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  • 1999 Holmesglen Institute of TAFE 1

    Preparing for the IELTS test with HolmesglenInstitute of TAFE

    The writing componentThe IELTS writing test takes one hour. In this time you are required tocomplete two tasks.

    TASK ONE is a report based on some graphic information provided on thequestion paper. With few exceptions, the graphic information will come inone of five forms a line graph, bar graph, pie chart, table or diagramillustrating a process. You are required to describe the information or theprocess in a report of 150 words. This task should be completed in 20minutes. It is important that you are familiar with the language appropriateto report writing generally and to each of the five types of report.

    TASK TWO is an essay based on a topic given on the question paper.You should write at least 250 words in 40 minutes.

    It is important that you keep within the advised time limits as Task Twocarries more weight in your final band score than Task One. Rememberthat illegible handwriting will reduce your final score.

    Writing task one: single line graph

    Task description

    You will be given a graph with a single line. Your task is to write a 150word report to describe the information given in the graph. You are notasked to give your opinion.

    You should spend around twenty minutes on the task. Task one is notworth as many marks as task two and so you should make sure that youkeep within the recommended twenty minute time frame.

    What is being tested is your ability to: objectively describe the information given to you report on a topic without the use of opinion use suitable language to describe the graph

  • 1999 Holmesglen Institute of TAFE 2

    Sample task

    You should spend about 20 minutes on this task. Write a report for auniversity lecturer describing the information in the graph below. Youshould write at least 150 words.

    Cases

    0

    100

    200

    300

    400

    500

    600

    1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995Incidence of X disease in Someland

    When youve finished the task

    How good is your answer? Check the guidelines on the next page andread the sample answer.

  • 1999 Holmesglen Institute of TAFE 3

    Guidelines for a good answer

    Does the report have a suitable structure?

    Does it have an introduction, body and conclusion? Does it include connective words to make the writing cohesive within

    sentences and paragraphs?

    Does the report use suitable grammar and vocabulary?

    Does it include a variety of sentence structures? Does it include a range of appropriate vocabulary?

    Does the report meet the requirements of the task?

    Does it meet the word limit requirements? Does it describe the whole graph adequately? Does it focus on the important trends presented in the graphic

    information?

    Sample answer

    The graph shows the number of cases of X disease inSomeland between the years 1960 and 1995. As an overalltrend, it is clear that the number of cases of the diseaseincreased fairly rapidly until the mid seventies, remainedconstant for around a decade at 500 cases before dropping tozero in the late 80s.

    In 1960, the number of cases stood at approximately 100. Thatnumber rose steadily to 200 by 1969 and then more sharply to500 in 1977. At this point the number of cases remained stableuntil 1984 before plummeting to zero by 1988. From 1988 to1995 Someland was free of the disease.

    In conclusion, the graph shows that the disease wasincreasingly prevalent until the 1980s when it was eradicatedfrom Someland.

    What do you think?

    What is your opinion of this sample answer? How well does it meet therequirements of the guidelines? Read the next page for a teacher'scomments on this answer.

  • 1999 Holmesglen Institute of TAFE 4

    Teacher's comments on the sample answer

    Here is what an IELTS teacher said about the sample answer.

    The report structure is easy to follow and logical with a clearintroduction, body and conclusion. The candidate usescohesive words to connect pieces of information and make thewriting flow such as until and before in the second sentence.

    The candidate uses a variety of grammatical structures andvocabulary so that the writing is not repetitive.

    In terms of task requirements the report is a little short butthis is because the simple graph used as an example does nothave sufficient information for the candidate to describe. In thereal IELTS test the graph will have more information and sothe need to look for trends will be even greater than in thisexample.

    Strategies for improving your IELTS score

    Selecting information

    It is important that you describe the whole graph fully. However, this doesnot mean that you should note every detail. In most cases there will be toomuch information for you to mention each figure. You will therefore need tosummarise the graph by dividing it into its main parts. This is what wemean by describing the trends.

    For example, in a chronological line graph it might seem sensible todescribe the information year by year or period by period. The graphabove gives the information in five year sections so we could write ourreport like this:

    The number of cases of X disease started at 50 in 1965 andthen went up gradually to 100 in 1965 and continued up to200 in 1970 and then went up more sharply to 380 in 1975.

    While this way of describing the information may be accurate, it does notmeaningfully sum up the information in the graph. In fact, the informationin the graph would most meaningfully be described in four chronologicalsections following the shape of the graph.

  • 1999 Holmesglen Institute of TAFE 5

    In the Sample Task, the graph shows four main trends: first, a gradual increase from 1960 to 1968 second, a steeper increase from 1968 to 1977 third, a plateau from 1977 to 1983 fourth, a drop from 1983 to 1988

    The structure of the report must show these four main trends clearly.

    Report structure

    Your report should be structured simply with an introduction, body andconclusion. Tenses should be used appropriately.

    IntroductionUse two standard opening sentences to introduce your report. Theseopening sentences should make up the first paragraph. Sentence oneshould define what the graph is about; that is, the date, location, what isbeing described in the graph etc. For example:

    The graph shows the number of cases of X disease in Somelandbetween the years 1960 and 1995

    Notice the tense used. Even though it describes information from the past,the graph shows the information in the present time.

    Notice that the sample opening sentence does not simply copy the wordsused on the graphic material. Copied sentences will not be assessed bythe examiner and so you waste your time including them.

    Describing the overall trendSentence two (and possibly three) might sum up the overall trend. Forexample:

    It can be clearly seen that X disease increased rapidly to 500cases around the 1980s and then dropped to zero before1999, while Y disease fell consistently from a high point ofnearly 600 cases in 1960 to less than 100 cases in 1995.

    Notice the tense used. Here we are talking about the occurrence of thedisease in the past.

  • 1999 Holmesglen Institute of TAFE 6

    Describing the graph in detailThe body of the report will describe the graph or graphs in detail. You willneed to decide on the most clear and logical order to present the material.Line graphs generally present information in chronological order and sothe most logical order for you to write up the information would, mostprobably be from earliest to latest. Bar graphs, pie charts are organised indifferent ways and so you need to decide on the organisation of each one.

    Concluding sentencesYour report may end with one or two sentences which summarise yourreport to draw a relevant conclusion.

    Grammar and vocabulary

    Avoiding repetitionYou will receive a higher mark if your writing uses a range of structuresand vocabulary correctly rather than a limited number. For example, thecandidate who writes:

    The number of cases of X disease started at 50 in 1965 andthen went up to 200 in 1970 and then went up to 500 in 1980and then went down to zero in 1990.

    will lose marks for being repetitive. You should therefore practise writingreports using a wide variety of terms to describe the different movementsin the graphs and different structures to vary your writing.

    Describing trends

    Trends are changes or movements. These changes are normallyexpressed in numeric items, for example, population, production volumesor unemployment. There are three basic trends:

  • 1999 Holmesglen Institute of TAFE 7

    Expressing movement: nouns and verbsFor each trend there are a number of verbs and nouns to express themovement. We can use a verb of change, for example:

    Unemployment levels fell

    Or we can use a related noun, for example:

    There was a fall in unemployment levels

    Direction Verbs Nouns

    Rose (to)Increased (to)Went up (to)Climbed (to)Boomed

    A riseAn increaseGrowthAn upwardtrendA boom (adramatic rise)

    Fell (to)Declined (to)Decreased (to)Dipped (to)Dropped (to)Went down (to)Slumped (to)Reduced (to)

    A decreaseA declineA fallA dropA slump (adramatic fall)A reduction

    Levelled out (at)Did not changeRemained stable (at)Remained steady (at)Stayed constant (at)Maintained the same level

    A levelling outNo change

    Fluctuated (around)Peaked (at)Plateaued (at)Stood at (we use this phrase tofocus on a particular point,before we mention themovement, for example:In the first year, unemploymentstood at )

    A fluctuationReached apeak (of)Reached atplateau (a