The short answer is, Everything. You might feel that you have done everything right. Including erring on the conservative and taking IELTS coaching from the best institute. But, there are more things at play at every moment than we can imagine, let alone anticipate. One such element is writing in IELTS. And within writing, it is Task 2 that often plays spoilsport when it comes to ones score.
Can a simple paragraph be a part of an essay that gets a Band 9 in IELTS? Take a look at the following text:
Education systems are based on the belief that all children can effectively be taught to acquire different skills, including those like sport, art, or music. From our own school experience, we can find plenty of evidence to support the view that these skills can be acquired with practice and training.
What could this score? Assuming the question is about whether skills like sport, art, or music can be taught, this is a brilliantly written paragraph. It can, in fact, be rated at close to a 9. Wondering why? Read on.
The paragraph presents a well-developed response. The points are relevant, and well supported. And for these reasons alone, the task response for this one para could be rated at at least an 8. You could look at more Sample Band 9 responses to get an idea of how to write a fantastic essay.
coherence and cohesion
This is a tricky one. While building a paragraph, cohesion (how one sentence is connected to another) is important. But, good cohesion, is like good design. It should be invisible. The more natural the flow is, the greater your score will be in terms of cohesion.The two sentences above flow naturally, and there is no connecting word that drags our attention to itself. This will mean the paragraph is good for a 9 in terms of Coherence and cohesion.
There is a difference between knowing words and using those accurately. Most test-takers mistake knowledge for understanding. While one might know the meaning of a particular word, understanding how to use the word will be a whole different game. You might know that strong and powerful could be used interchangeably. This is knowledge. But figuring out that we can say strong coffee and not
powerful coffee is what understanding is about.
In the words of IELTS, a Band 9 in lexical resource would meet the following criteria:
Uses a wide range of vocabulary with very natural and sophisticated control of lexical features; rare minor errors occur only as ‘slips’.
Notice how IELTS talks only about a wide range of vocabulary and not about impressive words, or long words. The focus is purely on range (variety) and control (appropriate usage). Also, minor errors, or slips are excused. A paper scoring a 9 is not necessarily an error free one.
The Take away
The purpose of language is to communicate. The more clearly you communicate the better it is for your score. Remember, you only need to impress upon the examiner how well you know the language and NOT try and impress them with the words that you know.