The IELTS writing exam is the most difficult part of the whole test and many students struggle to score higher than band 6 for it. There are many reasons for this, but one of the best solutions to help you get a higher IELTS writing score is to practise proofreading.
In this article, I will show you how to do this for the best possible effect.
What is Proofreading?
Proofreading is basically a form of editing that involves checking a text for mistakes. Rather than making significant edits, proofreading generally involves smaller changes like fixing spelling errors, finding typos, and altering verb tenses to make them correct.
In most cases, proofreading is a service offered by professionals, but in the IELTS writing test, it is something that you need to do for yourself. In the following sections, I will explain the most effective ways to do it.
Proofreading and IELTS Writing
When you write an essay for IELTS, you will probably find that you make various mistakes. This is perfectly normal and you shouldn’t worry, but obviously you want to make as few mistakes as possible.
One strategy for ending the test with few mistakes is to use proofreading at the end of your time period. This means assigning a short period of time at the end of the exam when you simply read over your work and fix the mistakes that you have made.
This is a great way to find some errors and remove them, thereby giving you the best chance of a high score. Remember: any mistakes in your essay can add up to a reduction in the total band score assigned. In particular, very obvious mistakes can really cause your score to drop.
How to Proofread your IELTS Essay
Of course, proofreading your own work is not easy! There are many cases when you will have made an error and be unable to identify it. That is because the error was made due to a lack of grammatical knowledge, for example. This sort of error is hard to avoid.
However, proofreading can definitely help you. It can be used to reduce the number of errors because of two things:
- You will make some mistakes simply because you were writing quickly.
- You will make some mistakes because of uncertainty.
In the first case, it is quite easy to fix these. You may look back over your essay and see that you have written “teh” instead of “the,” for example. Or perhaps you have confused the words “of” and “or.” These are simple fixes and most people will be able to find and change the errors easily.
Beyond that, though, it becomes difficult. You might have written “the supermarket” but you are unsure of whether it should be “the supermarket,” “a supermarket,” or just “supermarket.” In this case, proofreading gives you an extra chance to think about the rules of grammar and make the correct choice.
Advice about Proofreading and IELTS Writing
First of all, you need to set aside some time for proofreading. This might be difficult for some people because they often find that one hour is not enough time to write two essays (or an essay and a letter). However, it is worthwhile trying to do this because it really can help you. Even a few minutes might allow you to find two mistakes and remove them. This could be the difference between band 6.5 and 7.
As for the actual proofreading, it helps to know in advance what your strengths and weaknesses are in terms of writing. Some common problems are:
- Verb tenses
- Word order
It can be really helpful to figure out in advance what your most common mistakes are. If you do this, you will be in a good position to find those issues in your writing. Just having that chance to review them makes it more likely that you will correct the error.
Consider having a friend or teacher check your essay so that you know your most common errors. A professional or expert speaker could show you things that you could add to a personal list of mistakes to check at the end of each test.
What Can’t Proofreading Do?
Proofreading is great for IELTS writing, but it is not always going to solve your issues. As I mentioned above, proofreading helps for small mistakes like articles and verb tenses. These are important, but they are minor and easy to fix in many cases.
The problem with proofreading is that it’s not going to help you with very major issues like content and structure. If you have written a 270-word essay and have just five minutes to proofread it, you will not be able to change the content of a paragraph or restructure your whole essay because there simply isn’t enough time for that. Instead, you would need to devote more time at the beginning of your essay to avoid these problems.
However, proofreading may still help slightly. You might be able to change a few words or add a new sentence to fix such issues. A few changes with transition words might smooth out a faulty structure, and a couple of changes nouns might even fix a problem with content. (This also easier to do with computer-based IELTS rather than the pencil and paper exam, where changes are hard to make.)
Proofreading is really helpful for IELTS writing score because it allows you to find and change errors, thereby increasing the likelihood of a good score. It is not a magic fix, but it will definitely help you to improve by removing frequent mistakes. Even if you can just eliminate the most obvious problems, you can give yourself a better chance of a high score because those are the first things that an examiner would notice and may otherwise limit you to a band 5 or 6 for that particular section of the rubric.