When you write, especially for the final exam of a language course, it so often happens that you don’t get your expected score thought you have thought your Writing exam has been a good one. This can be equally true for IELTS, TOEFL, TAFE, SAT, GMAT, GRE; any course, where writing plays a big part. This post will help you understand some essential tricks related to Writing section of IELTS and other courses and guide you to maximize/ upgrade/ improve your chances to improve your writing so that you get a much better score.
Hello candidates, welcome back to my blog. How have you been? Hope you’re doing well. Today, in this post, I’m going to share with you 7 top tips to maximize your IELTS, TOEFL, TAFE, SAT, GMAT, GRE writing score. All the ways I’m discussing here are proved and authentic as they are used for marking any writing by trainers, tutors and examiners around the world. If you can apply these tips in your writing, you can be sure that you’ll get your expected score easily, or upgrade/improve/maximize your score, maybe you can get a better score than you expected.
Tip no. 1: Avoid using ‘There + be verb’ in your writing
This seems awkward for many of you, isn’t it?
Generally, sentence with these phrases are correct. Unfortunately, these phrases don’t make the sentences better; rather, they make the sentences weaker, if action verbs are present in the sentences.
You need to understand the function of ‘There is’, ‘There are’, ‘There was’, ‘There were’. These phrases introduce a noun/ nouns to the reader.
There is a big tree on the other side of the river.
There are five trainees in this training session.
The above written sentences look appropriate because we can see no principle/main verb there.
Now, take a look at these examples:
There is a system which exists in this particular culture.
Have a close look. The verb ‘exist’ is present here. So, it is unnecessary to use ‘There is’ here due to the fact that the true-subject is overdue until after the verb. You could write:
A system exists in this particular culture.
This sounds much better without ‘There is’.
Another example for you:
There were some buildings in the area which were haunted.
Some buildings in the area were haunted.
See? The use of ‘there is’, ‘there are’, ‘there was’, ‘there were’ works better when a principal/ main verb (i.e. a verb with a particular meaning) is not present. Using the phrases when a principal/main verb is present, may lead to a lack of subject-verb agreement. So, try to avoid using ‘There + be verb’ here.
Some more examples for you:
There is a recent study that shows that learning a new language can radically improve brain-function.
A recent study shows that that learning a new language can radically improve brain-function.
Tip no. 2: Avoid using ‘very’, ‘really’, ‘a lot of’, ‘so’
You can actually use one better word rather than using two words using ‘very’, ‘really’, ‘a lot of’ or ‘so’.
You can write ‘difficult’ instead of writing ‘very hard’.
You can write ‘many’ for countable nouns and ‘much’ for uncountable nouns instead of writing ‘a lot of’.
Take a look at these examples:
Bad example: The sum was very hard for the kids.
Good example: The sum was difficult for the kids.
Bad example: It was really an interesting topic to discuss.
Good example: It was an interesting topic to discuss.
Bad example: We saw a lot of birds by the riverside.
Good example: We saw many birds by the riverside.
Bad example: The fish we caught yesterday was so big.
Good example: The fish we caught yesterday was a huge one.
See, all the sentences look more accurate and attractive when we avoided using ‘really’ ‘very’, ‘a lot of’, and ‘so’.
Some more examples:
Don’t write: The girl looks very shy.
Instead write: The girl looks timid.
Don’t write: The food is very tasty.
Instead write: The food is delicious.
Don’t write: The food is very tasty.
Instead write: The food is delicious.
Don’t write: I felt really thirsty.
Instead write: I felt parched.
Don’t write: She was really a special girl.
Instead write: She was an exceptional girl.
Don’t write: The Company spent a lot of money on the project. (Uncountable noun)
Instead write: The Company spent much money on the project.
Don’t write: We have got a lot of campsites in Spain and Argentina. (Countable noun)
Instead write: We have got many campsites in Spain and Argentina.
Don’t write: It was so small
Instead write: It was tiny.
Don’t write: The old man looked so wet.
Instead write: The old man looked soaked.
Tip no. 3: Avoid using contractions: don’t, won’t, shouldn’t etc.
Contractions or the grammar of making verb forms shorter is used in spoken English. You must remember, you’re doing a formal writing, not speaking. These contractions are commonly used in speech and in informal writing.
The word ‘contract’ means ‘to press together’, so ‘contraction’ in English grammar means two words (the main word, preferably, an auxiliary verb) made shorter by putting down an apostrophe where some letters have been left out.
- cannot or can not becomes can’t
- I would becomes I’d
- He will becomes He’ll
As contractions are mainly used in speeches and dialogues in spoken English, they are more informal. As a result of that, you can’t write can’t. You must write ‘cannot’ or, ‘can not’. Write ‘should not’ instead of ‘shouldn’t’.
You’ll find the longer and shorter form in any good grammar website or a book. Here is a very short list for you.
Try to learn the full forms of different contractions and use them in your writing.
Here are some examples:
Don’t write: The Company isn’t helping the customers now.
Write: The Company is not helping the customers now.
Don’t write: She’s been there before.
Write: She has been there before.
Don’t write: What’s the purpose of education?
Write: What is the purpose of education?
Don’t write: John’s finished his term paper.
Write: John has finished his term paper.
Don’t write: The boy could’ve saved the documents.
Write: The boy could have saved the documents.
Tip no. 4: Do not use passive unless absolutely necessary and you know the rules clearly
Though we know that, in exams like IELTS, SAT, GRE, TOEFL more complex sentences carry better marks and using passive voice makes a sentence more complex. However, I’m not against the use of passive here. The problem is not with advanced learners, it is with learners of elementary level.
You’ll often find the use of passive voice in different sentences and you’ll be tempted to use them often because you know that it makes the sentences more complex. Don’t do that unless you need it and you’re absolutely sure about it.
The difference between ‘active voice’ and ‘passive voice’ is that in ‘active voice’ the ‘action-doer’ is at the beginning of the sentence because ‘action-doer’ is important here; whereas in ‘passive voice’ the ‘action’ is more important than ‘action-doer’.
Here is an example:
Active: The people destroyed the river-system. (action-doer)
Passive: The river-system was destroyed by the people. (action)
The question is why we should avoid using ‘passive voice’. There are some common reasons.
The first thing is, in any formal writing, we mostly want to emphasize on the ‘action-doer’ and so ‘active voice’ comes in use here. We barely need to emphasize on the ‘action’, so we need to avoid using ‘passive voice’ too much.
Then comes the length of the sentence and understanding.
When we use active voice, the sentence is smaller and crisp.
But in passive voice, the sentence gets bigger and affects the meaning in a way that the reader may get confused. It also seems unnecessary sometimes.
Take a look at the example:
Active: The government wants to change the decision because the construction companies have opposed the act.
Passive: The decision is wanted to be changed by the government because the act has been opposed by the construction companies.
When you read both the sentences, use your instinct or impulse. You’ll find that the first sentence is easier to read and understand. So, being a beginner in English grammar, it is more preferable for you to use active voice first. When you are more comfortable using active voice, you can use passive voice gradually.
Again, using passive is not incorrect but the active voice makes your writing look more formal and stronger and more direct, so the understanding is also easier.
Tip no. 5: Try to use verbs that are stronger
No, I’m not talking about ‘strong verb’ and ‘weak verb’ forms from grammar.
I’m talking about verbs that really look strong in a sentence.
Let’s take a look at this example:
In the first sentence, we can see the verb ‘had’ and then a noun ‘progression’. Now, we know that the word ‘progression’ has its own verb form which is ‘progress’. When we use the verb form, we don’t need the verb ‘had’ in this sentence which makes it better.
Here are some other examples:
Weak sentence: The board had their decision against the bill.
Strong sentence: The board decided against the bill.
Weak sentence: The police officer made an investigation on the case.
Strong sentence: The police officer investigated the case.
Though a sentence with a verb+noun form sounds nice, it really isn’t the case when the noun has its own verb form. It’s better to use the verb instead.
Tip no. 6: Use linkers and key phrases in your writing
If you want to show your range of vocabulary, using different linking words or connectors can be of great use here. Linking words and key phrases make your writing look more formal. They also give your examiner an idea about your strength in writing.
Let’s take a look at this sample text here:
The effect that social networking has on society can be negative too. Young people waste their valuable time using social networks and do not take part in community work or voluntary activities. So they become gradually unable to bond with their local people.
Now, let’s add some linkers/connectors here in the same text and see how it looks:
The effect that social networking has on society can be negative too. Initially, young people waste their valuable time using social networks. Moreover, they do not take part in community work or voluntary activities. Consequently, they become gradually unable to bond with their local people.
There is no denial that the second example is more likely to score way better than the first one.
So, use linkers/connectors/linking words in your writing if you seriously want a better score.
Here is a link for learning more about linkers/connectors/linking words:
Tip no. 7: Revise your writing and get it checked by an expert
Many candidates of different exams don’t have this habit of revising their own writings. Guys, don’t take me wrong. Confidence is good and we should encourage it, but you must believe that everybody makes mistake every now and then. Great writers always get their writings reviewed because they want them become a laughing stock because of some silly mistakes inside their articles, stories and novels or any such compositions. Moreover, many of us are just some regular persons and not great writers. So, it’s a great idea to review your writing as many times as you can. This will alert of the silly mistakes which you can correct all by yourself. So, build up a habit of revising your writing just after you finished it. Allow yourself the last 5 minutes in exams like IELTS, TOEFL, GRE etc. to review your writing so that you can find out some mistakes by yourself.
Also, when you’re practicing writing, why not show some of your writings to an expert? You might have made some serious mistakes which you can’t see or find out easily but an expert in English can do that for you. So, it’s always a good idea to show your writings to your trainers and experts in English. This can be your school or college teacher who teaches English or you know someone who is a language expert and you have a close connection with him/her.
There are many online writing correction services nowadays which you can use. They offer plans for monthly or yearly subscriptions. You can take their service too.
Here are some links for you where you can submit your papers to have them checked:
1. TED IELTS:
2. PTE Tutorials:
Google for more online writing correction services.
So, these are the 7 great ways how you can maximize your score in writing anything formal in English. I hope these ideas have come handy for you. They have come handy for me when I appeared in IELTS exam. Remember to use these ways or ideas in your writings and you will find a great difference and get a better score.
Watch a video presentation on this lesson on YouTube in the following link:
Let me know in comments how you think about this post, whether these ideas will help you or not.
See you soon with some other tricks and tips.