IELTS Success: Writing Effective Paragraphs

What we’re talking about today is essay¬† writing paragraphs. And I’m going to give you a structure you can use in the IELTS writing paper, in the discursive essay section. And you can also use what I’m teaching you today in the CAE exam, but also more generally in discursive essays because people who don’t have much experience writing essays or plus writing essays in English can often lose control of the essay because they’re not really writing with a structure in mind. And when that happens, you just start talking about something else that’s not even related to the question. So you don’t actually get very good marks when you write an essay that’s not about the question. Did you know that? Well, anyway, it happens sometimes.

So this structure is very fixed, and it’s repetitive. So you would follow the structure in your first paragraph. And then, you’d do three or four similar ones. It’s fixed for a reason, to keep your essay under control, to keep you answering the question.

So let’s have a look at a typical IELTS kind of question. “These days, many students decide to attend university in a foreign country. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of attending university in a foreign country.”

So first, what we need to do is we need to make a little plan. And I know the advantages and disadvantages based on my personal experience because I was lucky enough to study in a foreign country when I was a student. Yeah. I spent a year in Amsterdam. So what were the pros? Make friends from other countries. “Make friends — other countries.” I’m not going to — actually, I’m just going to write a shortened version because it doesn’t fit here. Make friends from other countries. Learn a language. What else? Challenge yourself. What else? Travel. Also, sometimes, expense might be a factor. Now, university is really, really expensive in the UK, so it may be an advantage to go study in a different country where it’s a bit cheaper. So potentially, it could be cost.

What are the disadvantages, then? You might get homesick. You might miss your parents, or you might miss your dog or something. You get homesick. You know, it might actually be more expensive for you. If you go to — if you move to a country where university is really expensive. So it could be expensive. Maybe learning a language is a disadvantage for some people because your grades might not be as good. So we could put in the language barrier.

So this is the really quick plan for when you’re writing a discursive essay like this. It really helps, especially if it’s about advantages and disadvantages. You’ve got them all down here. So when you’re writing the essay, you can just take any one of those. It’s not important to have, like, highly original ideas. You don’t have to think of something really amazing. It’s just an IELTS essay or similar.]

So here’s the basic plan, and here is the simple structure to follow. We’re going to use a set phrase. Then, we’re going to elaborate on that. That means say it a little bit more. Then, we’re going to do a sentence with “however” where we show a complicating factor or something is that, maybe, shows that what we’re talking about we’re not so clear about. And then, as an optional sentence, you can share your experience. And this can be altogether one paragraph. You finish that. Then, you do the same thing, but you pick a different point, either an advantage or a disadvantage.

So let’s have a look at the set phrases. You can just learn these set phrases to use in your essays. “One of the reasons” — well, obviously, it won’t be about studying abroad. You just change it to fit your question. “One of the reasons to study abroad…” “The main advantage of studying abroad…” “A good reason to study in a foreign country is…” So we just take one of the pros because these are all positive statements. “One of the reasons to study abroad is so you can make friends with people from other countries.” “The main advantage of studying abroad is to challenge yourself.” “A good reason to study in a foreign country is to learn a foreign language.” Okay? Then, you’ve got the first part of your introduction written.