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When developing your essay in your IELTS Writing test, it is a good idea to support your ideas and arguments with examples.  But what is a good way to do this?  Let’s have a look at some suggestions and things to avoid when making an example. 

Linking Device

It is always a good idea to mark your example with a linking device.  This makes it easier to identify the example you have provided, so the examiner knows you are supporting your idea.  Here are some you can consider when starting a sentence: 

 

For example, … 

For instance, … 

To illustrate, … 

This can be instanced by … 

As an illustration, … 

 

Note that ‘e.g.’ is an abbreviation of ‘for example’, however the advantage of using ‘for example’ is that it is counted as two words. 

Also, a linking device can be used mid-sentence instead of at the beginning.  Here are some alternatives to consider: 

… in many academic institutions, such as universities and … 

… in many academic institutions, in particular universities and … 

… in many academic institutions, namely universities and …

Personal vs Non-personal examples

The instructions in the IELTS essay is to ‘include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience’.  Because of this, some people like to include personal examples to help demonstrate what they are saying: 

For example, when I was a university student, I had a tight budget, so having free public transport would have helped me out a lot.  I had to focus on my studies and I didn’t have enough time to have a part-time job to pay for things like that. 

However, by using a personal situation, it can limit the range of vocabulary and potentially the grammar in your sentences.  Non-personal language tends to be more formal (or academic) and can better demonstrate a suitable vocabulary range.  In this case, a suggestion is to use your personal example, but rewrite it in a non-personal way: 

For example, some people who are on a tight budget and time poor can benefit from free public transport, including university students who have the commitment of their studies. 

Using statistics

While it is normal to use statistics to support your point in an academic essay that you would write for a university professor, there is no need to do this in your IELTS essay.  This is because you do not have access to a library or internet during your test, so it would almost be impossible for you to reference a person or a book properly.  Make sure you do not include invented statistics in your essay.

The position of the example in a paragraph

Try not to place your example near the top of your body paragraph.  It is better to develop your idea first and then support it with your illustration.  Look at this paragraph as an example: 

First of all, learning a second language at kindergarten can expose children to different cultures. For example, in countries where students learn basic English lessons from 3 years of age, it has been shown that when these children grow up, they are more open to other cultures compared to the older generations.  Therefore, education systems should … 

This person has not really developed their topic sentence and elaborated on this main idea.  Instead, consider the following: 

First of all, learning a second language at kindergarten can expose children to different cultures.  This is the best time in a person’s life to see how other people speak and what customs they have as children not only learn quickly, but they are more likely to be open-minded compared to adults.  If someone starts learning a foreign language in their teenage years or even as an adult, the chance of biases forming increases and they may resent learning the language.  For example, in countries where students learn basic English lessons at kindergarten, it has been shown that when these children grow up, they are more open to other cultures compared to the older generations.  Therefore, education systems should … 

In this case, the main idea has been developed a little more, so the example is there for support.  Also, you can see here that the example is brief – it should not dominate your paragraph.  Look at this case where the example is far too long: 

First of all, having cheap fares is a good way to encourage the public to use public transport instead of private vehicles.  For example, in China, a common cost of using a bus can range from 1 to 5 Yuan, which is very affordable for people.  With such a low cost, many people use buses or subway trains to get to work or school, which has eased some of the traffic congestion in the large cities there.  Also, because so many Chinese people choose to take trains and buses, more services can be put on by the government, which is why large cities like Beijing have frequent trains and many stations for people to choose from to get from one place to another.  Therefore, low-cost public transport can benefit a country greatly. 

In this particular case, the example takes up the majority of the paragraph. The main point is harder to see and it can leave the reader wondering what the direction of the paragraph is.