The official IELTS by IDP app is here! Download it today.


An important part of your IELTS writing mark includes idea organization, easy-to-understand language, and standard writing conventions. Your writing needs to be clearly written and follow a certain style. More specifically, you need well-written paragraphs to get a higher IELTS mark. So, if you don’t know what a topic sentence is, haven’t heard of a supporting example, or have no clue about linking words, this blog is for you! Here are five tips to help you get the paragraphs skills up to speed*.

Tip #1 Know the Basics!

You would be surprised how many IELTS test-takers can’t explain what a paragraph is. I have met managers, teachers, students, and even doctors who can’t tell me the key elements needed to write a good paragraph. Some of these people are great writers, but they still are unsure of the basics. Basically, a paragraph is a group of sentences all organized around a similar topic. A paragraph should have a topic and a controlling idea. These form the topic sentence. It should also have supporting examples, supporting explanations, and supporting details. All of these things should then be organized in a well-connected group of sentences that’s easy to read. For details on these components, keep reading below.

Tip #2 Essays and Paragraphs

This blog is all about paragraphs. However, a major part of your IELTS score comes from your essay. As we all should know, a key part of successful essays is that it has well-written paragraphs. As a quick review, a typical IELTS essay will have four or five paragraphs. The first paragraph is your introduction. This paragraph introduces your essay and includes the thesis sentence. The thesis sentence tells the reader what your main body paragraphs are about. That said, each main body paragraph should directly connect to your thesis sentence points. So imagine your thesis sentence states “Canadian houses are mostly wooden, well-insulated, and have basements”. Then, your main body paragraphs will be about wooden-built homes, insulation, and basement areas.

Tip #3 Linking it all Together

Many IELTS writing courses and blogs cover the topic of “Linking Words”. These are words or phrases that help “glue” the sentences and paragraphs together. They guide and direct the reader and prepare him/her for new ideas. For example, you might highlight your main points using ordinals like firstly, secondly, and thirdly. You might also want to show contrast by using the linkers, however; in spite of; and while. You can also use linking words to show the beginning or end of an argument like to begin; to start; in summary; or all in all. Whichever linkers you use, it is important to know that a well-linked paragraph is both easier to understand and easier to read.

Tip #4 Staying on Topic

One of the most important things to remember about paragraphing is to stay on topic. I have seen many good writers lose points on their essays because they go on a tangent when writing their paragraphs. The basic rule is this – your paragraph should start with a topic sentence, and all other ideas, examples, and explanations should connect to that topic sentence. Let’s look at an example. Imagine your topic sentences is “Floridian reptiles are deadly”. So, following that you might write about alligators attacking tourists; poisonous snakes biting hikers, and snapping turtles biting swimmers. These topics all directly connect to the topic sentence. Now, let’s imagine you also decide to mention shark and spider attacks. This would be off-topic and tangential. Why? Because sharks and spiders are not reptiles. Get the picture**?

Tip #5 The Topic Sentence

The most important part of the paragraph is the topic sentence. As mentioned above, this sentence is usually at the beginning of a paragraph, should connect to your thesis sentence, and includes a topic + a controlling idea. Your topic is like the subject. It is the noun or main idea you have. Attached to that is the controlling idea. The controlling idea adds an opinion, a direction, and/or a perspective to your paragraph. How about some examples?

  • Canadians value freedom and fairness.

  • University students sometimes have trouble balancing work and play.

  • Climate change is very likely to increase in the next decade.

Do you get the idea? The topics are in bold with Canadian freedom and fairness; university students balancing work and play,and climate change in the next decade. And as you can see, the controlling ideas are in italics with value; sometimes have trouble, and is very likely to increase. So the topic is controlled or viewed in a certain way, depending on the controlling idea.

Paragraphing is not the only skill you need to master if you’re looking to score high on your IELTS. However, paragraphing is important. Be sure to notice well-written paragraphs when you're reading, and also practice well-written paragraphs when writing. Sooner or later, you'll get there. Best of luck on test day!

*up to speed: to an acceptable/ skilled level ** Get the picture?: You understand, right?