IELTS Guy Blog

Early Results from the Writing Workshop

Hi everyone.

We are at Day 17 of the Writing Workshop, and the participants are well on their way to achieving 7+ scores.  Here is one sample of two body paragraphs written in response to this prompt:

Many processed foods and ready-made meals contain preservatives and chemicals. What are the advantages to this? Do you think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?

(The student believes that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages)

Some people argue that it is advantageous to add preservatives to processed food They are convinced that the chemical preservation of food will increase its shelf life. As a result of extended life, food will be readily available off season; people will not have to wait for so long to eat their favourite food products at any particular time of the year. Moreover, as additives in food will hinder the growth of microscopic organisms, such as fungus, bacteria, and viruses responsible for the degradation of food items, it may be exported to numerous countries which will boost the overall growth of economy as well as create employment in chemical and food industries which will surge the production level.

I believe, however, that the disadvantages associated with using chemicals and preservatives in food outweigh any advantages. Firstly, adding supplements and foreign chemicals to food may result in unforeseeable health problems. Although they extend the life duration of food commodities, these substances may reduce nutritional value which will have detrimental effects on health. Secondly, fresh food contains a range of vitamins and other vital minerals which are necessary for the mental and physical growth of the body. Usage of various additives may degrade their values and some even destroy the original properties of those minerals by treating them with bleaching agents such as sodium. Henceforth, it leads to some health issues and the loss of nutrients in food items.

This essay is well on-track for a 7+ score.

Our August Workshop will be commencing in two weeks.  We already have 57 registrations, so if you would like to join please drop me a line soon.


Scoring 7+ for CC

Hi everyone.

The July Writing Workshop has reached its half-way point.  Here’s a sneak look at what we covered yesterday – how to create cohesion and coherence in your essays:

Today is a really important lesson.  In the workshop exercises to date, quite a few students have drifted away from the outlines and guidance we have provided, perhaps lapsing into long-established writing habits.  While that is understandable, it is also likely that these habits will prevent you from achieving your 7+ score.  Today, we will illustrate why it is very important that you should closely follow the approach we are developing.

There is nothing more frustrating for an IELTS student than to be told that “you need to improve your cohesion and coherence”.  How exactly is an improvement in these elements achieved?

The answer is that cohesion and coherence cannot really be studied as separate elements of writing.  They are developed as part of the structure of your essay, its paragraphs and sentences.

The good news for you is that this workshop has been teaching you cohesion and coherence since Day 1 – you just didn’t realise it.  The essay outlines, topic sentences, paragraph structures and sentence counts we have shown you are all designed to ensure that your essays are both cohesive and coherent.

To illustrate, let’s look at one of the essays that I have built up over the last few days in response to this prompt:

Many processed foods and ready-made meals contain preservatives and chemicals. What are the advantages to this? Do you think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?

I haven’t actually done an introduction for this prompt yet, so I need to add that.  This is an advantages/disadvantages prompt so I will use Outline B, with a context/paraphrase/thesis introduction, as follows:

Food safety is an increasing concern in many countries.  Many processed and convenience foods today contain additives and preservatives.  In this essay I will argue that the advantages of adding chemicals to such foods outweigh the disadvantages.

Some people argue that there are significant problems associated with adding chemicals and preservatives to food.  They are convinced that adding foreign substances to foods can have unanticipated effects on our health.  Some chemicals used as food preservatives, such as MSG,  have only been developed in recent years and so the long-term effects of consumption are unknown.  Moreover, the long shelf life that preservatives and chemicals provide has an impact on local economies.  Chemically-preserved foods can be transported over long distances and stored for lengthy periods, meaning they are widely-available at all times of years.  For the producers of fresh, organic produce it is extremely difficult to compete with the convenience of processed foods, and so the livelihoods of such people is placed at risk.

I believe, however, that the advantages associated with using chemicals and preservatives in food outweigh the disadvantages.  Firstly, by extending the shelf life of many foods, preservatives permit suppliers to sell foods at a significantly reduced cost.  Perishable foods must be sold quickly, or they will spoil, and suppliers allow for this in their pricing models.  By extending the period before foods must be withdrawn from sale, food preservatives place many foods within the reach of more people.  Secondly, chemical additives in foods often protect us from potentially harmful bacteria.  Treating food with chemicals is often intended to prevent the growth of dangerous fungi that pose a health risk.  In the case of bacteria such as E Coli, the risk is not only of illness but even of death.  Treating foods in order to protect consumers from the risks of food poisoning is an essential aspect of food safety.

In conclusion, the economic and health advantages of using chemicals and preservatives in food easily outweigh any disadvantages.  Low-cost, non-perishable food may well hold the key to eliminating hunger in those countries unable to produce sufficient food to feed their own people.

OK, now here is the official IELTS scoring rubric for a 7 score in cohesion and coherence:

  • logically organises information and ideas; there is clear progression throughout
  • uses a range of cohesive devices appropriately although there may be some under-/over-use
  • presents a clear central topic within each paragraph

The Outline B structure gives a logical overall organization, while the approach of starting from the general and moving to the specific via short, clear topic sentences that do not attempt to answer the question in one sentence gives us organization within paragraphs

The simple and clear language of our introduction gives us a base for progression.  We then use BP1 language to make it clear we are not presenting our own view, followed by BP2 with our own view.  This is a logical progression, and you can see at every point where the essay is heading.

I have underlined the cohesive devices.  Notice that I have used a couple of different ones – I have not repeated firstly/secondly or any of the other devices in both paragraphs.  I have also not used too many cohesive devices – it is easy to overuse such devices and end up with the “mechanical” cohesion that scores a 6 for CC.

A couple of subtleties here:

  • My use of “they” in BP1 is an advanced cohesive device, linking to the reference to “some people” in the previous sentence. This can work for you too, but ONLY if you follow the guidance around writing a clear and simple topic sentence.  If the topic sentence is complex, it is much harder to correctly refer to it in the next sentence.
  • I moved “however” away from the start of the sentence in BP2. This small change means that my cohesive device is more advanced, moving toward the level where cohesion is managed so well that it is not noticeable (a 9 score CC requirement).

Here is a video by Ben McBride giving further details on how to create cohesion and coherence……………………………………

Our August workshop will be starting soon.  For more information, message me at


There are no exercises today.  Rest assured that you are already learning how to write in a manner that will score you a 7+ for CC!

Tomorrow we will explain strategies for maximizing your

A tip from the July Writing Workshop

Hi everyone.

One of the topics we have covered in the Writing Workshop so far is how to write 7+ score introductions.

One key point is that for certain types of essays, you can leave your opinion out of the introduction provided you have made it clear that your opinion will be presented later on.  This is achieved by using an outline statement.

“In this essay I will discuss both sides of this issue, and offer my own opinion.”

One of our students presented the following outline statement:

“This essay will discuss both of these views before drawing a conclusion.”

Can everyone see the problem here?

Drawing a conclusion is NOT the same as giving an opinion.  It almost suggests that the writer is not yet sure of what his or her position is.  This outline statement places the essay at risk of being scored low for TA, because it is not clearly stating that an opinion will be presented.

When it comes to presenting your views or your intentions, do not be tempted to show off fancy vocabulary.  These are critical points in your essay – use clear, simple English to make sure that you cannot be misunderstood.



Extending the July Workshop

Hi everyone.

Yesterday was officially the end of our free trial period for the July Writing Workshop.  However, a number of people have contacted me and pointed out that I gave rather short notice of this, particularly given differing time zones and the fact that not everyone logs in to the Workshop at the same time every day.

These are reasonable points, and so we have decided to extend the free trial period until Day 9.  For those of you who have not yet arranged payment, don’t worry, you will have access for two more days!

Just as a reminder, continuing the Workshop will mean:

  • 23 more Workshop lessons, covering body paragraphs for Outlines A and B, plus lessons on conclusions, grammar strategies, and cohesion/coherence.
  • 12 essay corrections
  • Access to the full Band 9 teaching program. You have seen some of the videos from the Writing Course – Band 9 covers this plus Reading’ Listening and Speaking.
  • Access to our private Band 7, Band 8,Band 9 Facebook group

I have also received a number of requests to expand the workshop to include Task 1 essays.  Ben McBride and I are looking into this, and will give a further update soon.


A Tip from the July Writing Workshop

Hi everyone.

On Day 3 of our Writing Workshop we reviewed a specific essay outline designed to ensure a 7+ score.  Our Workshop members were then asked to prepare essay plans in response to a number of prompts, including this one:

In many countries women no longer feel the need to get married. Some people believe that this is because women are able to earn their own income and therefore do not require the financial security that marriage can bring. To what extent do you agree?

When they posted their plans for feedback, a number of members had outlined arguments supporting the idea that women still felt the need for marriage.

Can you see the problem?

This prompt gives us a statement, followed by an argument.  The statement is that in some countries women no longer feel the need to get married.  The argument is that this is happening because women no longer require the financial security of marriage.

We are asked if we agree?  However, we are being asked if we agree with the view.  The prompt does NOT invite us to agree or disagree with the statement itself – we have to accept it as accurate.  If we take the position that we disagree with the argument, that means we believe there are different reasons why women in some countries no longer feel the need to get married.  Such reasons might include decline in the influence of religion, laws that recognise de facto relationships etc.

So when you are asked if you agree or disagree, make sure that you separate the statement from the argument!


Writing Workshop – Day 2 Feedback

Hi everyone.


Some really good responses to the Day 2 exercises from our Writing Workshop.  We asked you to prepare essay plans using our ESSAY Outline A strategy.  Here is a sample, with my feedback in italics.

 With the development of modern society is the loss of traditional ways of life. Is it important to keep our traditional ways of life? How can this be achieved? 


Bp1 covering importance of traditional ways. firstly, by telling strong impact of real face to face conversations secondly, healthy lifestyles significance 

 MIKE – Make sure that you BP1 covers the point of WHY it is important to keep it.  You must emphasise that face to face conversations and healthy lifestyles are important – and therefore we must keep them!  You will probably also need to explain why you consider face to face conversations important – the health one is fairly obvious.

Bp2 covering methods to attain this life style. firstly, promoting social meetups to avoid loneliness n phone addiction secondly avoiding sedentary life styles to avoid ailments 

MIKE – In BP2 I like the idea of promoting social meetups.  However, it is not enough to say “avoiding sedentary lifestyles”.  That is the goal – but here you need to explain HOW you will achieve that


 Our July Workshop is full, but we are taking early registrations for August.  If you are keen to participate please message me.



July Writing Workshop – Day 1

Today is Day 1 of our Writing Workshop!  Here’s some of the content, to give you an idea  of what our participants will receive.

So, welcome everyone to our July Writing Workshop.  Over the next 30 days we will be answering the most common question in IELTS study:

What do I have to do to move my Writing score to 7+?

Along the way we will also be answering a few more of the “big questions”:

  • How do I think of ideas for my essays?
  • How many paragraphs should I write?
  • How do I structure my paragraphs?
  • Do I need to give my opinion in the introduction?
  • Do I need to discuss both sides?
  • How do I create good cohesion?
  • How do I write complex sentences, and where should I use them?
  • What sort of examples should I use?
  • How do I write a strong conclusion?

Some of you may be thinking that this too much to cover in just 30 days.  The good news is that the answers to many of these questions are interlinked.  For instance, if you learn when to give your opinion in the introduction and how to structure your paragraphs then your coherence score will automatically rise.  So don’t worry, it’s actually easier than you might imagine!

So now it’s time to introduce you to the twelve essays prompts that will form the focus of this Workshop.  We have chosen authentic IELTS prompts that have been used in exams in the last six months.  Many of them will be familiar to you, and you might even have written responses to a number of them.  If so, you will be at a slight advantage, as you will soon see.

We have chosen at least two prompts from each of the broad categories used in IELTS exams.  Please review them below:


Over the last few decades, the media has promoted the image of young thin women as being ideal. What problems has this caused? What solutions can you suggest to this issue?  


Many criminals commit further crimes as soon as they released from prison.  What do you think are the causes of this?  What possible solutions can you suggest?


Two-Part Questions

Some people think that being able to communicate with others online is breaking down geographical barriers and enabling people, who would normally never have the chance to meet, to communicate.  What are the advantages of international communication online?  Are there any disadvantages to this?


Some companies have uniforms for their staff which must be worn at all times. What are the advantages for a company of having a uniform? Are there any benefits of having a uniform for the staff?


Discuss Both Sides

Some people think that the role of parents is to discipline their children and teach them about right and wrong. Other people consider that the main responsibility of parents is to nurture their children and provide them with a safe environment to grow up in. Discuss both sides and give your opinion.


Some people think that public health is the responsibility of the government while others think that people should be responsible for their own health.   Discuss both sides and give your opinion.


In some countries, a few people earn extremely high salaries. Some people think that this is good for a country, while others believe that the government should control salaries and limit the amount people can earn. Discuss both views and give your opinion.



Some people think that you can never become fluent in a language unless you have spent time living or working in that country. To what extent do you agree?


In many countries women no longer feel the need to get married. Some people believe that this is because women are able to earn their own income and therefore do not require the financial security that marriage can bring. To what extent do you agree?


The crime rate nowadays is decreasing compared to the past due to advance technology which can prevent and solve crime.  Do you agree or disagree?



Some people think that it should be compulsory for people to retake their driving test every 5 years. What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing this?


Many processed foods and ready-made meals contain preservatives and chemicals. What are the advantages to this? Do you think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?


Workshop Tasks – Day 1

For today, our objective is to set a benchmark that you can measure your improvement against at the end of the Workshop.  Your task for today is therefore to choose one the twelve essay prompts, write a full Task 2 response, and submit it here.  (Now you can see why those of you who have already written an essay on one of these prompts have a slight advantage).

We will review and score the essay, and at the end of the Workshop will return it to you.  You can then compare the score you received today with the score you will receive when you write that same essay again later this month.

To submit your essay………………

If you have any questions, please post them on our IELTS For All Facebook page

Tomorrow we will look at the first of the two essay structures that you will use to respond to any type of IELTS essay prompt.  We call it Outline A.

Good luck with your essay writing, and see you tomorrow.