Words, phrases and structures to avoid on Academic IELTS Writing

Many test takers struggle to achieve their desired band score on the Writing section of the IELTS Academic test as it can be one of the most challenging section of the test. One aspect that may be holding you back from the score you want is basic and informal language. Here are some examples of language to stay away from when Writing Task 1 and 2 on the IELTS test.

Simple Vocabulary

Since you want to showcase your range of vocabulary, try to avoid using basic words when discussing a topic. Use more complex and accurate vocabulary in order to boost your band score.

Adjectives

Help your band score by using advanced adjectives.

Commonly used

Recommended

A big number of people travel for leisure.

A large number of people travel for leisure.

Enforcing stronger penalties is an easy solution.

Enforcing stronger penalties is an obvious solution.

Modelling this behaviour can have a bad effect on children.

Modelling this behaviour can have a negative effect on children.

Nouns

Some nouns have a very general definition such as ‘things’ and ‘stuff’. When writing about a topic, use precise and formal language instead of these words.

Commonly used

Recommended

People tend to collect many things over time.

People tend to collect many items over time.

Often, stuff from our past can hurt us today.

Often, experiences from our past can hurt us today.

Cops need to be strict yet sympathetic when dealing with the public.

Police officers need to be strict yet sympathetic when dealing with the public.

Verbs

There are also verbs which have a variety of meanings and uses such as ‘have’, ‘give’, and ‘get’. Use topic specific verbs, when you can, to make the sentence more accurate. 

Commonly used

Recommended

This manual gives detailed information about the machinery used.

This manual provides detailed information about the machinery used.

Getting the correct information can be difficult.

Obtaining the correct information can be difficult.

When someone has the right tools, their future is bright.

When someone possesses the right tools, their future is bright.

Adverbs

For some, using ‘very’ or ‘so’ to stress a point is common. Always consider that there may be a more accurate way to say the same thing.

Commonly used

Recommended

Understanding the issue is very important.

Understanding the issue is crucial.

Forming a strong opinion can be so difficult for some.

Forming a strong opinion can be extremely difficult for some.

Casual Language

When we speak, some words and phrases sound very natural, however, that same language sounds informal in our writing. For Task 2 to be formal, different types of casual language should be avoided. 

Abbreviations/Contractions

To get the most out of your word count and keep your writing looking formal, always use vocabulary in its full form. 

Commonly used

Recommended

This requirement must be completed a.s.a.p.

This requirement must be completed as soon as possible.

Many factors contribute to the issue (ex. air pollution).

Many factors, such as air pollution, contribute to the issue.

Words can’t express the deep emotions that individuals feel.

Words cannot express the deep emotions individuals feel.

Technology doesn’t have a place in our school system.

Technology does not have a place in our school system.

Quantifiers 

It is also very informal to use ‘a lot of’ and ‘lots of’ in the Writing Task of the IELTS Academic test although these phrases are used frequently in Speaking section of the IELTS test. 

Commonly used

Recommended

Lots of people use public transportation.

Several people use public transportation.

With social media being so popular, only a few people actually meet in person.

With social media being so popular, only a slight number of people meet in person.

Phrasal Verbs

Even though the first column of sentences is correct, and we use phrasal verbs in our speaking all the time, there are more academic ways to say these phrases. 

Commonly used

Recommended

Running out of options can be a negative consequence.

Exhausting all options can be a negative consequence.

Organizations can call off any promotion at any time.

Organizations can cancel any promotion at any time.

When an idea blows up on the internet, it goes viral.

When an idea explodes on the internet, it goes viral.

Sentence Structures

Writing simple grammatical structures as well as using basic and casual language can hurt your Writing test band score.

Do not state, ‘we can clearly see’ and ‘it is obvious that’ when doing the Writing section of the IELTS test. Also, keep your linking words and phrases accurate but natural. Finally, try to write your sentences in different ways, so that it’s accurate and natural sounding. 

Commonly used

Recommended

It is obvious that the number of students increased over the two-year period.

The number of students increased over the two-year period.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s how you do it.

In conclusion, it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s how you do it.

There are many issues within the education system.

Many issues are occurring within the education system.

Make sure your writing is concise, accurate, and fully answers the questions when completing task 1 and 2 of the IELTS Writing test. If you are able to do this, your Writing test band score will thank you for it.

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