Logic for IELTS Writing
What is logic?
Logic is a system like mathematics for proving things to be true or false. It was invented by the ancient Greeks thousands of years ago.
Why is logic important for IELTS?
You must ORGANISE your answer LOGICALLY. This means your PARAGRAPHS must be about one topic and your SENTENCES must build logically to prove your point.
The more logical you can be, the higher your score for COHERENCE and COHESION.
Continue reading for examples and more explanation...
Logic for IELTS Writing
Can you give me an example?
Sure. Here is a sample BODY PARAGRAPH for IELTS Writing Task Two:
Some people believe that the government has to reduce crime. I agree. Actually, there are too many crimes happening nowadays. Crime is a bad thing. Last week my bag was stolen. I was angry about that. My parents tried to help me. He shouldn’t have stolen my bag from school. The teachers should put cameras in the school because then no one will steal my things. Therefore, I believe there should be less crime.
This is an example of ILLOGICAL writing which would not score well for Coherence and Cohesion.
What is wrong with this paragraph?
- The paragraph is about CRIME, but it doesn’t focus on a topic.
- The sentences are not ordered logically.
- There are too many ideas.
- The example does not support the opinion/conclusion.
- There are two different opinions at the beginning and end of the paragraph.
Let’s ask the Ancient Greeks for some help!
Here are four (short) arguments.
Can you say if they are logical or not?
Note: mammal = 哺乳动物
A: All humans are mammals.
+ James is a human.
Therefore, James is a mammal.
B: Some dogs are mammals.
+ James is a mammal.
Therefore, James is a dog.
C: Some dogs are mammals.
+ James is not a dog.
Therefore, James is not a mammal.
D: All humans are mammals.
+ Some mammals are humans.
Therefore, James is a human.
In A, the first two FACTS can be added together to arrive at the conclusion. This is a LOGICAL argument.
In B &C however, the first two FACTS (which are both true!) do not add up. This is an ILLOGICAL argument. We cannot prove this conclusion, based on the first two facts! The conclusion is false (clearly!).
In D, the conclusion is actually correct - I am a human! However, we cannot prove this from the previous sentences. Therefore the argument is ILLOGICAL.
Logic is not about whether your conclusion is correct or not, but about whether you can PROVE that conclusion from the previous facts or sentences.
Let’s try some IELTS examples:
Too much crime is bad for society.
+ The government is responsible for protecting society.
Therefore it is the government’s responsibility to reduce crime.
Is this logical?
How about this one?
Global warming is caused by many countries.
+ Global warming threatens the whole world.
Therefore, countries should work together to tackle global warming.
And a third:
It is important for children to learn a second language.
+ It is easier to learn a second language at a younger age.
Therefore, children SHOULD learn a second language at an earlier age.
All of these conclusions are LOGICAL. The OPINION is supported by the first two sentences. If we accept that the first two sentences are true, we must accept that the opinion is true.
Notice that the actual OPINION is not important.
We can just as easily use this (opposite) argument:
It is important for children to be able to use their native language.
+ Studying a second language at an earlier age can have a negative effect on the native language.
Therefore, children should NOT learn a second language at an earlier age.
This is also a LOGICAL ARGUMENT.
What is important is that you can show a logical argument in your writing, and in particular in your sentence order within paragraphs.
Here is the original paragraph rewritten in a more logical way.
Crime can affect anyone in society. For example, my bag was stolen last week which affected me deeply. Unfortunately, my parents were not able to help me and neither were the teachers. If the government had funded crime prevention measures such as video cameras in my school, my bag wouldn’t have been stolen. Therefore, I believe it is government’s responsibility to protect society by taking measures to reduce crime.
- Now the ideas “flow” together and the sentences are in a logical order.
- The conclusion is clearly built on the previous sentences.
- The reader can understand the writer’s opinion and also their reasons behind that opinion.
- The argument is also much stronger.
- Know your conclusion / opinion BEFORE you start writing your paragraph.
- In your plan, make notes about key ideas AND supporting ideas.
- Practice writing logical arguments.
- Try printing out one paragraph of an argumentative article or essay. Cut up the sentences and jumble them. Then practice putting the paragraph together again LOGICALLY like a jigsaw.
- Use the principles of logical argument in your Speaking (especially Part 3) for practice.
- Identifying logical arguments can help you in your Listening and Reading too, especially in question types that ask about attitudes and opinions.