Today’s lesson, we’re looking at IELTS and TOEFL, the writing section, and we’re going to look at the five most common mistakes that I see when I’m checking students’ essays. Okay? Now, as usual, for the IELTS and TOEFL lesson, I will speak a little bit more natural speed, a little bit faster than usual. If you’re a beginner, don’t worry. Watch the video, listen, practice your listening. Get the vocabulary you need. It’s all… It’s good for everybody, but just a little bit harder. Okay?
So, now, where do I begin? I check a lot of essays. Okay? People send me their essays, I check them, I edit them, I tell them what they’re doing wrong, and I’ve come to the realization that there are certain mistakes that many, many people make. So, I want to tell you five of these common mistakes so that you can avoid making them. Okay?
And the first one-and this is the most common mistake that I see-is that you are trying too hard. Now, what does this mean? Trying hard is a good thing, right? Yes, it is. But you’re trying too hard to sound impressive. Okay? You’re trying to impress the graders of these… Of these exams, IELTS and TOEFL, you think that by using big words or lots of idioms, or very, very long sentences that are very complex and have many clauses that you’re getting a higher score. In fact, most of the times, you’re actually hurting yourselves. Why? Because you’re using words incorrectly, you’re using them inappropriately, meaning in the wrong context or the wrong usage or in the wrong parts of speech; you’re using a verb when you should use a noun, etc. When you write very, very long sentences, quite often, you have run-on sentences, mean… Meaning you have two independent clauses in one sentence, and no punctuation, and no conjunctions, and then the whole sentence falls apart and means nothing. And also, a lot of people use idioms because… Yeah, idioms will get you extra points, but they’re using them incorrectly or in the wrong context. Again, make sure you know the words you’re using, make sure you know the idioms you’re using, and shorter sentences can actually be better. Simple is often better than complex. If you think about… As an analogy, if you think about cooking, the more spices you put into the dish, the less you taste the actual meat or the actual core of the dish. Simple is best.
Let me give you an example. Here are two sentences. Okay? Let me read them to you. “The CEO”, Chief Executive Officer, like the head of the company… “The CEO’s tenure at the company was abbreviated due to his reluctance to integrate more females into upper managerial posts, thereby drawing the ire of the Board who consequently relieved him of his duties.” Now, this sentence is perfectly okay. It’s grammatically correct, all the words are being used correctly, but if you can write a sentence like this the way that I wrote it here, then you don’t need to worry about the IELTS or the TOEFL; your English is obviously very high level. If you can do this, then this test will be very easy for you.
However, a lot of people, a lot of test-takers try to write this sentence, and then they end up making many, many mistakes. They don’t use this word correctly: “abbreviated”, they say: “abbreviation”. Okay? That’s the more common thing of it. “Abbreviated” means made shorter. Okay? “Reluctance”, hesitance, like not really wanting to. This word: “ire”. I write all the time, I write for a living. I never use this word “ire”, because it’s so old-fashioned. And also, it’s a small word. Right? So you don’t need many syllables, you don’t need very rare words. You need to be simple, you need to get your message across. The most important part of the test is: Answer the question. They give you a task, answer it. Answer it clearly, concisely. Means: Use fewer words, not more words. If you can say the same thing in fewer words, get the message across, make it clear, make the reader interested, then you’ll get higher points than if you write something like this. Okay?
Let’s look at this sentence: “The CEO’s time was cut short because he wouldn’t promote women to top positions, which angered the Board who then fired him.” Okay, look at the two sentences. This sentence means exactly the same thing as this sentence.