IELTS Writing Marking Criteria

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In this tutorial, you’ll learn

● The assessment criteria of the IELTS writing test

● How to use them in your practice sessions


This will help you in your IELTS writing exam because

● In understanding the criteria used in the IELTS writing exam you can prepare more effectively
● You can work smarter rather than harder

To do well in the IELTS writing test it is vital for you to understand what the examiner is looking for.

When you understand the criteria, you can use them as a foundation for your practice. Passing the IELTS writing test is not just about working hard, it is also about working smartly.

A short cut to understanding the examiner is to get feedback on your IELTS essays from a former IELTS examiner. This way you can immediately work on weak points. Although feedback from an examiner should take around 24h, you can get faster feedback from an online IELTS writing evaluation service.

There are four testing criteria in the assessment

1. Task achievement/ task response
2. Coherence and Cohesion
3. Grammar
4. Lexical resource or vocabulary.

Each of these makes up 25% of the overall marks in the IELTS writing test

Task achievement/ task response

There are two tasks in the IELTS writing test. Task one is aimed at task achievement and task two at task response.

The General and Academic versions of IELTS exam differ.

IELTS writing test part one

The task one general test or letter is marked using the following criteria
● How you have explained your reason for writing the letter
● Have you addressed the question in full?
          o The question always contains three prompts. You must answer all of them adequately, each in its own paragraph.
          o Make sure that the letter maintains the correct tone throughout. This means that if you are writing a formal letter you must use formal language throughout the letter. Likewise, if you write an informal letter maintain the informal tone throughout. Don’t mix the style.

In part one of the academic test, you will have to describe a table, chart, diagram or graph. One, and sometimes two of these are used in the question

If you are doing the General IELTS Writing exam in task 1 you will have to write a letter. If you are completing the academic IELTS writing test you will have to summarise a text.

The IELTS writing test will be marked as follows:
● Your ability to summarise logically the main features in 150 words
● Whether you have included the appropriate data and any significant trends.

IELTS writing test part two

IELTS Writing Task 2 takes the form of an essay for both the general and academic exams.

The outcome of the IELTS writing exam will depend on whether you have properly responded adequately to all of the questions asked.

Below is a typical question;

Researching one’s family tree is becoming a popular trend. Why do you think that this is so? Is this a positive or a negative trend?

There are two parts to this question. You must address both questions. You should not make a list of thoughts and ideas using commas, adding one thought after another. You must explain your concepts, develop your reasoning and advance your thoughts by using examples.

How you present your ideas and justify your stance is the key to how well you will do in the IELTS writing exam.

Coherence and cohesion


Coherence is the logical sequencing of thoughts and ideas. Your reader must be able to logically follow your ideas for you to receive a good result. For this to happen:

● You must properly structure the answer and make logical use of paragraphs
● Your essay should start with an introduction that explains what it is all about
● Each idea that follows should have its own paragraph
● You should end with a conclusion.

The structure of the essay helps the reader to follow the thought process of the writer. The ideas offered in the paragraphs should have a logical sequence. You should not present ideas abruptly but rather lead into them, starting with a topic sentence and then compounding that with the idea.


It is important to preserve local languages. Do you agree or disagree?


The preservation of local languages is essential to the protection of the culture of the region.



We should do this to preserve the culture

In the correct version, you can see that the first section of the sentence paraphrases the question and then joins it with the idea about why it is important.


Cohesion is all about connecting the ideas and paragraphs in your essay. This is done by using linkers as shown in the list below;
● However, whereas, on the contrary, while – are all used to contrast ideas
● This is to say, which means – are used to explain a concept
● To illustrate, for instance, for example – are used to illustrate an idea
● Furthermore, additionally – are words used to add similar ideas.

Cohesion and Coherence will be marked according to your ability to logically organise sentences and paragraphs. You should use linking devices to form connections between the parts of the sentences and between paragraphs so that the ideas flow one into the other. Never present your ideas abruptly.

The linking words used must be both appropriate and relevant. You should not use them unnecessarily or in the wrong context.


Grammar refers to the grammatical accuracy of your work. To score high points in grammar you must use
● The correct sentences and combinations
● The correct active and passive voices in the correct combinations
● Modal auxiliary words
● Comparatives
● Conditionals
● Relevant punctuation

It is also important to combine complex and simple sentences. You are not marked on the number of mistakes that you make but rather on how effectively you convey your ideas to the reader.

Lexical resource 

For a high score, you must demonstrate to the examiner that you have a broad vocabulary. To do this you must use more formal and uncommon words rather than informal commonly used words.

For example, you could use the word deter in place of stop. Use accurate collocations. Collocations refer to the way that words are arranged in a sentence. For example, we make mistakes. We don’t do mistakes. Collocations are words that generally go together. English speaking people use these word groups naturally, fluently and effortlessly.

Use a wide range of vocabulary and try not to repeat words. Rather use synonyms or rephrase sentences that have such repetitions. Make sure that you use the words in the correct context. Misused words will do you no favours.

Use the appropriate tone of voice. You should use formal vocabulary in all of the tasks unless you are asked to write an informal letter. In which case the informal vocabulary should flow throughout the task. For example, a word such as “anyway” is informal. The more formal word “nevertheless” is a better choice. You can find a list of formal and informal words on the Internet.

Audio tutorial

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