Many people who need band 7 seem to get stuck at band 6.5, especially in the writing test. I've written about this here and here, but a student asked me to give a bit more advice about how to move from 6.5 to 7.
As I said in the lessons linked above, band 6.5 in writing is very close to band 7, so you only need to make a small improvement in the quality of your essays.
But where will this small improvement come from? Here are some tips:
- First, if you want to make this small improvement quickly, I don't recommend that you focus on grammar. Improving your grammatical accuracy is probably going to be a slow and gradual process.
- So that leaves us with 3 possible areas for improvement: task response, coherence and cohesion, and vocabulary.
- In my experience, the secret to improving in all three areas is planning. A good plan will ensure that you answer the question, and that your answer is coherent and well structured. Hopefully it will also contain some good ideas (i.e. vocabulary).
Look at the essay plan in this lesson and the resulting essay that I wrote here. Without a good plan, I find it very difficult to "improvise" a coherent essay, so I'm sure that you do too. Give yourself more planning time (around 10 minutes), and you'll write better essays.
A couple of notes about the advice above:
- Maybe you have read my lessons about 10-minute plans and 13-sentence essays, but are you really following this advice? I've taught many students who used my methods well in lessons and homework tasks, but "crumbled" under the pressure of a real exam and went back to their "old ways". Is this happening to you?
- If you are following all of my advice about planning and writing 13-sentence essays, maybe your problem is writing task 1, not task 2.
Here's an example of how I write a 4-paragraph essay for "discuss and give your opinion" questions. Notice that I give my opinion in 3 places (introduction, paragraph 3, conclusion).
Some people believe that studying at university or college is the best route to a successful career, while others believe that it is better to get a job straight after school.
Discuss both views and give your opinion.
When they finish school, teenagers face the dilemma of whether to get a job or continue their education. While there are some benefits to getting a job straight after school, I would argue that it is better to go to college or university.
The option to start work straight after school is attractive for several reasons. Many young people want to start earning money as soon as possible. In this way, they can become independent, and they will be able to afford their own house or start a family. In terms of their career, young people who decide to find work, rather than continue their studies, may progress more quickly. They will have the chance to gain real experience and learn practical skills related to their chosen profession. This may lead to promotions and a successful career.
On the other hand, I believe that it is more beneficial for students to continue their studies. Firstly, academic qualifications are required in many professions. For example, it is impossible to become a doctor, teacher or lawyer without having the relevant degree. As a result, university graduates have access to more and better job opportunities, and they tend to earn higher salaries than those with fewer qualifications. Secondly, the job market is becoming increasingly competitive, and sometimes there are hundreds of applicants for one position in a company. Young people who do not have qualifications from a university or college will not be able to compete.
For the reasons mentioned above, it seems to me that students are more likely to be successful in their careers if they continue their studies beyond school level.
(271 words, band 9)