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A Test Taker's Journey:IELTS writing task 1: writing the introduction (1)

【明報專訊】IN the last issue we talked about a "magic recipe" that promises to increase our chance of success in the IELTS writing test. Starting from this issue, I will guide you through each procedure of the recipe for Task 1.

To make sure that we "cook up" what the examiner wants, we need to base our recipe on one important document: the official band descriptors from the organisers of IELTS concerning the four criteria. Refer to the link for a look at it (https://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/ielts_task_1_writing_band_descriptors.pdf), referred to as the "grid" by some. As you might see, the information is quite vague. By what yardstick, for example, does the examiner determine whether an answer "addresses the requirements of the task" (a band 6 response), "covers the requirements of the task" (a band 7 response), "covers all requirements of the task sufficiently" (a band 8 response) or "fully satisfies all the requirements of the task" (a band 9 response)?

So this article is not about "decoding" the band descriptors. It is about coming up with a recipe that is likely to satisfy the requirements for the best answer — a band 9 response.

First, please take a look at the sample question (picture) with some slight modifications in wording compared with an official test.

Let's look at the components of the question. First, there is a brief description of the graph: "The graph shows ... in three years: 1990, 2000 and 2010". The next sentence, from "Summarise the data" to "draw relevant comparisons", is the same regardless of question type (charts, tables, maps or diagrams). And you will always be reminded to write at least 150 words.

The first step in our recipe is the introduction. This is important because you need to start by telling the reader what your essay is about. Failure to include it will significantly lower your score for "Coherence and Cohesion".

What should be in the introduction? All the ingredients are in the brief description of the graph. That, however, does not mean that you can copy this sentence verbatim (一字不差地). You have to paraphrase it, i.e. rewrite it in our own words. Otherwise, you will lose marks for failing to demonstrate your "Lexical Resource".

So how will you write your introduction? I will let you have a go at it before sharing my thoughts in the next issue.

■Writer's Profile

Terence Yip is passionate about English more than anything else. Never has he studied or worked in an English-speaking country, but he scored 8.5 in IELTS nevertheless, and is ceaselessly honing his skills as a test taker with the aspiration to score 9 someday.

Email: terenceyipmingpao@outlook.com

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