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“Not every thing that is learned is contained in books.”
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April 16, 2012
8:17 am
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“Not every thing that is learned is contained in books.” Compare and contrast knowledge gained from experience with knowledge gained from books. In your opinion, which source is more important? Why?
Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience

For some centuries humanity has used books to document its growing knowledge. Some people prefer learning from books while others are convinced first-hand experience provide a better learning experience. In my opinion books can not fully replace experience but can enhance, facilitate and speed up the process of gaining knowledge in some fields.

Undoubtedly first-hand experience is useful to learn about a field but can be time consuming or only available at certain times or places. For example, to study the history of the pyramids most people would have to travel far. On the other hand, books are comparatively cheap, easily available and can be used anywhere. Without books and only personal experience, the number of people having access to knowledge would be seriously limited in some fields.

Secondly, experience is limited to our own and that of people we known. However, books allow us expand the depth of our knowledge by sharing other people’s experiences. Usually they are written by subject experts and comparing our personal experience to the author’s experiences allows gives us a broader view of the field.

Furthermore, some fields are difficult to experience in person or bar beginners for safety reasons. Space exploration fascinated many people but only very few people went into space so far. Another example is surgery; beginners need to gain some knowledge prior to practicing.

From this description it is obvious that in many areas books are an excellent complement for our personal experience. I therefore expect the their usage, whether in printed or digital form, to increase in the future.

 

Does compare and contrast ask for a discussion essay?

April 17, 2012
2:09 pm
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Hi Katiss

Another good essay, thanks.

Warning: this paragraph is nothing to do with English! Is this essay about books or about learning? I think you have taken the metaphor of books a bit too literally.  Here books could refer to all kinds of academic and second-hand learning  -  school, class, lectures, lessons, teachers, college, university, being told, assignments, films, pictures, stories, the internet, anything on paper, anything second-hand, anything removed from reality, anything that is a representation of reality.

You covered yourself a little at the end when you mentioned ‘whether in print or digital form’ but I would have liked more about the possibility of learning or knowledge as first-hand experience compared to transmitted knowledge. Maybe that’s too academic.

It’s definitely not off-topic, but with your writing ability I was expecting a philosophical essay debating the nature of knowledge! Don’t worry – this essay would be absolutely fine in IELTS.

Usage/Minor edits

  • experience is limited to our own and that of people we known → experience is limited to our own and that of people we know
  • comparing our personal experience to the author’s experiences allows gives us a broader view →
    comparing our personal experience to the author’s experiences gives us a broader view OR
    comparing our personal experience to the author’s experiences allows us to have a broader view

I'm going to answer your question about compare/contrast in a separate post.

April 17, 2012
2:21 pm
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writefix
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Katiss, you asked

Does compare and contrast ask for a discussion essay?

Compare and Contrast? Discussion Essay? Advantages/Disadvantages? One-sided essay? Two-sided?

I don’t worry too much about essay types. Unless the essay question says “Give both sides” then basically anything will do. I know many teachers will disagree with me here.

In IELTS, you are not going to get 'Compare-and-contrast-a-Toyota-Corolla-with-a -Volkwagen-Golf' - type essay. You will be asked to deal with ideas, not specifications or numbers, and you should not be mechanical. Your ideas need to flow.

A good argument will naturally mention the other side  -  it doesn’t have to be a mechanical (Para 1= This, Para 2=That) layout or structure. If your ideas flow, and are logically developed and supported, then you will get a good mark.

But don’t worry too much about one-sided or two-sided arguments. A purely one-sided argument will probably not get a good mark, because at some stage you simply have to deal with the opposite view: in other words, you have to mention the other side of the problem or situation or other people's viewpoints. You can dismiss them or ridicule them or undermine them or show they are wrong, but you have to deal with them.

A two-sided argument where you mechanically describe a problem or situation and then mechanically respond to it in the next paragraph (or next sentence) is also going to be very repetitive and boring for the reader. There is no need for exact symmetry between paragraphs or even within paragraphs.

Just write. Have a good intro and conclusion.

And what about the the middle bit?

Here’s what the official descriptors for Writing Task 2 in IELTS (public version) say about Paragraphing:

  • Band 8: uses paragraphing sufficiently and appropriately
  • Band 7: presents a clear central topic within each paragraph
  • Band 5: may not write in paragraphs, or paragraphing may be inadequate

So there is no prescribed layout, except that if you don't have paragraphs you won't get above Band 5.

Let’s look at Task Response (did the candidate answer the question)

  • Band 5: addresses the task only partially
  • Band 6: addresses all parts of the task although  some parts may be more fully covered than others
  • Band 7: addresses all parts of the task
  • Band 8: sufficiently addresses all parts of the task 

So again, there is no required layout -  you just have to answer the question with fully developed ideas.

I do recommend certain layouts -  have a look at 3773 and 35553 here - because they suit some essay types. The 35553 layout is where you tend to agree so strongly with one side that you have more ideas about it AND can write more about each idea. But these layouts are not set in stone.

Bottom Line: Unless the question asks for “discuss both sides” or something like that, then you can do what you want. Just have plenty paragraphs with a clear central idea. And please, keep your sentences short and clear.

OK -  teachers, let's hear from you.  Or candidates, let's hear what you think your teacher thinks!

April 20, 2012
7:56 am
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Good point about books probably meaning formal education.

I admit i would rather have clear easy rules about what type of essay to write but yeah...

April 22, 2012
6:16 pm
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Hi Katiss

I think another way to look at this is to relax and just write pretty much as you want.

The emphasis is on accurate, natural writing (hopefully with some style), fully-supported ideas, and logical organization (the choice of how to organize is up to you).

As I said, I think many people get obsessed with trying to second-guess the question and the layout - one side, both sides, disadvantages, advantages, etc, etc. The layouts here are for guidance only -  frameworks that some people like.

You definitely need paragraphs, but there is no magic number. I recommend 3773 because it's easy to do and remember for people who are looking for Band 5, 5.5 or 6. 

But the sky's the limit!

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