IELTS Essay Top Tip 4/10: Most Common Mistakes in the Introduction

IELTS Essay Top Tip 4/10: Most Common Mistakes in the Introduction

IELTS Essay Top Tip 4/10: Most Common Mistakes in the Introduction

The previous post from this series focused on how to write a good introduction (IELTS Essay Top Tip 3/10). But I decided to dedicate a whole separate post to discuss the most common mistakes student make in their introductions. As I emphasised already, your examiner will remember about a poor introduction while assessing the whole essay. It’s hard to ignore first impressions!

Below I have presented a list of four most common mistakes my students make in their introduction, tips on how to avoid them, and some good and bad examples.
 

1. Including too much detail

Too much information in your introduction may lead to multiple problems. Either you write about things that you should be putting in your paragraphs, and then repeat yourself, or for the fear of repeating yourself, you don’t include the most important bits in your paragraphs. Your introduction becomes disproportionately long. You spend too much time on it. As a result, you lose points for coherence, your valuable time, and your examiner’s attention. 

How much is too much, then? Let's have a look at some examples.

Essay question:

Many people believe that social networking sites (such as Facebook) have had a huge negative effect on both individuals and society. To what extent do you agree?

Bad example (the bad part is underlined):

Social networking websites are considered by many to have adversely influenced both individual people and communities. People spend considerable amounts of time on social media instead of socialising with friends in the real world. What is more, some people tend to use social media so much they sometimes do it even while interacting with others, e.g. during dinner. While I agree that sites such as Facebook have changed the way we communicate, I believe that the effect of those sites has been mostly beneficial to individuals and society.

Good example (good amount of detail):

Social networking websites are considered by many to have adversely influenced both individual people and communities.  While I agree that sites such as Facebook have changed the way we communicate, I believe that the effect of those sites has been mostly beneficial to individuals and society.

So, remember not to reveal all your interesting thoughts too soon. Leave the best bits for later! 

Being too detailed is risky, but so is…


2. Being too general

Yes, the first sentence of your introduction should be general, but don't exaggerate! Students often make broad, sweeping statements that are only vaguely related to the topic. This common mistake commonly leads to losing points for lack of focus. 

Here is an example of an introductory sentence that is too general:

Nowadays people spend vast amounts of time using the internet which frequently negatively affects them. (…)

It is related to the topic of social networks, but it’s is a little bit too far from it. You will score higher if the way you set the context more directly links to the essay topic.

Here is an example how to set the context in a less general way:

Social networking websites are considered by many to have adversely influenced both individual people and communities. (…)

Here, the focus is kept on the original topic (social networks, rather than the internet at large) and mentions more specifically who's being affected (individuals and communities). Remember, your goal is to answer the essay question, rather than share your general thoughts about the topic.


3. Skipping the thesis statement

Whatever the topic, don’t skip your thesis statement. Reminder: the thesis statement is that one sentence that outlines the main idea of the essay. You can image it as a sentence that is enough for the examiner to read in order to understand what your position on the topic is. It’s that one-sentence summary. Your opinion on the topic in one sentence. The gist!

The thesis statement in the example below is underlined.

Social networking websites are considered by many to have adversely influenced both individual people and communities.  While I agree that sites such as Facebook have changed the way we communicate, I believe that the effect of those sites has been mostly beneficial to individuals and society.

Whatever your topic is, thesis statement is a must. As a matter of fact, you can think of it as the most important part of the whole essay.


4. Spending too much time on it

This is a common problem. Students may spend too much time on writing the introduction because they haven’t warmed up yet, or they want to make it perfect, or they get too excited about the topic and they want to share all their thoughts at once. Remember, there is no time to make it perfect! Your introduction should be short and informative. It should show that you understood the essay question, that you know what you're going to write about in the subsequent paragraphs, and that your written English is correct. Don’t try to impress with your knowledge or original thoughts. Just focus on the structure outlined here and keep it simple.

Learning to write strong introductions is a very useful skill that will save you time and increase your score. It's worth practising writing many introductions (without writing the whole essay) by yourself or with your teacher, so that the process becomes quite automatic. Good luck and happy writing!

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Read more:
IELTS Essay Top Tip 1/10: Don't Fall into Traps!
IELTS Essay Top Tip 2/10: Make a Solid Plan
IELTS Essay Top Tip 3/10: Write a Strong Introduction


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The author is an experienced English and IELTS teacher, and an Oxford University graduate. She got a 9.0 on her IELTS exam herself.

 

 

Categories: IELTS, Learning English, Posts in English