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Good Paragraph Writing for IELTS

In Paragraph writing for IELTS, you should follow the same structure that you would for writing any paragraph when you write an IELTS paragraph, though it may be shorter because of the limited time that you have.

This limited time and space means that you have to get your ideas across as clearly and succinctly as possible.

If you have planned well before you write, then you should be well on your way to being able to write your paragraphs quickly and clearly.

The following has all the components of a good paragraph. Read it through and identify why this is.

A Good Body Paragraph

Studying Abroad

Studying abroad has two main benefits.  Firstly, people who study abroad can get a better job when they return to their home country.  This is because their qualifications and experience mean that they tend to get jobs that are higher paid, and they can also gain promotion quickly. Another advantage of studying abroad is the independence students can gain. For example, students have to cope with the challenges of living alone and meeting new people from different cultures.  As a consequence, they will become more confident in their life and in their relationships with others.  All in all, it is clear that studying abroad is a beneficial experience.

The Three Parts to Good Paragraph Writing

The 'text book' structure for a paragraph is as follows:

  • Topic sentence
  • Supporting sentences
  • Concluding sentence

1. Topic Sentence

The topic sentence states what the paragraph will be about.  It gives the topic of the paragraph, and it also restricts the topic to one or two main ideas which can be explained fully in the space of one paragraph.  The controlling idea is the specific area that the topic is limited to:

topic                  controlling idea
Studying abroad has two main benefits

2. Supporting Sentences

Supporting sentences explain and develop the topic sentence.  Specifically, they discuss the topic sentence by explaining the main ideas and discussing those more fully using reasons, examples, facts, results, statistics, or anything else that proves your ideas are true

The supporting sentences that explain the benefits of studying abroad are:

People get a better job when they return home (1st supporting idea)

  • Better qualifications & experience mean better pay and promotion (reason)
  • Now has a high standard of living (result)

 Students gain independence (2nd supporting idea)

  • Students have to cope with the challenges of living alone and meeting new people from different cultures.(example)
  • Students will become more confident in their life and relationships (result)

3. Concluding Sentence (Optional)

A concluding sentence can be used to signal the end of the paragraph. It tells the reader the important points to remember.  It is often a paraphrase of the topic sentence.

All in all, it is clear that studying abroad is a beneficial experience.

Concluding sentences are optional and paragraphs often do not have them.  You won't get marked down if you do not have a concluding sentence in IELTS, but it is a good way to add coherence to your paragraph.

Unity and Coherence

For good paragraph writing, there must also be unity and coherence.  The examiner will assess your IELTS paragraphs on their unity and coherence, which is clearly shown in the IELTS public band descriptors under "Coherence and Cohesion" for what is required for a band 7:

  • logically organises information and ideas; there is clear progression throughout
  • uses a range of cohesive devices appropriately
  • presents a clear central topic within each paragraph

1. Unity

Unity means that you discuss only one main (central) topic area in a paragraph.  The area that you are going to cover is usually introduced in the topic sentence, and your supporting sentences should only be used to develop that. 

For the topic sentence above, you could discuss only two benefits of studying abroad.  You could not discuss three benefits, or start discussing the disadvantages of studying abroad.  If you did, your paragraph would not have unity.

Even if there is no specific topic sentence (more advanced writers do not always have an obvious topic sentence), the paragraph should still have one central topic area so it retains unity.

2. Coherence

Another element of good paragraph writing is coherency. This means your paragraph is easy to understand and read because

(a) The supporting sentences are arranged in a logical order and 
(b) The ideas are joined by appropriate transition signals.

(a) Logical Order

For example, in the paragraph about studying abroad, there are two main ideas: People who study abroad can get a better job, and they will become more independent.   Each of these ideas is discussed, one after the other, with examples, reasons and results to support them.  This is logical order.

(b) Transition Signals

Furthermore, the relationship between the ideas is clearly shown by using appropriate transition words and phrases such as first of all, for instance, the result of this, another advantage,  as a consequence, all in all.    Using such words and phrases will guide the reader through your paragraph, making it coherent and, therefore, easy to understand.

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