IELTS General Writing: things to avoid

Here are some mistakes that you should avoid in writing task 1 of the GT test:

  1. The beginning and ending of the letter don't match.
  2. The main purpose of the letter isn't clear.
  3. You didn't cover all of the points.
  4. You wrote too much about one point, and neglected the others.
  5. You didn't separate your paragraphs clearly.
  6. You didn't get the 'tone' right (formal or informal).
  7. The letter doesn't 'flow' well because ideas are badly organised.

Avoid these mistakes, and you are on the way to writing a good letter!

Do computers mark tests?

A few students have asked me this question:

Are reading and listening tests marked by a computer?

I've checked several official IELTS sources, and the answer seems to be "no". All 4 parts of the test are marked by trained human examiners.

How to use a private teacher

If you have the chance to take some lessons with a private teacher, here are some tips for writing and speaking:

  • Ask the teacher to identify your problem areas. Focus on improving those things first.
  • First, work together on 'big things' like overall essay structure, paragraphs or making sure you answer the question. Only work on 'small things' like grammar mistakes when you have perfected the big things.
  • Ask your teacher to write a full essay in front of you. Watch how she does it, and ask her to explain what she is thinking as she writes it.
  • Ask your teacher to mark your essays in front of you, and ask her to explain each correction.
  • When you practise questions for the speaking test, ask your teacher to play the part of the student. Record her answers and listen to them at home. Try to copy some of the phrases she used.
  • Practise doing speaking tests, and always ask the teacher for feedback: what did you do that was good, and how could you improve your answers?

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Extra help

Several students have emailed me recently asking for extra help. Unfortunately, if you don't live in Melbourne, I'm afraid it's impossible for me to teach people by email or Skype.

When people ask for extra help, my usual advice is to find a teacher who can help you one-to-one. Books or websites can be a great source of advice and practice materials, but only a teacher can give you personalised feedback.

If you find a 'private' teacher, I suggest you spend most of your lesson time either analysing your essays (to see how you can improve them) or practising your answers for speaking questions. (Ads — we do have many great teachers in 51ielts training center)