Academic IELTS Writing: Words, Phrases, and Structures to Avoid

September 3, 2019 by Ashlee Hunter Ashlee Hunter

Writing can be one of the most challenging sections on the IELTS test, and many candidates struggle to achieve their desired score. Writing certain words, phrases, and grammar structures may be what is holding you back from the score you want or need. Here are some examples of language to stay away from when writing Task 1 and 2.

Simple Vocabulary


Avoid using basic vocabulary when discussing a topic. You want to showcase your range by using complex and accurate words.

Adjectives


Some adjectives have various synonyms that are more advanced and may help your band score for a lexical resource.

A big number of people travel for leisure. A large number of people travel for leisure.

Enforcing stronger penalties is an easy solution.

Enforcing stronger penalties is an obvious solution.
Modelling this behaviour can have a bad effect on children. Modelling this behaviour can have a negative effect on children.

Nouns

With certain nouns like ‘things’ and ‘stuff’, their definitions are too general. Try to use a more precise word to discuss the topic you’re writing about. There are also casual nouns such as ‘cops’ that can be written more formally.

 

People tend to collect many things over time. People tend to collect many items over time.
Often, stuff from our past can hurt us today. Often, experiences from our past can hurt us today.
Cops need to be strict yet sympathetic when dealing with the public. Police officers need to be strict yet sympathetic when dealing with the public.

Verbs


Again, verbs like ‘have’, ‘give’, and ‘get’ are correct but can be used in a wide range of sentences. Always try to think if there is a verb that better suits the situation.

This manual gives detailed information about the machinery used. This manual provides detailed information about the machinery used.
Getting the correct information can be difficult. Obtaining the correct information can be difficult.
When someone has the right tools, their future is bright. When someone possesses the right tools, their future is bright.

Adverbs


It is common for candidates to write ‘very’ or ‘so’ to stress a certain point. Always consider that there may be a more accurate way to say the same thing.

Understanding the issue is very important. Understanding the issue is crucial.
Forming a strong opinion can be so difficult for some. Forming a strong opinion can be extremely difficult for some.

Casual Language


There are some words and phrases that we use in our speaking that sound great, however, sound very informal in our writing. Different types of casual language should be avoided so that Task 2 doesn’t seem informal.

Abbreviations/Contractions


It's always beneficial to use vocabulary in full form as it looks more formal, and it counts towards your word count.

This requirement must be completed a.s.a.p. This requirement must be completed as soon as possible.
Many factors contribute to the issue (ex. air pollution). Many factors, such as air pollution, contribute to the issue.
Words can’t express the deep emotions that individuals feel. Words cannot express the deep emotions individuals feel.
Technology doesn’t have a place in our school system.

Technology does not have a place in our school system.

Quantifiers


Although quantifiers such as ‘a lot of’ and ‘lots of’ are used frequently in English speaking, it is again very informal to do so in the writing section of the IELTS test.

Lots of people use public transportation. Several people use public transportation.
With social media being so popular, only a few people actually meet in person. With social media being so popular, only a slight number of people meet in person.

vocabulary blocks

Phrasal Verbs


We use phrasal verbs all the time when we are speaking. Even though the first column of sentences is correct, there are more academic ways to say these phrases.

Running out of options can be a negative consequence. Exhausting all options can be a negative consequence.
Organizations can call off any promotion at any time. Organizations can cancel any promotion at any time.
When an idea blows up on the internet, it goes viral. When an idea explodes on the internet, it goes viral.

Sentence Structures


Along with using basic and casual language, some simple grammatical structures in your writing could hurt you as well.

Do not state, ‘we can clearly see’ and ‘it is obvious that’ when doing the writing section of the IELTS test. Also, keep your linking words and phrases accurate but natural. Finally, try to write your sentences in different ways, so that it’s accurate and natural sounding.

It is obvious that the number of students increased over the two-year period. The number of students increased over the two-year period.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s how you do it. In conclusion, it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s how you do it.
There are many issues within the education system. Many issues are occurring within the education system.

When writing Task 1 and Task 2 on the IELTS test, make sure your writing is concise, accurate, and fully answers the question. If you can do this, your writing band score will thank you for it.

If you're looking for more helpful tips visit our Prepare for IELTS page.



Ashlee Hunter

Ashlee has been involved in the ESL world for over ten years and has now planted her roots in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Nothing gives her more pleasure than watching students and candidates reach their language and IELTS goals.

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