You probably know that in the IELTS writing test, you are marked in four categories:
- Task Response (TR)
- Coherence and Cohesion (CC)
- Lexical Resource (LR)
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy (GRA)
Theoretically, each of these is completely separate. Your LR score, for example, should not impact your CC score.
However, is this entirely true?
No, and in this article I’m going to briefly explain how your score in one area could affect your score in another.
What is Task Response?
Task Response is the component of IELTS writing task 2 that is concerned with how well you can answer a question. It is a complicated part to mark, but essentially your score will be determined according to how well you:
- understand the question
- respond to it directly
- explain your views or the issue
In short, you should always aim to write an essay that directly responds to the question and explains your position or explains the issue with each idea justified and developed. There is more to it than that, but these are the core elements.
You can read more about it here. You can also read the IELTS marking rubric for task 2 here. I talk about it in this video, too:
What Else Impacts Task Response?
Technically, each section is self-contained and so your mistakes with vocabulary, for example, should only affect your score for Lexical Resource. Still, whilst the examiners will try to stick to this important division of skills, it is impossible to completely separate each part.
When I’m marking essays for my writing correction service, I frequently encounter problems in vocabulary and grammar that impact the candidate’s performance for Task Response.
Why might this be?
To put it simply, a sentence that has several quite serious vocabulary errors might present an unclear meaning or even the wrong meaning entirely.
For example, take this sentence:
Children are not active when using a computer and are usually engrossed in the computer’s display.
It is correct and presents a clear meaning. However, with a few mistakes, it might not be so clear:
Children are not activity when using electronics and are usually entertained in the computer’s display.
With just these three changes, the sentence no longer presents a coherent meaning. Your reader would not really understand what you wanted to say. If the mistakes were more severe, you could even say the opposite of what you meant.
This, in fact, is a problem with grammar. I often see students fail to use the word “should,” for example, and thereby present a completely incorrect idea.
Teachers limit the amount of time that their pupils spend on computers.
Without the word “should” between “teachers” and “limit,” this sentence is completely different in meaning. It gives a statement of fact rather than a recommendation.
In IELTS writing, your grade will theoretically be determined by your performance in four distinct categories, but the reality of language and communication is that one category can easily impact another. In particular, failure in vocabulary and grammar can impact your performance in Task Response. The extent to which this is impacted will depend on the severity of those errors.
I suggest, then, that you focus on accuracy in your language preparations. Don’t aim for unique words and complex grammatical structures because not only could these backfire in terms of your LR and GRA scores, but they could lower your TR score as well.