IELTS Writing

The IELTS Writing test consists of two tasks, designed to assess a wide range of writing skills.

These include how well you:

  • write a response appropriately
  • organise and link your ideas
  • use a range of grammar and vocabulary accurately and appropriately.

There are two versions of the IELTS Writing test – one for Academic and one for General Training. Our preparation materials below can help you develop your IELTS writing skills for both tasks, whether you are taking IELTS Academic or General Training.

Below you’ll find more information about the test format and scoring, as well as top tips, free videos and blog articles, and other resources to help you understand the Writing test and achieve a high score.

If there’s anything else you would like to see, tell us on our social channels.

The Writing test lasts for one hour. Within that time, you must complete two Writing tasks.

The tasks are different for Academic and General Training test takers:

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 requires you to write at least 150 words describing some visual information (e.g. a diagram, chart, graph or table). For Task 2 you must write an essay of at least 250 words responding to a point of view, argument or problem.

IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 requires you to respond to a given situation (e.g. by writing a letter) in at least 150 words. You may be asked to request information or explain a situation. In Task 2 you must write an essay of at least 250 words in response to a point of view, argument or problem.

Writing Task 2 carries more marks than Writing Task 1, so you should spend about 20 minutes on Task 1 and 40 minutes on Task 2.

Writing responses are assessed by certified IELTS examiners who will mark your answers based on the following criteria:

  • Task 1 achievement: did you answer the question fully and write at least 150 words?
  • Task 2 response: did you answer all points? Did you provide a balanced argument? Were all your ideas relevant?
  • Coherence and cohesion: is your writing easy to understand? Are your ideas well organised and linked?
  • Lexical resource: did you use a wide range of vocabulary accurately and effectively?
  • Grammatical range and accuracy: did you use a wide range of grammatical structures accurately and effectively?

Each task is assessed independently. Writing Task 2 carries more marks than Writing Task 1 and the two scores are combined to obtain a final band score.

1. Practise each type of Writing task. For example, if you’re taking the Academic test, each time you see a graph, chart or table, study it carefully and practise picking out the major changes that the figure shows.

2. Practise writing quickly and neatly and don’t use bullet points, notes or abbreviations, or prepared answers.

3. Answer each question fully. Work out in advance how much space 150 and 250 of your own words take on a page. This can save you having to count on test day!

4. Leave time at the end of the test to check your writing. Make sure that your facts and language are accurate, and check your spelling, punctuation and grammar.

5. Remember, Writing Task 2 is worth more than Writing Task 1 so spend 20 minutes on Task 1 and 40 minutes on Task 2.

How to prepare for the IELTS Writing test

In Task 2 of the IELTS Writing test, you will be given 40 minutes to write at least 250 words in both the Academic and General Training test.
When you’re preparing for your IELTS test, it’s a good idea to practise writing 250 words in your own handwriting (or on the computer if you are taking computer delivered IELTS) before test day. Find out why in Emma’s short video.

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Where are the commas in your IELTS Writing?

When you do IELTS Writing practice, how much attention do you pay to punctuation (capital letters, full stops, commas, semi-colons, etc.)? If your answer is ‘not much’, you may be missing an opportunity to improve your Writing band score. Pay attention now and avoid these two common mistakes with a very important punctuation mark: the comma. 1. Commas after linking words/phrases When you start a sentence with one of the linking words/phrases in the table below, you should put a comma after the word/phrase. (A linking word or phrase is one that connects information/ideas within or between sentences or paragraphs). For example, there’s a comma placed correctly after ‘First of all’ in this example from a band score 6 answer: In my opinion, most people will prefer to spend their holidays travelling. First of all, people are ... (click to enlarge) It’s easy to do, of course, but a lot of IELTS test takers forget to add one, and this can affect their band score and may affect yours if you forget too. To help you remember, place a comma in the right place in each of these examples from band 5.0 to 6.5 Writing Task 1 and 2 answers now. a. However some people argue that … b. For example most parents in … c. Finally energy is… d. To sum up it is necessary to … I’ve put the answers at the end of this blog post. 2. Commas before or around linking words/phrases When you introduce an example or examples within a sentence using ‘for example/instance’, you should put a comma before the linking phrase and a comma after the example(s) if the sentence continues. For example, there’s a comma placed correctly before ‘for example’ in this corrected sentence from a band score 6 answer: To solve this problem, I think the government of every country should guarantee their citizens basic rights, for example access to food, clean water and education. Are all of the commas placed correctly in this example from a band 3.5 Writing Task 2 answer? e. On the other hand, many ways can improve road safety, for example, more educate in usual life, more advertising on TV, radio, newspapers, limit speed on the road, stronger fines. You can check your answer with mine at the end of this blog post. (When you read my answer, you’ll see that I’ve corrected the vocabulary and grammar mistakes in the example too). If you’re still not sure how to use commas with the linking words/phrases in the table above, here’s me sharing some other examples.   You could also look at how I’ve used commas in my sentences above when I used the linking phrases ‘for example’ and ‘of course’, and then download the following worksheet for some practice. Using commas in IELTS Writing Worksheet You can read about more common mistakes in the book ‘IELTS Common Mistakes for Bands 6.0-7.0'. Pay attention to commas and you’ll hopefully be smiling when you get your IELTS result. Pete   Here are the answers to the questions above: a. However, some people argue that … b. For example, most parents in … c. Finally, energy is… d. To sum up, it is necessary to … e. On the other hand, there are many ways that can improve road safety, for example more education in schools, more advertising on TV, radio and newspapers, stricter speed limits and heavier fines.

Pete Jones

3 March, 2021

Checklist for editing your IELTS Writing

Do you forget to leave time to check your writing at the end of a timed IELTS practice? Catching those mistakes that are easily corrected can make all the difference to your band score. Today, I'm going to give you a checklist of 10 things to look out for as you review your work. Before that, let’s quickly review some facts about Writing in IELTS.    Listening Practice: Listen to Emma read checklist for editing your IELTS Writing     Read the instructions carefully and underline the important parts of the task. Remember, you must paraphrase the task, don’t just copy it out. Make a plan, just some rough notes, that you can follow and stay on task. Memorised answers are obvious and never answer the task fully so avoid them. Write your answer once, there is no time to draft. Leave 3-4 minutes at the end to go through and edit your work. Corrections don't subtract from your band score as long as the whole answer is legible and it's easy to see what the correction is, it counts towards a better grade. That last one is the hardest for many people. It can feel like there’s hardly time to write a full answer in the test, let alone edit too. To make things easier I have created a checklist of 10 areas to look at when editing. 1. Overall Structure – have you addressed all parts of the task? Read the task again and remind yourself of the key points (they should be underlined already). 2. Paragraphing – do you start a new paragraph for each new idea? If you have forgotten to use paragraphs, mark them clearly in the correct place and write ‘new para’ in the margin. (Click to enlarge) 3. Coherence – have you linked your ideas clearly so they are easy to follow? You can find some great information and activities in Sophie’s blog series on ‘Misusing Linking Expressions’. 4. Style – have you used a formal or neutral style of English? Avoid abbreviations, slang, contractions, colloquialisms and idioms. Remember that this is a test, the examiner wants to see that you can use English beyond chatting with friends. (Click to enlarge) Now check your answers against the below: (Click to enlarge)   5. Tenses – are your tenses consistent? Your writing will be assessed for grammatical accuracy, using the wrong tense is a common mistake. (Click to enlarge) Check against the answers below: (Click to enlarge) 6. Prepositions – are your prepositions correct? When you are learning new words be sure to learn which prepositions they collocate with. Learning chunks of language rather than single words really helps with this. Take a look at Liz' blog about this. (Click to enlarge) 7. Articles – have you missed out an article or added one where it is not needed? A, an and the are such important words in English and they can be so hard to get right. Here is a blog post I wrote about using the definite article you might find helpful.   8. Subject-Verb agreement – have you changed the verb to agree with the subject of the sentence? This is one of the most common errors students make. You need to think about whether the ‘subject’ is plural or singular and change the verb accordingly. Uncountable nouns are singular for subject-verb agreement. 9. Spelling – have you made spelling mistakes that could be avoided? It’s hard to spot your own spelling errors so looking out for particular words you often get wrong can help. If you do make a mistake simply cross it out and write the correct word above. (Click to enlarge) Did you get these right? (Click to enlarge) 10. Punctuation – have you got full stops, capital letters, etc. where you need them? Don’t let punctuation be your downfall. Simple things like capital letters, full stops, question marks and commas make a real difference to your accuracy and the readability of your writing. (Click to enlarge) Check your corrected sentences with the answers below: (Click to enlarge) I hope that you have found this blog post and the activities helpful. I really believe that taking 3 or 4 minutes at the end of an IELTS Writing task to review your work and make quick corrections can make all the difference. By getting into the habit of checking these 10 areas of your writing it will become faster and easier. You will start to recognise the kinds of mistakes you make and perhaps even stop making them. So why don't you start today? I have put together an editing checklist and task for you to try here. Worksheet download Have fun editing! Emma

Emma Cosgrave

18 February, 2021

How to improve your vocabulary using collocations

All students tell me they need to learn more vocabulary but what they don't often realise is that when you learn a new word, you should also learn what verb, adjective or preposition it goes with. The way words are used together is called collocation.    Listening Practice: Listen to Liz read how to improve your vocabulary using collocations     Here are some sentences to show you what I mean: Regular exercise can be of benefit to most people. After careful analysis of the situation we decided to cancel the trip. I found out about the hotel on the internet. When you make a note of new vocabulary you should also make a note of any collocations. Learning collocations and how to use them will help raise your score for Vocabulary range and accuracy (how wide your vocabulary is and how you can use it correctly). Strong or weak collocation? Collocations can be strong – this means that the link between the words is quite fixed. You can’t use any other word. Some examples of strong collocations are: make a cup of coffee do homework heavy rain agree with someone agree on something depend on Weak collocations: big – car, house, news, city … very – big, interesting, hot, tired … expensive – car, house, holiday … ➱ Here are some practice exercises for you. You should try to use strong collocations when you’re speaking and writing if you can.   Intermediate Collocations Activity:   Worksheet download Once you have completed the worksheet, download the answer sheet to see how well you’ve done. Answer sheet download   Advanced Collocations Activity: If you’d like even more of a challenge, you can find an advanced exercise below. Worksheet download  Once you have completed the worksheet, download the answer sheet to see how well you’ve done. Answer sheet download So, if you’d like to do well in your IELTS Speaking and Writing tests, you should follow this advice – do your best to learn collocations too. Hope you have found this useful, we’ll be covering more collocations in later blogs so please come back for more. Liz

Liz Marqueiro

1 February, 2021

How to improve your Writing for IELTS

In this video, IELTS expert, Pete Jones shares four tried-and-tested ways to improve your writing for IELTS. You may just be starting to prepare for IELTS or you’ve taken the test already, perhaps more than once, and not got the Writing band score you need; this video can help you.

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Episode 12: How to learn collocations for IELTS

In this episode, IELTS teachers Liz and Emma are talking about collocations. When learning vocabulary it’s important to not just learn individual words, but also the verb, adjective or preposition that it goes with. Learning collocations will help you to avoid common mistakes in your IELTS test helping you achieve a higher band score.

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Episode 11: Commonly confused words in IELTS

In this episode, IELTS teachers Liz and Emma are looking at words students use incorrectly both in the classroom and in the IELTS test. Being aware of these common mistakes will help you perform well in the IELTS test.

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