Updated: Dec 29, 2021

So many IELTS candidates have asked me this question when they couldn't clear their writing hurdle. They are mostly those who either need to score a 7 in each of the 4 modules, or aspirants requiring the minimum score that qualifies for the Canada Express Entry Programme: 8,7,7,7 - with 8-band being in Listening and 7-band each in Speaking, Reading, and Writing. And my answer has always been the same: if you have a certain flair for writing and followed certain principles, you should stand a strong chance of getting a 7-band score in your Writing module. And sending your paper for a remark may not be a bad idea at all. Else forget it, and go back to the drawing board.

First, you must understand that it is not necessary that you should get a 7 in writing just because you did so well in the other three modules. Writing is an altogether different kettle of fish and you have to follow the basic principles of good writing to secure your required band in this module.

1. Did you attend to everything that you were expected to do?

In both the Letter/Report and the Essay? The former, for instance, instructs you to perform specific tasks. In the case of Report Writing, it will be as under:

Letter Writing? You may have something like this:

You have to ensure that all tasks have been addressed to the examiner's satisfaction.

For the essay, on the other hand, it will be a question, or a couple of questions asked on a given statement. Alternatively, your opinion may be asked on an issue. Whatever, your response must be relevant to the question asked, appropriately framed, and leave no room for the slightest of doubts. Some essays may be discursive/positional, while others may be more discursive in nature. Similarly, some letters may be formal/semi-formal, while others informal. Finally, Academic report writing may be that of a bar graph/pie chart/table, or description of a process/map/layout.

Without exception, an appropriate response will be the first criteria to judge the quality of a writing piece

2. Did you sufficiently elaborate each aspect of an issue discussed?

Did every paragraph lovingly dwell on each point mentioned therein before proceeding to the next one? This is important. One should not feel that you are rushing through your writing task. Explaining in some detail is what you are advised to do. At all times. Consider the following paragraph:

I don't see any elaboration here. No real example. It "could impact the kids psychologically. . . .Care to explain, dear candidate? Also, how does it "restrict their right to freedom"? Do not do this. Do not expect the examiner to read between the lines and connect the dots. Instead, ensure that reading your essay etc. is a pleasure, since the line of argument is quite convincingly presented and expressed. There is not the slightest room for hesitation or confusion. A well-elaborated paragraph should look something like as under:

Try to write like this. Whether a bullet point of a Letter, or one body paragraph of an essay. Every candidate who has scored a 7 and above in writing - at least in my knowledge - has written paragraphs in a similar fashion.

3. Were you always relevant and to the point?

Or did you write something which may safely be removed without making any difference to your answer? Irrelevance is the enemy of clarity. Each line should contribute to advancing the argument presented.

If the question asks you to give only your opinion and you agree fully, then there is no need to devote an entire paragraph to discussing the other side. Why not? You guessed it right. Because you agree fully. The examiner wants to know why you agree? what are the reasons? He surely is not interested to know why some others don't agree.

Always ask yourself whether or not the lines have a bearing on the issue under discussion and contribute to the argument that you are putting forward. If the answer is in the negative, ruthlessly eliminate them from your essay/letter

Did you repeat anywhere?

Repetition of words, phrases, points, sentence structures, even sounds maybe?

Were basic grammar rules followed?

1. Hopefully you did not make capitalization and spelling errors frequently?

2. All your writings exhibited a fairly wide range of sentence structures - a mix of complex, compound and simple sentences?

3. Were the paragraphs balanced? - all of them roughly of the same length?

4. In the essay, did you give your answer in the introduction with reasons; then elaborate those reasons in the body; and finally restate your answer in the conclusion?

5. Was handwriting so bad as to be illegible? If not, it’s not a factor.

Overall, are you sure that your essay/Writing Task 1 did not sound unnatural or stilted in any way? Because, if your language sounds like this,

. . .then, you can safely expect a 5.5-band score in your writing.

On the other hand, if you have adhered to the principles that have been referred to in this blog in detail, then you should have a strong possibility of achieving a 7-band score in your writing module.

And only in such a scenario, you may go ahead and get it re-evaluated.