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Top tips for the IELTS writing exam

Need help preparing for the writing portion of the IELTS exam? We provide some tips for both the Academic and General Training versions of the test, including your writing style.

IELTS writing test
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Being able to write in English to a satisfactory, even high level will be important when you study abroad. No matter the course you intend to study, you’ll need these skills when it comes to assessments such as essay writing and exam scenarios. This is why the writing portion of the IELTS exam is so important.

 

As you’ll be aware, there are two versions of the IELTS test: Academic and General Training. Depending on the test you're taking, you'll be presented slightly different tasks...

 

 

‘I’m taking the IELTS Academic test...'

There are two tasks in the IELTS Academic test. In task 1 you have to write 150 words and in task 2 you have to write 250 words. You will have 1 hour to complete both tasks – make sure you split your time accordingly.

 

 

Task 1 – You’ll be asked to describe some visual information in your own words. This will test your ability to analyse, interpret and explain a piece of information. For example, you might be provided with a chart or a diagram, and asked to explain what it means or shows.

 

Here is an example of the kind of question you’ll get in task 1:

 

[click on image to open in a new tab to enlarge]

 

 

 

Task 2 – You’ll be presented with a piece of writing which presents a point of view or opinion. You will then be required to discuss this, perhaps talking about the strengths and weaknesses or why you agree or disagree.

 

Here is an example of the kind of question you’ll get in task 2:

 

 

Read more about the writing portion of the IELTS Academic test

 

 

 ‘I am taking the IELTS General Training test...’

There are two tasks in the IELTS General test. In task 1 you have to write 150 words and in task 2 you have to write 250 words. You will have 1 hour to complete both tasks – make sure you split your time accordingly. Note that task 2 is for twice as many marks as task 1 so it’s recommended you spend more time on task 2 (40 mins).

 

Task 1 – You’ll be presented with a situation which you need to respond to in letter form.

 

Here is an example of the kind of question you’ll get in task 1:

 

 

 

Task 2 – You’ll be presented with a piece of writing which presents a point of view or opinion. You will then be required to discuss this, perhaps talking about the strengths and weaknesses or why you agree or disagree.

 

Here is an example of the kind of question you’ll get in task 2:

 

 

Read more about the writing portion of the IELTS General Training test

 

 

How you’re assessed

For both tasks in both versions, you’ll be required to use a formal writing style, using proper English punctuation, spelling and grammar. You will need to demonstrate your ability to write a response that is appropriate in terms of content, grammar, vocabulary and the organisation of ideas, using as many examples as possible to demonstrate your statements.

 

The four key areas which a test-marker will look out for are: task achievement; coherence and cohesion; lexical resource and grammatical range and accuracy.

 

See what you can expect from an IELTS test day. Watch our playlist of videos from our day at an IELTS test:

 

 

Tips for IELTS writing test

Before the test

Get into the habit of reading a range of good quality texts in the weeks and months before your test. This way you can sharpen your skills to interpret and re-communicate information. When you read quality publications such as newspapers and scientific magazines, you get a sense of how arguments are built and how articles respond to questions or opinions. So get into the habit of reading well-written publications, both online and in print; these might include world renowned newspapers such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Washington Post and The Times of India.

 

Prioritise

For both versions of the IELTS test, the 2nd task will be worth more marks and requires more words. Therefore it’s worth you spending more time on the 2nd task rather than split your time equally across both.

 

Use paragraphs

Use paragraphs to separate your ideas into a clear structure. Even if these paragraphs are just 4 or 5 sentences long, this will make your argument easier to consume for the test-marker. However do not use bullet points.

 

Read all parts of the question

Make sure you read all the information and prompts you’ve been provided. If you’re confronted with a graph or table, this can be a little intimidating at first (especially with all the pressure of a test scenario); don’t panic and read everything slowly. This way you can respond to and complete the task fully, meeting all expectations.

 

Tip from an expert: Bryan Dowie, Road to IELTS

‘It's important to plan and structure your essay. It's also important to address every part of the question. Planning and a good structure show you are an effective communicator in written English and addressing all parts of the question shows you have fully understood the question.’

 

 

Don’t stop there! Read our tips for the other sections of the IELTS test...

IELTS reading

IELTS listening

IELTS speaking

 

 

Find out more:

For access to more information and sample tests, please visit the IELTS official website

You can also visit Road to IELTS for tips, videos, exercises and other IELTS preparation resources

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About Author

IELTS writing test

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.