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One of the main reasons why IELTS students lose marks for task response is they present main ideas but they don’t support, extend or develop them.

In this blog post we’ll look at why this is so important. Take a look at some of my sample answers to learn more about this.

A lot of my students have good main ideas but the supporting ideas – the explanation, and examples don’t always support the main idea clearly.

As you can see from the table below, if your supporting ideas are missing or aren’t relevant then your Task Achievement score will drop – possibly to a 5!

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Band Score

Official IELTS description

(Task Achievement)

What it means.


Presents a well-developed response to the question with relevant, extended and supported ideas.

Main ideas are supported and extended very well.

Supporting ideas are relevant.


Presents, extends and supports main ideas, but there may be a tendency to overgeneralise and/or supporting ideas may lack focus.

Main ideas are supported and extended well.

Supporting ideas may be too general or not totally relevant.


Presents relevant main ideas but some may be inadequately developed/unclear.

Main ideas are sometimes not  supported and extended clearly.


Presents some main ideas but these are limited and not sufficiently developed; there may be irrelevant detail.

Main ideas are sometimes not  supported at all.

Some information may not be relevant to the question.



How much support do I need to provide?

As you can see in the table below, each body paragraph should clearly focus on your one ‘central topic’, with all the supporting ideas logically organised around that.

If you include an idea that isn’t related to the main topic of your paragraph, then this will lower your coherence and cohesion score.

Also, if your supporting ideas within a paragraph are not logically ordered, then your coherence and cohesion score will suffer because of it.  



Band Score

Official IELTS description

(Coherence and Cohesion)

What it means.


“logically organises information and ideas…presents a clear central topic within each paragraph.”

Body paragraphs have one main idea.

Topic sentences are clear.


“arranges information and ideas coherently…uses paragraphing, but not always logically.”

Body paragraphs don’t always have one main idea.

Topic sentences are not always clear.


“presents information with some organisation…may not write in paragraphs, or paragraphing may be inadequate.”

Paragraphs are not used well.

Topic sentences are not clear.



More than one main idea per body paragraph is risky

A lot of IELTS students have lots of good main ideas so they try to include more than one main idea in a body paragraph.

In fact some students spend nearly the whole paragraph discussing one main idea.

But then near the end, they seem to panic or get overexcited, and suddenly add a second unrelated idea

As you can see from the tables above this is risky for two reasons.

First, your coherence and cohesion score might suffer because your body paragraph isn’t focussed on one topic.

Secondly, you might not have enough time to support each idea clearly. Some ideas always end up being better developed than others, and the less developed idea can seem less related to the main idea.

This is easy for the examiner to notice, and your task response band score will be lower.

Even if all the ideas are developed, this will probably result in a paragraph which is far too long, so again your coherence and cohesion score could be hurt.

So in each body paragraph you should only be supporting ONE main idea. Your body paragraph is married to that main idea. You can’t cheat on it with another one.



So to summarise, IELTS examiners are looking for the following:


– Each body paragraph should have only one main idea – all the supporting ideas in the paragraph must link together around a clear central topic.


– Each main idea must be clearly supported – with suitable and relevant  explanation and examples that clearly link to the main idea.

Now it’s your turn! Put your answers in the comments

What should be married to what?

What scores will you get for TA and CC if you cheat on your main ideas?

Dont miss your chance to learn the facts about IELTS and improve your English with my online courses, guaranteed!

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