The IELTS Task Response is 25% of your score for your essay. When your essay is marked, you are given a score for each of these criteria:
There are two key factors that are important for ensuring you get a high score for IELTS Task Response:
This is very important because misunderstanding the question and not answering it properly can be fatal for your IELTS Task Response Score.
These are the penalties:
However, for band 7:
Developing and extending your ideas is obviously crucial as well to get a good IELTS Task Response score but there is no point extending your ideas if they are the wrong ones because you have misunderstood the question!
So the key starting point for a high IELTS Task Response score is to fully answer the question.
To understand the problems with this, we will look at a recent IELTS essay question (from a test in May 2019).
This is a question that several candidates reported they had problems with answering and when I queried how they answered it, many had written about the wrong thing.
This is the question from the test:
Before carrying on with this lesson, it would be a good idea to analyse the question and makes some notes on how you would answer and organise an essay like this.
You can then compare your answer with the suggestions below and see if you analysed it correctly.
The opinion in this essay question is indicating a comparison between two things:
You simply need to say which ones you think have led to the biggest changes and benefits to people's lives.
There are several things that resulted in confusion for candidates.
One confusion was with the word ordinary people, which led some candidates to go off-topic and start discussing the lives of poor people or other things not really related to the topic.
This simply refers to the everyday person in society, like you and me. Someone who studies or goes to work everyday and therefore would make use of technology, such as phones, washing machines, cars, computers etc., in the usual way.
So rather than focusing on companies for example, or extremely rich people, your essay would need to be about the general population in societies.
You can of course still mention rich people as long as it is in relation to the question and ordinary people. For instance you may argue that some technological developments were expensive and only benefitted the rich so did not tend to improve most ordinary people's lives.
Another word causing confusion was ever will.
Seeing 'will' led some candidates to think they needed to discuss how current developments will change in the future.
This would be wrong as the question is about past technological developments and recent developments. 'Ever will' is just a phrase to emphasise the opinion that past developments are not as influential as more modern ones and never will be, even in the future.
The future could be discussed in reference to the extent to which people's lives may change, but it is not about which developments may arise in the future.
Another problem candidates faced with this essay question was what is actually meant by earlier and recent?
Are you supposed to talk about technological developments from 30 years ago, such as the personal home computer from around the 1970s, or much further back, such as the invention of the car?
Also you may not know exactly when most these things were invented or developed.
This though is quite subjective so it would not matter too much which period you chose. The examiner cannot decide it refers to 20 years ago and mark you down for IELTS Task Response if you discuss things such as the first ever phone invented in the late 1800s.
You just need to make your choice, stick to it, and make sure of course you give examples of the developments you have chosen and say why they have changed people's lives.
And in terms of when things were invented, you do not have to refer to which years or decades you are talking about anyway - you just need to say which earlier / recent developments you are talking about.
These words in the prompt are important of course because they dictate what you need to do in your answer with regards to the opinion you have been given.
It is up to you whether you agree or disagree; however, it is important for your IELTS Task Response score to discuss both:
There are dangers with only discussing one or the other.
For instance, let's say you disagreed, and thought recent developments were more influential on ordinary people and you then go on to only discuss some recent developments.
The problem with this is the examiner may feel you have only partially answered the question (band 5 for IELTS Task Response) because you have not addressed something specifically referred to in the question - earlier technological developments.
It's very difficult to justify why more recent developments are better if you do not even compare them with earlier ones to show why more recent ones have improved and changed people's lives more.
One common mistake is to rush into a question without reading it, which could be a big mistake.
Something you must not do, which some candidates said they did, is to have a general essay discussing the advantages and disadvantages of technology on people's lives without making any reference to earlier and later ones.
A careful look at the question should tell you that it is not asking this. However, some lower level candidates who may have been struggling with the language just assumed it was simple pros and cons of technology essay.
This mistake is likely to lead to a band 3 or 4 for task response:
Based on the factors discussed above, answering the question as follows would mean a reduction in the IELTS task response score:
There are various options of how to organise your essay to show the examiner you have understood the question and answered it.
Here are some possibilities, all of which would help you get a good score for IELTS Task Response as they all fully answer the question.
Based on the fact you want to discuss both earlier and recent technological developments the easiest way to organise the essay to ensure you answer the question is as follows:
You could also compare them though by specific developments that have been changed and updated over time. For instance, you could write about the typewriter as an early technological development and the computer as a more updated one which has more benefits.
[There is a model answer for this plan - the link is at the bottom of the page]
You may think that the whole opinion is wrong because it is not a matter of distinguishing between periods of time but depends on the actual technology.
In other words, some technology from the past was good but some bad, and the same for today.
For instance you may think mobile phones are a bad invention of today as they occupy people's time so much but robotics are a good thing as they have led to advances in medicine and operations.
So you may organise it like this:
This is ok as long as you clearly organise your essay and explain your ideas.
This lesson has focused on answering the question fully. You should now hopefully realise the importance of making sure you carefully analyse the question before you write.
It's easy to make mistakes and this could seriously affect your IELTS Task Response score.
But as noted above, extending and supporting any ideas you have is of course another key factor in IELTS Task Response.
So once you have decided how you will answer the question and you have some ideas, you need to provide support and maybe use examples to illustrate what you want to say and extend your points.
We looked at the this in the planning and brainstorming lesson.
There is a model answer for this essay in our IELTS Sample Essays. Check it out here:
"I think these eBooks are FANTASTIC!!! I know that's not academic language, but it's the truth!"
Linda, from Italy, Scored Band 7.5