Grammar for IELTS Writing – Using a variety of complex structures – by Danny Robinson

Hi everyone, my name is Danny and I teach IELTS classes here at Agos.  Today I’m going to give you some advice about how you can start to show more grammatical range in your writing.

Why is using a range of grammar important?

To achieve the higher bands for the IELTS Grammatical Range & Accuracy criterion (Band 6 or above) in writing, you have to show that you can accurately and flexibly use a variety (range) of structures, including complex structures. If you only use simple structures, you will be limited to a 5 for this criterion.

This means that you need to be very aware of the structures you are using, otherwise it is very easy to just use the same patterns again and again.  Here are some strategies for avoiding this.

Strategy 1: Changing the order of the sentence

There are many ways that sentences can be structured.  So one of the simplest methods of avoiding too much repetition and showing grammatical range is to simply change the order of the different language “chunks” that make up the structure you are using.  Here is an example of this using a sentence from a typical Task 1 graph analysis essay:

 Over the period shown, the number of crimes committed by children under 15 years of age increased significantly to just over 30% of the total reported in 2010, rising from around 10% in 1990.

 This can be changed to the following sentence, which expresses exactly the same ideas:

Rising from around 10% in 1990, the number of crimes committed by children under 15 years of age increased significantly over the period shown to just over 30% of the total reported in 2010.

Strategy 2: Change the verb forms

Slightly changing the grammar of the verbs can create another different structure:

 Increasing significantly over the period, the number of crimes committed by children under 15 years of age rose from around 10% in 1990 to just over 30% of the total reported in 2010.

Strategy 3: Using a good balance of sentence lengths

However, also remember that good writing is about clearly and precisely expressing what you want to communicate as simply and efficiently as possible.  Unnecessary complexity can also be a problem.  A balance is best.  You should always aim to express yourself in the simplest and clearest way possible while considering the complexity of the idea or information you are expressing.  If you can achieve this balance, it should also have the positive effect of making your writing more engaging for the reader.

A useful starting point for assessing how well you are achieving a balance between clarity and efficiency, as well as showing that you can use complex structures accurately and flexibly, is by considering sentence length.  A series of long complex sentences with several subordinate clauses is just as boring to read as several short simple sentences, and again, may actually reduce clarity by being unnecessarily difficult.

  • Avoid adding subordinate clauses for their own sake:
 The process of industrialization has resulted in the raising of the economic performance of many of the poorest countries in the world.  

 This can be changed to the following sentence, which expresses the same ideas more efficiently:

 Industrialization has boosted the GNP of many poorer countries.

While this first sentence demonstrates impressive complex grammar it isn’t really necessary to express the writer’s point.  It is OK to include some sentences like this, but if all your sentences are this length, your writing may become overly complex and difficult to read.  Also, you will be more likely to make errors, and you will probably find it difficult to include everything you need to say within the time limit of the test.

  • Break up long sentences when possible:
 The immediate effects of reducing government support for the unemployed would probably be to cause protests from charities, to make richer people who pay higher taxes happier, and to scare people on lower incomes, who have long benefited from such programmes.        

 This can be changed to the following sentences, which express the same ideas more clearly:

 Reducing government unemployment support would probably have three immediate effects. Firstly, it would cause protests from charities. Secondly, richer people who pay higher taxes would be happier. Lastly, it would scare people on lower incomes, who have long benefited from such programmes.         

  • Combine short sentences

Equally, if you have a series of one or more very short sentences, see if it is possible to combine them, without losing clarity, by using conjunctions and/or punctuation.  In fact, sometimes this might actually improve clarity as well as efficiency:

 Television can be a useful educational tool. It is a tool that prevents education.

 This can be changed to the following sentence, which expresses the same ideas more clearly:

 Television can be an educational tool, but it may also prevent education.

How can I improve?

Achieving the best balance between showing a range of grammar knowledge and flexibility, without allowing your language to become overly complex and difficult to read requires a lot of practice.  Here are some things you can do:

  • Study different grammar patterns
  • Analyse model answers to see how other people use a variety of grammar
  • Read and analyse texts related to common IELTS topics that you can find in English newspapers and a variety of online sources
  • Apply some techniques to answer real IELTS questions

With study and practice, you can improve your grammatical range and flexibility, and so achieve your IELTS writing scores.  Good luck and perhaps I’ll see you in class soon!

英文のTouch Typing (ブラインドタッチ)習得 — by 西海絢乃

皆さん、こんにちは。TOEFL講師の西海です。
TOEFL-iBTのWritingクラスで、よく受講生の方から「思うようにタイピングができない。」「タイピングが苦手で、本試験でもタイピングに時間がかかってしまう。」といった声を聞きます。実際、制限時間のあるTOEFL-iBT Writingでタイピングに時間がかかってしまい、時間が足りずに思うような結果を残せなかった…という経験のある方は案外多いのではないでしょうか。
TOEFL-iBT本試験でのWriting課題だけでなく、留学先での課題提出、仕事における英語でのメールのやりとりなど、英文タイピングが必要になる場面は多く、キーボードを見ずにタイピングするTouch Typingの習得は、将来的に必ず役に立つスキルだと思います。また、既に日本語ではTouch Typingに慣れている方でも、英文タイピングとなるとなかなかすぐには速く打てないもの。

そこで今日は、できるだけ早く英語でのTouch Typing(ブラインドタッチ)を習得するためのコツや、練習方法を紹介します。
ちなみに日本語の「ブラインドタッチ」は和製英語で、正しくは手元を見ずにタイピングする事をTouch Typingと言います。

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まずはホームポジションを覚えます。標準的なキーボードには、fとjのキーに小さな突起があり(図:赤)、fには左手、jには右手の人差し指をそれぞれ合わせ、そこから左右にそれぞれの指とキーの配列を合わせていきます。左手の小指から人差し指まで:a, s, d, f, 右手の人差し指から小指まで:j, k, l, ;となり、これがホームポジションです。(図:ピンク)キーボードを見ずにこれらのキーを打てるよう、何度か打って練習してみましょう。コツは、キーボードをできるだけ見ない事です。
後はここから、上下左右にあるキーに指を移動させて打っていくのですが、コツはキーを打った後必ずホームポジションに指を戻す事です。

例えば、thisという単語を打つ時は、図の黄色い矢印の通り、指を動かして打ちます。Sはホームポジションにあるのでその場で打ちます。Thisと打ち終わった後、必ず一度ピンクで囲まれたホームポジションに全ての指を戻すようにすると、指がいつも同じ場所にあり、他のキーへ動かす時にブレないため、キーボードを見なくても次のキーへとそれぞれの指が速やかに移動できます。
あとはこの応用で、出来るだけキーボードを見ずに沢山の単語を打っていく練習を重ね、慣れましょう。インターネット上にはタイピング習得に関する沢山の情報や練習用の無料ソフトもあるので、大いに活用すると良いと思います。

ここまでは一般的な練習法ですが、TOEFL-iBTのWritingテストの為にタイピング速度を挙げたい人は、OGその他参考書に掲載されているSample Responseを題材として練習すると良いと思います。ある程度キーの場所を覚えたら、できるだけキーボードを見ずに、時間を測りながらSample responseをそのままそっくりタイプしてみましょう。
タイプすると同時に、使える表現や語彙、言い回しなども手と目で覚える事ができるので、一石二鳥だと思います。そうやって覚えた表現を、是非本試験のWritingに活用してみて下さい。