Governments should spend more money on railways rather than roads.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
One of my students attempted this question from Cambridge IELTS 11.
What do you think of their answer?
Some people say that the government ought to allocate more of their budget to rail than roadways. I totally disagree with this statement because trains are faster and more environmentally friendly.
Investing in a modern train system will mean that people can get around a country faster. This is because train passengers do not have to deal with the congestion most road users experience and trains can achieve much higher speeds than cars. Therefore, people will spend less time commuting and more time doing something more productive and this will benefit the entire society. For example, the British Government recently unveiled plans to connect cities in the North of England with London via a high-speed rail network and this will reduce commuting times by half, allowing thousands of people in the Midlands to work in London.
Locomotives tend to be less harmful to the environment than cars. This is due to the fact that a train can carry hundreds of passengers and this prevents the use of hundreds of internal combustion engines, thus reducing the number of carbon emissions. If this is repeated every day over many different routes, the reduction in carbon footprint is highly significant. For instance, Ho Chi Minh City will soon open its first underground metro service and this will reduce the number of cars and motorbikes on the road. One of the main benefits to the city will be an improvement in carbon dioxide levels because of the reduction in traffic.
In conclusion, the State should divert more funds to railway systems and spend less on road transportation as this will improve journey times and also be less harmful to the environment.
This above answer was produced by one of my best students, but there are two major flaws with this answer.
Overall, it is an excellent answer. The ideas are very well developed and supported, there is a very wide range of vocabulary and a nice range of complex and simple sentences. The grammar is accurate and they have a good range of grammatical structures.
The one major flaw is that their thesis statement in the introduction does not match their opinion in the rest of the essay. I spoke to them about this and they said it was a typo. It might be, but the examiner will not know if it is a typo or not and will have to assume that the student’s arguments are not coherent.
This shows how important it is to review your essay carefully. Just three letters (‘dis’) made a big difference here.
The other major flaw that this student makes in every essay is an even bigger one- perfectionism. They spend around 90 minutes on each essay and refuse to submit anything to me until they think it is perfect. This is not going to help them in the real test. On exam day, they will be totally unprepared because they will have to write their Task 2 response in 40 minutes.
Perfectionism is a very big problem for many students. I spoke to this particular student and they have been taught in a culture where mistakes are not tolerated. They have a big fear of showing any teacher their work because they have been given negative feedback by harsh teachers in the past.
This is a problem for many students. I know some students who could hardly utter a word in the Speaking test, not because they couldn’t speak English, but because of perfectionism and this zero-tolerance attitude that many of their old teachers had towards mistakes.
Mistakes will happen. Even Band 9 students make grammar and vocabulary mistakes (although most students think they don’t). You should always be trying to improve, but accepting that you can’t be perfect and being confident in your current ability, while constantly improving, is the right attitude.
Slow and Fast
When learning a new skill, it is fine to take a long time to complete that task. Think about the first time you rode a bike or drove a car. It took you a very long time in the beginning, but you quickly got used to all the new skills and procedures until they become second nature to you and you did not have to consciously think about them.
The same is true when preparing for the IELTS test. You should never try to go full speed when you start learning something for the first time. Instead, take your time and learn ‘slow’. For Task 2, have all of your notes, think deeply about what you’re doing and feel free to use a dictionary or Google to get ideas and vocabulary.
However, after this initial period, you must take away these helpful tools and start to work up to exam speed. If it takes you two hours to write an essay, try to do it in 90 minutes and then 60 minutes and keep working until you can do it in 40 minutes.
This approach obviously takes time, persistence and hard work, but it is very effective and will ensure you do your best on test day.