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IELTS ESSAY - Understanding the Question

Understanding the Question is VERY IMPORTANT for your overall band score in the IELTS. In fact, a misunderstanding of the question can lead to a band score of 4 in Task Achievement if most of your writing is OFF TOPIC.

As an examiner, I have been surprised at how many students misunderstand IELTS exam questions. I feel bad for these students because often the other aspects of their writing are quite good: grammar, vocabulary and coherence.

However, IELTS examiners must follow strict guidelines when giving band scores and must apply these to each student.

Last month the following question appeared on the IELTS exam:

Now, this LOOKS LIKE an easy question.... BUT a surprising number of candidates went OFF TOPIC.

The MAIN reason is that they did not look at the question carefully.

These students wrote about the many advantages and disadvantages of mobile phones and the internet:

Some of these ideas included:

a) makes communication more convenient

b) reduces face-to-face communication

c) can help in study and research

d) gaming can lead to addiction

However,c) and d) are OFF TOPIC. The question only asks about


I know this seems easy, but so many candidates went off topic last week.

I would therefore suggest these tips:

1) Take one moment to circle the important items on the question as seen below. This will help to make sure you do not miss important details of the question.

2) Make an Outline BEFORE you write. This should help you to stick to the main ideas you have identified.

NOTE: I circled AND because this means you should talk about BOTH mobile phones AND the internet.

If you have problems with writing, I can give you a solution.

I have a document showing Step-by-Step information on

how IELTS examiners score your writing.

This document can CHANGE the way YOU think about your writing and I will share it with you.


"When I read Mr. Larry's sample, I understood IELTS criteria clearly. Now, I know how to plan and write my essays more effectively.

This is available on google docs, so if you would like to receive this, just send me your email address in the contact form below.

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