1. Read the questions very carefully. Generally, the questions ask you to do different things in addition to the main question. Jot them down and make sure you address all of them in your answer. The IEL TS examiner will be checking for this.
2. Plan before you write. Even though you feel under pressure for time, spend the first few minutes planning your writing. Decide what you are going to say and how you will expand on it. When you know what to write, you can concentrate on how to write it best. Experiment with a great variety of outlining and mind-mapping techniques to help you sketch out a plan quickly.
3. Write in an organised way. When you have planned in advance, you will end up with a more organised, logical piece of writing, which will earn you higher marks. There are many ways to be organised – linear, circular, etc. – but in the end, the final product must be cohesive.
4. Stay on topic. You will be penalised if you stray off topic. This is where the initial few minutes of planning can help you a great deal.
5. Divide your writing into paragraphs. It is confusing to be faced with a block of writing, with no divisions. So, always divide your writing into paragraphs.
6. Write clearly. This is not the time or place to experiment with new vocabulary or idioms. Use simple, clear English to get your ideas across in a powerful way.
7. Write legibly and spell correctly. You should write in such a way that the examiner should be able to read what you have written without difficulty. Also, try to avoid careless mistakes in spelling.
8. Do not use slang. This is the time to show off the best English you know. Find the correct way to express your thoughts and convey your ideas without resorting to slang. Be aware that certain expressions such as kids instead of children, and guys or gals instead of men or women also fall into the category of slang and should be avoided.
9. Do not use contractions. In English, contractions are used in informal writing, and the academic tasks demand formal writing.
10. Use rich vocabulary. You have learned English for many years and this is the time to use what you know. Stay away from over-used adjectives such as good or bad. Instead, use more dramatic, expressive words, such as excellent, wonderful, superb, or adverse, horrible, terrible, etc. Choose the more precise word over the more general one. This will make your language come alive, in speech or in writing, and earn you higher marks.
11. Do not write more or less words than you need to. Writing too many will take too much time, and there is a greater possibility of making mistakes. Writing too few is also worse – it will cause you to lose marks.
12. Do not repeat major chunks of the question in your answer. Instead, state what you understand of the questions and what you plan to include in your answer.