What am I doing wrong? – Have you ever asked yourself that question after getting a poor grade in your exam?

It’s even more frustrating when you lack that 1 point to pass. What might have gone wrong?

There are a few things that can put your writing or speaking on the verge of passing or failing it. 

Here are a few tricks of the writing trade which may help you succeed.


1. Follow the form and style required in the exam task instruction. 

2. Use the form appropriate for a type of text – a letter, e-mail, report, memo, essay.

3. Use the appropriate style – formal, semi-formal, informal, and follow their rules, e.g don’t use contractions and colloquial words in a formal text.

4. Make your text easy to follow, read and understand.

5. Divide your text into paragraphs and connect them with each other. Use signposting and sequencing  expressions.

6. Structure every paragraph correctly – start with a topic sentence, develop the idea, conclude. Use linking words.

7. Write clearly – an unintelligible text is difficult to follow.


1. Follow the instruction closely, point-by-point. Use the functions required in the rubrics, such as  asking for information, recommending, suggesting.

2. Don’t change the topic. Plan before you start writing to avoid it. Missing one point from the instruction or writing 10% fewer words than the required word limit can mean receiving not more than 6 points for the task and failing it. 

3. Make every sentence in the text meaningful and important. Every new idea in your text should be explained, exemplified, justified, and connected with the rest of the text by using appropriate linking and referencing. 

4. Develop every paragraph correctly, making the text clear and argumentation logical. For more details about paragraph writing see here: PARAGRAPH DEVELOPMENT


1. Read and self-edit your text. This is crucial as many mistakes can be eliminated by means of  self-correction.

2. Plan before you start writing – you can plan organisation, content, grammar and vocabulary.

3. Check the grammatical correctness of your text

  • Are all the sentences complete and finished?
  • Do all the sentences have a subject and a verb?
  • Do subjects and verbs agree?
  • Do you use appropriate tenses? Do you avoid unnecessary shifting from one tense to another?
  • Do pronouns (it, they) have a clear reference?

4. Avoid using grammar or vocabulary you’re not sure of.

5. Avoid copying language and collocations from your native tongue.

6. Make sure to avoid frequent mistakes and mistakes which hinder understanding of the text.

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It’s always a good idea to read and listen to authentic English material on multiple topics, such as  practical, social, professional and abstract topics, particular interests, special fields of competence, and complex topics which may include economics, culture, science, and technology (after: www.natobilc.org) to pool vocabulary, ideas and arguments for your writing.

Is there a set of tools that can make your writing better?

Yes, I believe there is. A TOOLKIT which is a set of procedures, guidelines, criteria, samples, templates and examples that can make writing easier.

Soon, I’ll write more about the writing tools in the form of an ebook I’m preparing for you! Stay tuned!

Comment below to let me know if you find the above useful! Do you have any questions about how to be more successful in your writing?

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