To achieve anything higher than a band 6 in the grammar section of the IELTS writing, task 1 and 2, candidates need to able to use a variety of sentence structures and the majority of these structures need to be error free. Understanding what different structures exist in English and being able to use a good mix of them is often the key to achieving a higher band, not only in the writing tasks, but also in the speaking exam too!
The band marking descriptors for the writing task 1 and 2 state that to achieve a band 6, candidates must:
• use a mix of simple and complex sentence forms
and for speaking
• use a mix of simple and complex structures, but with limited flexibility
For a band 7, candidates need to be able to do this with much more confidence and be able to use a wide range of structures, where most of them are without error.
So, what does all of this actually mean?
Well, let’s look at some examples:
- Computers are an important part of everyday life. Many older people didn’t learn computing skills at school. They still cannot use them.
- Computers are an important part of every day life, but many older people didn’t learn computing skills at school and so still cannot use a computer.
- Even though computers are an important part of everyday life, many older people still cannot use them because they didn’t learn how to at school.
Example number 1 is made up of three basic sentences. Within each sentence, there is just one clause (a group of words that contain a subject and a verb) and each sentence puts across one idea.
Example number 2 is a compound sentence, which contains two or more pieces of information which are linked by words such as and, but and so. It has three clauses, as each part contains a subject and a verb.
Example number 3 is a complex sentence. Although it has the same amount of clauses and ideas as the compound sentence, only one clause makes sense on its own (computers are an important part of everyday life). The other pieces of information don’t make any sense without the main clause, although they are linked to it. Without the main clause, we do not know what ‘thing’ older people can’t use and what they didn’t learn at school.
Look at the example taken from a task 2 sample essay about when school leavers might decide to continue their studies:
University is usually the place where people find themselves and choosing the right one is often difficult. That’s why some people would rather take a gap year to give themselves time to think of what suits them best. Others prefer to work overseas for a time. They can gain experience or earn some money so they can afford to go to university. Some just travel, see other places, and freshen up their minds.
This example has some basic and compound sentences but is lacking the variety of complex structures needed to get higher than a band 6 in the grammar section. Using words such as since, while, as, until and whereas adds much more complexity to the sentence structures.
Since university is usually the place where people find themselves, choosing the right one is often difficult. That is why some people would rather take a gap year to give themselves time to think of what suits them best, while others prefer to work overseas for a time. They can gain experience as they earn money until they can afford to go to university, whereas some just travel, see other places, and freshen up their minds.
Here is an example taken from another essay, written about the same subject:
Taking a gap year before university could offer you many benefits. You can get some perspective for your life. On a gap year, you can decide what career might suit you best and you can raise some money. Then you can afford to join a better university. I think that it is a great long term investment. Graduating from a prestigious university automatically will bring you the means for a life filled with success and it should be planned for. Not setting goals can make this gap permanent.
Again, the student has a mix of basic and compound sentences, and some good grammar and vocabulary associated with the topic, there are no complex structures to raise the band score.
Taking a gap year before university could offer you many benefits whilst enabling you to get some perspective for your life. During a gap year, you can decide what career might suit you best and when possible, you can raise some money and therefore afford to join a better university. I think that it is a great long term investment since graduating from a prestigious university automatically will bring you the means for a life filled with success and it should be planned for. If you do not set the right goals, this gap may become permanent.
So, to get a band 7, you need not only to be using complex structures, but also a variety.
So, we now know what basic, compound and complex sentences are. You should focus on using a range of complex structures when practising for your IELTS writing (this will also help improve your speaking score too). Look at the following extracts from some of our Swoosh English students which contain basic and compound sentences that include grammar and punctuation mistakes. Try to improve them by forming more complex structures and post your ideas below. You can make whatever changes you think are necessary. We will reveal what our recommendations are soon!
- Humanity is facing great issues. Climate change is the most significant. It has been occurring for a long time and is affecting the whole ecosystem in a dramatic way. It has an impact that causes problems. These will irreversible if not checked.
- A mother is the heart of the family because she is the wife and the mother to her children. She needs to go to work, take care of the children, make food, clean the house and to teach and help the kids in everything they need. A mother means a lot to her family and she works hard and everything is done with love.
- One disadvantage is that the children will suffer because both parents work and they don’t have time to be with them and give them a proper education.
- The effects of this will continue to be very serious. It will have a negative impact on humans and rest of the ecosystem, because of its dynamic relationship.
- Effects on climate change are very drastic and strong. The most known effect of global warming is the rising level of seas and oceans because of the melting of glaciers. Storms and hurricanes are stronger and more violent. Also the air in big cities is not fresh and clean anymore.
- Schools have an important social role for the general population. They are a place where people get a range of information, start to socialize and acquire habits, among other things.
- The practice of regular physical activity brings a lot of benefits for a person’s health. It allows a good physical condition, prevents heart diseases and can control weight.
Another secret is to not over use linking words and we will cover this in next week’s post. Good luck!
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