Start and end well

All formal pieces of writing, whether they are for the IELTS examination or not, should be broken down into three very clear parts. These parts should be identified when you are at the “planning stage” before you start your writing. I questioned ten IELTS students who were just beginning a course of study and over half of them were unaware of the basic writing structure required to produce a complete written answer. These students could not identify the individual parts of a piece of writing. All pieces of writing must have an introduction, a main body and a conclusion.

It may seem obvious but a piece of writing that does not contain each of these three parts will seem incomplete and badly-structured. Also, if you plan with these structural parts in mind, it will help your planning. You can quickly learn fixed expressions that you can easily use in most introductions. The same applies to the language used in the main body and the conclusion.

Here’s a typical IELTS writing task 2 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.

Make sure that you read the question carefully and know exactly what you are being asked to do. Are you being asked to give your opinion with supporting evidence? Are you being asked to discuss an issue and perhaps offer your opinion about the issue or are you being asked to present a problem and a solution to the problem?

The introduction

This is where you state clearly what the purpose of the piece of writing is. You make it plain to the reader what the content is. You must never repeat the question “word for word” in your writing. It’s important that you rephrase the question. It is also a good idea to say what your opinion is if you have been asked to give it. You are clearly asked which viewpoint you agree with in the question. You can then explain the reasons for your opinion in the main body. Here are some example sentences from possible introductions to this piece of IELTS writing:

Advertising is thought by some to persuade people to purchase products that they do not need. There are other that believe that advertising exposes us to new products that will add to our lives. In my opinion, advertising prompts us to waste money on unnecessary purchases.
(thanks to Jose)

It is often argued that advertising persuades people to buy unneeded products. However, I believe that the products we buy because of advertising make our lives better.
(thanks to Min)

The main body

The main body is the “meat” of your piece of IELTS writing. In this case, it is where you justify your opinion about advertising. It isn’t necessary to to express more than three (two is sometimes enough) ideas in the main body. It is important that you identify exactly what you are going to write about when you are planning your piece of writing. It is extremely dangerous to try and come up with ideas spontaneously. The key to successful IELTS writing is careful planning. That piece of advice is so important that it needs repeating – the key to successful IELTS writing is planning!!

The content of the main body will be the subject of a future post.

You are not marked for the originality of your ideas. The examiner should not care what your ideas are, unless they are not relevant to the question. If they are not relevant to the question, it is clear that you haven’t understood the question. Your IELTS writing score might suffer!! make certain that you plan the content of the main body very carefully.

The conclusion

This is where you wrap everything up : you make it clear what you have discussed in the main body and what, in this case, your opinion is. The conclusion contains a summary of what has already been said. Some useful phrases are:
in conclusion
to conclude …
to sum up …
in summary …
it is clear that …
in conclusion …

In conclusion, it is clear that some advertising is necessary and introduces life-improving products but it usually tends to convince people to spend money on products that they do not really need.
(thanks to Mari)

In summary, there are many different types of advertisements but, on the whole, their effects are more positive than negative because they generally show us products that we might need. It is important to add that the consumer always has the final word and decides whether to buy or not.
(thanks to Dirk)

Remember! Don’t copy words and phrases directly from the question. Use your own words and phrases to answer the question.

Always remember that any piece of writing needs an introduction, a main body and a conclusion. It is important to plan your writing carefully and make sure you know what you are going to write in each of these part. You should try to learn useful expressions and phrases that can be used in any introduction, main body and or conclusion.

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