When you look at the Official Band Descriptors for an IELTS Writing Task 2 essay, it’s not easy to see exactly what they’re looking for.
A Band 9 essay:
- fully addresses all parts of the task
- presents a fully developed position in answer to the question with relevant, fully extended and well supported ideas
- uses cohesion in such a way that it attracts no attention
- skilfully manages paragraphing
- uses a wide range of vocabulary with very natural and sophisticated control of lexical features;
- uses a wide range of structures with full flexibility and accuracy;
- rare minor errors occur only as ‘slips’
The stand-out words seem to be: ‘full’, ‘fully’, ‘all’ and ‘wide’.
But what does that look like with just 250 – 300 words written in 40 minutes?
When you search online, the model essays are either terrible examples, or absolutely perfect.
Just remember that the perfect examples were NOT written under the pressure of exam conditions in 40 minutes without any preparation.
They were carefully crafted, planned and edited before being published.
You do not need to write like this to get a high score in IELTS, but reading model essays can help you identify features of a Band 9 essay that you can use in your own writing.
The example below matches all the Band 9 criteria that IELTS are look for (thought it is probably the ‘invisible Band 10’ that Pauline Cullen talks about on her website).
The Task 2 Question
Recent research has confirmed that human activity has become the greatest threat to plant and animal life.
Why do you think this has happened? How can we reduce our impact on the natural world?
Read the Model Answer and answer these questions:
- When do we first hear the writer’s opinion?
- Identify the two causes and two solutions (the why? and how? in the question).
- How are the paragraphs structured to answer the question?
- How does the writer link the problems and the results (the ‘so what? link)?
- How does the writer extend each point?
- What kind of linking words does the writer use?
- How does the writer signal to the reader about the content of Paragraph 3?
- How does the writer use emphasis?
- How does the writer avoid repeating words from the question (synonyms for plants and animals?)
- What makes the essay sound academic?
- What adjectives does the writer use to be more precise?
- What is the final thought?
The model answer
Humans have been responsible for loss of wildlife, as they tend to exploit the natural world for their own purposes. Our ancestors, by contrast, understood their relationship with other species much better. I would argue that it is this sense of harmony with nature that we need to recapture in order to reverse the damage that we have caused.
One of the main reasons why certain species of wildlife have become threatened is loss of habitat. As the population of the world has grown, humans have claimed increasingly large areas of land for the construction of homes and cities. An inevitable result has been the removal of plants and trees and the destruction of animal territories. Increasing urban development has, in turn, led to global warming, which is another contributing factor. Temperature and rainfall are critical to the survival of wildlife. Global warming has brought about a shift in weather patterns, resulting in drought, flooding and heatwaves, all of which have taken their toll on the natural world.
I believe that the problem has to be tackled on a number of levels. As individuals, we should ensure that we treat the countryside with respect, avoid activities that harm animal life and, if possible, participate in projects or donate to charities that work to protect the world around us. However, it seems that the real work has to be done on a national and international level. What governments need to do in their own countries is to encourage sustainable building practices, limit urban growth and reduce human activities which contribute to global warming. But they also need to sign up to treaties that enable nations to collaborate in the protection of the world’s diverse species.
To conclude, many of the threats to plant and animal life are a direct result of human activity, so it is now time to redress the situation. If we do not do this, we may be the next species to become endangered.
Essay adapted from Complete IELTS Coursebook by Rawdon Wyatt CUP 2013 p109
This essay is Band 9 because…
- The writer’s opinion is clear from the start (I would argue that…)
- The writer chooses two simple causes (urban development and global warming) and two simple solutions (individuals and governments)
- The writer structures the essay by dividing it into clear problem/solution paragraphs
- The writer links the problems (Increasing urban development has, in turn, led to global warming…)
- The writer keeps answering the question with relative clauses (…which is another contributing factor, all of which have taken their toll)
- The writer uses a variety of cause and effect linking words (an inevitable result has been…, this led to…, this has brought about…, resulting in, … which have taken their toll on)
- The writer signals the solutions for the reader: I believe the problem has to be tackled…
- The writer emphasises his/her opinion (it is this sense of harmony that we need to recapture; what governments need to do is to encourage… but they also need to…)
- The essay contains lots of synonyms so that it does not repeat the question (plant and animal life = wildlife = the natural world = other species = nature = the natural world = plants and trees = the countryside = the world around us = the world’s diverse species = flora and fauna)
- The writer uses NOUNS to sound academic and authoritative (the construction of homes, the removal of plants, loss of habitat, a shift in weather patterns)
- The writer adds adjectives to be more precise (to encourage sustainable building, to limit urban growth, to reduce human activities)
- The essay ends with a powerful ‘call to action’ (it is now time to…) and thought-provoking consequence (if we do not do this…)
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