I have marked more than 5,000 IELTS and recently I sat down to read another few thousand. I was horrified by some of the common errors that have been taught by terrible IELTS tutors around the world. Among these, one of the most frequently occurring was the use of “it cannot be denied…”
When I sat down last week and read 2,000 IELTS essays, I noticed that almost a third of them began with “It cannot be denied…” or some equivalent phrase.
What’s wrong with this?
Well, there are two problems:
- It shows that you are not using your own language.
- It shows that you lack basic thinking skills.
To expand a little, there are many IELTS clichés and these occur because people memorise phrases that are taught by terrible teachers and crappy books. By memorising these so-called “magic phrases,” IELTS candidates believe that they can trick the examiner into thinking they have a higher level of English.
This is, of course, nonsense. You cannot trick the examiner and, worse, by trying to do so you will invariably cause your score to be lowered by showing them that your just copying rubbish from the internet.
If you were to use a memorised phrase perfectly, it might be acceptable, but there is really seldom any reason to say “it cannot be denied…” Why? Everything can be denied!
You might say “It cannot be denied that the Earth is round,” but some idiots would deny this. You might say “It cannot be denied that murder is wrong,” but some people might point out that self-defence is a kind of murder. Other people might have further objections.
As you can see, everything can be denied, but worst of all is the simple fact:
- English is a language. It is for communicating. It is not a simple formula that you can alter.
Unfortunately, IELTS teachers around the world say “Memorise this phrase/structure” and people just do what they say. It is utterly idiotic.
Remember that IELTS examiners mark many, many, many essays. They see the same phrases again and again, so memorised ones become really obvious to them. When I read those 2,000 essays, I felt like I was going crazy! Do you really want your examiner to feel like that when they assign your grade?
Paraphrasing “It cannot be denied…”
Ok, so now you know that it is wrong to use these memorised phrases… but perhaps you can paraphrase “It cannot be denied” by using some clever synonyms. Right?
When I read those 2,000 essays, they didn’t all say “It cannot be denied.” Sometimes, the candidates had clearly attempted to use synonyms and paraphrasing. They wrote things like:
- It is undeniable that…
- No one can deny that…
- It is impossible to deny…
- As we all know…
- There is not a shadow of a doubt…
- It is unarguable…
- There is no doubt that…
These all mean the same thing and they all tell the examiner that you are using totally unoriginal thoughts, making big generalisations, and being very careless. None of them are really acceptable. These were all used in the first sentence of the essay, so it was doubly obvious.
Also, remember that paraphrasing is not really a great idea in IELTS. Sure, it sometimes works and can be pretty good if you are at about band 6, but it can also cause more problems. One such problem is showing the examiner that you are trying to copy someone else’s idea, but that you have failed because your language is not advanced enough. This would just make the problem worse.
What to do instead of saying “It cannot be denied”?
First of all, remember those two things:
- IELTS is primarily an English test.
- IELTS is also a basic thinking test.
- You should not copy other people’s language.
- You should not say things that are clearly untrue.
Thus, you should avoid this entirely. If you really must use something along these lines, modify it to become more logical. Instead of “It cannot be denied,” say something like:
- Few could deny that…
- It seems clear that…
- Most people agree that…
- Many people agree that…
All of these are more intelligent because they show an awareness of the fact that 100% of people would never agree over something. This would help you show the examiner that you can think clearly and also use your own words. Both are very important.