This is just a quick and short article about some simple(ish) ways to boost your exam scores. Most English language exams include a compulsory essay task. Exams that do this include the IELTS academic paper, all Cambridge exams after B1 level (FCE, CAE and CPE). The good thing is this is the part of the exam that can usually be improved the fastest! If you are studying for any of the mentioned exams (or any with an essay task read on).
This is so important and so easy to improve. Look at a model essay for the exam you are studying and see how many paragraphs it has. The classic structure is four paragraphs (introduction, main idea 1, main idea 2 and conclusion). When essays are evaluated structure and organization typically account for up to 25% of the total score. Therefore just by using paragraphs well you can massively boost your score!
Part of writing a good essay is structuring a paragraph well. I suggest always writing a topic sentence (what the idea of the paragraph is about) and then one or two sentences that develop this idea.
FORMAL VS INFORMAL LANGUAGE
This is probably one of the hardest things for a language learner to do. It is difficult to differentiate between formal and informal language. You cannot use contractions (can't won't, mustn't etc). The best thing to do is study and memorise some language commonly used in essays (therefore, moreover, furthermore etc...yawn). And remember 'gonna' 'wanna' are NOT essay friendly and neither are ':p' or ';)'
Well not exactly cheat but learn what can boost your score in the exam you are doing i.e. if you use a second conditional sentence will it put your score up? It normally helps to include some more advanced grammar in the essay (but make sure you can use it correctly!).
Remember to plan your essay, remember 'failure to prepare is preparing to fail'. Also, reread your essay when you finish, checking there are no silly mistakes like missing full stops or commas.