Work on Task Achievement and Cohesion and Coherence for a band 9.0 score…

A quick post today with another “Discuss both views” essay example…

I was talking with a student about how to get a band 9.0 essay score (he scored 8.0 in his last test) and I was saying that all things being equal in terms of grammar and vocab, the best way to pick up the points he needed was to work on Task Achievement and Cohesion and Coherence. That is to say, if your grammar and vocabulary are good, then it’s the little things in the other criteria that are going to make the difference. What are they? Well, I have written about these before of course, simple things such as always including an outline sentence in your introduction, making your examples more specific, making sure that you refer to your main ideas throughout the response, etc.

So, let’s have a look at some examples. As you may have seen from my other posts, I recommend a simple structure for the introduction, depending on the question type, but in general

  1. sentence 1: paraphrase/restate the topic

  2. thesis statement/express opinion (if asked depending on q type)

  3. outline sentence: briefly mention two main ideas/briefly answer the questions

Taking the question below as the basis for this lesson..

Some people think that art is an essential subject for children at school while others think it is a waste of time. Discuss both views and give your opinion.

Sentence 1: paraphrase the topic

It has been argued that the teaching of art to school children is a waste of time and effort, whereas other would argue that art is a vital lesson to be taught at school.

Sentence 2: for this question type I would recommend briefly mentioning the two main ideas you will discuss. However, I know lots of people will write something like “In this essay I will discuss both views and then give my opinion”, or “This essay will consider both views and give reasons and examples”. Well, yes, we know you will, after all that’s what the instructions tell you to do. In essence, this is a waste of a sentence, it does nothing except add words to your word count and does not tell the examiner where the essay is going or what it is about. You should always try to include an outline sentence, as it signals clearly what the essay is about, it makes you essay more cohesive as you will have several points of reference throughout the essay, and it allows you to include more vocabulary than simply repeating the instructions.

A better sentence is therefore: “This essay will discuss the lack of employment opportunities for artists, and also how art stimulates a child’s creativity”

In this sentence we can see the specifics of the two views to be discussed, that art is useless for children, and that it is essential for children. We are moving from the general views (useless vs essential) to specific reasons and examples to illustrate our points. This is much better than simply writing “This essay will discuss both views and give examples

Which leads me to my next point, giving specific examples. As you know every essay has these instructions, “write at least 250 words, and give reasons and examples, etc”. And according to the official marking criteria, the more your ideas are “relevant, fully extended, and well supported” the higher mark you will get for Task Achievement. What this translates to is this, the better, more specific your ideas, reasons and examples, the better. To illustrate, using the above question again, which is a better example?

This is paragraph two, where we are discussing the view that art is a waste of time in general by moving to the specific idea that artists have trouble finding a job (I spell this idea out in the paragraph).

So, sentence one, topic sentence: “Firstly, although art may well be useful for a child’s creativity, later in life it may be difficult to find an art related job.”

Sentence two, explanation/reason “If a child wants to continue with art as a profession, it has to be noted that only a minority of artists are a success.”

Sentence three, example: option one or two?

  1. For example, it is common knowledge that many artists struggle to be a success after graduation

  2. For example, a recent survey by the University of Hanoi in 2016 showed that 90% of arts graduates from Vietnamese universities were unemployed for some years after graduation.

Sentence four, summary/conclusion: “This fact may well explain many parents attitude to the teaching of art in schools.”

Which example do you think is better? I think two, as it is more detailed and more specific and better supports the previous sentence. Now, you may be thinking that you cannot remember such a specific example and you can’t use it in the exam, but as I tell people, make something up. It is perfectly fine to invent a survey or a piece of research or whatever to support your ideas. The examiner will not check them, they don’t have time and the IELTS is not a truth test in any case, you will only lose marks if your example is patently absurd or ridiculous, so, feel free to use your imagination here.

Next point, Cohesion and Coherence, now you can pick up more points here by linking and connecting your ideas and main points. Signpost words and phrases, discourse markers, like firstly, additionally, then, moreover, etc, can all be used and should be, but I also mean using key words or synonyms/paraphrase to show a clear progression and a logical sequence to your writing. In any case, what you should be doing while writing your essay is to follow the simple rules

  1. tell ‘em what you are going to say

  2. say it

  3. tell ‘em what you said

In other words, your introduction should outline the topic, your opinion, and your main ideas (whatever they might be again depending on the question type). Then in your body paragraphs, you need to expand on this by having a topic sentence, an explanatory sentence, and an example, and possibly a summary/conclusion sentence. Finally, in your conclusion you need to restate the topic again, mention your main ideas, and your opinion, all in paraphrase. In essence, throughout the essay you say the same things three times but in other words.

So. let’s consider the complete essay below, I will use different colours to represent

  1. topic keywords = red (see last weeks post for an explanation of keywords vs microwords)

  2. view number one (art for children is a waste) = blue

  3. view number two (art for children is essential) = green

capture

It has been argued that the teaching of art to school children is a waste of time and effort, whereas other would argue that art is a vital lesson to be taught at school. This essay will discuss the lack of employment opportunities for artists, and also how art stimulates a child’s creativity.

Firstly, although art may well be useful for a child’s creativity, later in life it may be difficult to find an art related job. If a child wants to continue with art as a profession, it has to be noted that only a minority of artists are a success. For example, a recent survey by the University of Hanoi in 2016 showed that 90% of arts graduates from Vietnamese universities were unemployed for some years after graduation. This fact may well explain many peoples attitude to the teaching of art in schools.

Despite the fact that art may not be immediately useful in finding a job, it is still a vital subject for children. By learning to paint, draw, etc, a child’s mind will be stimulated and lead to a more creative outlook on life. According to the Hanoi Child Psychology Institute children who have early exposure to art display higher IQ s and are more likely to go into higher education. This study reinforces the importance of art, not only as a source of employment, but also as tool for developing a child’s mental abilities.

In conclusion, although the teaching of art in school has been considered both vital, and pointless, depending on your view, I believe that despite art not being potentially useful for employment purposes, the effect it has on a child’s psychology is of inestimable value. For this reason, I believe that art should remain on the school curricula.

As you can hopefully see from the illustration, the main ideas are interconnected and linked throughout the essay, thus improving the cohesion and coherence of the writing. You will also note that having a summary/conclusion at the end of the paragraph links nicely to the following paragraph, and the topic sentence of that paragraph makes reference to the previous one.

I hope that gives you some ideas then about how to make that move to a band 9.0 essay, to recap, all things being equal in terms of grammar and vocabulary, what you need to focus on is Task Achievement (more specific examples, outline sentence) and Cohesion and Coherence (linking and connecting your ideas throughout the essay).

I hope you found this useful, and as always, any questions, feel to write to me at kevin@prepareielts.com

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