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Spot your own mistakes

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the number of IELTS students (and other learners of English) that produce a piece of writing and then fail to find any errors in it. When my students hand in their written work, I always ask them if they have checked it for errors. It’s incredible how many times my students say something like this:

There’s no point in me checking my own work. If I was able to find the errors, do you think I would have made them in the first place?

I can sort of understand the logic behind this answer. The students are saying that if they were able to spot the mistakes themselves, they would be in a position to not have made the mistakes at all. The students feel that if they had the knowledge to find mistakes, this would prevent them from making mistakes at all.

Of course, reality isn’t really like this. Here’s a confession – I make mistakes when I am writing this ‘blog and I have to edit my own work once it is finished. I am a native speaker of English and I still make mistakes. I am an English teacher and I always edit my writing once it is finished. I need to add to this confession that my level of vocabulary and idiom is as high as it could possibly be and my understanding of grammar is superb. Yet I still need to edit my own writing because I still make mistakes!! If I have to edit my writing, an IELTS student has no excuse:every piece of writing needs to be checked for errors and this checking needs to be factored in to the time available in the IELTS exam.

We all know that time is the greatest enemy in the IELTS exam but time must always be found to check your written work for errors. Finding errors and correcting them can affect your IELTS writing band score. If you correct an error, your piece of writing is improved!!

What to do before the exam

There are a number of things that an IELTS candidate can do before the exam to help them with their editing in the exam. These things should be done a long time before the exam – not the night before.

Plan your writing properly. Know what you are going to say in each paragraph and how you are going to say it e.g. which tenses could you use?

1 Decide how much time to spend on the different parts of the writing procedure. This includes time for planning, the actual writing and for editing your writing. Writing task two should take about forty minutes:how are you going to divide this time up? Only you will know what you are comfortable with but you should “experiment” before the exam. Don’t do anything new on the day of the exam. Many of my students feel comfortable with up to ten minutes of planning time and five minutes to edit their written text at the end. This leaves twenty-five minutes for writing. Lots of students feel even more comfortable if they edit as they write. They do this by reading each sentence they write a couple of times before moving on to the next sentence. Personally, I do both. I edit as I write and I reread my whole ‘blog post before I click on the publish button.

Don’t change your type of pen on the day of the exam. Write with a pen that you are used to!!

2 Make sure that you know how long the piece of IELTS writing should be. Writing task two should be at least 250 words long. How does that look in your handwriting? One student of mine caused herself lots of problems in the IELTS writing exam because she suddenly decided to change her handwriting style in the exam to make it more readable : she wrote bigger than normal but she was so used to how her 250 word compositions looked in her normal handwriting that she wrote much less than she normally did. Her normal handwriting was more than fine! The point is that you should be able to tell roughly how much you have written in the IELTS writing exam just by looking at your writing. Do the word counting before the exam. How many words do you normally write on a line? How many words do you write on one page? In the exam, you should aim to write more than 250 words – perhaps aim for 275 words. This is so that you write at least 250 words!!

3 Identify the common errors that you make in your writing. Do you always use the indefinite article when you should use the definite article? Do your subjects agree with the verbs that you use e.g. I likes chicken (this should be like, of course!) You should ask your English teacher to help you make a list of all of your common written errors and then practise checking for them in your writing. Make sure that you know the difference between common confusing words.

4 Before the exam, make sure that you are familiar with the way you should structure your writing. Read this.

What to do during the exam

Editing your writing is only part of the writing process but to get a higher band score for your writing in the IELTS exam it is essential that you do it.

1 Check for grammar mistakes : keep in mind your own common writing errors. Don’t make basic errors!
2 Check the vocabulary you have used : have you repeated words? Could you change them?
3 Make sure that you haven’t taken language directly from the question. If you have, change it.
4 Check that you have written enough!! There’s no need to count every word.
5 Before you start writing, make sure that you know what the question is.
6 Keep asking yourself whether you are answering the question.
7 Check that you have used a variety of grammatical tenses.
8 Make certain that the purpose of each paragraph is clear.

Can you find the errors in this piece of writing?

Here’s the question:


Some people say that advertising encourages us to buy things we really do not need. Others say that advertisements tell us about new products that may improve our lives. Which viewpoint do you agree with? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer. Write at least 250 words.


Nowadays, there is several advertisments that we see in our surrounding, such as in televisions and billboards and some say they encourage us to buy things we really do not need. Some of them are important while others are just to satisfy our needs. That is why some people say that advertising persuade people to buy products that are not necessary. However, there are some people think advertisements tells about new products that may improve their lives.
Most of the people now are very keen whether to buy or not to purchase a product that can be use for their daily living. One of those are the overseas contract workers. They work abroad and left their family to be able to save money. It is very important for them to purchase a quality items. Because they are using their hard earned money. Through advertisements they will be able to have the opportunity to choose and be familiar with the item they will purchase.
There are also some parents who think twice before buying goods that are needed at home and for their children. In connection of this, promoting the products to the market will be very helpful for the mother and father to decide whether it is advisable to purchase the item or not.
Some people say that advertising encourages them to buy things they really do not need. These are the people who are passive buyers. They buy items without thinking if it is applicable for them or does not check for the quality of the product.
In my conclusion, I agree that advertising a product helps the consumer to have an option on what item they are going to purchase. I am convinced that introducing a product to the public gives a clearer view as to whether it has a quality. Whereby, it helps to improve their living condition.

14 Comments

  1. starjerk says:

    Such interesting and useful post . Just wanna tell u “Thanks”.
    Thanks!

  2. I used to love reading your blog, but lately it’s been a little boring. I’ll still read it though =)

  3. Hey, I haven’t checked in here for a while, but I will put you on my bloglist so I don’t forget to check back.

  4. Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

  5. Nova Radio says:

    Well written, thank you for the post.

  6. Very good suggestions, I’m going to bookmark this and come back to it. I’m curious if you have any follow ups to this post?

  7. […] 1 Use what you learn It’s amazing how many times I have corrected a student’s pronunciation in the classroom and then heard them make the exact same pronunciation error in their very next sentence. Students that do this are failing to make the necessary effort in the classroom – it is their responsibility to put what they learn into practice. Good IELTS students will make every effort possible to not make the same mistake twice. As a teacher, I soon pick out the students that attempt to reinforce what they have learned by actually “doing it.” How many times do you make the same written errors in your IELTS writing? Do you apply what you have learned from the mistakes you made in last week’s piece of writing to your latest piece of writing? Good IELTS student will always ask themselves whether they are making the same mistake again and they will check. IELTS students should learn to edit their work. […]

  8. […] check for this mistake. It improved his writing no end!! Read more about editing your IELTS writing here. Spelling & punctuation It seems obvious to me that once I finish a piece of writing, I […]

  9. […] Try to identify the words that you find difficult to spell and check for them. Remember to check these things too before you have to hand in your piece of […]

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  11. […] amazing how many students don’t edit their own writing. You should be able to spot your own mistakes. Learn what kind of mistakes you make normally and train yourself to find these mistakes. Find a […]

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