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6 typical mistakes in IELTS essays

IELTS essay typical mistakes

When it comes to IELTS Writing, we want to avoid making typical mistakes. However, shall we care only about spelling, punctuation or grammar? Or are there any other things considered to be mistakes in IELTS essays?

The truth is, it is possible to prevent stumbling when you are still preparing for the exam. Knowing what one should not do is as important as knowing what to do. That is why we have selected 6 most common issues arising when candidates do Task 2 in the IELTS Writing. We will discuss them further and give you some tips on how to deal with them and receive the best band score for your essay.

1. Not reading the task carefully.

Usually, the task contains the keywords that tell us what to write about and what things to do in the task. Let’s underline the keywords in the following task. For example:

Nowadays many people in cities live alone. What are the reasons for it? Is it a positive or a negative trend?

If we analyse the task carefully, we will see that it consists of three parts:

  • writing on the topic: people in cities live alone;
  • giving reasons for it, i.e. writing why people live in cities on their own;
  • giving opinion whether it is a positive or a negative trend.

Not reading the task carefully might lead to not understanding and not addressing the task further in your essay, i.e. you will not be able to achieve more than band 3. According to IELTS TASK 2 Writing band descriptors, the candidate ‘whose answer is completely unrelated to the task’ or ‘does not adequately address any part of the task’ cannot get a high score. If you aim at 7+, you must ‘address all parts of the task’.

This also means that you have to write only what you are asked to write about in the task, and you should not go off topic. As you can see from the example above, you have to write about ‘people living in cities alone’, but not about ‘big and small cities’ or ‘people living alone’ or ‘living in cities’ etc.

2. Not giving any examples.

It is not enough only to make your point in the essay, but you also have to explain it. For example, if you write why something happens, explain why it is important and/or give an example of it. Examples help you support and develop your ideas.

Again, IELTS TASK 2 Writing band descriptors clarify that in order to achieve the score higher than 7 a candidate has not only to ‘present a clear position throughout the response’ but also ‘extend and support main ideas’ that are ‘relevant, fully extended and well-supported’.

You can give examples from your own experience. However, write them as if they are about the society or a group of people, not you personally.

For instance:

There are two main reasons for modern city dwellers to stay alone. Firstly, (REASON 1) they tend to devote most of their lifetime to career development and self-improvement. As a result, (EXPLANATION) they become too obsessed with the goals they want to achieve, and there is little time left for private life.


People suffering from a cold, for instance, may be tempted by the promise of a quick recovery in an online advertisement. However, they are not aware of potential side effects of such a drug that may follow.

ALSO READ ABOUT: IELTS Academic essay tips and tricks

3. Not stating opinions clearly.

It is important to state your opinion in the introduction and restate it in the conclusion of your essay. According to the descriptors, you have to ‘present a clear position throughout the response’, i.e. the reader (the examiner) has to understand what you think and be able to follow your ideas throughout the whole essay. You can also provide short summaries at the end of body paragraphs if it really makes sense.

For example:

INTRODUCTION: Today, many city residents tend to live on their own for a number of obvious reasons, which will be elaborated on in this essay. Personally, I believe that this trend has both upsides and downsides.


CONCLUSION: To conclude, while I am of the opinion that there are both advantages and disadvantages to living alone in a large city, this trend, for the reasons given above, is likely to develop further.

IELTS Academic essays typical mistakes

4. Not organizing your ideas in paragraphs and not linking them properly.

In IELTS essays, you have to not only present your ideas but also arrange the information and ideas. This also means that the essay should be divided into paragraphs, and each paragraph ‘presents a clear central topic’. Moreover, they have to be logically linked so that the reader (the examiner) could follow them.

While planning your essay, keep looking back at the task to give only relevant ideas, decide on the number of paragraphs. It is also good to brainstorm ideas and details/examples to answer questions, and take notes. Choose only those ideas that you are sure you can develop and explain in your essay. It should consist of:

  • introduction
  • body paragraph 1 (key point, explanation/example)
  • body paragraph 2 (key point, explanation/example)
  • conclusion

There are many ways to link your ideas logically and make your essay more coherent. For example:

Daily workouts in a gym are widely considered to be the most effective method of keeping fit. Personally, I partially support this view, as despite having a beneficial effect on human body, such exercise may not suit everyone. In addition, there is a variety of other ways to achieve similar results.

On the one hand, gym classes can bring impressive results in terms of physical development. When performed on a regular basis, such workouts allow people to strengthen their immune system and increase metabolism, thus becoming healthier. Additionally, gym classes help people shape their body, lose excessive weight and, as a result, become more attractive.

This view refers to ‘Daily workouts … considered to be the most effective method of keeping fit’.

Such exercise ‘daily workouts’.

On the one hand… shows us there are two different views/opinions.

Additionally… adds more information about ‘gym classes’.

As a result… means you are going to describe the consequences etc.

As you may see, linkers can introduce opinions, add information, show contrast, change topics etc. We use them in almost every sentence. Therefore, it is important to manage them well. In our course, you will learn lots of cohesive devices and practice using them in your essays, keep them in a Knowledge Bank to have at hand.

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5. Not using a variety of language.

If you want to write a good essay, you should avoid repetition and ‘use a wide range of vocabulary’ and ‘use a wide range of structures’ as the descriptors say. This means that it is necessary to pay attention to the vocabulary and grammar you use.

While planning your essay, think of the synonyms that can be used properly and in the correct context for it. However, in some topics we cannot use a different synonym in each sentence. In this case, you have to ‘dilute’ them with other expressions or words. For example:

‘On the one hand, gym classes can bring impressive results in terms of physical development. When performed on a regular basis, such workouts allow people to strengthen their immune system and increase metabolism, thus becoming healthier. Additionally, gym classes help people shape their body, lose excessive weight and, as a result, become more attractive.’

RECOMMENDED : 5 things you should definitely avoid in IELTS Academic Writing

6. Not checking your essay.

This is the last and very important step in completing IELTS Writing Task 2. It is also the fastest way to improve your band score because only in five minutes you can correct your mistakes or change sentences you have written. If you are aiming at 7+, you have to ‘produce frequent error-free sentences’, i.e. at least half of the sentences in your essay must not contain any mistakes.

Do check your essay for:

  • spelling;
  • your typical mistakes;
  • repetition of vocabulary and linkers;
  • grammar and punctuation.

You are able to fix these mistakes, especially if you know the types of mistakes you commonly make.

As you can see, there are many other items to consider when writing IELTS essays. However, all of the issues can be easily tackled, and now you know how to do it effectively. All of them and even more are covered in our IELTS Academic Writing self-study course with detailed analysis, automated instant feedback on writing using artificial intelligence, video comments and a full mock test imitating the conditions of a real exam. You can try the free version to feel the benefits of the course.

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