An IELTS Band 9 essay is not the goal for most test-takers, so don’t stress about achieving a Band 9 Writing score (many native speakers struggle to get 7.5).
However, when you find a good essay, spend some time noticing what makes it stand out.
In this lesson, you’ll learn to recognise some key features of a Band 9 essay so that you can make small changes to get you closer to your band score goal.
Band 9 essay tip 1: Use ‘PEEL’ Paragraphs
The Band 9 essay below uses my ‘PEEL’ paragraph technique:
- P: make your point
- E: give specific examples and evidence and/or
- Explain why your point is relevant
- L: link it back to the question with an outcome or ‘so what?’ statement.
This ensures that the points are clear and supported, and that the relevance to the question is clearly shown.
You will notice that in this Task 2 essay:
- the language is easy to understand and not overly complex
- the first line is a general statement (the writer does NOT paraphrase the question)
- the writer does NOT put a linking word at the beginning of each sentence (there is no mechanical use of ‘moreover’ ‘besides’ ‘in addition’)
- The linking is INTERNAL (e.g. reference words) and there is clear progress
- Each paragraph has a clear topic sentence, summarising the purpose of the paragraph
- There are several OUTCOMES with high-level collocations
- The outcomes are often written in the form of a CONDITIONAL (If, were it not for…), which we cover in my Conditionals Bootcamp.
IELTS Band 9 Essay sample
Directors of large organizations earn much higher salaries than ordinary employees do. Some people think it is necessary, but others are of the opinion that it is unfair. Discuss both views and give your own opinion.
In recent years, the pay gap between company directors and their workers has widened significantly. Some think that this is not justifiable, but there is another school of thought which believes that those with the greatest responsibilities deserve the highest possible remuneration. In this essay I will consider both points of view and conclude that the best outcome would be a compromise between the two positions.
Opinion 1 [AGREE]
[Point 1] In order to reach the most senior positions in an organisation, it is necessary to demonstrate unusual skills and determination. (Explanation] Senior executives have often achieved their roles due to extraordinary creativity and business acumen, and these attributes should attract salaries that reflect their contribution. [Exemplification] While many employees can clock on and off and virtually forget their workplace outside these hours, senior managers rarely stop working, and may deal with problems and face important decisions at any time. [Link/So what?] The stress that goes with this level of responsibility cannot be easily imagined by the other workers, and deserves financial compensation. [Point 2/Exemplification] What is more, many companies would not exist were it not for the efforts and talents of these few people who rise to the top, and [Link/So what?] in doing so provide employment opportunities for many other individuals.
Opinion 2 [DISAGREE]
[Point 1] By contrast, many think that there is too great a divide between the benefits awarded to top executives and the rest of the company’s staff. (Explanation] It is argued that beyond a certain limit, no-one deserves such excessive payments, and that [Link/so what?] the knowledge of these sums have a powerful detrimental effect on the morale of those employees who earn far less. In turn, this has damaging consequences for the quality of the output of these workers and undermines their loyalty to the organisation. [Point 2] I believe that companies should look to share the financial prosperity that they enjoy among the employees more fairly. Even a relatively modest increase in pay and benefits [Link/So what?] has a significant impact on the majority of employees, and leads to a happier workforce.
In conclusion, I would say that if organisations sought to share out financial benefits in such a way that everyone felt better treated, the result would be greater job satisfaction across the workforce, with all the benefits that that would bring.
What makes this writing a Band 9 essay?
- The first line (General Statement) assesses the situation and gives the background to the issue
- The first line (General Statement) does NOT paraphrase the question.
- The introduction presents both sides but gives a clear opinion here and throughout.
- The introduction is a good reflection of the rest of the essay.
Main body paragraphs
- There is a clear 4-paragraph structure with a clear topic for each paragraph
- There are clear TOPIC sentences to guide the reader.
- The paragraphs follow the PEEL structure (Point, Example/ Explanation/ Evidence, Link or So what?)
- The writer shows what other people think throughout (gives a balanced view and shows awareness of other strong arguments)
- The writer uses hedging in order to avoid generalisation
- The writer uses linking and referencing naturally
- The writer constantly refers to the ‘So what?’ – the impact/ results/ consequences (develops each point fully)
- The writer uses complex language (e.g. conditionals)
- The writer uses a variety of collocations (detrimental effect, damaging consequences, significant impact)
- The language is formal
What are the IELTS Writing Band Score Criteria?
Learn more about the Band Criteria on the official IDP IELTS site.
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