One of the major challenges that I face in the classroom while teaching IELTS Writing Task 2 or essays is to teach how to generate ideas. Unfortunately, many students believe they don’t have enough time to think about the points or some even think that it is not necessary to generate ideas at all. They think having flashy grammar and vocabulary will do the job.
Now, before getting into how to generate ideas we must investigate why we must generate ideas or develop points. To address it we will consider a sample task. We will also look at the typical mistakes that students commit while writing them.
You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.
Some people feel that entertainers (e.g. film stars, pop musicians or sports stars) are paid too much money.
Do you agree or disagree?
Which other types of job should be highly paid?
Give reasons and examples from your knowledge or experience to justify the position you take.
Write at least 250 words.
Above is a typical IELTS essay task that you may encounter on IELTS. Now let us say one of the students without planning is writing this essay in the actual exam. To make my point, I am going to note parts of an essay on the same topic written by one of our students from our class.
Consider the following introduction paragraph written by the student.
In the past, the field of entertainment was not very famous and developed. However, with the improvement in technology, the income of celebrities increased. Many people believe that entertainers like actors, musicians and sportspeople are highly paid. I personally agree with the statement. There are other more critical jobs which should be highly paid.
You will realise that the essay topic is not concerned with whether famous people are paid highly or not. Instead, it wants you to discuss whether celebrities are paid much more than they are worthy of. ‘too much’ implies more than deserved or in excess. However, the introduction in no way points out the entertainers earn more than they deserve. And so, the student risks losing bands unnecessarily.
Now the first point that student makes to prove why he or she thinks celebrities are paid too much money is as follows.
“It is true that entertainers are highly paid. It can be seen from their lifestyle, sports cars and luxury houses, cricketers and film actor are overpaid just to represent the country.”
However, the point has no concrete reasoning to justify why famous people earn more money than they deserve. It doesn’t follow one of the basic requirements of the task. If you pay attention to the essay task at hand, it says, “Give reasons and examples from your knowledge or experience to justify the position you take.” As a result, despite writing a grammatically correct sentence, the writer may lose bands heavily.
Consider now the second point to prove why are famous people get more money than they deserve in the essay.
“Furthermore, they make an extra income by endorsing any merchandise, by doing adverts and become the brand envoy of the product. Entertainer becomes legendary, and people like to follow their trends and lifestyle. So, big companies like MRF and Airtel hire famous celebrities with handsome pay to influence other people to buy their product. …”
You may notice that the first sentence here explains how celebrities earn money through advertisements and endorsements. However, again the similar information is given in the last statement as well with some examples. Moreover, any point given here doesn’t explain how it is related to why celebrities have too much money. Such writing is going to damage your essay scores adversely.
We have observed time and again that most students rush to write the essay. In the process, they ignore what is precisely asked on IELTS Writing Task 2. Reconsider the sample task that we have already discussed. In this task, you are asked whether you believe that all media stars are paid more than they deserve or not. Also, you should note which other professions deserve higher pay than they get currently.
To stick to the task, I would always ask myself a question. What do I observe around myself that is related to the topic at hand? Now, this is a bit of general question. So, I ask a concrete question “were media stars as famous in the past as they are now?” I realise that in the past, athletes and film actors were very much like us ordinary people. However, recently they’ve got fame. So, they earn money through various means. At the same time, I also observe that very few people believe that these stars deserve so much money.
Now all I need to do is write down all these things in the introduction. Compare the following essay introduction with the previous one.
In the past, film and sports personalities were not media stars as they are today; however, currently, due to their far-reaching appeal, they are accumulating unprecedented wealth. Looking at this trend, one must analyse whether they deserve such hefty compensation or not. Also, it is essential to note which other professionals are worthy of higher pay for their work.
After reading this introduction, the reader will not doubt the scope of the topic at all. So, it is essential to think about what is exactly asked in the essay before starting the essay.
Now let’s move on to the next step.
You have already read a couple of reasons why the author feels that films and sports personality earn much more than they deserve in the body paragraph. That answer was written to impress the examiner with long sentences and heavy words. Now, forget about that answer.
Let’s concentrate on how to brainstorm better. Remember, in the instruction of this IELTS essay task; you are asked to give reasons for your answer. So, in a way you believe that these famous people are paid too much money, you must try and justify your point of view.
Ask yourself, why do I feel that these people make much more money than they deserve? Now, I believe that they work as much as others only. They need not study very hard or work extreme shifts. Also, they are not putting their lives at risk. So, why do they deserve the wealth that they get otherwise? Now, all I do to make the point is to write precisely why I disagree with the topic statement. My point in the paragraph may read as follows:
The entertainers have duties just like any other professional has in his or her daily life. They neither study hard like scientists or academicians, nor do they acquire some extraordinary skills. Additionally, they don’t risk their lives in any dangerous endeavours on a daily basis like our soldiers on the borders do. So, I believe these performers are not worthy of the income they earn.
The above point seems relevant. However, it is relevant because we did not worry about the quality of points or vocabulary. We just wrote what was evident to us. And that’s it. Once you realise that you must provide genuine reasoning, brainstorming or generating points doesn’t remain a tall task.
So, in a way to brainstorm better on IELTS essays, you must stick to the following structure.
We all know, practice makes a man perfect. But do we follow it? No. I mean, many students usually come to me and say, “I have written 50 essays before the IELTS exam and still got six bands on writing section.” Obviously, you got six bands, because you did not change your style of writing. Even after realising how to generate ideas, students, unfortunately, fall for the temptation of using hi-fi words and long sentence structures. Don’t do that. Be true to yourself. Ask whether I am writing a reason for my opinion or not. And then practice.
At the same, you must find a person who can evaluate your IELTS essays. After the evaluation, ensure that you write that essay again. If you do this, I am sure you will see a significant improvement in your subsequent essays.
This is essential as, many times, you may feel that what I am thinking is correct. However, unless and until you check with others whether your reasoning is valid and convincing or not, you won’t improve. In this case, your IELTS coach can be convenient in guiding you further.
While writing IELTS essays, many students are not sure of their ideas. “But this idea is too simple,” they say. They want to list down great reasons to justify their position, and so they unnecessary wait for a divine idea to hit them. See, you are not Shakespeare. If your point is basic but satisfactory enough go ahead and write it. Otherwise, you may face many issues. Remember your job is to communicate your ideas in such a way that the reader feels are convinced about the position you have taken.
In conclusion, don’t chase heavy words and grammar. Worrying about these things is the primary reason people cannot generate good points. Instead, focus on what you really feel like and offering reasons for it.
Best wishes for your IELTS preparation.