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A Test Taker's Journey:IELTS writing task 2: The other three criteria

【明報專訊】Last time we discussed how to analyse the question and explore what to include in our answer to ensure we fulfil the criterion of task achievement. As you already know, there are three other criteria, namely grammatical accuracy and range, lexical resources and coherence and consistency. They are the same criteria as what you have to address in the IELTS writing task 1.

To facilitate our discussion, let me remind you that our question is:

Some educators believe that streaming would benefit all the students. Do the advantages of streaming outweigh the disadvantages?

Grammatical accuracy and range

The ''accuracy'' part is of course important, but it is straightforward — you just need to ensure that all your sentences are grammatically correct. The ''range'' part is more complicated in comparison. The first thing you can do is join short sentences together to form complex ones using conjunctions such as ''and'', ''while'' and ''whereas'' and relative pronouns such as ''which'' and ''in which''. However, ensure there is a good balance between long and short sentences.

There are also a lot of grammatical structures that can be employed in an essay, examples being inversions, conditionals and different kinds of clauses. But there is a caveat: do not give the examiner the impression that you are showing off your knowledge of these structures, even though it is indeed necessary to demonstrate that you have a repertoire of grammatical skills that you can deploy with accuracy and confidence. The key is to ensure that you are expressing ideas that are complex enough to warrant the use of these grammatical skills. We will elaborate on this later.

Lexical resources

As in writing task 1, the examiner evaluates the range of vocabulary employed in your response. That, however, brings up a number of questions: Should I sprinkle my answer with some big, fancy and difficult words? Should I replace phrasal verbs (such as ''make up'') with their one-word alternatives (such as ''fabricate'')? There are several ways to ensure that we fulfil this criterion. First, ensure that your vocabulary is topic-specific. For example, as we are discussing ''streaming'' in this question, what kind of vocabulary can you come up with that is related to streaming or the broader topic of education? Second, as with grammatical structures, you have to assure the examiner that you are using those ''big words'' to express meanings that are complicated enough and that you are using them with absolute accuracy. We will explore this in my later articles.

Coherence and consistency

This is about your essay being easy to follow, so much so that the examiner knows exactly what to expect when reading it from beginning to end. There are two important techniques. The first is signposting (標示). Think of your essay as a journey, except that you are not taking a reader to, say, a museum on the outskirts of a city, but rather a conclusion that you have yourself arrived at. In the same way you use signposts (such as a wooden stake with an arrow) to show the directions, you use signposting words to demonstrate to your reader your lines of reasoning. The second is the topic sentence. Again, we will deal with them later.

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◆Writer's Profile

Terence Yip (葉凱楓) 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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