It can be difficult finding the balance between sounding natural and being too informal when writing for Task 1 or Task 2 of the Writing section of the IELTS Academic test. Here are some tips for remaining formal while still writing effectively.
It is acceptable, to a degree, to generalise when writing about a topic where groups are involved, but take caution when doing it.
- No one believes that this system works.
- Everyone feels the same about this issue.
- Canadian people do not agree with this statement.
- It always works out in the end.
Stereotyping can happen quickly when placing everyone in the same group. Be careful not to overgeneralise when writing for Task 1 or Task 2.
- Most people don’t believe that this system works.
- The majority of people feel the same about this issue.
- Few Canadians agree with this statement.
- It works out in the end the majority of the time.
Make sure the language you use actually expresses your opinion accurately when you are trying to make your point clear. Also, make sure it doesn’t offend anyone.
- This is a terrible idea.
- This opinion is ridiculous.
Show that you feel strongly about the issue by trying to use more academic, tactful language.
- This idea is far from ideal.
- There are no facts to back this opinion.
Also, when writing about a topic, be careful of using basic colloquial language.
- It is so exciting in this day and age.
- It is great that people are able to work longer.
Precisely describing your feelings about the situation will showcase your knowledge and wide range of vocabulary.
- It is very exciting in this day and age.
- It is fantastic that people are able to work longer.
Do not attempt to show how strongly you feel about something by repeating words within a sentence.
- It is a very, very demanding position.
- There are a number of really, really negative aspects.
- The figure is much, much larger.
Doubling words such as ‘very’, which changes the magnitude of the adjective it modifies, is redundant and unnecessary. More precise words could be used instead of ‘really’ and ‘much’ in the other examples.
- It is a very demanding position.
- There are a number of extremely negative aspects.
- The figure is substantially larger.
Acronyms and Abbreviations
Try to use fully formed words instead of acronyms and abbreviations in order to be clear when writing.
- This problem needs to be fixed ASAP.
- It’s only OK if the right policies are put in place.
More precise language should be used in place of acronyms and abbreviations in certain sentences. This shows that you have a good understanding of colloquialisms.
- This problem needs to be fixed as soon as possible.
- It’s only acceptable if the right policies are put in place.
There are words and phrases that we use when speaking that are acceptable in the Speaking test; however, these words and phrases are not acceptable on the Writing section of the IELTS test. Because of this, make sure you know the difference between spoken and written English.
- Most people wanna have security in their position.
- The rules are gonna be modified.
On the Writing test, here are sentences that have the same meaning and are also acceptable.
- Most people want to have security in their position.
- The rules are going to be modified.
Numbers and Amounts
Try not to be casual when discussing amounts and numbers.
- There are tons of options to consider.
- To repair this, lots of time is needed.
In these sentences, there is more formal, academic language that has the same meaning.
- There are several options to consider.
- To repair this, a significant amount of time is needed.
Try to switch up your vocabulary in order to showcase your range and be careful not to use the words ‘a lot’ and ‘many’ too often.
Formal vs. Informal
You want your writing to appear formal even though you want it to come across as natural. When writing about different topics, try not to be too relaxed.
- The opinions of new and old are basically the same.
- There are many things to consider when going back to university.
- The new policy is better than the old one.
Explaining yourself precisely and effectively puts your range of vocabulary on display.
- The opinions of old and new are practically identical.
- There are many aspects to consider when going back to university.
- The previous policy doesn’t stand up to the new policy.
If presented with a graph on Task 1 of the Writing test, you cannot describe the actual lines on the graph.
- The red line is going through the roof.
- The line on the graph is shaky.
- The line is flat.
When describing the trend within the graph(s), you must use specific, descriptive language.
- The number of people who attended sky rocketed.
- The percentage of language learners fluctuated.
- The amount of money spent was stable throughout the period.
Over and above the period (full stop) and comma, punctuation can be difficult to use. Punctuation can be a great advantage and possibly lead to a higher band score if used correctly. It can also make your writing appear sloppy if used incorrectly. Rather than using ‘!’ or ‘?’ or more than one punctuation mark, try to explain yourself clearly.
- There needs to be more evidence to prove this point!!
- Does anyone believe this to be true?
Using better vocabulary will demonstrate that you are able to accurately express your opinion through your words and phrases.
- There is definitely not enough evidence to prove this point.
- Many believe this not to be true.
Also, before trying to add semicolons and colons into your writing, make sure you know how to use them.
- The cow is black and white, it is also young.
- Their colleagues gave them exactly what they required which was: support and recognition.
Here are some examples on how to properly use a semicolon and colon.
- The cow is black and white; it is also young.
- Their colleagues gave them exactly what they required: support and recognition.
In regards to your writing, accuracy and precision may lead to a higher band score. When writing both Task 1 and Task 2 on the IELTS Academic Writing test, take these tips into consideration.