The IELTS & TOEFL Writing Process
The writing sections of the IELTS and the TOEFL exam require a thorough understanding of the task or prompt. Not only that, a working technique is needed to ace the organization and development of your essay. One of them is recognizing the different stages of writing. The steps below are guidelines to achieve essay writing efficiency.
“What do I write about?” A majority of the candidates ask this question after reading the writing prompt or task. The reason why this question often occurs is that they don’t have ideas needed to develop their essays. Since the test is strictly timed, candidates can’t waste time thinking about what topics to write. Thus, this stage is considered to be the most vital part of writing and the most challenging at the same time.
To get started, it is important to build and identify immediately which ideas you will mention. Keep in mind that in both the IELTS and the TOEFL tests, you need to give reasons, examples and details. They are necessary to add flesh to the bones of your essay, making the development well structured.
Next, prepare an outline and never dive into writing straight away. Writing without an outline will slow you down instead of speeding you up. An outline serves as a roadmap that guides the development of your ideas. This is possible by mapping out your main ideas, supporting ideas and examples. With your outline, you can be assured of staying on topic and it also helps you to finish your essay on time.
With your roadmap in front of you, start writing your first sentence. While working on each paragraph, never forget to fulfill the elements of a strong introduction, body and conclusion.
At this point, avoid thinking of the mechanical aspects of writing such as spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. Save this for revising and editing stages! By always changing or deleting words, your writing flow will be affected and might lead you to a mental block—a stage that no candidate likes to experience. Likewise, you will go nowhere if you always criticize your sentences and think of errors you might commit. Think positive and appreciate your writing!
Before taking the exam, make sure you are equipped with several key words and phrases. Using them will give you a chance to increase the speed of your writing.
Are all the main ideas and supporting details mentioned in the essay? At this stage, you need to focus on the clarity and completeness of your ideas and not on words. After writing the conclusion, go over your entire essay from the first sentence to last.
Starting off, check the number of words. If you are preparing for the IELTS or TOEFL, you should already know the minimum number of words required for the test you are taking. If your essay is still under length, use this stage to add details and elaborate your ideas. Accordingly, identify the major sections of the essay (introduction, body and conclusion) and review if they fulfill the ideal essay organization and development. Lastly, check how your sentences and paragraphs logically connect to achieve coherence.
This is the stage when you remove unnecessary words and add the right ones. If the revising stage focuses on ideas, editing is mainly about words and sentences.
Let’s start off with words. Are there words you repeatedly use? If so, use synonyms or alternatives to get a high score for lexical resource or language use criterion. Next, do not settle for simple short words. By using complex words, you are demonstrating that your vocabulary is rich. If possible, change simple words into sophisticated or interesting ones.
Then, check your sentences in terms of grammatical accuracy, word order, and sentence structure (use variety!). To do this, rewrite sentences that you are unsure of and keep the correct ones. Watch out for those problematic construction, agreement, tenses and word forms!
The last stage of writing focuses on small details, such as spelling, punctuation, capitalization and spacing. This is one extra meticulous step taken to attain language accuracy. To proofread your essay, read it word by word, then sentence by sentence. Make corrections as you go along. One proofreading technique that most writers use is reading the essay backwards. Thus, start from the last word, then to the next, and so on.
All in all, whether it is the content or the vocabulary, it remains advantageous to pay attention to the details of your essay. Do not only write for the sake of completing the task, but write to get your target score. Therefore, follow the writing process even when practicing!