Everything you need to know about IELTS writing and some helpful extra tips
IELTS Writing Task 1
In the first part, you are given a task based on some graphic or pictorial information. You are expected to write a descriptive report of at least 150 words on the information provided.
IELTS Writing Task 2
The second task is more demanding. You are expected to produce a written argument on a given topic and organise your answer clearly, give some examples to support your points. You will have to write at least 250 words and, as Task 2 is longer than Task 1, you are advised to spend approximately 40 minutes on this task and 20 minutes on the first task.
IELTS General Training Writing
If you are planning to take the GT module, the Writing test is different. You are allowed one hour to complete two tasks, of 150 and 250 words, as in the Academic module. However, Task 1 is always a letter, while Task 2 is an essay based on a given topic. We have a separate IELTS Podcast article about IELTS writing for General Training with more detailed information.
There are lots of example IELTS writing questions here.
The General and Academic Training Writing tests are usually graded to the same level. While the IELTS Academic Writing test comprises topics suitable for undergraduate and postgraduate students, the IELTS General Training module consists of excerpts on general topics from books, magazines, notices, company handbooks and guidelines that you are likely to face on a regular basis in an English speaking environment.
Test duration: 60 minutes (for both Academic and General tests)
IELTS Writing test format – Academic
There are two parts. Responses to Task 1 and Task 2 should be written in an academic, semi-formal or neutral style.
Task 1: You are presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram and are asked to summarise and report the information in your own words. You may be asked to select and compare data, describe the stages of a process, describe an object or how something works.
Task 2: You are asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. Task 2 contributes twice as much as Task 1 to the Writing score.
The issues raised are of general interest to, suitable for and easily understood by test takers entering undergraduate or postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration.
IELTS Writing test format – General Training
There are two parts. Topics are of general interest.
Task 1: You are given a situation where you have to write a letter to request information from someone or explain the situation at hand. The letter may be personal, semi-formal or formal in style.
Task 2: You are given to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. The essay can be less formal in style with a more personal response than the Academic Writing Task 2 essay. Task 2 contributes twice as much as Task 1 to the Writing score.
Helpful Tips for IELTS Writing Test, part 1
- Understand how the test is marked.
Being aware of the mark scheme will allow you to give the examiner exactly what they need.
- Paraphrase the question.
It is best to paraphrase the question in the first sentence. You can do this by using synonyms.
- Write the overview.
To write your overview sentence, pick 3 or 4 of the main features and write about them generally, without referencing any data (in other words, don’t use numbers yet).
- Support the main features.
In a new paragraph, support the key trends with the data in the information given to you.
- Check your work.
Check your report for spelling and grammar mistakes. Make sure that the data you mentioned is accurate!
General tips for the IELTS Writing test, task 2
- When you write your answers, remember the examiners are grading you on your expression. There are no ‘exact’ wrong or right answers in terms of agreeing or disagreeing, or a preferred set of reasons and outcomes.
- Examine the questions properly and see that you respond to all parts of the question.
- Remember to stick to the word limit. If you happen to write less than 250 in Task 2, you will lose marks.
- Always write the answers using paraphrasing, or at least referencing. If you use the words from the question exactly, you will not be given marks for this part of your answer.
- Do not use bullet points in your answers, always write sentences in full. Arrange your basic ideas into different paragraphs with a clear topic sentence and supporting arguments. This shows the examiner how well you can organise your points.
- Do not concentrate on writing long and complicated answers. Write well, coherent and organise your thoughts well. Ensure your grammar is accurate.
- Task 2 of the Academic Writing test is an essay. Always plan the structure of your essay beforehand. Place a clear introduction stating a position (saying what you will do in the essay), then body paragraphs with topic sentences, supporting ideas and real-life examples, followed by a conclusion in which you reference your body paragraph topic sentences.
- You are given 40 minutes to complete your essay for Task 2. Always take five minutes to first plan your answer before you start writing, and five minutes at the end to check for any mistakes. Standard American, British and Australian spellings are all acceptable in IELTS.
Keep practising! There are lots of example IELTS writing questions here.