How's your study going? I bet you've got a tonne of essays to do this semester, maybe a few reports, a textual analysis? I don't know about you, but I absolutely hate all the writing I have to do at uni, it sucks. I never know what to write, or how to write it. I feel like I'm not structuring anything right, like I'm not answering the questions effectively. Sometimes it's like I know what I'm supposed to do but I just don't have the tools to do it.
It can be a bit overwhelming, and then throw on top of that doing it in a different language like English for you or Chinese for me, and it's a whole new challenge in and of itself. All of sudden I'm not only unsure of the essay or report, but I'm also unsure of the language I'm using, whether it's appropriate, if I've understood the information well enough, or collected the data in the right way.
But these aren't issues just for second language speakers. Even I struggle with my English writing, and it's my native language! I need loads of practice, looking up new words, checking my grammar, fine tuning all those sentences and phrases that just don't sound quite right. I think we all need to be continuously practicing our language, whether it's our first or our second, or our third or fourth. You can't become proficient without it. Even if you're great at speaking and talking, writing is different. We don't write the way we speak, so it's a different skill to be able to write proficiently and effectively in any language you speak.
Like any other skill, that requires practice, and practice, and practice, and practice, and practice! There are so many ways to practice too, exercises from text books, reading books and other literature, and now with the advent of the modern world there are even more options to help you out. There are even fully functional online courses, like a class at university, to help you practice and get to the level you want to be at. This is something we do here at Unipus, something we're very proud of if we're being honest.
One time, I was given the practice question:
The chart below gives information about Southland's main exports in 2000, 2017, and the future projections for 2025. Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.
This question was accompanied by a bar graph showing the figures:
Originally I had no idea how to organise my information or structure it. So I just jumped right in and said:
"From the graph below it looks Southland has three export areas. Over the years in question they have all changed in terms of quantity".
I'm sure anyone can see that this was a terrible response. My supervisor from uni then taught us various strategies regarding writing, the "Three Elements" approach being one of them. It is used to organise the data before I started writing, and make a better response like this one:
"The graph below shows a glimpse at the changing nature of Southland's main three exports, International tourism, Daily products, and Meat products, over a period of 25 years. As we can see there has been a consistent rise in the quantity of exports in billion for international tourism, and a steady decline for Meat products. Daily products on the other hand had an initial increase up until 2017, but are projected to decrease by 2025, while still staying higher than the original export amount in 2000."
I know we can all agree that this response is just so much better than the original. It's more detailed, comprehensive and it is also more academic in nature.
This IELTS writing is essentially academic writing as well; it has an in-depth focus on graphs and analysis — there was no way I couldn't get better without this "Three Elements" approach. This is also true for any possibility you may come across in your IELTS and English writing in general.
We actually have a course that is designed specifically for IELTS writing as well as writing in general on the Unipus website. It's built around the Academic IELTS and discusses a variety of things ranging from in-depth looks at the types of media you may be given as prompts, to broader explanations of each task in the test and how they are marked. It provides detailed explanations of the possible prompts you can be given, how to interpret the information, approach the collection of it and how to structure your response. There are lessons that focus exclusively on writing a conclusion, and lessons that discuss an overview of the tasks, giving a variety of examples and sample responses to give you a standard to aim for.
Because of this, the course isn't only suitable for IELTS, but it's also a great way to improve your English writing in general. The detailed analysis on data interpretation, response structuring and information collection, as well as all the amazing sample responses and helpful hints, are lessons and skills that are transferable to all your English writing, both at school, in the workplace or in general life. They are skills that I, as a native speaker, use every day in my work, in my writing, and at school. Going through these courses even I learnt new things that I've been able to apply in my day to day life. They are very comprehensive and detailed, I give them 5 stars, hands down.
At the end of the day, doing anything in a second language is going to be difficult. There is an added level of stress and difficulty when it comes to writing even the simplest piece of work. You are always second guessing your understanding, whether your grammar is right, if that word can even go where you've put it! Doing things like our IELTS course can help give you the peace of mind to know that what you're doing is right, that you're on the right track. Having skills and processes in place that you can apply to all situations you find yourself in are invaluable. It means you can organise your thoughts, have a clear head and actually do well, because at the end of the day that's all any of us want to do.