Model Answers and IELTS Writing – why and how?

Saturday 29 October 2011

by Lewis Richards

In his last blog,  Richard Brown described the thinking behind how we organised ‘IELTS Advantage Writing Skills’, and in this one I’d like to talk a little bit about the thinking behind one of the key components of each unit of the book – model answers.

Our book has nine units, and each unit starts with an essay or task 1 question for students to try before they study the unit.  We’ve called this ‘Try it first’, and what we’ve done is to give a little bit of advice as to how to structure each answer, and what to include in each paragraph.

For instance, in unit 1, which looks at ‘advantage/disadvantage essays’, where students need to discuss the pros and cons of an issue and then give their opinion, we wrote this in the ‘Try it first’ section:

Essay Question:  What are the advantages and disadvantages of leaving your country to live or study abroad?

Try it first: try writing an essay on this subject before you study this unit.

You will need to:

  • · Write an introduction to the topic
  • · Think of two advantages of living abroad and provide clear examples
  • · Think of two disadvantages and write about these with good support
  • · Write a short conclusion giving your overall opinion
  • · Write a minimum of 250 words

Having had a go at writing an essay, students then study the material in the unit, which includes lexis on the topic, work on writing introductions and conclusions, grammar for this type of essay, and so on.  Halfway through the unit, we then include a model answer on the same topic, which students can compare with their original essay, and notice the differences.  They then study some more language for this type of essay, such as how to write topic sentences, and finally at the end of the unit get a chance to write another essay, on a similar topic.

Why include model answers?

I’ve come across some IELTS teachers who don’t believe using model answers is a good idea, mainly I think, because they see a danger that students will simply copy the teacher’s model, rather than working through the process of writing, editing, and re-drafting an essay by themselves.    There is certainly some truth in this, and there’s nothing worse than receiving an essay that has simply copied whole chunks of the model provided by the teacher.

However, I think there is definitely a place for model answers, provided that they are used at the correct stage of the writing process, and that the teacher uses the model as a springboard for vocabulary, structure or grammar work.  As mentioned above, the idea of ‘try it first’ is to encourage students not to simply copy a model, but to write their own essay as a starting point, and then use the material in the unit, including the model, to improve, edit and reflect on that essay.   It is also based on the principle of noticing the gap between what they can produce, and what a better essay contains.

There is also, I think, a need for students to know what IELTS examiners are looking for.  Naturally, when they start studying IELTS, most students do not really have much idea of how task 1 or 2 writings should be written, and at some point they do need to see what we as teachers, and also the examiners in the test itself, are looking for.   Another point is that writing conventions and what is considered a ‘good’ essay or statistical report vary dramatically from country to country, and without a model, students are likely to write in the style expected in their L1, which may not be suitable for the exam.

I’d also add something from personal experience.   About ten years ago, I took a Spanish exam, called the DELE Diploma Superior, and having lived in Spain for a few years when I took the exam, I found the speaking, listening and reading pretty straightforward.  The problem came in knowing how to write for the exam.  I had no idea how I was supposed to write – how to structure a piece of writing, what type of language to include, and so on.  Only when I was shown a few examples did I start to be able to write decent pieces of writing, and feel confident that I was doing the right thing.   Until looking at model answers I was writing in the dark, in a way, and wasting time writing in the wrong style.  So I’m convinced personally that we do need to use model answers in class.

What can you do with a model answer?

If a teacher is going to go the trouble of writing a model answer, it is essential that you get the most out of it.  If you follow this link, you can have a look at one of the model task 2 essays from the book, from unit 5, on problems in cities and possible solutions.

http://www.deltapublishing.co.uk/content/pdf/ielts-advantage-writing-skills/IELTS_Advantage_Writing_pp.60-61[1].pdf

What would you do with the model in class with your students?

Suggestions:

Here are a few suggestions of ideas of exercise types you can use, to maximise students’ learning from model answers.

  • Find and underline the topic sentences in the model answer.

  • Circle all the linking words and discuss with a partner what they do.

  • Write down my essay plan for me.  What were my main points, and supporting ideas?

  • Find synonyms in the model answer.

For example, find a word which has the same meaning as ‘large cities’ – students scan the model and write down ‘urban conurbations’

  • Check the meanings of lexical items from the model answer in a dictionary.

  • Scan the model and complete the collocations:

(i)        build  _____________ houses    [answer ‘affordable’]

(ii)        ______________ ticket prices    [answer ‘slash’]

  • · Write down 10 key items from a paragraph of the model answer.  Cover the model, and try to re-write the paragraph exactly as it is in the model.

For example, from paragraph 2 of the model:

Biggest – property prices – average salary – commute – London – prohibitive – cost – solve – government – housing.

Cover the model, and turn this into a full paragraph.

  • · Ask the students to find five lexical items they like, and write them down in their notebooks.

  • · Give a model answer without the conclusion, and ask students to write it for you, in pairs or groups.

  • · Cut up the model into sentences, jumble them up, and ask students in groups to put the sentences back in the right order.  This is great for practising linking words, coherence and structure.

Students’ model answers

As well as the teacher providing model answers for students, students looking at each others’ writing has a lot of value as well.  In IELTS Advantage, we included 12 real pieces of writing from our students, which we then commented on, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of them, and a guess at a possible score in the exam.  These sample student answers have proved really popular, and give a really good idea of what is required, for example, to get a 6.5 or a 7.0..  We made sure to include a range of student writings, in terms of levels and nationalities; the strongest answer is likely to get an 8.0, while the weakest one is around a 5.5, and we have essays written by students from Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Here’s an example student sample answer, taken from the book.   This is an essay written by a Korean student from my IELTS class earlier in the year.

People who live in large cities face a range of problems in their daily life.

What are the main problems people in cities face?  How can these problems be tackled?

The expansion of cities with development of industries and technologies has brought a remarkable changes and enhancement in our society and in every aspect of our life.

However, alongside it, significant problems have also emerged, which hugely affect people’s life.

In this essay, main issues people in large cities are confronting and the solutions are discussed.

Due to many benefits of living in a developed city in terms of business, culture, education, infrastructure etc., vast amount of people have been moving to urban places.

This has contributed to population jump which entails scarce of housing, congestion of traffic, high commodity prices etc. Furthermore, the remorseless increase in crime and environmental issue are more significant challenges.

In terms of emotional aspect of people, they are living in hectic life surrounded with skyscrapers, it seems more stressful relative to local life. Thus people can be indifferent to others and the relationships can be dry with less communication.

Then, how can those problems be overcome and what is the prerequisite?

The role of government is critical. With government initiatives, strategic place development management is vital in a long-term perspective. As activities involving in policies based on public consensus and needs, such as controlling prices, supplying houses, strengthening security system etc. can not be undertaken by private sector. Moreover, it should be managed on a basis of eco-friendly vision with pragmatic policies prior to others.

What is more, government and also, private sector should provide spaces where people can enjoy and recharge their life, for example, city park, nursery facilities, cultural facilities, educational programmes etc.

Overall, in order to tackle problems arising in a large city life, government should seek to establish a long-term perspective vision with practical application considering not only development in size but also quality of people’s life. And efforts by people themselves to engage with community and to be active in solving those issues are needed.

Here’s an exercise for students to do:

What do you think about this essay?  Discuss with a partner

  • · Does it answer the question fully?
  • · Does it have good organisation and paragraphs?
  • · Are the ideas well-developed?
  • · Does it have accurate grammar?
  • · Does it have a wide range of vocabulary?
  • · Write down 5 nice items of vocabulary.
  • · How could this essay be improved?

Followed by our comments on the strengths and weaknesses of the piece of writing:

Comments:

The essay has excellent vocabulary, a wide range of good collocations and phrases.   Grammar is good, quite accurate, but with a few errors with articles and singular/plurals.   The paragraphing is weak – the paragraphs are too short. Also, there are too many ideas, and they are not sufficiently developed.   It would be better with 3 clear ideas which are clearly explained. The solutions are given in a list, rather than being described in any detail.  The essay is also missing some concrete examples – she could talk about how one or two of these problems affect her home city.

However, the overall quality of the English, particularly the excellent vocabulary, is such that it would score 6.5.  With better paragraphs and better-developed ideas, the score would be even higher.

Thanks a lot for reading this blog, and please leave a comment/feedback on the ideas in it – we’d love to hear from you.  You can also get in touch with us via our facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ielts-Advantage-Writing-Skills/191126747604338

10 responses to Model Answers and IELTS Writing – why and how?

  1. [...] Lewis Richards goes into the whys and wherefores on the DELTA Publishing blog. Share this post: Bookmark on Delicious Digg this post Recommend on Facebook Google Buzz-up this post share via Reddit Share with StumbleUpon Tumblr it Tweet about it Print for later Tell a friend [...]

  2. wilson Thilakaratna says:

    very helpful.

  3. Heya i’m for the primary time here. I came across this board and I to find It really helpful & it helped me out much. I hope to provide something again and help others like you helped me.

  4. I am really inspired along with your writing talents as smartly as with the structure in your weblog. Is that this a paid subject matter or did you modify it your self? Anyway stay up the excellent quality writing, it is uncommon to look a nice blog like this one nowadays..

  5. Hi,

    This article is very informative since this offers a channel on improving your IELTS writing skills. Given above were its key features. This will really make the students become better in their IELTS writing skills. TheIELTSSolution.com

    Thank you.

  6. Mohammad Sozon says:

    I really impressed by reading these articles.

  7. Thu Dong says:

    That’s so valuable job you’ve done! I’ve learnt very much from your ways of teaching, guiding and explaining.

  8. I just contacted you guys from your facebook page. I’m an IELTS teacher from Singapore. I just got hold of your book. It couldn’t be found in any Singapore bookstores so I had to order it online. But it’s one of the best IELTS books on writing.

    I hope you guys will be one of the first authors and first publishing company to produce a good book on IELTS teaching. That is sorely lacking in this industry.

    When I first went into IELTS teaching years ago, I tried to find a good book on IELTS teaching (for teachers), but couldn’t. So I had to buy most of the books on IELTS out there and learn how to teach IELTS through that. There are tons of IELTS teachers who would benefit from such a book on IELTS teaching.

    • Lewis Richards says:

      Hi Jonathan,

      Thanks a lot for your comments, and glad you find the book useful.

      Your experience is similar to mine – when I first started teaching ielts, I didn’t really know where to start, and had to learn on the job, by using different books, and by asking advice from colleagues. It’s a good idea to have a guide to how to teach the exam for teachers! In my school, I do a 10-hour introduction to teaching IELTS course for teachers who’ve never done it before, and you’re right, there’s no published material that shows teachers what to do – I had to write the course myself! A great idea, and maybe something for the future. Hope your IELTS teaching is going well. Lewis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.

Delta Development Blog

This blog will be updated at least once a week, so add it to your bookmarks. You can also subscribe to the feed to be notified when it's updated.

Meet the Bloggers

Being Creative Cover

Being Creative

Part of the Delta Teacher Development Series. Being Creative takes you on a journey that reveals how all teachers have the potential to become creative. Whether you are experienced or new to the classroom, Being Creative allows your teaching to take flight.

Teaching Online  Cover

Teaching Online

Teaching Online is essential reading for any teacher interested in online teaching and course delivery. It deals comprehensively with both the tools and the techniques necessary for online language instruction.

Digital Play  Cover

Digital Play

DIGITAL PLAY - 2012 ELTONS WINNER IN INNOVATION IN TEACHER RESOURCES! Digital Play is a pioneering book on the use of computer games in language teaching. Authors Kyle and Graham are experts in teaching with technology and training teachers in innovative classroom practice.

The Book of Pronunciation   Cover

The Book of Pronunciation

Part of the multi-award-winning Delta Teacher Development Series. The Book of Pronunciation is a definitive account of the key role pronunciation plays in teaching and learning, providing a highly authoritative but hugely accessible overview of the essential elements of English pronunciation as well as a wide range of classroom practice.

Teaching Unplugged Cover

Teaching Unplugged

Teaching Unplugged was awarded the British Council 2010 ELTons UK Award for Innovation. Teaching Unplugged is the first book to deal comprehensively with the approach in English Language Teaching known as Dogme ELT.

The Business English Teacher Cover

The Business English Teacher

From the multi-award-winning DELTA TEACHER DEVELOPMENT SERIES. The Business English Teacher is a book not only for teachers who are thinking of making a career move into the field of business English teaching but also for those who would like to increase their skills and develop their potential.

The Developing Teacher  Cover

The Developing Teacher

The Developing Teacher has been awarded the 2009 Duke of Edinburgh/ESU Award for Best Entry for Teachers. The Developing Teacher suggests that teachers themselves are the most powerful agents of change and development in their own professional career.

Culture in our Classrooms Cover

Culture in our Classrooms

Part of the Delta Teacher Development Series. Culture in our Classrooms acknowledges the role of culture in the English Language Teaching classroom and provides lesson content which is relevant, useful and engaging for students.

The Company Words Keep  Cover

The Company Words Keep

Part of the multi-award-winning Delta Teacher Development Series. The Company Words Keep is a practical and thought-provoking guide for language teachers, showing how the latest insights into “language chunks” can lead to learners acquiring natural and fluent English.

Previous

Next

Recent Comments

  • Carme LLaona on Delta Professional Development Webinars :

    I’m really interested in...

    September 16, 2014 5:01 pm

  • Helen Beesley on Storytelling with Our Students:

    Great review from Alan Maley: ‘The...

    September 10, 2014 11:21 am

  • IELTS Exam in London on IELTS Advantage: Writing Skills:

    It is really a good post has really...

    July 28, 2014 11:40 am

  • David Heathfield on Storytelling with Our Students:

    It’s very heartwarming to read what you...

    May 7, 2014 8:04 am

  • Wanita on Lexical bundles:

    I really co’udnlt ask for more from this article.

    April 17, 2014 5:40 pm

  • Archives by date

  • September 2014
  • August 2014
  • July 2014
  • June 2014
  • May 2014
  • April 2014
  • March 2014
  • February 2014
  • January 2014
  • December 2013
  • November 2013
  • October 2013
  • September 2013
  • August 2013
  • July 2013
  • June 2013
  • May 2013
  • April 2013
  • March 2013
  • February 2013
  • January 2013
  • December 2012
  • November 2012
  • October 2012
  • September 2012
  • August 2012
  • July 2012
  • June 2012
  • May 2012
  • April 2012
  • March 2012
  • February 2012
  • January 2012
  • December 2011
  • November 2011
  • October 2011
  • September 2011
  • August 2011
  • July 2011
  • June 2011
  • May 2011
  • April 2011
  • March 2011
  • February 2011
  • January 2011
  • December 2010
  • November 2010
  • October 2010
  • September 2010
  • August 2010
  • July 2010
  • June 2010
  • May 2010
  • April 2010
  • March 2010
  • February 2010
  • November 2009
  • October 2009
  • September 2009
  • July 2009
  • June 2009
  • May 2009
  • April 2009
  • March 2009