Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Planning process for an IELTS essay

The process of planning an IELTS essay

Plans matter because they should ensure that you answer the question and you write enough words. Or put the other way, if you do not plan, you may not answer the question or you may get half way through the essay and find you have nothing to say.

How to plan

There is no easy answer to this question. Planning tends to be very individual and what works for one candidate may not work for another. However, there are one or two guidelines to follow:
  • Be methodical: before you get to the exam, know exactly how you are going to plan your essay and stick to that plan in the exam.  
  • Give yourself enough time: you only have 40 minutes to write in the exam, but don’t start writing too quickly. Time spent planning is rarely wasted and candidates who fail to finish are generally those who start to write too soon.
  • Remember it’s a language exam: IELTS is a test of language, so make sure your plan helps you produce good language
  • Keep it simple: your plan is there to help you write. If it is too complex, it may not work in a 40 minute exam scenario.
  • Read the question: make sure your plan relates directly to the question.
How long to plan

Again, there can be no exact answer here, but I would suggest 10 minutes is approximately correct. That may seem a long time, but the longer you stop and plan for the better and the more quickly you will write. People who fail to finish in time are very often those who start writing too soon. For more on this see my 10 minute solution post.

What to plan – vocabulary and examples

Most text books suggest planning ideas. This is hard to do in practice when you are under pressure in the exam.

My suggestion is to focus first on vocabulary and examples. Vocabulary will give you ideas and examples will allow you to develop those ideas in coherent paragraphs.



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