Information About IELTS

Disclaimer

The most reliable sources of information are the official IELTS websites.  I attended an official British Council IELTS refresher course for teachers in February 2019, which was led by an IELTS examiner; I am sharing with you, here, in this page, information from the refresher course, and in some cases information directly from the website.  My personal opinion is included in places.  I will not accept any attempt to make me financially liable for errors, which could be caused by various factors including changes in IELTS procedures.

About this IELTS information page

This page is mostly about taking, and preparing to take, the Academic IELTS exam.  This is, for most practical purposes, a tough, high level exam in English, designed for non-native speakers.  In this page I concentrate on information that is less prominent in the official websites; in some cases this info may not appear in the official websites.  This page should be treated as a supplement to the official websites; the official websites should be your primary source of information.

5 Types of IELTS

There are 5 IELTS qualifications: “Academic”, “General Training”, “Life Skills B1”, “Life Skills A2”, and “Life Skills A1”.  The three Life Skills qualifications are at much lower levels than the other two.  The Life Skills qualifications appear to only be used for UK immigration purposes, normally relating to people who are applying to enter or remain on grounds of being related to a legal resident. These qualifications do not appear to be taken by large numbers of people.

The Academic and General Training exams consist of 4 “papers”: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.  The Listening and Speaking exams are identical in both the Academic and General Training versions.  The Reading and Writing papers in the Academic version are very similar to those in the General Training version in principle, but the content differs in the way that we can expect given the names of the versions.  The content of the General Training version is related to everyday topics, and as such is easier for almost everyone. (More precisely, it’s almost always easier, in General Training, to get the same grade numbers as in the Academic version.) General training is often taken to (attempt to) satisfy requirements, often immigration requirements, for skilled non-academic employment.

In almost all cases, organisations that accept either Academic or General IELTS as proof of language ability have specified at least one alternative qualification to IELTS that they accept in lieu of IELTS.  This does not seem to apply to Life Skills IELTS: the UK government seems to administer Life Skills IELTS as part of the immigration bureaucracy.

The rest of this page ignores the existence of the 3 “Life Skills” qualifications.  On this page I concentrate on the Academic qualification, which now appears to be the most widely-recognised qualification which, if high enough marks are obtained, can very often satisfy English Language proficiency requirements for entry to university-level institutions, and English-speaking professional bodies where allowed, and requirements for entry, where allowed, to the relevant English-speaking country.

The IELTS Academic exam is taken by substantially more candidates than the other types of IELTS.

The IELTS Academic exam seems to be the most popular and versatile exam in the world for satisfying requirements to prove higher-ability levels in the English language.  Whether this is true or not, I don’t know; feel free to check out the official sources!

A small, but noticeable, proportion of the candidates that take the exam are native speakers of English, who are entering the exam because they need to prove, just like other candidates, that they have a sufficiently high command of English.  This is despite the fact that the exam is designed for non-native speakers.

IELTS is a tough exam

There are 9 bands of achievement. On paper, it’s very rare to fail.  However, most candidates are aiming for a band 5 or higher, and this is in general a formidable challenge which can lead to bad cases of exam nerves!

The issues around security (preventing cheating) at the test centre, and the possibility of disqualification due to forgetting security requirements, are generally agreed to create a rather intimidatory environment.  This applies equally to the online delivery mode of the non-Speaking papers, which takes place in computer centres.

You are allowed to take (almost) nothing into the exam room. In particular, the following are forbidden: phones, watches, any type of computer, anything containing paper (such as a book), and anything else written.

There generally isn’t enough time to complete the tasks, even for native speakers, except where a candidate has specifically prepared for this exam extremely thoroughly and has a high command of the language.

All of the 4 papers are taken on the same day, except that the test centre has the power to vary the day of the Speaking test by up to 7 days.  This brings the length of the time period of highly intensive interaction with the exam material to just under 3 hours, if Speaking is on the same day.

In the Reading and Listening papers, the candidate can only gain marks from responses which are 100% accurate in both spelling and grammar (and also punctuation!).  These responses must also follow the instructions to the letter.

In the multiple-choice parts of the Listening and Reading papers, the wrong answers (known as “distractors”) can seem very plausible!

The audio for the Listening paper is not repeated!

In the Listening paper, some speakers speak with an Australian “twang”, which isn’t normally a problem for Brits, but can be disconcerting for other nationalities.

At the end of the Listening paper, you are given only a short amount of time to transfer your answers to the official answer paper.  There is a danger of the answers on the answer paper not matching the question numbers, invalidating all of the wrongly-matched responses.  You are therefore advised to transfer the answers earlier if possible.

In Reading (the Academic version at least), it’s vital to follow the instructions to the letter (as always), but there isn’t time to properly read the main material (the sample texts), even for a native speaker who is a “quick reader”!  The challenge in this paper is to extract and write the specified information that has been asked for.  A justification for this method of testing reading ability is that it is often considered an essential skill in an academic setting.

At the end of the Reading paper, you are not given any extra time to transfer your answers to the official answer paper.  (You take the Reading paper after the Listening paper, in which you were given time to do this.)  You are therefore in danger of running out of time and scoring zero for the whole paper! You are also in danger of rushing to fill in the answer sheet at the end, leading to the answers on the answer paper not matching the question numbers, invalidating all of the wrongly-matched responses.  The questions often come in groups of similar-format questions; after finishing a group of questions you must immediately transfer your answers to the answer sheet, if not before.  This should avoid a panic at the end and lessen the chances of wrongly-matched answers on the official answer sheet.

In the Speaking test, the candidates are expected to elaborate, perhaps several times, rather than giving what could naturally be short, or very short answers, without being prompted by the examiner more than minimally, to show off their language abilities.  The examiner will alter the question very quickly if you appear to be using a prepared answer!

To get good marks in the Writing paper, you need to stick to accepted formats.  The variety of English must be standard USA, UK, or Australian. (As far as I’m aware, the standard written versions of Australian and UK English are identical.)  The register needs to be quite conventionally formal, particularly in the Academic version; so, to achieve a good grade in the Academic version, the writing needs to be a lot more formal than this page! None of this is explained in the test paper.

I think it’s worth me quoting, in full, the section of the official IELTS website that is addressed to native speakers:-

Even native English speakers should practise for IELTS before taking the test. Make the most of our free resources and tips.  It’s natural to be nervous before taking a test, and this applies to native English speakers too.  In fact, some native English speakers score less well on their test than other test takers. Even if you speak English fluently, it’s essential to practise for IELTS so there are no unpleasant surprises on the day of your test.  Familiarise yourself with the format of the test. Take some of our free practice tests.  Practise your test technique.  Remember, each part of the test will be timed so make sure you practise in timed conditions.  Understand what happens on test day so you’re completely prepared and can focus on getting the result you want. Don’t leave it to chance.  IELTS is one of the world’s most respected English language tests.  Our testing system is designed to ensure that all test takers – even native English speakers – can excel in their career, studies or new life abroad.   To achieve the best score in your test, it’s vital to prepare well – even if you have a good track record with exams.  You’ll need to listen very carefully for specific information in the Listening test.  You’ll be asked to carry out tasks that you may never have done before in the Reading and Writing tests.  In the Speaking test, you will have to speak fluently and coherently on a topic, regardless of whether you find it interesting.  Remember, each part of the test will be timed, so practise in timed conditions.

Some things that help

You can take the exam multiple times without it counting against you.  It is available up to 4 times every month (on 3 Thursdays and one Saturday) at numerous test centres around the world.  In general, the General Training version is available less frequently.  Some accepting institutions allow you to combine papers from different sessions to achieve the best combination of bands (for example, Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening all from different weeks).  Beware, however, that a result officially becomes worthless after 2 years!

You are allowed to (and, for efficiency, you need to) annotate all the question papers, including the material given to you in the Speaking test.  After the exam session, these question papers will be destroyed!

The markers don’t subtract marks for wrong answers; they only give positive marks, for correct answers and good elements in an answer.  This means that it’s better to give an answer than nothing at all; you will get credit for anything correct.  This is particularly true in the Listening and Reading papers, where you get one point per correct answer.

Within each type of paper (e.g. Academic Writing), the formats of the papers conform closely to a narrow range of set patterns.  You can become accustomed to the set of formats by practising past papers.  Some parts of the procedure of sitting the exam will then become automatic, greatly reducing exam nerves.  For example, “Here we go again, today the thing they want me to summarise is graphs.” Or “OK, now it’s time to find the topic sentences in each paragraph of this text and underline them, and circle the important words.”

It is completely OK for handwritten answers to contain capital letters only, rather than lower case.  This may help if your handwriting is difficult to read, and has the added advantage that you can’t have marks withheld for non-capitalisation of words such as months.  However, writing in capitals only normally takes significantly more time.

In Listening and Reading papers, numerals are always acceptable, which avoids the danger of mis-spelling a number word. Similarly, abbreviations such as “Feb” or “Wed” are OK in dates.  (You can also mix USA spellings with UK spellings.)

In the Listening paper, the answers go in chronological order; in other words, you hear the answer to question 1, then the answer to question 2, then 3……. However, beware that the format of the questions can be deceptive; it may appear that the first speaker will provide the answers to questions 1 and 2, and the second speaker will answer questions 3 to 5, but in fact the first speaker could provide the answer to question 3.  The answers can appear very rapidly.

In the Listening paper there are normally 4 “sections” or “parts”; there is one audio track per section, and each section contains 10 questions. Before the audio is played, you get a little time to read through questions for the first section.  Use this time to the max!  You may find you can start to look ahead to get a flavour of the other sections, which increase in difficulty.

In the Reading paper, the order of the questions is almost always in the same order as the answers appear in the texts, with an important exception.  The exception is a task, which appears in many, if not all, Academic reading papers, in which some section headings (titles) need to matched with their sections.

It’s always OK (even in academic essays) to use words such as “I”, “us”…

This final item appears to be a problem, but if you are used to it, it’s quite easy to deal with…. In Part 1 of almost every Listening paper, a speaker corrects themselves, e.g. “My phone number is 845781 – no, it’s 854781.” In this case the correct answer is “854781”.

IELTS grades

IELTS is graded in “bands” from 0 to 9 for each skill (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking).  The best results are 9s, and the worst are zeros.  Candidates normally receive results within 13 working days of taking the test; the results are a band number, to the nearest half, for each of the 4 skills.  Candidates do not receive any further information.  You can challenge your grade for a fee, which is then refunded if your grade is increased.  You are normally advised not to do this, as it is usually unsuccessful…..

Errors in the marking of Reading and Listening papers are very rare, as it is very clear what answers are correct, and what answers are not. IELTS produces a definitive answer key for use by the markers.  The exact correspondence of the bands to the numbers of correct answers is not publicised, and can vary from week to week (i.e. paper to paper).

Writing scripts are marked according to official “Band Descriptor” guidelines.  The markers are expected to agree on the bands to within a half band.  Markers in various locations receive scans of the scripts online.  A proportion of these have already been marked by someone else, but the marker will not know which scripts these are.  If there is a difference of more than half a band, then IELTS will investigate why.

In the Speaking paper, one or more examiners decide your band during or immediately after your performance.  Your performance is also recorded so that some performances can be re-marked as part of Quality Control (ensuring that the marking is consistent).

There is always pressing demand form learners to “know their bands”, but teachers are strongly advised not to assign bands to their students.  This is partly because a candidate’s performance can vary widely from day to day, or paper to paper, and partly to avoid the wrath of candidates, or their sponsors, when they don’t achieve their expected band. Instead, teachers are advised to discuss comparison of Writing scripts to the official publicly-available “Band Descriptor” criteria.

IELTS courses

“IELTS courses” are courses that focus on improving learners’ exam technique rather than general English level.  The British Council advise teachers to make available to candidates as much IELTS information and background as possible – hence this page. IELTS courses are intended to boost candidates’ potential by around half a band, and should only be aimed at higher level students.  In other cases (where students need to improve performance by a whole band or more, or they are clearly no higher than Band 4, or perhaps even they meet some criteria for Band 5), students are advised to take a General English course first.

Random IELTS info, and general musings about IELTS

IELTS is owned by 3 “partners” –  The British Council, the University of Cambridge, and an Australian organisation.  The British Council functions as one of the many arms of the British government.  The British Council uphold standards in the teaching of English to non-native speakers, particularly in the UK; one of the ways they do this is through their power to influence visa application decisions by means of the system of registration of language schools.  They also facilitate international arts events and promote aspects of British culture.

The address that I was officially given for IELTS is www.takeielts.org, which seems to work very well from the UK. There appears to be at least one other official website, but some of the links don’t seem to work properly.

IELTS knows that there will always be people who attempt to beat or bypass the system.  They have designed and tested, over many years, a robust system which seems absolutely immune to any kind of cheating.

There can be no perfect exam system that makes everybody happy; it’s not ideal that the design of the exam favours those who have specifically prepared for the exam, but we would be hard-pressed to design a better system.

To complement the publicly-available band descriptors (for Writing and Speaking), there is a set of secret band descriptors (which I don’t have access to!).  I think that the reason for the secret guidelines must be to prevent people from “gaming the system”.

There is a small minority of candidates who score zero in parts of the exam (for example, a whole Writing paper!) due to illegible handwriting.  This has included some doctors! Candidates whose writing is just about legible, or is legible given the context, are not supposed to have marks withheld. (“Lexical resource” is part of the criteria that contributes to a band score in Writing, and this can be reduced due to bad spelling, but no marks can be similarly withheld due to bad handwriting.)  However, such a candidate could be treading a fine line between getting a reasonable band and getting a zero!

The publicly-available band descriptors for Writing Task 1 (the ”Writing assessment criteria”) list requirements for “Task Achievement”, “Coherence and cohesion”, “Lexical resource” and “Grammatical Range and Accuracy”.  When assessing a writing task, a teacher or examiner determines a band level in each of the 4 areas; then they average out the numbers to determine the band level of the task as a whole.  Each of the areas contain several requirements at each band level, each with a bullet point.  To achieve a particular band in one of these areas (for example “coherence and cohesion”), the task must satisfy all of the bullet points for that area.  The same system applies for Writing Task 2 and Speaking.

Oxbridge generally requires an overall band of 7.5; sometimes a minimum of 7.5 is specified for one or more of the skills (e.g. writing).  It is unusual for any organisation to require band 8 or above.

There is plenty of learning material, much of it free, on the official website and elsewhere.

If you bring a drinks bottle to the test, there must be no label and it must be see-through!

A very common error in the exam is not following instructions to the letter.

A common error in the Listening and Reading papers, when the task is to supply words to fill in a gap, is repeating words from outside the gap.  This results in grammatically incorrect sentences such as “The pool is 60 metres long long.”  (The candidate has written “60 metres long” instead of “60 metres”).

The Reading and Writing papers are each 1 hour long.  You are given the following warnings: “You have 40 minutes left.”, “You have 20 minutes left.”, “You have 10 minutes left.”, and “You have 5 minutes left.”.  Perhaps the wording may vary slightly.  I think it’s reasonable to assume that there will be a working clock visible at all times.

Don’t give your own opinion in Reading or Listening papers. Remember this, especially when dealing with the 2 question types below.

In Reading and Listening papers, there is a question type in which you must answer “True” or “False” or “Not Given”. “True” and “False” relate to the facts stated rather than the writer’s or speaker’s opinion.

In Reading and Listening papers, there is a question type in which you must answer “Yes” or “No” or “Not Given”. “Yes” and “No” relate to the writer’s or speaker’s opinion.

In different regions of the world, the questions differ, but are not adapted to the region of the world.  I suppose that the reason that the questions differ is to lessen the exposure of the IELTS organisation to the risk of a problem with an exam.

You need to bring your own pencils, pencil sharpeners and erasers.  If you prefer, bring pens for making notes when you are doing the non-Writing papers.

More about the Speaking Paper

You do not need to speak the truth in the speaking exam – you are allowed to lie!

If you run out of ideas at any stage, you can try talking about a different time – past, present or future.

The examiner that you speak to has a clock; usually you cannot see the face of the clock.  The examiner is not allowed to give you more than 14 minutes total.

There are 3 stages. In stage 1, an examiner asks you general questions.  You are advised to not just answer the questions but explain why, where possible.

For stage 2, you receive an instruction card.  [ You have 1 minute to look at the card and think.  You will have to talk about a topic for 1 to 2 minutes. You may make notes on the card. ]  The information that I have enclosed here in square brackets is written on the card under the main instructions.  The main instructions consist of around 30 words.  There is some blank space on the card.  The main instructions relate to speaking about one topic, for example, a museum, a sports event or a book that you have read. In your preparation minute, you are advised to look at the instructions, determine what the general topic area is and draw a spidergram relating to the topic.  For example, if the instructions include talking about a museum, write “Museum” and the name of any museum that you can think of in the middle of the spidergram, with lines to other words such as “what”, “where”, “name”, “why”, and perhaps ideas that have popped into your head. For some students, the worst topic is “books”; such students can watch a film of a book in the fortnight leading up to the Speaking test in case this topic comes up.

In stage 3, the examiner responds with more questions for you relating to the topic of stage 2.  Your tactics can include rephrasing the examiner’s question, defining or questioning some words that the examiner has spoken in their question, and delaying phrases such as “Let me think…”, “I’ve not really thought about it, but perhaps…”, “But if I were….” etc.  These buy you a little more time to think; it’s recommended to do a selection of these things every time you practice.

More about Academic Reading

There are 3 texts, each worth about third of the marks.  Each text is about a topic.  Each text often contains historical information about the topic and/or research relating to the topic, and/or problems relating to the topic.

You are advised to do the following for each text, in this order:-

Have a quick look at the text (not the questions yet) for a few seconds to see where it begins and ends, what the topic is, and what the structure is (e.g. “It’s 5 paragraphs.” or “It’s 4 paragraphs and the last one is far longer than the other paragraphs.”)

Each paragraph of every Reading text used in IELTS normally contains a “topic sentence”.  This is the sentence which shows what the paragraph is about.  It’s usually the 1st or 2nd sentence of its paragraph.  Find and underline the topic sentence in each paragraph.

Look at the text again very quickly and circle key content words relating to the topic of the text.

Look at the questions (for the 1st time) and predict quickly the paragraphs that the answer are located in, perhaps writing the question numbers next to the paragraphs.  Remember that the questions and answers are normally in the same order.

Now try to answer the questions on the question paper, skipping over difficult ones.

Perhaps review your answers briefly, looking again (not for too long!) at any that you have skipped.

Transfer all answers that you are happy with over to the answer paper.

Quickly guess the other answers if there are any that you still haven’t decided, and transfer these to the answer paper too.  (You can go back to these if you have time to spare after you have tackled all 3 texts.)

More about Academic Writing

It’s a good idea if each of your paragraphs contains a topic sentence, in the same way as the Academic IELTS Reading texts do.  There may be other structures from the IELTS Reading texts that you can use in your Writing, so it’s a good idea to tackle IELTS Reading before IELTS Writing.

Pencil is much better than pen – you can rub out unwanted words! It’s quicker to strike words out with a line, but you may not have left room to easily write a replacement word.

Writing Task 1 carries only a third of the marks and contains one or more map, diagram, table, graph or other picture.  You are asked to describe, explain or summarise a process or situation. You need to allow 3 minutes to get your head around what the task is (and probably write a plan which consists of a few words only), 12 minutes to write, and 4 minutes to error correct, before going on to the other task (Task 2).  Of course, you are permitted to do Task 2 first instead.  This is inadvisable, as it’s important to leave enough time for Task 1, and the risk of over-running on Task 2, if done first, is even worse than the other way round.

You are given a question and answer booklet.  Your Task 1 goes on a peach-coloured mostly-blank sheet, and Task 2 on a white mostly-blank sheet.  The parts of the booklet which contain the questions will be destroyed after the session; you can (and should) use them to plan your writing.  You do not need to waste time writing the title of the task on your paper.  If you find that you have put your Task 1 response on your Task 2 answer paper, and/or vice versa, you need to tell the examiners, which will almost certainly be stressful, but you will not, in principle, be penalised for this, so you shouldn’t re-write your responses if you have written a significant amount on the wrong answer sheet.

In Task 1 (unlike Task 2), you are not asked to interpret the information given, so you must not do so.  You should just write about the facts given, which you must treat as facts, even if you think that they are wrong.

In Task 1, you should have an introduction (“topic overview”) that explains the scope of what you are doing, or achieving, or trying to achieve in your writing task.  This is typically the first paragraph of 3 or 4.

Good Task 1 writing will naturally contain 3 or 4 paragraphs (rather than 2 or 6).

In Task 1 you should use your own words, so you should try to use synonyms for most of the topic words used in the question.

For Task 1, make sure you use the correct units – for example, the units on the graph may be in thousands of people, in which case “2” on the graph represents “2000 people” in your writing; also, don’t copy sentences from the question!

Writing Task 1 is considered by teachers to have particularly fruitful potential for bumping up your marks by practising and studying the format.

Here is a formula for the 1st sentence of Task 1 to get you going on auto-pilot: What’s being measured? Type of picture given? Units? Categories? Years? Time Period? (Not all of these will always be appropriate.)  An example of a 1st sentence is: We have been given a bar chart showing the relative proportion of tourist numbers of 3 different nationalities visiting Italy over a period of 10 years showing 3 calendar years at 5-year intervals.

In different regions of the world (as I have written above) the questions differ, and the markers receive scripts from around the world.  Therefore the markers does not necessarily know by heart what the task instructions are.  The most efficient way to mark a piece of Writing is to start by looking at the writing (without looking at the question first), and deciding on the appropriate band descriptors relating to “Coherence and cohesion”, “Lexical resource” and grammar.  Then it’s time to look at the question and assess task achievement (and withhold some vocabulary marks if too much of the given vocabulary is used), and perhaps finally ponder whether there is an issue of the candidate having memorised the answer.

For Task 1, a person reading the script should be able to re-create, to a greater or lesser extent, the original picture/diagram etc. Obviously this applies less if the candidate was originally presented with a numerical table – and in general you shouldn’t try to describe every item of data.

You should not use bullet points – you will get lower marks for “coherence and cohesion”. This also applies in General Training Writing.

Some Academic Writing Task 2 strategies

It’s a “normal” essay, in which you are allowed to, and should, include your own opinion.  Your writing will normally need to include material that elucidates opposing points of view.

Timing guidelines: plan for 5 minutes, write (on the answer sheet) for 25-30 min. (max.), checking 5 min.

You should not give too much personal information; we are looking at the bigger picture.  If you do include personal information, it doesn’t matter if whether it’s a lie or not (as long as it’s plausible!).

As in Task 1, they are looking for (so you get credit for) a reasonable variety of language (in particular, vocabulary), ideally hopefully using some different vocabulary from the question.  Your response should be logical.

The biggest problem is understanding exactly what the question requires, and answering it properly.  When faced with the question, you can rewrite it to help to start forming your plan.  For example, you have been asked to write about the following topic (in addition to further instructions on the page): In many countries children are engaged in some kind of paid work. Some people regard this as completely wrong, while others consider it as valuable work experience, important for learning and taking responsibility. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion. This question can be re-written as follows:-

  • Is paid work (children) wrong?
  • Can paid work (children) be valuable work experience?
  • Is it important for learning?
  • Is it important for taking responsibility?
  • What is my opinion?

Answering each of the above questions to at least some extent is compulsory for a good mark. You may have other questions that pop up in your brain:-

  • Where do children work?
  • How do you define “children”?

An alternative to the above is just circling the different parts of the question and adding your own questions if they pop up.

You are advised to select 3 or 4 main points (arguments) for your essay.  These will be points of view that (you imagine) people might have. 6, 7 or 8 is too many, because you won’t have time to write enough details. For example:-

  • Children who don’t work are shielded too much from the realities of society, which will cause them problems later.
  • Poor children who work are denied a proper education, so they will never be able to lift themselves out of poverty.
  • It’s important to get the balance right – they should go to school and work part-time but not full-time.
  • There should be a new work-based education system.

I have written the above arguments in full, but of course you can abbreviate.  You can write them as a list as above, or if you want you can do it as a “spidergram”, with the re-written questions, or the original question with parts circled, at the centre, and the main points radiating out.

You are going to write 1 paragraph for each main point.  You may not need an extra introductory paragraph or an extra concluding paragraph.

The next stage is deciding your order of paragraphs (i.e. your order of main points).  It works best if the final paragraph (at least) contains your opinion, the final paragraph links back to the question, and your opinion reflects the balance of arguments in the essay.  (in other words, there should be more material in the essay supporting than opposing your opinion.)  If there is no extra introductory paragraph, make sure that for your first paragraph, which obviously is going to introduce the topic as a whole, you choose a key argument that is quite strongly linked to most of the other arguments.

In the above scenario you can conclude (your last paragraph) with your own opinion, which will hopefully be related to one of the arguments.

In the above scenario you have the option of deciding that one of the arguments is less important and could be mentioned in one of the other paragraphs, in which case your essay is going to have 3 paragraphs.

shows that the large body of text above refers to the 5 minutes planning process

Above I have written hints for planning (5 min.) After this, it’s time to do the actual writing, directly onto the answer sheet.

Each paragraph should contain its argument as a topic sentence, normally the first sentence of the paragraph (occasionally the second).  So, this argument is the main point in the paragraph.  The other sentences support or clarify the main point.  Here is a possible paragraph 1, where I have chosen to use the first argument from the above list; the essay would begin as follows:-

In many countries there is a school of thought that claims that children who are not employed are shielded from the realities of life and society, which is likely to cause them problems in their future life.  In these types of society, children often work together with their families and learn a trade at the same time; in some cases this is considered the best form of education.  However, many disagree, saying that this type of education is very limited, and in fact there are many problems with this; often children do not like their work and are working in dangerous conditions and sometimes even die.

A possible start to paragraph 2 (where I have chosen the 2nd argument from the above list) could be:-

The dominant view in the “developed West” is that most children in full-time paid work throughout the world are being denied a proper education, making it almost impossible for them to ever lift themselves out of poverty.  In many European countries there are strict laws that regulate the employment of children; however there is a minority view that this restricts the freedom of children to….

(The colour codes above are not a strategy; I have coloured some words in this IELTS page to show you where two sentences near the bottom here have come from.)

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