What are Complex Sentences in IELTS Writing Task 2?

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complex sentence in IELTS writing exam

What are Complex Sentences in IELTS Writing Task 2?

complex sentence in IELTS writing exam
complex sentence in IELTS writing

Table of Contents

Compound & Complex Sentences in English Language

What is a Complex Sentence?

A complex sentence is a sentence that contains an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.

An independent clause can make a sentence by itself, but a dependent clause must have a subject and a verb and cannot stand alone.

Example: 

  • After lots of practice, Adam still struggled to tie his shoelaces.

*Independent clause colored in orange

Here, we can remove the first part, as the second part is independent on it.

Connector: subordinating conjunctions as “after, while, because, if, since, when,…..”.( so many)

What is Compound sentence?

A compound sentence has two independent clauses.

Each of these clauses is equally important, they are joined by a co-ordinating conjunction that does not change the rank of either clause.

Example:

  • He ran and she walked.

Here, we can’t remove any part, as each part gives a specific separate meaning.

Connector: Co-ordinating conjunctions as “and, for, so, but, or, nor, yet”. (Only seven).

Complex Sentences in IELTS Writing Task 2

In IELTS Writing Task 2, the examiner will take note of whether you are using simple or complex sentences. Below are examples of the different stages of complexity of sentences.

Simple: Doctors must sometimes work late at night.

Compound: Doctors must sometimes work late at night, but the hours can put a strain on their health.

Complex: Although being a doctor is considered a good job, doctors must sometimes work late at night.

Compound-complex: Doctors must sometimes work late at night, but the hours can put a strain on their health even though the job is considered a good one.

Compound Sentence

As you can see above, a compound sentence is when you join two sentences together using a conjunction, such as and or but.

When you create a compound sentence by joining two sentences, it is no longer considered a simple structure in IELTS.

In other words, a compound sentence would be considered a complex sentence in IELTS Writing Task 2 purely because it is not simple.

This means a compound sentence, a complex sentence and a compound-complex sentence are all considered complex by IELTS standards because they are not simple in structure.

In IELTS, a complex sentence does not need to be complicated.

In the examples above, the compound sentence is connected using the linking word but.

This is just as acceptable and valuable as a complex sentence using the linking word though, as shown in the third sentence.

You should aim to use a range of compound and complex sentences if you are aiming for band 7 or above.

For those aiming for bands 8 and 9, using compound-complex sentences will certainly help.

Do all my sentences need to be complex?

It depends on your level of English and your band score target.

Your aim should be to avoid errors, rather than trying to impress. The more errors you have, the lower your score.

If your grammar is not strong, you should mostly use a combination of simple and compound sentence structures.

However, if your grammar is strong, aim for a good range of compound, complex and compound-complex structures.

For the higher-level candidates, avoid using simple sentence structures.

To understand more about how errors will impact your score, see the band score information on page 4.

Do my sentences need to be long?

No. A complex sentence does not need to be very long.

In IELTS, a very long sentence is often viewed as an example of poor punctuation.

From Simple to Complex

In this section, I will tell you how to move from writing simple sentence to complex one with real examples.

Simple Sentences

The paragraph below was written by a hypothetical IELTS test taker who has not been trained in IELTS techniques or complex structures.

Many people travel to work by car. They travel by car because it is quick and convenient. Many cars can cause air pollution. The number of cars should be limited in city centres. Limiting car use will reduce air pollution. People should use public transport. Public transport needs to be improved. Better public transport will encourage people to use it.

Paragraph analysis

The paragraph above is made up of mostly simple sentences.

You can see that the paragraph is basically a list of simple sentences put in one paragraph.

Here you can see them:

  • Many people travel to work by car.
  • They travel by car because it is quick and convenient.
  • Many cars can cause air pollution.
  • The number of cars should be limited in city centers.
  • Limiting car use will reduce air pollution.
  • People should use public transport.
  • Public transport needs to be improved.
  • Better public transport will encourage people to use it.

What are the problems with this?

  1. Most sentences above are simple in formation and quite short.
  2. There is a lot of repetition (words are repeated often).
  3. The ideas are not They are similar to a list of ideas written one after the other rather than being a cohesive paragraph.

How will the examiner view this paragraph?

The sentences do provide ideas which are relevant, which means they fulfill, although not well, the marking criterion of Task Response, which is 25% of your marks.

However, how is this paragraph viewed by the examiner based on the other marking criteria: Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Response (i.e. vocabulary) and Grammatical Range and Accuracy (i.e. grammar)?

  • The examiner will notice the lack of linking words and this will adversely affect your score for Coherence and Cohesion, which is 25% of your marks.
  • The examiner will notice a large number of repeated There is also a limited range of vocabulary for this topic. Both problems will reduce your score for vocabulary, which is 25% of your marks.
  • The examiner will notice a lot of simple structures and no complex This will lower your score for grammar, which is 25% of your marks.

How can this be improved?

  • Connect sentences with linking words.
  • Reference using it, this, they, etc.
  • Make the sentences more complex.
  • Deploy a better range of vocabulary.
  • Put more information in the sentences to achieve better in Task response.

Complex Sentences

Now let’s write this paragraph again using the right techniques: linking, referencing and clauses.

Below you can see the three paragraphs for comparison:

  1. Simple Sentences: Unconnected sentences with repetitive vocabulary
Many people travel to work by car. They travel by car because it is quick and convenient. Cars cause air pollution. The number of cars should be limited in city centres. Limiting car use will reduce air pollution. People should use public transportation. Public transport needs to be improved. Better and cheaper public transport will encourage people to use it.
  1. Simple and Complex: Connected sentences but only adequate range of vocabulary
Many people travel to work by car because it is quick and convenient. Cars cause air pollution so the number should be limited in city centres. By doing this, air pollution can be reduced. Furthermore, public transport needs to be improved to encourage people to use that mode of transport rather than private cars. This can be done by offering cheaper and better public transport.
  1. Complex Sentences: Fully connected with a flexible range of vocabulary

Many people commute to work by car simply because it is a quick and convenient way to travel. As cars pollute the air with carbon emissions, it is advisable that the number of vehicles should be limited, particularly in city centres. By reducing harmful emissions, air pollution will most definitely return to safer levels which will be less dangerous for people’s health.

Furthermore, as a step to reducing the use of private vehicles, the government ought to encourage the use of public transport by offering the public a cheaper and more reliable public transportation system.

Development of Sentences

1. Two unconnected sentences become one:

FROM: Many people travel to work by car. They travel by car because it is quick and convenient.

TO: Many people travel to work by car because it is quick and convenient.

Then we just add some interesting vocabulary:

TO: Many people commute to work by car simply because it is a quick and convenient way to travel.

2. Three unconnected sentences become two connected sentences:

FROM: Cars cause air pollution. The number of cars should be limited in city centres. Limiting car use will reduce air pollution.

TO: Cars cause air pollution so the number should be limited in city centres. By doing this, air pollution can be reduced.

TO: As cars pollute the air with carbon emissions, it is advisable that the number of vehicles should be limited, particularly in city centres. By reducing harmful emissions, air pollution will most definitely return to safer levels which will be less dangerous for people’s health.

You can also see that the third option contains more information and details, which means more interesting vocabulary and a better score for Task Response.

3. Three sentences become two and then one:

From: People should use public transport. Public transport needs to be improved. Better and cheaper public transport will encourage people to use it.

TO: Furthermore, public transport needs to be improved to encourage people to use that mode of transport rather than private cars. This can be done by offering cheaper and better public transport.

TO: Furthermore, as a step to reducing the use of private vehicles, the government ought to encourage the use of public transport by offering the public a cheaper and more reliable public transportation system.

Examples to develop Simple sentences to Complex

Below are three more examples of how paragraphs can be developed from simple to complex.

When you analyse the development of the paragraphs below, pay particular attention to:

  1. sentence length
  2. sentence complexity with grammar features and clauses
  3. topic sentences (the first sentence of a body paragraph)
  4. referencing and absence of repetition
  5. signposting — making supporting points stand out for the reader
  6. connecting ideas rather than listing them
  7. developed, well explained ideas
  8. relevant examples and details
  9. absence of over-generalisation (being more specific and more precise)
  10. vocabulary.

Your paragraph development is not only about grammar, it must include more thought-out ideas with more detail, linking words and richer, topic-related vocabulary.

Essay example 1

The Benefits of mobile phones

1. Simple sentences: Mobile phones are good for people. People can use mobile phones in all places. This is a good thing for people and communication. It is also good for emergencies. Mobile phones are quick to use. For example, if I send a text to my friends, they can reply in one minute. Smartphones have internet access. People can go online and do banking or shopping with a mobile phone. (68 words)
 
2. Simple & Complex: There can be no doubt that mobile phones are extremely useful. One advantage is that mobile phones can be used wherever a person is. This is useful for better communication and in case of emergencies. Another benefit is that mobile phones offer quick communication. This allows people to communicate with each other by text or calling in just one minute no matter where they are. The last plus point is that smartphones allow people to access the internet to do their online banking or shopping, which is very convenient. (89 words)
 
3. Complex Sentences: Mobile phones have indeed changed the way we communicate and live. One obvious advantage is that people are now able to be geographically mobile while calling or texting, which is clearly beneficial in many cases such as emergencies. Furthermore, being able to communicate with just a click has revolutionised the way business is conducted around the world and has opened up a new era of instant communication. Another benefit is the multiple functions of a smartphone which enable people to multitask with the convenience of using only one device. For example, users are now able to do online banking or shopping as well as profit from other features such as apps and cameras. (113 words)
– Development of sentences:

From: Mobile phones are good for people.

To: There can be no doubt that mobile phones are extremely useful.

To: Mobile phones have indeed changed the way we communicate and live.

From: People can use mobile phones in all places. This is a good thing for people and communication. It is also good for emergencies.

To: One advantage is that mobile phones can be used wherever a person is. This is useful for better communication and in case of emergencies.

To: One obvious advantage is that people are now able to be geographically mobile while calling or texting, which is clearly beneficial in many cases such as emergencies.

From: Mobile phones are quick to use. For example, if I send a text to my friends, they can reply in one minute.

To: Another benefit is that mobile phones offer quick communication. This allows people to communicate with each other by text or calling in just one minute no matter where they are.

To: Furthermore, being able to communicate with just a click has revolutionised the way business is conducted around the world and has opened up a new era of instant communication.

From: Smartphones have internet access. People can go online and do banking or shopping with a mobile phone.

To: The last plus point is that smartphones allow people to access the internet to do their online banking or shopping, which is very convenient.

To: Another benefit is the multiple functions of a smartphone which enable people to multitask with the convenience of using only one device. For example, users are now able to do online banking or shopping as well as profit from other features such as apps and cameras.

Essay example 2

The reasons for global mass tourism

1. Simple Sentences: Mass tourism is growing these days. Mass tourism is growing because people have more free time than before. People have more money to spend. Many companies sell holidays with everything included. It is easy for people because they do not need to organise anything themselves. Flying is easier and less expensive than before. Mass tourism makes people happy. Good weather is enjoyable. People can also discover culture and history. (69 words)
 
2. Simple & Compound Sentences: There are a number of reasons behind the growth of mass tourism. One reason for the growth in mass tourism is that people have more free time and more money to spend than ever before. Another reason is that many travel agents offer holidays where everything is included and planned for the customer. Alternatively, for people who wish to travel independently, there are now cheap flights to many popular destinations. Lastly. mass tourism allows people to enjoy a better climate, and discover new cultures and rich history. (87 words)
 
3. Compound-complex: The unprecedented growth in worldwide mass tourism can be explained by a number of reasons. One major factor contributing to this growth is that more people than ever before now enjoy more free time as well as more disposable income enabling them to travel abroad. Another explanation is that many travel agents offer affordable, all-inclusive package holidays which relieve holidaymakers of the burden of booking flights and hotels themselves. Alternatively, more independent-minded holidaymakers have the choice of turning to low-cost carriers and availing themselves of a wide range of no-frills flights to popular destinations. Lastly, mass tourism allows people to cheaply and conveniently experience a better climate while also discovering new cultures and exploring places of natural or historical interest. (120 words)
Development of sentences:

From: Mass tourism is growing these days.

To: There are a number of reasons behind the growth of mass tourism.

To: The unprecedented growth in worldwide mass tourism can be explained by a number of reasons.

From: Mass tourism is growing because people have more free time than before. People have more money to spend.

To: One reason for the growth in mass tourism is that people have more free time and more money to spend than ever before.

To: One maior factor contributing to this growth is that more people than ever before now enjoy more free time as well as more disposable income enabling them to travel abroad.

From: Many companies sell holidays with everything included. It is easy for people because they do not need to organise anything themselves.

To: Another reason is that many travel agents offer holidays where everything is included and planned for the customer.

To: Another explanation is that many travel agents offer affordable, all-inclusive package holidays which relieve holidaymakers of the burden of booking flights and hotels themselves.

From: Flying is easier and less expensive than before.

To: Alternatively. for people who wish to travel independently, there are now cheap flights to many popular destinations.

To: Alternatively, more independent-minded holidaymakers have the choice of turning to low-cost carriers and availing themselves of a wide range of no-frills flights to popular destinations.

From: Mass tourism makes people happy. Good weather is enjoyable. People can also discover culture and history.

To: Lastly. mass tourism allows people to enjoy a better climate, and discover new cultures and rich history.

To: Lastly, mass tourism allows people to cheaply and conveniently experience a better climate while also discovering new cultures and exploring places of natural or historical interest.

Essay example 3

People should have equal access to education, work and healthcare

1. Simple Sentences: Humans should all have the same rights. People should be able to go to school. People should be allowed to work for money. People should be able to see a doctor. But some countries do not have all those things. For example, in many countries the economy is very bad. The result is that many people can never find a job. Rich countries should help poor countries. This is the best way to fix the problem. (76 words)
 
2. Compound Sentences: All people are born equal and they should have the same rights. All people around the world should have access to education, to work and to healthcare. However, not all countries can guarantee access to such things. For example, in many countries the economy is so bad that many people are unemployed, and do not have secondary education or good healthcare. The best solution is that rich countries support the poorer countries. If rich countries do not help, the situation will not change. (83 words)
 
3. Complex Sentences: As all people are born equal, we should all have the same rights and opportunities regardless of nationality. No matter where a person is born, they should have access to good education, paid employment and an efficient healthcare system. However, unfortunately, this is not feasible for many countries, particularly those with a developing economy. For such countries, the lack of financial means has resulted in limited access to education and healthcare as well as high unemployment rates. Consequently, the most effective solution is for richer countries to provide essential aid, both financial and practical, to countries that are desperate for economic relief. Without such support, it is unlikely that poor countries will ever be able to offer the same opportunities to their citizens as their wealthier counterparts do. (128 words)
Development of sentences:

From: Humans should all have the same rights.

To: All people are born equal and they should have the same rights.

To: As all people are born equal, we should all have the same rights and opportunities regardless of nationality.

From: People should be able to go to school. People should be allowed to work for money. People should be able to see a doctor.

To: All people around the world should have access to education, to work and to healthcare.

To: No matter where a person is born, they should have access to good education, paid employment and an efficient healthcare system.

From: But some countries do not have all those things. For example, in many countries the economy is very bad. The result is that many people can never find a job.

To: However, not all countries can guarantee access to such things. For example, in many countries the economy is so bad that many people are unemployed, and do not have secondary education or good healthcare.

To: However, unfortunately, this is not feasible for many countries, particularly those with a developing economy. For such countries, the lack of financial means has resulted in limited access to education and healthcare as well as high unemployment rates.

From: Rich countries should help poor countries. This is the best way to fix the problem.

To: The best solution is that rich countries support the poorer countries. If rich countries do not help, the situation will not change.

To: Consequently, the most effective solution is for richer countries to provide essential aid, both financial and practical, to countries that are desperate for economic relief. Without such support, it is unlikely that poor countries will be able to offer the same opportunities to their citizens as their wealthier counterparts do.

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