By ieltsetc on 6
Good IELTS writing correction services are expensive, and so they should be.
Writing correction and feedback takes time and requires a good knowledge of the test (ideally it should be done by an examiner, who knows the Band Criteria well).
But is there another way?
There is a theory that if you work out a solution to a problem by yourself, you are more likely to understand it and retain the information long-term.
In this blog and video, I look at some research that’s been done about the best way to learn from your mistakes – and the answers may surprise you.
Scroll down to find 3 examples of how I changed my students’ scores from Band 6 to Band 7.
Also, read my blog about the best AI online IELTS writing checkers.
3 ways to edit and check your own writing
In the Members Academy, I train my members to self-correct before submitting their essays for feedback.
There are 3 free ways you can do this:
1. Type your essays in a Google docor aWord Document.
They will highlight your mistakes and suggest corrections. Keep your own Google Doc to type on, like we do in the Members Academy, and you will start to notice common errors.
2. Use an app like Grammarly, Grammarcheck.netor ProWritingAid.
These will make suggestions about your writing but do be careful – they don’t like formal language.
So if you write something in the passive, they will suggest that you turn it to the active. In Writing Task 2 you need to write with the passive and be formal.
3. Use a VirtualWritingTutor.com website or my favourite Ludwig Guru
Ludwig Guru tells you if a word or phrase is correct by showing you all the correct examples it has found. It’s also useful if you’re not sure whether a collocation is possible or whether something you read/hear is in common use.
Using a learner dictionary
A student recently asked me to explain the difference between ‘awareness’ and ‘consciousness’.
If you ask someone to explain a difference they will probably say ‘Hmm. Hang on a minute. Let me think. Ooooh, I don’t know. Well, I suppose they’re quite similar or, I don’t know, maybe…’
They cannot give you as accurate an answer as you would find in an online dictionary, which will give you accurate examples, accurate models and clear differences.
If you use a learner dictionary like the Longman Online Dictionary, it’s designed for learners it will know if there’s an important difference, and it will tell you be careful.
For example, there’s a difference between ‘work’ (uncountable) and ‘a job’, which is countable, and the Learner Dictionary knows that this is a really common mistake. It will point that you to you.
And because you’re doing that research yourself, you will remember it.
There’s evidence that is much better, long term, for the student to do their own research because it will help them and build their independent learning skills
Other useful tools
(See the Writing Links Page for a full list)
Netspeak.org helps you to search for words you don’t know, yet. It is a new kind of dictionary that contains everything that has ever been written on the web.
Just-the-word.com is a tool that can help you choose the right wordsand phrases in English. It can also help you correct your writing mistakes. It is a combination of dictionary and thesaurus, and is very useful for learning collocations.
Words-to-use.com – ‘a new kind of word reference that can help you write about anything! Unlike a thesaurus, which groups words by their meaning, we group subject-related words by parts of speech.’
Sentence Dictionaries like Sentencedict.com: an ‘online sentence dictionary, on which you can find good sentence examples for almost every word.’
sentence.yourdictionary.com: ‘With this sentence maker, simply type a word in the search bar and see a variety of sentences with that word used in its different ways. Our sentence generator can provide more context and relevance, ensuring you use a word the right way.’
My new favourite (free) tool is Wordtune which magically suggests better sentences!
How can I help you achieve Writing Band 7+?
Example 1: Academic Task 1
Look at this extract from my student’s Task 1. What score would you give it?
‘It is clear that sales of VHS tapes fell, whereas sales of DVD discs saw a rise followed by a decrease. Blu-ray discs also experienced an increase in sales’.
It’s a strong 6 but not a 7. Why? Because it’s safe, accurate but lacking in description.
What can the student do to make it a Band 7?
Here’s how I helped my student – what words could you put to replace the question marks?
‘It is clear that sales of VHS tapes fell [?], whereas sales of DVD discs saw a [?] rise followed by a [?] decrease. Blu-ray discs also experienced a [?] increase in sales’.
By adding adjectives and adverbs (more description), the Band score increased to 7.
‘It is clear that sales of VHS tapes fell [dramatically], whereas sales of DVD discs saw a [steep] rise followed by a [slight] decrease. Blu-ray discs also experienced a [noticeable] increase in sales’.
Example 2: General Training Task 1
The second example is General Training. And it’s the most common mistake I see.
This one got a Band 6. Why?
‘Hi, Jane, How’s it going? Good to know that you passed your uni exams. I am very excited to hear about your plans and glad that you are coming to visit me in summer. However, unfortunately, I am not available at that time and I apologize for any inconvenience caused’.
What do you notice? How could you improve it?
There’s a huge clash between the informal, friendly beginning and the formal ‘however’, ‘unfortunately’, ‘I apologize’ ‘inconvenience’. This inconsistency could limit you to a Band 5.
An experienced IELTS teacher can point this out to you and help you to write in a more natural, friendly way e.g
1. Usecontractions: instead of ‘I am very excited’, you’d say ‘I’m’
2. ‘What a pity I won’t be here in June!’.
(‘What a pity!’ that’s a great expression). ‘I won’t be here’ is a contraction. Plus an exclamation mark!
3. ‘Can’t you make it a bit later?’
‘make it’ = informal expression. ‘can’t you?’ is a direct question.
All of these things will push that writing from a Band 6, to a Band 7.
This is where it is really important that you get teacher feedback, of course.
Example 3: Writing Task 2
My lovely student Faris kept getting 5.5. And he needed 6.
And the trouble with him was that he wasn’t extending his sentences. So his writing was underlength, even though he had good points. He couldn’t reach the 250 word limit and he wasn’t developing his ideas.
On his writing, after each point, I put ‘which means….?’ ‘So..?’ ‘in order to…?’ ‘And as a result…?’, ‘For example…?’ ‘because…?’ ‘Such as..?’
And every time I did that he completed the sentence. So ultimately he got into the habit of knowing that his sentences were incomplete because they had no development or extension. And this made his sentences too simple.
But when he added the consequence of the result, that suddenly gave him a voice, it made his opinions clearer, and strengthened his arguments and he got a 6.5.
In the Members Academy, Coaching Programme, you get 8 x Writing Feedback Assessments with me.
How does this work?
- Go to the Coaching area in the website and choose a task
- Watch the 20-minute video with my advice on how to prepare for the task
- Review the “Language Level-ups” that you will need to do the task well
- Download/Read the PDF so that you can see a model and common mistakes
- Submit your task in the form provided
- I will create a personal google doc for you to keep all your submissions and corrections in one place
- I will correct and assess your Writing and share the document with you.
- I will include your score plus 3 actions points with links to lessons in the Academy
- I will record a feedback video and email it to you with the assessment
Do you need motivation, high-quality materials, a roadmap, feedback, guidance and an IELTS specialist teacher?
Join the Members Academy today.
Get instant access to all courses, challenges, boot camps, live classes, interactive and engaging classes, 1:1 support, and a friendly tight-knit community of like-minded learners to get you to Band 7+.
Join the Members Academy
My error correction project
The rest of this article discusses the research that supports the theory that ‘Error correction by the teacher is a waste of time and should be banned!’.
As an IELTS tutor, I do a LOT of marking. I actually enjoy it because it gives me a chance to help my students fix their grammar problems.
But it doesn’t always work like that and a few years ago I thought,
‘Hang on a minute! I’ve corrected the same thing, many, many times, but I keep seeing the same mistakes’.
I felt a bit frustrated and I wondered,
- Is that my fault?
- Is the way I’m correcting students not working?
- Or is it that students simply don’t learn from this method of error correction?
- Is there a better way?
- And could they learn from their mistakes in a more effective way?
I also thought,
‘Surely somebody has done some research on this?’
The EnglishUK Action Research Project
I went to and EnglishUK training session in London. EnglishUK look after all of the English language schools in the UK, and together with Cambridge English Language Assessment, they sponsor six teachers every year to help them do research into better teaching practices.
I was chosen as one of the six people. They suggested that I monitor the way I give correction and try and find out which correction is most effective. And to back that up with research (lots of reading!).
The Blue Book Project
My project was called the Blue Book Project. I gave my students a big, blue, empty exercise book.
They had to write all their homework in it and every time I set a writing for them, they had to write it in the blue book and give it to me to mark.
When I marked their work, I didn’t put the correct answer for them. I only used a writing code e.g.‘p’ for punctuation or ‘sp’ for spelling, or ‘ww’ for wrong word.
Then you have to work out what their mistake was. So you’re actually thinking about the mistake and not relying on the teacher to just tell you what the answer is.
This will have a longer term effect on how well you remember grammar, punctuation etc in the future.
The 10-week trial
So yes, the students wrote the same essay twice. But the second time they had corrected their own mistakes. And we did this for about 10 weeks.
During that time, I did different kinds of tests and questionnaires. And I counted up their mistakes at the start and then counted up their mistakes at the end. And the people who helped me, the experts from English UK and Cambridge English, showed me how to analyze the results and to work out what was effective and what was not effective.
So guess what?
Yes, what we found that there was a significant difference between the students who did this Blue Book project and the students who didn’t.
There could be a variety of reasons for this. It could be that the students who didn’t have the blue book, and simply just didn’t have that opportunity to look at their work and rewrite it. And it could be the fact that the blue book actually encouraged them to think more about their mistakes.
There are lots of reasons and of course, more research needs to be done. But ultimately, the project was very positive in that, we did see a noticeable improvement in the student’s ability to notice and correct their own mistakes. And, therefore not rely on a teacher. And, of course, in an exam situation, you don’t have the teacher there, breathing over your shoulder, you have to do it yourself. So it’s something I believe very passionately in.
Let me tell you about some of the research articles. The one I loved – and this is the most important one – was by John Truscott. I read the first line and I thought, ‘Oh, yeah, I totally agree with this’. It says,
‘This paper argues that grammar correction in L2 writing classes should be abandoned’
And that’s it. He thinks it should be abandoned and that we shouldn’t correct grammar. He gives reasons why – he says research shows it’s ineffective and doesn’t work, for many ‘theoretical and practical reasons’. It has harmful effects, for example, it affects your morale when you’re always being corrected, and he thinks it’s a waste of time in class, and that’s not how we learn languages. So he had a lot of things to say about it.
And, of course, there were people who disagreed with him as well and people, who had done other types of research. But the thing that I really noticed was – what I found in many of these research papers – is that if you DO something with the error correction, then that is more likely to make the difference. So, Hyland says the ‘crucial factor’ is
‘having the students do something with the error correction besides simply receiving it.’
The problem with error correction is you just look at it, maybe you just look at your score, and you don’t actually act on it. So you might as well just throw it in the bin. This is a really important lesson, I think. And it’s an essential skill that students have to learn in my Friday feedback session in the Members Academy, where students submit their writing every week. I do correct that grammar, but there’s a reason for that and I’m going to talk about that next.
Learn more about the project
I hope this will really guide you long term like it did for my students and give you the skills that you need to help yourself in the future, to go on and do wonderful things with your life and your English language learning.
Hyland, K (1990) Providing productive feedback, ELT Journal 44(4), 279-285
Truscott, J (1996) The case against grammar correction in L2 writing classes, Language Learning 46 (2), 327 – 369
You can now retake any one part of the test; Listening, Reading, Writing or Speaking without redoing all four parts.How can I correct my ielts writing tasks? ›
- Step 1: Answer all parts of the question.
- Step 2: Present a clear position.
- Step 3: Structure your essay.
- Step 4: Use linking devices.
- Step 5: Use a range of vocabulary.
- Step 6: Use a range of grammatical structures correctly.
- Step 7: Check your essay thoroughly.
- Start using synonyms. Synonyms are different words that hold the same meaning. ...
- Changing the word order. ...
- Changing word forms. ...
- Change from active to passive voice. ...
- Changing sentence structure. ...
- Start paraphrasing with sample tests.
- Type your essays in a Google doc or a Word Document. They will highlight your mistakes and suggest corrections. ...
- Use an app like Grammarly, Grammarcheck.net or ProWritingAid. ...
- Use a VirtualWritingTutor.com website or my favourite Ludwig Guru.
You can now retake any one part of the test; Listening, Reading, Writing or Speaking without redoing all four parts.Why am I getting 6.5 in ielts writing? ›
It is simply a by-product of the IELTS method of scoring. If someone receives a band 6.650, it gets rounded down to 6.5. But if someone receives band a 6.750, it goes up to band 7!Why am I stuck at 5.5 in writing? ›
Most likely, it's because that student is focusing too much on grammar and vocabulary. A language teacher who is not familiar with the IELTS exam is going to focus on grammar and vocabulary. If you focus on these 2 scoring sections, you are at risk of getting a 5 on Writing.Can I get a student visa in USA with over a 6.5 band and a 5.5 in writing? ›
USA Student Visa Process With 5.5 Band Scores
Getting a student visa for the US requires you to have a minimum of 6.0 score in each of the four sections of IELTS band requirements with an overall score of 6.5.
23:35 – 31:58 – 3rd Reason why inventing fake examples in IELTS essays is a bad idea: They often lead to paragraphs that do NOT progress (i.e., are repetitive) and have ideas that are unextended.What impressive words to use in IELTS writing? ›
Use words such as 'compelling', 'effective', 'eloquent', 'influential' and 'credible' to help justify your points.
If you didn't get the IELTS score you wanted, you can apply to resit the test as soon as you feel ready. However, before applying for a resit you need to keep in mind that your score is unlikely to improve without a significant effort to improve your English.Can I retake IELTS for free? ›
There is no limit to how many retakes you can take for the IELTS exam. However, you have to pay the complete fee every time you take one (₹16,250). There is no difference between the registration and the retaking payment for academic and general training versions.Who will check IELTS Writing? ›
Assessment of writing performance is carried out by examiners trained and certified by British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia or IELTS USA. Scores are reported as a whole band or half band. Detailed assessment criteria have been developed, which describe written performance at the nine IELTS bands.Can I skip a line in IELTS writing? ›
So, you can skip a line between paragraphs, or you can just indent the first line of each paragraph about 5 spaces. Another issue to consider is how you feel most confident writing essays, because that does improve your score.What should I avoid in IELTS writing? ›
Pay attention to the minute details you put on the paper.
- Be careful of spelling and punctuation.
- Stick to using simple words and phrases. ...
Do you need to leave a line for each paragraph in the IELTS Letter Writing task? Yes, leave one line blank and begin from the next. The aim is to make your paragraphs as readable as possible for the examiner, and leaving one empty line helps a lot.Why is ielts writing so difficult? ›
Both the essay and report of the IELTS exam requires the use of formal language. Even though a candidate may have a good grasp of conversation English, writing in a formal language requires the use of high-level language and phrases, which not all candidates make be comfortable using.Is it okay to write 400 words in ielts writing? ›
IELTS Writing: Word Count Rules
IELTS have set a task of writing OVER 150 words for IELTS writing task 1 and 250 for writing task 2. However, there is no upper word limit.
Practicing writing mistakes is harder
If you practice writing IELTS essays over and over, you might not improve at all. Without feedback, you will only get quicker at writing. Practice makes us better at something through repetition.
- Don't use “because”, use “as” or “since” What, that's it? ...
- Don't use “This”, use “which” ...
- Don't use “and then” in your thesis statement, use “before + gerund” ...
- Don't use “For example”, use “Take X for example” ...
- Add “ultimately” to your conclusion.
IELTS results are reported on a 9-band scale. They are designed to be simple and easy to understand. They are reported as band scores on a scale from 1 (the lowest) to 9 (the highest).Is writing too much in IELTS bad? ›
There is nothing in the IELTS marking rubric about writing too many words. Theoretically, you could write 1,000 words and you would not be penalized. As long as you have written more than 150 words for task 1 or 250 words for task 2, you should be ok.Can I go to Canada with 4.5 bands? ›
IELTS Score for Canada Visa: Explained!
To secure a Canadian student visa, you must have a minimum IELTS score of 6.0. with no band less than 5.5. To decide whether or not your English language skills are up to the mark, CLB levels will be considered.
Most of the US universities accept IELTS test scores of 6 to 6.5. However, for securing an admission to the top listed university in the USA, the student must have to score at least 7.0.Can I go to USA with 6 IELTS score? ›
The minimum IELTS band required for the USA is 6-7.5, which depends on the university and programs of the applicant's choice.Does IELTS check handwriting? ›
If your handwriting is bad enough, the IELTS examiners won't understand what you've written. They'll have no choice but to penalize you in that case. This is a very frustrating way to lose points on the exam.Does IELTS judge handwriting? ›
If your style of handwriting is cursive or not, it won't make much of a difference. Any form of handwriting is accepted as long as it's decipherable. So, if you employ cursive handwriting, try to be careful with your y's and g's so that they don't get into the next syllable in continuation.Can we write T or F for true or false in IELTS? ›
Can we write T F NG instead of True False Not Given? Yes you can. In fact I recommend it to save time. If you write Yes No Not Given (or Y N NG) this is also acceptable and you will not lose points.What are the 4 R's of paraphrasing? ›
Key Resource: The 4 R's--A Paraphrasing Strategy
Review the graphic below that explains the 4 R's: Read, Restate, Recheck, and Repair and use the attached graphic organizer to help you practice paraphrasing by using this strategy.
- Step 1: Read.
- Step 2: Take Notes.
- Step 3: Think About What You Read.
- Step 4: Write It In Your Own Words.
- Step 5: Cite Your Source.
- Citing in APA.
- Citing in MLA.
This technique is finding words in the text that have a similar meaning to words in the questions. Key words help you to locate the place in the text where the answer lies and to pick out EXACTLY which part of this group of sentences is the one that you need for the correct answer.What are the most repetitive words in IELTS? ›
- Days of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday,
- Months of the year: January, February, March, April, May, June, July August,
- Money matters: cash, debit, credit card, cheque, in advance, annual fee,
- Subjects: science, politics, history, biology, architecture, law, geography ,
High lexis: are the words that are more formal and are recommended for higher scores. You need to check the meaning of high lexis words to see how they are used in writing.What happens if you make a spelling mistake in IELTS writing? ›
In fact, words with spelling mistakes in the Reading and Listening tests will be marked as incorrect, while spelling errors in the Writing test may make it difficult for the examiner to understand and follow your message.How can I improve my IELTS writing section? ›
- Get feedback on your writing. When preparing for the written section of the IELTS exam, the first and foremost task is to get some feedback on your writing. ...
- Write something every day. ...
- Follow the exam instructions closely. ...
- Use more transitional devices in your writing.
Pen or Pencil in IELTS? In IELTS listening and reading, you MUST use a pencil for filling in the answer sheet. This means you should also take an eraser into the test with you so you can erase mistakes. In the IELTS writing test, you can choose if you want to use either a pencil or a pen.Who corrects IELTS writing? ›
Assessment of writing performance is carried out by examiners trained and certified by British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia or IELTS USA. Scores are reported as a whole band or half band. Detailed assessment criteria have been developed, which describe written performance at the nine IELTS bands.What are the 3 common types of spelling errors? ›
In the samples below, the spelling errors from a student's writing are assembled into three broad categories: phonological (phonetically inaccurate), orthographic (phonetically plausible but inaccurate), and morphologic/syntactic.What words should be avoided in IELTS writing? ›
Pay attention to the minute details you put on the paper.
- Be careful of spelling and punctuation.
- Stick to using simple words and phrases. ...
- Use a (good) dictionary. ...
- Be consistent about using British or American spellings in your writing. ...
- Always check certain “troublesome” suffixes in your dictionary. ...
- Create your own “difficult-to-spell” lists. ...
- Learn the standard pronunciations for frequently misspelled words.
The assessment criteria used by examiners is the same for both the General Training and Academic tests. Your answers in Writing Task 1 are assessed against the following criteria: task achievement, coherence and cohesion, lexical resource and grammatical range and accuracy.How can I improve my essay writing skills? ›
- Read the prompt carefully. ...
- Pick an interesting topic if you can. ...
- Use multiple research sources. ...
- Make an outline or diagram. ...
- Improve your grammar, spelling and punctuation skills. ...
- Use appropriate vocabulary. ...
- Evaluate evidence critically. ...
- Write a strong conclusion.
This raises a question that you don't need to think about on computerized exams or writing assignments: can your handwriting hurt your score? It absolutely can. This makes sense when you think about it. If your handwriting is bad enough, the IELTS examiners won't understand what you've written.How many spelling mistakes are acceptable in IELTS writing? ›
Does every word have to be spelled correctly? The good news is you can make a few spelling mistakes and still get a high score - IELTS calls them 'slips'. In other words, just one or two small mistakes that do not affect meaning will have no impact on your score. Clearly, you can make spelling errors in your writing.How can I get 8.5 in IELTS writing? ›
- Write task 1 and task 2 every day.
- Analyse your mistakes. ...
- Work on your weaknesses. ...
- Read band 9 essays and compare them to the answers that you have written. ...
- Check each sentence for mistakes as you write your IELTS essays.
- Give yourself 3-5 minutes at the end of the writing test to check over your writing.
IELTS have set a task of writing OVER 150 words for IELTS writing task 1 and 250 for writing task 2. However, there is no upper word limit.Does grammar matter in IELTS writing? ›
Your grammar score is very important in the IELTS test, as it can impact your overall band score for the IELTS Speaking and Writing tests. Remember that there are four assessment criteria and each one is worth 25% of your overall marks.