Editing Checklist for IELTS

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  • 8/3/2019 Editing Checklist for IELTS


    An editing checklist for IELTS

    One problem in IELTS is that there are only 60 minutes to produce 2 pieces of writing. As a result many

    candidates do not have time to edit their writing, or if they do edit, they do it inefficiently. This article

    gives practical suggestions on how to check your writing efficiently, so that you can do it in the 60

    minutes and improve your score. It looks in brief at when to check, how to check and what to check for.

    When to check

    The first step is to decide when to check. There are 3 options here. The conventional advice is to leave 3-

    5 minutes at the end, but there are other choices. The best advice is to try them all and see what works

    for you.

    1. Check at the end

    The conventional advice is to leave 3-5 minutes at the end to review your writing. The reason to do it

    this way is that you can see read the whole essay and check it for coherence as well as grammatical

    problems. One problem with this approach is that sometimes you run out of time and do not check.

    Another problem is that it is more difficult to find mistakes when you check a longer piece of writing.

    If you are a higher level candidate and you have few problems with grammar, this is possibly the

    approach for you.

    2. Check as you write

    An alternative option is to check as you write: either at the end of each sentence or paragraph. This idea

    may surprise you, but there is a very significant benefit to this approach: you are much more likely to

    find grammatical errors if you look at a sentence of 15 words than an essay of 250 words.

    If you know that you have consistent problems with grammar, you should certainly consider this

    approach. It really is much easier to find mistakes this way.

    3. Check as you write and at the end

  • 8/3/2019 Editing Checklist for IELTS


    This is probably the ideal choice as it allows you to find grammatical errors as you write and problems

    with coherence after you have written. The one difficulty is that it probably takes more time.

    How to check

    Here I have two very positive suggestions to make:

    1. Check with a pen in hand so that you make sure you look at every word. Its very easy to seewhat you think you have written and not what you actually wrote. Reading with a pen is a good

    way of slowing yourself down and making sure you read every word.

    2. Read in complete sentences and not word by word. Very often mistakes happen because all theparts of the sentence are correct, but those parts of a sentence do not fit together.

    What to check for

    This is the big one. There are a number of different items you can check for and what follows is a longish

    list. The key advice is to make a checklist of your own personal mistakes and check for those mistakes. If

    you look for everything, you may find nothing; if you look for something, you have every chance of

    finding it,


    The main point to note here is that not all mistakes are equal. You will be penalised more heavily for

    basic mistakes than more complex ones, therefore you should check your basic grammar most carefully.

    In the same way, you are penalised more heavily for systematic errors: these are errors that you make


    1. Verb tenses: make sure they are consistent and in task 1 that your tenses match the time framein the graph

    2. Articles: this is something for everyone to check for. Articles are the most common words inEnglish and often go wrong. To get band 7 or over most of your sentences need to be correct:

    this means your articles need to be correct.

    3. Subject-verb agreement: this means he does not he do. Even to quite a high level this is arelatively common mistake. The problem being that it is also a basic mistake that examiners will

    penalise more heavily

    4. Parts of speech: this is another relatively low level mistake that is also quite common particularly with Asian language speakers. Check that you use nouns, verbs and adjectives whenyou need. This is particularly an issue in task 1 when using trend language ( a sharp rise, but to

    rise sharply).

    5. Range of sentence structures: this one may surprise you, but it is important if you want band 6or above to vary your sentence structures. It is not enough always to use simple but correct


  • 8/3/2019 Editing Checklist for IELTS



    I suspect that this is something that few candidates bother to check a mistake. Vocabulary is as

    important as grammar and in a way it is easier to correct.

    1. Repetition: under exam conditions looking for repetition is perhaps the area where a candidatecan most improve their writing. It is relatively easy for a candidate to see that they have

    repeated words and to correct this mistake.

    2. Repetition (2): check that you have not repeated whole phrases and sentences from thequestion

    3. Spelling: check that you get at least the basic words rightCoherence

    Again, this is another area that sometimes does not get checked. You do need to think about this as it

    accounts for a large part of your mark.

    1. Topic sentences: each paragraph starts with a topic sentence that clearly relates to the question2. Paragraph development: each paragraph is developed with explanations and examples of the

    topic sentence. In task 1 this includes having enough detailed information and facts.

    3. Connecting words: make sure that the connecting words you use are accurate. A frequentmistake is to overuse connecting words.

    Answering the question

    If you dont answer the question, the examiner is likely to penalise you very heavily. Really speaking, it is

    too late to check this at the end, this is something more for the planning stage.

    1. Introduction: check that your introduction addresses all parts of the question2. Conclusion: check that your conclusion gives an answer to the question

    What not to do count the words

    Whatever you do, dont count the words. That is a complete waste of exam time. If you are worried,

    count how many words you write in one line and then count how many lines your writing is. (Words like

    a and an still count as words).

    What not to do draft and redraft

    There is an essential difference between IELTS and academic writing. Academic writing involves draftingand redrafting: IELTS is an exam that takes place in 60 minutes, you do not have time to draft and

    redraft you need skills that are specific to an exam situation.


    1. Make a checklist of your personal mistakes: you need a teacher/expert user for this2. Practise how and when you are going to edit your writing: try different ideas, see what works best3. Have an exam strategy for timing: the reason candidates dont check is they run out of time.


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