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EXTREME WORDS - Improve your IELTS essay writing - Avoid this very common mistake!

What are extreme words?

Some words look very simple and innocent but are actually EXTREME,

and they can be


These simple-looking, extreme words sometimes appear in IELTS ESSAY QUESTIONS. Today, I will:

  • talk about extreme words,

  • show you how to deal with them

  • give you an essay plan which can be effective in IELTS ESSAY QUESTIONS which include EXTREME WORDS.

Extreme words can have a very BIG influence on your writing band score.

Why? These words are usually KEYS to correctly identifying the TOPIC.

If you do NOT identify the TOPIC correctly, you can NOT get higher than a 5 in TASK ACHIEVEMENT.

The BAD NEWS is that many candidates ignore these small, extreme words, and therefore easily go off topic.

The GOOD NEWS is that these words are easy to identify and deal with. Getting to know them actually makes your essay writing and planning easier!

Some of these SIMPLE but EXTREME words are BEST, ALWAYS or ONLY.

Why are they extreme?? Well, take BEST for example.

  • BEST means ‘number one’. Nothing can be better than the best.

  • ALWAYS means 100% of the time or EVERY SINGLE time

  • ONLY means that there is NO other possibility.

Let’s look at an example from the most recent IELTS EXAM question:

Reducing air travel is the best way to improve the environment.

To what extent do you agree?

Unfortunately, last week a lot of students did not identify the TOPIC clearly, even though this seems like an easy question. All students wrote about the effects of reducing air travel on the environment. Some students said it was a good solution and others that is was not so good and they gave their reasons. However, this is not enough to REALLY address QUESTION and therefore, to fully address the TOPIC.

The question asks if it is the BEST solution. The key word to identifying the topic is, as you have probably guessed already, BEST

TIP: If you see an EXTREME WORD, make this word the focus of your essay and your opinion.

So, let’s rephrase the question:

Is air travel the BEST way to improve the environment? (or are there OTHER WAYS to improve the environment?)

As you can see, the most effective way to deal with the question is to consider any other ways of reducing air pollution and to evaluate whether reducing air travel is the BEST way.

If you see a word like BEST, there is an easy strategy for organizing a very effective essay:

You can say that (the topic) is GOOD but maybe not the BEST, and suggest alternatives.

CHECK OUT THIS ESSAY PLAN which can be effective when dealing with EXTREME words.


INTRO – disagree with the statement


  • Explain why reducing air travel can have a positive effect on reducing air pollution

  • Explain that this would not be very practical because of the importance of air travel to business and tourism

BODY 2 – give examples of alternative ways to improve air quality

  • Promoting public transport

  • Placing stricter controls on industry that emits CO2 into the air

  • Prioritizing the use of alternative energy such as wind or solar power

CONCLUSION – Reducing air travel could be helpful but it is not the BEST way to improve the environment.

So, in SUMMARY, be careful of EXTREME WORDS.

Even Better: Take advantage of exteme words to help you design a great ESSAY PLAN!

Please check out my other blogs for more info on the IELTS from the perspective of an examiner.

If you want to learn how to get a 7 or higher in IELTS Writing, try my new


which features real-time online analysis

This course has helped many students from around the world achieve the goals they want. One of these students is Marlucia Aires, from Brazil:

She says:

I am so thankful for Larry's helpful classes, mainly because he showed me step by step how to improve all aspects of my writing and speaking. Larry also sent me lots of useful notes and has helped me become better at self-study. The great thing about Larry's classes is that they are personalized but also very academic and structured. I am a university lecturer but I learned a lot, not only about IELTS but about writing in general and self study methodologies, which will be useful to me now that I have achieved my IELTS score of 7.0 and will soon start my new position as a Researcher in Canada. In fact, I plan to continue to study with Larry even now that I have completed my IELTS.

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