Why the “copy and paste” method won’t work in the IELTS test

If you are familiar with the IELTS, you will understand that the test is quite topic-based. If you are currently my student, you will understand by now, how to go about preparing for this test effectively and how not to. One no-no is blindly memorising words and phrases and using them in your own essay. The “copy and paste” method has no place in the IELTS, particularly in writing, and candidates should know better that these expressions are not like T-shirts where “one size fits all” contexts and sentences!

Let’s take a look at some examples. Typically, these “copy-and-paste” expressions can be found at the beginning of essays.

In this introduction,

Therefore I would like to discuss the theme and mention my opinion in this essay.

can easily be copied from a model answer and used on your own introduction. But what happens if you end up talking about something else and NOT mentioning your opinion in the essay? And this was exactly what happened when I went over this candidate’s writing. There was no related theme or clear position in the writing.

Here’s another example:

In this essay, I will explain both side of this children’s working debate and offer my opinion.

First of all, if you would like to copy and paste certain expressions to your own writing, please make sure that you do this correctly. The sentence above seems to be missing an ‘s’ in side and appears to have been copied directly from this generic fill-in-the-blank construction:

In this essay, I will explain both sides of this __________ and offer my opinion.

The phrase “children’s working debate” is confusing. What does the writer mean? There are a few possibilities:

  1. a debate in progress? (a working debate)
  2. an argument amongst children? (a children’s debate)
  3. a debate in progress among children? (children’s working debate)

What the candidate is perhaps trying to say is that this debate is about children working or child labour, so should have been written in this way:

In this essay, I will explain both sides of this debate on child labour and offer my opinion.

There have even been a few lazy attempts like this one:

In this essay, I will explain both sides of this issue and offer my opinion.

Doing this is OK if the rest of the essay fulfils all the requirements for a high band score. However, a desperate shortcut last-minute attempt at doing this will not get you very far if your level of English is not very high. Don’t forget that you will be assessed on your overall language skills, not on the weight of a few copied and memorised sentences.

So, what is the solution for this?

You will need to invest some time and effort in improving your language skills, particularly in reading relevant articles that will help you apply some of the ideas and language you have learned to your own writing, instead of blindly memorising and copying expressions. There are no secret “short-cuts” or “hacks” and all the other viral buzzwords that have been going around on the internet lately to help you improve your band score quickly. All skills take time and to try and force yourself into impressing your examiner with a few injected expressions here and there will not convince them that your writing is worth a high score.


Until next time!

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