It’s a good idea to have a general checklist for writing, but you should also be analytical towards your work and find out what your common mistakes are so that you can avoid them in the future. Here are some general guidelines and common areas of error:
- Have you answered the task completely? There are always several parts and if you make omissions you will be penalised for it.
- Is your writing within the word limit? Too short and you haven’t completed the task fully. Too long and you will have included irrelevant information or gone off track.
- Is your structure clear? Does it reflect the task type?
- Is your register (formal/informal/neutral)and style appropriate and consistent?
- Does your punctuation aid the reader in understanding your ideas? Hint: if there are no full stops or commas in 10 lines of writing, the reader is a lost little lamb.
- Are your tenses formed and used correctly?
- Have you followed the rules regarding singular and plural agreement? Hint: The word ‘people’ is ALWAYS plural. Adjectives NEVER have a final ‘s’.
- Have you used a variety of language and avoided the ‘boring’ words?
- Are you confident about your prepositions?
- Check for Spanglish and spelling mistakes.
Remember, the examiners are testing your ability to write in English. It is imperative to briefly plan anyway, but make sure you can express your ideas in English before you put pen to paper. A lot of students produce awkward constructions because they are trying to translate their ideas directly from L1. Help yourself by building up a bank of useful phrases for each task type which you can adapt easily.