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elt writing

I’m extremely thankful that I’ve had a fairly steady stream of work over the last couple of months, especially when the world is experiencing such a crisis which seems to be affecting nearly every sector.

I’m currently working on a big project writing IELTS exam items and practice tests, which is very exciting. As I was preparing to write a reading task, I started wondering if my process of writing was like other exam writers. I’ve found writing the tasks, especially the reading, a little tricky at times; so here’s my process:

Firstly, I think about what kind of topic would suit the type of task I’m planning to write – and I want it to be a topic that I haven’t seen in other IELTS practice tests. However, in conjunction with that, I need to think about what type of questions I want to include in the task because this will inform me of the kind of topic I can use. For example, I want to include a Yes/No/Not given task, which looks at the writer’s opinions or claims, so if I write a factual piece, then it would be difficult to write Y/N/NG questions. This was an issue I came up against recently. I’d already included a True/False/Not given task in a previous reading passage – this is good for a factual piece as it asks whether information in the text is correct, incorrect or is not specified. I had a topic in mind, but I changed it to fit the Y/N/NG – but then it was too similar to reading passage one, which I had already written. Back to the original idea – stick with it and make it an opinion piece.

After finally deciding on the topic, I make copious notes (see image) – this is to avoid copyright infringement and also so that the information stays in my head. Here, I can also plan for question setting and manipulate what I write to fit the questions I want to impose on the candidates. Writing in pencil allows me to erase anything that I feel has become unnecessary so I can focus solely on the most important information I want to include.

Then, I start writing – sometimes, depending on the questions, I write the text first, but more difficult questions I write at the same time as the text to ensure I can place distractors in the right places in addition to the answers. Once written, I check through to make sure the answers can be found and that the distractors are in place. Depending on word limits, I delete any information that serves no purpose.

So, I’m wondering if anyone has a similar style of writing, or, in contrast, a completely different way – it’s always interesting to know how people write.

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