This blogpost will highlight three common types of essay writing mistakes made by East Asian students at academic IELTS writing level 4.5-5.5.
Frequently, students from the same geographical regions make similar errors in their writing. There are numerous reasons for this, but some prominent ones are:
- The effect of the high-school English syllabus, with similar strengths and weaknesses by region.
- The differences between the native language and English, with students transferring sentence structures and grammar which don’t have exact equivalent usages or meaning in English.
- The differences in learning style between regions, with some regions having more emphasis on communication, and others on reading and writing correctly.
1. IELTS 4.5-5.5 essay writing errors: connecting parts of sentences with conjunctions
However, motivational strategies are costly, to obtain satisfaction from different people, a company should make a lot of effort and money on rewards.
The phrase ‘…motivational strategies are costly…’ describes a problem, and the rest of the sentence describes a solution. When different parts of sentences have clear relationships of problem-solution or cause-effect, it is good English to use a conjunction (and, but, so, because etc) which connects the parts of the sentence and indicates the relationship between them. So, a corrected version is:
However, motivational strategies are costly, so to obtain satisfaction from different people, a company should make a lot of effort and money on rewards.
2. IELTS 4.5-5.5 essay writing errors: connecting parts of sentences with relative pronouns
It means that expensive strategies are used, nonetheless the employees have received what they want, it may not represent the best value.
The phrase ‘…it may not represent the best value…’ adds information to the second or middle part of the sentence. In English, when adding information to a sentence, ‘which’ or ‘that’ are commonly used to introduce the information. So, a corrected version is:
It means that expensive strategies are used, nonetheless the employees have received what they want which may not represent the best value.
Points 1 and 2 above are important for scoring a 6.0 in IELTS writing part 2. To receive this grade, an essay needs to include simple and complex sentence structures – complex sentences are long with multiple parts linked together using conjunctions and relative pronouns. Equally, another characteristic of an IELTS 6.0 writing grade is the effective use of ‘linking devices’; these include adverbs which connect ideas between sentences (however, although, moreover etc), but also conjunctions and relative pronouns which connect ideas within sentences.
3. IELTS 4.5-5.5 essay writing errors: repeating basic adjectives.
The adjectives ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are best avoided in IELTS essay writing. As informal adjectives they are more appropriate in everyday speech and forms of social communication like texting and chatting. The formal synonyms depend on the context but include ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ as well as ‘strong’ and ‘weak’. ‘Range of vocabulary’ is assessed in IELTS writing 2 and you are more likely to attain level 6.0 if you use fewer common adjectives in your writing. Another way of demonstrating ‘range of vocabulary’ is to avoid repeating adjectives, so prepare a variety of adjectives to use for other common functions like size and effect.
Also, when thinking about which adjectives to use, you need to be aware of collocations. A collocation is a word partnership which is widely used in a language. For example, in English ‘clear sky’ is a collocation, but other languages might use a different adjective for the same meaning, ‘empty sky’, for example. An essay is more likely to score 6.0 if some correct collocations are used, whereas level 5.0 essays are more likely to contain word partnerships which are translated directly from the student’s own language.