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Writing Task 2: Why can’t I get a band 8?

Published on December 2, 2019

Getting the score you need in IELTS Writing Task 2 is achievable when you know the criteria examiners mark against.

Our IELTS experts have put together a guide on what you need to do right (positive features) and what you might be doing wrong (negative features) when writing your essay.

Using each of the assessment criteria, let’s take a closer look at the mistakes preventing you from reaching a band 8 and the steps you need to take to move from a band 7 to a band 8 in Writing Task 2.

Task response

How you respond to the question affects your final score. Let's have a look at the below table to see how your response can get you to a band 8.

 Task response: band 7 Mistakes stopping you from reaching a band 8  Task response: band 8 
  • Addresses all parts of the task
  • Presents a clear position throughout the response
  • Presents, extends and supports main ideas (there may be a tendency to over-generalise and/ or supporting ideas may lack focus)
  • Partially addressing the question: some parts of the task are missing from your answer
  • Over-generalising: writing in a general way and not being specific enough about the topic
  • Ideas: the ideas presented are too general and do not support your position/ opinion
  • Irrelevance: ideas may be irrelevant
  • Sufficiently addresses ALL parts of the task
  • Presents a well-developed response to the question with relevant, extended and supporting ideas

 

Coherence and Cohesion

The way you structure your essay and link your ideas between paragraphs is what the examiner looks for in your Task 2 essay.

The following points will help you understand what the examiner looks for in a band 8 essay.

 Coherence and cohesion: band 7 Mistakes stopping you from reaching a band 8 Coherence and cohesion: band 8
  • Logically organises information and ideas. There is a clear progression through the response
  • Uses a range of cohesive devices appropriately, although there may be some under or over-use
  • Presents a clear central topic within each paragraph
  • Organisation: the sequence of ideas is not always clear or logical
  • Cohesive devices: too many linking words and phrases are used, always at the beginning of every sentence
  • Paragraphing: there may be too many or too few paragraphs, and some one-sentence paragraphs
  • Central topic: each paragraph does not have a clear, central topic that is developed logically
  • Sequences information and ideas logically
  • Manages all aspects of cohesion well
  • Uses paragraphs sufficiently and appropriately

 

Lexical resource

The range of vocabulary you use to express your ideas is very important. You need to use a wide range of vocabulary to convey precise meaning and you need to show that you can do this flexibly. The other criteria needed to achieve a band 8 are given below.

 Lexical resource: band 7 Mistakes preventing you from reaching a band 8 Lexical resource: band 8
  • Uses a sufficient range of vocabulary to allow some flexibility and precision
  • Uses less common lexical items with some awareness of style and collocation
  • May produce occasional errors in word choice, spelling and/ or word formation
  • Range: not wide enough to discuss the topic and extend ideas
  • Precise meaning: word choices are imprecise and inaccurate word choices are made
  • Uncommon lexical items: Clichés or proverbs are overused, and word choices are inappropriate for the task
  • Spelling: more than occasional errors are made, the reader notices errors
  • Word form: word formation errors are made (e.g. I am unemployment)
  • Word choices: inappropriate word choices are made, such as old-fashioned language (e.g. henceforth) or informal language (e.g. gonna, uni)
  • Uses a wide range of vocabulary fluently and flexibly to convey precise meaning
  • Skillfully uses uncommon lexical items, but there may be occasional inaccuracies in word choice and collocation
  • Produces rare errors in spelling and/ or word formation

 

 

Grammatical range and accuracy

Make sure you use a wide range of grammatical structures and that your sentences are error-free. You can use the following tips to convert your essay to a band 8.

Grammatical range and accuracy: band 7 Mistakes stopping you from reaching a band 8 Grammatical range and accuracy: band 8
  • Uses a variety of complex structures
  • Produces frequent error-free sentences
  • Has good control of grammar and punctuation, but may make a few errors
  • Range: the range is not wide enough to show that you can use different structures to express yourself
  • Error-free sentences: there are some errors in complex and simple sentences.They need to be mostly error-free
  • Punctuation: there are some errors. Punctuation needs to be accurate, using capitalisation, commas and full stops correctly.
  • Uses a wide range of structures
  • The majority of sentences are error-free
  • Makes only very occasional errors or inappropriacies

 

And remember, before you submit your essay, use the following checklist to make sure your writing contains the postive features required for a band 8 in Writing Task 2.

Task response
  • Did you answer ALL parts of the question sufficiently?
  • Are all your ideas and supporting arguments relevant to the question?
  • Did you avoid over-generalising the topic?
  • Does the examiner know exactly what you think and do you present this position clearly throughout the whole essay?
  • Did you support your ideas with clear examples (not vague research and survey results)?
Coherence and cohesion
  • Can the examiner follow your ideas easily from the beginning of your essay to the end?
  • Does your response progress clearly? Does it have a clear introduction, paragraphs with main ideas and supporting examples and conclusion?
  • Did you use a range of linking words and phrases?
  • Did you avoid repetition and starting every sentence with a linking device (e.g. firstly, secondly, thirdly)?
  • Did you use referencing (e.g. these issues...) and subsitution (e.g. problems, issues) correctly?
  • Did you use sufficient paragraphs?
  • Did you use one paragraph to develop each idea?
  • Is there a clear introductory and concluding paragraph?
Lexical resource
  • Did you use a range of vocabulary that is on-topic?
  • Did you make precise vocabulary choices?
  • Did you avoid memorised language, clichés (e.g. double-edged sword) and proverbs?
  • Did you use collocation correctly (e.g. environmental problem, global issues)?
  • Did you use appropriate uncommon words (e.g. detrimental to, cultural diversity, measures)?
  • Did you correct your spelling?
  • Did you check for typos?
  • Did you use the correct form for the word needed, such as adverbs, nouns, adjectives and verbs?
Gramatical range and accuracy
  • Did you use simple and complex structures accurately?
  • Did you use a range of structures, such as conditional, present perfect, relative clauses and modal verbs?
  • Did you avoid long, complicated sentences?
  • Are your sentences error-free?
  • Did you punctuate correctly?
  • Did you use capital letters to start sentences and for proper nouns?
  • Did you use commas in your complex sentences, where needed?
  • Did you use full stops (.) to finish sentences?