Oudom from Cambodia


“I am getting a band score 8 for speaking, but can’t ever get higher than 6.5 for writing. Why?” – Oudom

The first thing I noticed about Oudom was his pronunciation. For a non-English speaker, it is beyond superb. He speaks with the utmost clarity in “the king’s English.” Actually, I was surprised he had only got an 8 for Speaking. And so, like him, I was perplexed as to what the problem could be with his writing.

I only had to skim through one T2 essay to see where Oudom was going wrong: he was trying too hard! In order to emphasise points, he was writing in the typically Asian circular style – by repeating himself. Let me give a couple of examples from his writing to illustrate what I mean:

1. “As a consequence, drivers will pay more attention and will not repeat the same mistake again.” By using both the words “repeat” and “again”, he is writing in a circular way, because they mean the same thing.

2. ‘This is because due to the fact that ….”. Here, 2 synonymous linking devices are used together.

The other problem I picked up in Oudom’s writing was his difficulty in expressing himself. He had a wide vocabulary, but somehow wasn’t quite able to form academic/ sophisticated collocations. Again, here are some examples:

1. “As a result, life quality will be lifted”. I changed this to: “ The quality of life will be improved”.

2. “What is more, busy traffic also causes more road accidents”. My version was: “What is more, the more traffic there is, the higher the chance of road accidents”.

3. “ …buses attract people to share ways of commuting”. I corrected it as follows: “ …buses are able to transport a large number of people in the same vehicle”.

4. “This way, private vehicle ownership will be reduced to and from work and road traffic will be calmer”. I had to make a few changes here: “ In this way, private vehicle usage during business hours will be reduced and the amount of traffic on the roads (will be) reduced.

Oudom worked exceptionally hard. He was motivated. He understood where he was going wrong. He wrote – and rewrote – and rewrote – essays until they had no errors in them. He increased his lessons to 6 hours a week as the exam loomed nearer. He worked even harder.

And Oudom achieved the band score he was aiming for. I was so very proud of him.