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IELTS Writing

IELTS Writing Exam

The IELTS writing section of the examination lasts one hour.  Test takers are expected to write two separate tasks.


The IELTS test offers two different types of writing sections:  general writing and academic writing.  

The general test is taken typically by people who need to certify their level of English for work purposes and the academic test is taken by people who want to seek higher education where English is used.  Some professions also require the academic test like medicine, engineering or nursing.  


Both versions of the IELTS writing test have two separate writing tasks but there are some differences between them.   

  • While task 2 for both versions requires students to write an essay, the topics in the general test tend to be less academic than those in the academic test.  
  • The most important difference is in task 1.   In the general test, this is always a letter, which can be formal, informal or neutral.  In the academic test, test takers receive a diagram (a bar chart, a line graph, a pie chart, a table, a process diagram, a map or a combination of these) and have to report on the key features of that diagram.  


Test takers are given a writing prompt and should write an essay of over 250 words.  There is no maximum word limit but people are advised to spend no more than 40 minutes on this part.  IELTS Writing Task 2 is worth 2/3 of your writing score. Each task two prompt gives the students a specific question, often phrased in different ways:

  • To what extent do you agree or disagree
  • Discuss both views and give your opinion
  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages
  • Discuss the problems and possible solutions OR discuss the causes and what problems it causes
  • Two questions, for example:   Why is this happening? Is this a positive or a negative development

The essay is scored on 4 criteria:   Task achievement, Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resources and Grammatical Range and Accuracy.  How well test takers answer and develop the topic will affect their Task Achievement score.

Some common topics for task 2 are:


TASK 1 General

In the general IELTS writing section, test takers are expected to write a letter of more than 150 words.   They are given bulleted list outlining the content of the letter. How well the writer develops these bullets will affect his/her task achievement score.  Letters can be formal, informal or neutral in style and will require the test taker to use the appropriate style. The letter is also graded on how well the test taker applies some of the conventions of letter writing, like using the appropriate opening, closing and sign-off.    Band descriptors for Task 1 can be found HERE.

TASK 1 Academic

Task 1 in the academic test requires test takers to report on graphical data they receive in an image.  A successful task 1 will include an introduction, an overview of the main trend(s) and carefully selected data that is highlighted and summarized.  The minimum length for Task 1 is 150 words.   

The types of diagrams test takers receive are:

Test takers need to use vocabulary that is appropriate to these types of diagrams as well as a range of grammatical structures.