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IELTS Writing Part 2: How many points in one paragraph?

Student Question: Is it OK when answering “is this a positive trend” in the exam question below to have only one reason for my position?

Classical music concert attendances are becoming less and less. What are the reasons for this? Is it a positive trend?

IELTS examiner information answer:

If the exam question does not specifically ask for more than one reason (e.g. “Do you think this is a good trend? What reasonS do you have for thinking so?) then the examiner has no instruction from IELTS on “how many” supporting reasons there should be. The examiner has these instructions from the IELTS criteria:

  1. the position should be fully supported (for a 9)
  2. there should not be unnecessary repetition or irrelevant detail
  3. any supporting ideas / reasons / examples should be relevant to the main point

The two paragraphs below both answer the second question “is this a positive trend”, which one better matches the above 3 points?

Model A

In my opinion, this is a generally a positive trend. If a smaller number of people go to classical music concerts, they usually choose other types of concerts. It results in the development of new kinds of music, such as rap or pop, as the artists performing them earn more money. As a consequence, in the future new types of music will probably better reflect the needs of modern society. For instance, many teenagers nowadays find classics boring and prefer listening to, for example, black rap instead. Although classical music is beautiful, each generation has its own preferences and there is nothing wrong about this. 

Model B

In my opinion, this is a generally a positive trend. If a smaller number of people go to classical music concerts, they usually choose other types of concerts. It results in the development of new kinds of music, such as rap or pop, as the artists performing them earn more money. This means that there are more kinds of concerts to choose from, which results in people choosing from a wider variety of concerts. As a consequence, in the future new types of music will probably better reflect the needs of modern society. For instance, many teenagers nowadays find classics boring and prefer listening to, for example, black rap instead.

The answer is “Model A”. In answer “Model B” , this sentence “This means that there are more kinds of concerts to choose from, which results in people choosing from a wider variety of concerts.” repeats what was said earlier unnecessarily.

So WHY then does everybody recommend “two main ideas in each paragraph”? There is a fourth point the examiner is told by criteria:

  1. the position should be fully supported (for a 9)
  2. there should not be unnecessary repetition or irrelevant detail
  3. any supporting ideas / reasons / examples should be relevant to the main point
  4. one aspect from the exam task should not be more covered than others

If a candidate covers one aspect more than another, e.g. in this exam question…..

Classical music concert attendances are becoming less and less. What are the reasons for this? Is it a positive trend?

the candidate covers “What are the reasons for this?” noticeably more than “Is it a positive trend?” , then the IELTS criteria gives a 6 for TR. With the two paragraphs below in MODEL ANSWER C , although the first paragraph is bigger than the second, there is not a big difference.

MODEL ANSWER C

Firstly, the crucial reason for this trend is that now music plays significantly less important role in school curriculum than it used to. In the past, many people expected schools to equip pupils with broad general knowledge, including basis of history of music. In contrast, nowadays teachers tend to focus on more useful skills, as the importance of specialization is stressed. As a result, new generation is on average less educated, which makes it harder for them to appreciate the beauty of classical music, so they do not feel the need to attend classical music concerts. Secondly, in the times of the internet, when all types of music is available online, most people prefer downloading it for free, rather than buying tickets for concerts, which are sometimes exorbitantly expensive. 

In my opinion, this is a generally a positive trend. If a smaller number of people go to classical music concerts, they usually choose other types of concerts. It result in the development of new kinds of music, such as rap or pop, as the artists performing them earn more money. As a consequence, in the future new types of music will probably better reflect the needs of modern society. For instance, many teenagers nowadays find classics boring and prefer listening to, for example, black rap instead. Although classical music is beautiful, each generation has its own preferences and there is nothing wrong about this.

Were we to take out the summary sentence in the second one, then it is already a little bit more “dangerous” than in the first case.

MODEL ANSWER D

Firstly, the crucial reason for this trend is that now music plays significantly less important role in school curriculum than it used to. In the past, many people expected schools to equip pupils with broad general knowledge, including basis of history of music. In contrast, nowadays teachers tend to focus on more useful skills, as the importance of specialization is stressed. As a result, new generation is on average less educated, which makes it harder for them to appreciate the beauty of classical music, so they do not feel the need to attend classical music concerts. Secondly, in the times of the internet, when all types of music is available online, most people prefer downloading it for free, rather than buying tickets for concerts, which are sometimes exorbitantly expensive. 

In my opinion, this is a generally a positive trend. If a smaller number of people go to classical music concerts, they usually choose other types of concerts. It result in the development of new kinds of music, such as rap or pop, as the artists performing them earn more money. As a consequence, in the future new types of music will probably better reflect the needs of modern society. For instance, many teenagers nowadays find classics boring and prefer listening to, for example, black rap instead.

If we take out the “for instance” sentence then there is no doubt that the TR is a 6 according to one aspect from the exam task should not be more covered than others

MODEL ANSWER E

Firstly, the crucial reason for this trend is that now music plays significantly less important role in school curriculum than it used to. In the past, many people expected schools to equip pupils with broad general knowledge, including basis of history of music. In contrast, nowadays teachers tend to focus on more useful skills, as the importance of specialization is stressed. As a result, new generation is on average less educated, which makes it harder for them to appreciate the beauty of classical music, so they do not feel the need to attend classical music concerts. Secondly, in the times of the internet, when all types of music is available online, most people prefer downloading it for free, rather than buying tickets for concerts, which are sometimes exorbitantly expensive. 

In my opinion, this is a generally a positive trend. If a smaller number of people go to classical music concerts, they usually choose other types of concerts. It result in the development of new kinds of music, such as rap or pop, as the artists performing them earn more money. As a consequence, in the future new types of music will probably better reflect the needs of modern society.

Obviously the statement ” one aspect from the exam task should not be more covered than others ” is subjective, some people may say body paragraph 2 in “Model answer C” is shorter, therefore this aspect is not “equally covered”. In another case, you may have two perfectly even paragraphs, but due to a lot of repetition in one paragraph, this paragraph’s point is not covered very much.

Generally keep the paragraphs even and make sure you develop each idea that is presented without unnecessary repetition and you should be OK.

If we break down the original answer to “Is this a positive trend?” we can see the writer uses a very logical sequence of supporting structures to fully develop / support her position that the trend is positive. Such development far outweighs the fact that the paragraph is a “bit shorter” than the preceding one. Here is the breakdown starting with the position in the topic sentence.

Position:

In my opinion, this is a generally a positive trend.

If-statement to introduce situation:

If a smaller number of people go to classical music concerts, they usually choose other types of concerts.

Result of situation:

It results in the development of new kinds of music, such as rap or pop, as the artists performing them earn more money.

Consequence of result:

As a consequence, in the future new types of music will probably better reflect the needs of modern society.

Example of this:

For instance, many teenagers nowadays find classics boring and prefer listening to, for example, black rap instead.

Conclusion that consequence is positive:

Although classical music is beautiful, each generation has its own preferences and there is nothing wrong about this.

Although it doesn’t follow a classic “I believe it is a good trend for two main reasons” it certainly fully develops the position given. That is the key to how to answer the IELTS question well.

IELTS Writing Task 2: To what extent do you agree?

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IELTS Writing 2 To what extent do you agree

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