanced and fair. This may well be true, but IELTS does not measure your intelligence or state of mind. Task 2 does measure your ability to interpret instructions and write to a plan. If the question asks you to present your point of view, a failure to do so in a clear way will mean you haven’t met the requirements.
Additional Features of a Band 7 Score (All Tasks)
If you cast your eyes across the row for band 7, you will notice terms like “logically organize” and “cohesive devices” in the second column. This part of the rubric assesses how well your writing flows. If you read a text that doesn’t do this well, you will feel like you have been speaking to a robot:
The government should tax addictive substances. People will get rehabilitation from the government.
Siri can get away with talking like this, but you can’t. You need to include words that link your ideas together:
The government should tax addictive substances so that it can raise revenue to fund rehabilitation projects.
This is not always easy to get right, and it takes practice. This is especially true for people who have been out of school for a long time, or whose work lives don’t typically involve writing prose. You can read a lengthier discussion here. For many people, this aspect of the rubric has been their downfall in moving from a 6.5 to 7 in IELTS Writing.
The Nuts and Bolts: Vocabulary and Grammar
For both tasks, vocabulary (lexical resource) and grammar (grammatical range and accuracy) are important. This makes sense, because these are the fundamental categories of human language. Thankfully, a band 7 does not require total perfection and accuracy. Rather, it places a premium on variety and range. If you want to move from 6.5 to 7 in IELTS writing, you might need to take some risks.
Mixing it up
You might be absolutely certain that you had no spelling or grammar mistakes in your IELTS writing test, and you may be right. But this isn’t enough. Notice that the rubric actually allows some leeway when it comes to both of these. But even more importantly, the examiner needs to see variety. It’s good to talk about a “substantial increase”, and phrases like this will definitely add to the effectiveness of your writing. However, if you use the same phrase repetitively, the examiner might begin to suspect you don’t have any other tricks up your sleeve, or that you may have memorized a script.
The rubrics for a band 7 explicitly state that you need to show “flexibility”, “precision” and an “awareness of style”. We discussed what this means in considerable detail. In the grammar column, you will receive a reward for using a variety of structures. Furthermore, at a band 7, there is still some tolerance for error; you simply need to produce “frequent” error-free sentences. This should make it clear that you need to be adventurous and you may even profit from taking some risks. We discussed another essential element of writing, punctuation, here.
The Road from 6.5 to 7 in IELTS Writing
If you have fallen short of your IELTS goals and you are stuck on a 6 or 6.5, it’s essential that you find out why. Our academic team can help you spot what is lacking in your writing and guide you towards more effective and efficient habits. The very first step you need to take is to have one of our academic team assess a writing piece. Thereafter, we will be in a position to advise you on what your next step should be. The good news is that this varies from person to person. For some, it’s simply a matter of making a minor tweak or adding something that had been overlooked. For other people, it can be more complex, but Highway IELTS is ready to meet you where you are and help you complete your IELTS journey.