Why do people get 5.5 in IELTS Writing

Why do people get 5.5 in IELTS Writing?

In the IELTS test, your performance in each module is indicated as a band score on a scale of 0 to 9, and the overall band score is the average of the four module scores. Despite extensive preparation using excellent IELTS preparation materials and IELTS practice material, many of you students get your desired scores in all the sections but writing, in which you end up with a disappointing score of just 5.5 and you are left puzzled as to the reasons for such a low score. This article, therefore, aims at throwing light on some of the reasons why test takers are unable to score better than 5.5 in the IELTS writing section. 

One might refer to the best IELTS material for writing practice, but without a focused approach, rising above a score of 5.5 will remain a pipe dream. 

What is the assessment criteria for IELTS writing?

Let’s understand the reasons vis-a-vis the assessment criteria for IELTS writing: 

Task achievement/response: 

 This criterion requires the student to:

  • Address all parts of the task,
  • Present a relevant main position and,
  • Present relevant main ideas that are adequately developed. 

These requirements are common to both tasks, 1 and 2. Additionally, for task 1, you have to give an overview with appropriate information while the general task 1 i.e. the letter should present a clear purpose with the right tone. Now, why do test takers make mistakes or omissions with respect to these critical components of task achievement/response?  

  1. For one, they fail to read and understand the question properly and consequently, they either focus on only one aspect of the task or fail to provide their own opinion despite the question asking for it very specifically.    

For instance, let’s consider the task 2 question: ‘Today a lot of different cultures and ethnic groups live together in one country. Why is this so and do you think this is a positive or negative development?

If not read and understood properly, one might tend to omit a response to the part ‘why is this so’ resulting in a low band score. 

  1. Secondly, this can also happen if time is not devoted to planning and organising the response before actually writing it down. This can result in inadequate details to support their main points. It can also result in a response which is off track or very general in nature whereas the question might be very specific. The scope of getting anything more than a 5.5 for task response, therefore, diminishes considerably. Hence, it is important for you to develop the habit of planning and organising your essay while practicing both tasks with IELTS material for writing and the IELTS preparation materials available online and from other reliable sources.  

Coherence and cohesion:

A lack of coherence and cohesion can also result in a student getting stuck at a 5.5 band score in the writing section. Simply put, if your writing is lacking in the clear,  logical flow of information and thoughts, it is incoherent; it is not cohesive if your sentences and paragraphs are not well linked to one another via cohesive or transitional devices. Another important aspect of a well-written essay is progression which indicates how well the ideas connect to one another and how they build on each other. In other words, the essay should be moving forward. Writing tasks in which information is not well organised into paragraphs, ideas are simply repeated and linking words are either underused, overused or incorrectly used will fail to get a band score higher than 5.5.  

For example, here is a body paragraph which will get you a very low band score:

Money is not needed to be happy. A positive mindset and an optimistic outlook are needed for being happy. Having a lot of money does not make any sense if your outlook towards life is pessimistic. You will always be in some sort of misery if you do not have a positive mindset towards life.

Why do you think that would be? 

  1. For one, not a single linking word has been used. 
  2. Secondly, progression is lacking as the thoughts are repetitive and logical flow is missing.

A better way to write this paragraph with a logical flow would be:

While money is often linked to happiness, it’s not the only factor. A positive mindset and optimistic outlook can play a big role in making one genuinely happy. Without these traits, even the wealthiest people may struggle with negativity and misery.

Lexical Resource: 

Vocabulary is a critical component of the writing section, and candidates are expected to use a wide range of words and phrases naturally and flexibly to convey their ideas effectively. Overall, a 5.5 band score for this parameter indicates that the student has a basic level of vocabulary and therefore needs to improve their range and use uncommon words accurately to achieve a higher band score. It could also be because of errors in spelling. Many students have a limited vocabulary and struggle to find the right words to express themselves. This can lead to repetitive language and a lack of variety in their writing, which can negatively impact their score. Being able to paraphrase and use collocations well, knowing and using a range of topic-appropriate words, correct spelling and avoiding informal language – all of these are essential vocabulary-related skills needed to get a band score beyond 5.5.

This is an excerpt from a 5.5-band essay:

On the other hand, children should be taught to become cooperative. Being cooperative helps you in becoming a better and helping human being. Children should be taught to become cooperative right from their childhood so that they can compete in this world and help their fellows along with it as well. Being cooperative helps one develop a better understanding of the people around us. 

Notice how often the word cooperative has been repeated?

Now let’s look at the same paragraph written using way better language:

In contrast, it is imperative to instil in children the value of cooperation. Not only does this foster their personal growth as compassionate and supportive individuals, but it also equips them with a valuable tool for success in the world. Moreover, being cooperative enables them to develop a deeper understanding of those around them. 

Most of the IELTS practice material provided by good training institutes has model answers to both writing tasks. You should go through these and pay close attention to the way language has been used, to learn and use the skills of  paraphrasing and to be able to use collocations and uncommon words in your own writing.

Grammar Range and Accuracy:

Grammar is integral to writing, and candidates are expected to use grammatically correct structures and sentences that are error-free. Grammatical errors are distracting and make it difficult for the reader to understand the test-taker’s ideas. .

Unfortunately, many people grapple with grammar, particularly the more complex structures which unfortunately results in a low band score of 5.5.  There is a complete range of free IELTS material for writing practice available online which focuses solely on improving your grammar. Make use of it to brush up on your skills and ace your grammar scores.  

Time management:

Last, but not least is your ability to manage time well.  Students sometimes spend too much time on one task and are not left with enough time for the other. This can result in a lower score, either because the second task is left incomplete or because of a lack of sufficient time to fully develop one’s ideas and address all aspects of the task. In the preparation stage itself, which you should ideally do using IELTS practice material provided by institutes of repute, time yourself for writing so as to be in a position to  write both tasks comfortably, in the prescribed time of 60 minutes.

While using free IELTS preparation materials available online, be sure that the source provides model writing answers that are worthy of a 7-band score or more. Go for authentic, well-researched, well-written material which will guide you correctly. 

With free IELTS preparation material you get access to essential study material in the form of videos, documents, practice tests and assignments that are needed to prepare for the IELTS Academic and General tests. This material can be used to supplement your IELTS preparation course, or you can use it for IELTS preparation at home. We continue to add new learning resources and ensure that the material is up to date to give you the best learning experience!

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