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Structuring Your Sentences for IELTS Writing

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As discussed in an earlier post on the most common IELTS myths and rumours, the IELTS has become subject to many misconceptions, which tend to confuse, alarm, and mislead test takers, more than inform and prepare them.

For the IELTS Writing portion in particular, one of the most popular misconceptions is having to go beyond the word limit to get better marks, which, as we have emphasized in the abovementioned blog post, is certainly not true. Another common mistake with respect to IELTS Writing is aiming to include as many ‘complex’ sentences as possible, which is not only inaccurate, but also is confusing because not everyone understands what a ‘complex’ sentence actually is.

In English grammar, a ‘complex’ sentence is one of the three basic sentence structures, and while it is good to include complex sentences in your writing, especially in linking ideas together in one sentence, the goal is definitely not to include as many complex sentences as possible. Naturally, incorporating complex sentences into your writing will depend on what you want to say and how you want to say it.

What is a complex sentence?

A complex sentence is a sentence that contains one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. 

As the term suggests, an independent clause is a set of words that can actually stand on its own as a sentence, while a dependent clause is a phrase or set of words that does not make a complete sentence on its own. 

Take a look at this example:

Education has been hit hard because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here, “Education has been hit hard” is an independent clause. It can stand on its own as a sentence even if the rest of the words that come after it are omitted. 

On the other hand, “because of the COVID-19 pandemic” is the dependent clause, as it does not make sense on its own. It is dependent on the other clause for it to convey a complete message.

What are the other kinds of sentences according to structure?

As mentioned earlier, a complex sentence is just one of the three basic sentence structures in the English language. The other two kinds of sentence structures are the simple sentence and the compound sentence.


Going back to our earlier discussion on independent clauses, a simple sentence, basically, is just an independent clause without any other phrases and clauses attached to it. Thus, using the same example above, here is a simple sentence:

Education has been hit hard. 

When you join two independent clauses together in one sentence using coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, yet, and so), you make a compound sentence. An example of a compound sentence is:

Education has been hit hard, and students continue to be deeply impacted.

In this compound sentence, the two independent clauses are:

  • Education has been hit hard.
  • Students continue to be deeply impacted.

These two clauses can go independently from each other. They can be written in two separate sentences, and they do not depend on one another to convey a complete message. In the example, however, they have been joined by the coordinating conjunction ‘and’, so they then form a compound sentence.

What does the IELTS examiner expect to see in your writing?

Looking at the IELTS examiners’ marking scheme for Writing here, it is clear that the test taker must use a wide range of sentence structures in order to get a band 8 or 9 score in IELTS Writing. 

Clearly, this means that there must be a variety of sentence structures in the writing—not all complex (or simple or compound). There should be a mixture of simple, complex, and compound sentences in the piece, as this does not only give the impression that the test taker knows how to craft sentences well in conveying his or her message, but it also gives the written material good sentence fluency and cohesion.

The key, really, is to know when to use them and how to use them. 

This is where Your Language School comes in!

Our IELTS Masterclass, headed by our IELTS Expert Jonathan, is especially designed to help students develop their writing abilities, among other language proficiency skills. Here, not only will you learn more about structuring sentences, but you will essentially become competent in English grammar, vocabulary, communication, and more!

With Your Language School, through our IELTS review classes, students will get to capitalise on their strengths and work on their weak points. Activities will be carefully designed to cater to the needs of every learner, with the goal of everyone’s development and success.

To learn more about our IELTS Masterclass, click here. If you want to go ahead and reserve a slot, you may do so by heading over this link.

Your Language School is looking forward to having you on board, and IELTS Master Teacher Jonathan is excited to have you in his classes!

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