Why to start with a topic sentence?

Band 7 Writing Element

The first sentence of a main body paragraph is often called the ‘topic sentence’.

When it comes to writing essays for exams like the IELTS, every sentence counts. But perhaps none are as critical as the topic sentence, particularly in the main body paragraphs. Understanding why topic sentences are important can significantly boost your essay’s coherence and cohesion, ultimately leading to a higher score.

  1. Examiner Expectations: The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examiners have a clear criterion for evaluating essays. In the band 7 descriptor for coherence and cohesion, it’s explicitly mentioned that examiners seek a “clear central topic within each paragraph.” This means that they expect every paragraph to focus sharply on a single idea or argument.
  2. Clarity and Coherence: Why is this clarity so important? Imagine reading an essay where each paragraph meanders without a clear direction. It would be akin to navigating through a foggy maze. Topic sentences act as beacons, cutting through this fog and providing clarity. They signal to the reader what the paragraph is about, making it easier to follow the writer’s line of reasoning.
  3. Structural Integrity: Just as a building needs a solid foundation to stand tall, an essay requires a sturdy structure. Topic sentences serve as the foundation upon which you build your paragraphs. Without them, the essay becomes a disjointed collection of ideas rather than a coherent argument. By starting each paragraph with a topic sentence, you ensure that your essay has a strong and cohesive structure.
  4. Enhancing Readability: Consider the experience of the examiner who has to read through numerous essays in a limited amount of time. A well-crafted topic sentence makes their job easier by providing instant insight into the paragraph’s content. It streamlines the reading process, allowing the examiner to focus on evaluating the depth of your argument rather than deciphering your essay’s organization.

There’s a simple reason why topic sentences are important in IELTS essays: Examiners want to see a “clear central topic within each paragraph” (band 7 descriptor for coherence and cohesion). So if you start your main paragraphs with a topic sentence, you can make sure that the “central topic” of each one is clear.

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