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Structuring Answers: General and Specific
The IELTS writing and speaking sections have a few opportunities for you to write longer responses, or say longer responses to the prompts that they provide. Test two on the speaking section for example, your interviewer will give you a card with a prompt on it, and you will have one minute to prepare your response. Similarly, on task two of your writing exam, you’ll have to write a longer essay.
So the question is, in general, how should you organize your longer responses on the IELTS exam for these tasks? That’s what we’re gonna look at in this lesson. So, in general, the way you should approach these longer responses is to think about how you’re going to provide main ideas, and this is usually the simple part for most of my students.
They can think of main points to provide. But then after you provide a main idea, you’re going to support it with details or examples. In other words, you’re not going to move from main point to main point to main point throughout your response, you always go from main point to detail or example. Main point to detail or example, okay?
This could lead to a conclusion if you have one paragraph basically, or maybe you have main point too, and you just follow the same pattern. So you start with a main idea, you support it with detail, and then you go back to another main point and support it with detail, and so on until you’ve done your full response, okay? So, as a way of thinking about this, what you’re really doing is, you’re going back and forth from general to specific to general to specific.
This is the way you pattern your responses on the IELTS exam for these longer prepared responses that you have. So let’s look in an example, okay? Here we have an example card that you might be given on your second speaking task in the speaking exam. And the question on this one, they give you a prompt and then they always give you some things that you’re supposed to include in your response as you prepare.
So if you got this card, describe a subject you enjoy studying, you should say why you like it, why you prefer it to other subjects and how the subject applies to your life. Okay, so a typical response from a student in one of my classes might be to provide only general information. It’s easy to think of those general point you wanna make, and I often get responses exactly like this one.
I’ve color coded them here, all the purple is going to be general points, sort of main point information. And right now, just pause the video, and read through this general information one time, okay? Okay, so as you saw, all of this information was really general, okay. It’s not bad.
In fact, I think it’s very good main points to provide. But this person could get a better score and could have more to say, if they would include detailed information to support these main points. So let’s take a look at what it might look like to provide some of the detail and example to this exact same response. Again, why don’t you pause your video now and read through the detailed examples.
Okay, notice how, in this passage, the response, the main point that this person likes math is supported by this wonderful details. They really like doing algebra, they like it, they find math satisfying because it is like a puzzle and they get to come to very clear conclusions. Okay, these are all reasons why this person really enjoys math, okay.
Down here, some wonderful detail about how they use math in their daily life, right? They use it for finances, interest rates, loan calculations. All of these things are wonderful supporting details for the main point they’re trying to make about how they use math in their daily life. This response is really a wonderful example of the method of going from general to specific to general to specific, okay?
You always to support main points with detailed information just like you see here. So, the general take away is, you just wanna make your big points, your main points, the memorable points with this sort of glue that these details provide, right? They pull your information together, they make it tighter and when you transition from general to specific, back to general again, you use your transition words and phrases to do that.
It really pulls your response as your speaking and your writing responses together in a very clear and coherent way. This is the best general strategy for thinking through how to organize responses on the IELTS speaking and writing exams.
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