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Writing, Writing Task 2

The KISS principle in IELTS writing task 2

Have you ever heard of the KISS principle? There are many different ideas about what this acronym means, and not all of them are very polite (e.g. Keep It Simple, Stupid). My favourite is “Keep It Simple and Straightforward”.

The KISS principle is followed by designers, writers, trainers and managers. It’s also a very useful principle to follow in IELTS writing.

If you are confused about what you’re writing, if you don’t know what your position is and you’re not sure how you are organizing your ideas, then no amount of complex vocabulary and grammar will hide this.

The importance of having a position …

Here are some interesting points relating to task response from the IELTS public writing bands for task 2.

  • Band 7: presents a clear position throughout the response
  • Band 6: presents a relevant position although the conclusions may become unclear or repetitive
  • Band 5: expresses a position but the development is not always clear and there may be no conclusions drawn
  • Band 4: presents a position but this is unclear
  • Band 3: does not express a clear position

This is the first thing I look at when I’m marking an IELTS task 2. I read through quickly and see if I can identify the position that the candidate is making. Now look at those points again. “Does not express a clear position” is band 3!

How to prepare …

  1. Look at sample writing tasks. Read the prompt carefully and highlight the main points that you need to address.
  2. Think about your position in relation to this prompt.
  3. Write your position down as one sentence. Make sure that it is very clear. I mark a lot of IELTS papers; I want your position to jump out at me.
  4. Think about how you could expand this position into an essay. Think about the paragraphs you could use and the topic sentences that you would use.
  5. Repeat these steps. You need to be able to do this quickly. You should only spend 40 minutes in the IELTS on writing task 2. You should never start writing until you have completed these steps. Practice will help you with this.

More kissing …

In this cartoon, Calvin didn’t follow the KISS principle. He used complex vocabulary and grammar to hide his ‘weak ideas’. He thinks this will make him seem like a better writer. No wonder Hobbes looks confused. Teachers and IELTS examiners see through this pretty quickly. We don’t want you to hide what you’re saying in an ‘impenetrable fog’. So, when you’re writing an IELTS essay, more KISSing!

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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Discussion

3 thoughts on “The KISS principle in IELTS writing task 2

  1. Hi,

    This is really great, absolutely awesome! I like the idea of the KISS principle in IELTS writing. I agree with what you’ve said in your post, “If you are confused about what you’re writing, if you don’t know what your position is and you’re not sure how you are organizing your ideas, then no amount of complex vocabulary and grammar will hide this.” this is very true, If you want your essay to be easily understand by your readers then keep it simple and straightforward.

    Thank you.

    Posted by TheIELTSSolution | October 25, 2011, 1:45 am
  2. I teach my students the same principle. They always pay attention when I tell them to KISS! Many seem to think that writing 100-word sentences will get a high score when, in fact, this just makes it harder for writer and reader. Keep flying the KISS flag!

    PS. I use Keep It Simple, Students! Applying the KISS principle to the KISS principle. 🙂

    Posted by James | February 15, 2012, 6:02 am

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