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.

Find the right preparation material for you

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Using noun phrases to improve your writing

Have you ever wondered why academic English sounds so, well, academic? Your choice of vocabulary and linking words is certainly important, but there's another element to it that we rarely talk about, namely how we organise information within our sentences. When I ask my students what they think, they often say that academic language is complicated and uses long sentences. It’s true that sentences tend to be longer than in everyday English, but ‘complicated’ writing is usually just bad style – and many native speakers of English are guilty of using unnecessary complexity in order to sound impressive.  So today, I want to show you how we create more academic-sounding language without losing control of our sentences by shifting the information into a different place. The magic word is ‘noun phrases’. In academic English we tend to put more information into our subjects and objects and verbs are slightly less important. I read somewhere that ‘is’ is the most common verb in academic writing, and I can definitely believe that’s true. So, while there are some great academic verbs for you to study, our focus is more on creating really strong and specific subjects.  So, let’s look at some examples. Here is a task from IELTS Academic 13 (part of our Authentic Practice Tests):   As part of your answer you may write a sentence like this:  People travel by train because they need to go to work.  This sentence is grammatically correct, which is a great first step, but it doesn’t sound very academic, does it? Let’s ask ourselves this question: Do we really want to talk about ‘people’? The answer is ‘no’, so ‘people’ is a ‘weak’ subject* because it does not draw our reader’s attention to what matters to us. In this sentence, our real focus is ‘go to work or school’. In academic English, we tend to present the idea that really matters, the thing we talk about in the subject (i.e. near the start of the sentence). However, ‘go to work’ cannot be a subject, because it’s a verb construction, and ‘go’ isn’t really a great word choice here. If we look again, we see that we used ‘travel’ in this sentence too, which sounds better than ‘go’. All we have to do now is to ‘disguise’ our verb to make it look like a noun (we use -ing for this) and voilá: We get ‘travelling to work …’. Now let’s run our test again: Do we really want to talk about ‘travelling to work’? Some of us are going to shout “Yes! That’s exactly what I want to talk about” whilst others are going to say, “Mmmmh… I’m not sure”. If you’re in the latter group, keep trying until you find something that works for what you are really trying to say:    Personally, I thought the last one fitted best with what I’m trying to say, so I might create a sentence like this:  Short and middle-distance commuter journeys [subject] are [verb] why many people use the train [rest of the sentence – life is too short to break this down grammatically].  If you look at the second half of my sentence here, you might see that, again, it doesn’t sound very academic. The focus is on the verb and I use ‘people’ again. Instead of saying ‘why’, I could use ‘reasons’ and ‘people use the train’ this idea is the same as ‘travel’.  This gives me: ‘Short and middle-distance commuter journeys are the main reason for travel.’ However, on re-reading it, I realise that I could be more focussed on the task question and  make my object a little more specific.  Short and middle-distance commuter journeys [subject] are [verb] one of the main reasons for weekday train travel [object].  Can you see how simple the grammatical structure of this sentence is? At the same time, the sentence is focussed and specific, which is the essence of good academic writing.  If you’d like me to explore noun phrases in a bit more depth in another blog, let me know on our Facebook page and I will happily oblige. I love noun phrases and could talk about them all day long. To work on your own grasp of noun phrases, why not check out Unit 12 in Cambridge Grammar for IELTS? Sophie (*Please note that many of the exam questions start with ‘people’ or ‘many people’ because they are generally written in simple English to allow students from a variety of levels to understand the question). 

Sophie Hodgson

30 July, 2020

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.  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? Find an IELTS task that you have written recently, and go through it thinking about the 10 items on this list.  Can you improve it at all? Have fun editing! Emma

Emma Cosgrave

24 July, 2020

Describing charts and graphs in Academic Writing Task 1

When you try to describe a chart or a graph, quite often you're so worried about getting the facts and the data correct that you forget to focus on the language and the grammar you are using. Does this sound familiar?  I hope this blog helps you to focus on the language and grammar you use in this part of the IELTS test.  Language Let’s look at language first. Graphs and charts show / compare facts.  Example: The two graphs show the number of people employed by the company in 2000 and 2010.  The graph compares average working hours in the UK and the US.  When we are talking about the figures or statistics in the chart or graph, we can use – suggest that / indicate.  Example: The statistics suggest that people in rural areas are healthier.  These figures indicate that the company is growing in size each year. If figures go up - we use increase or rise. If figures go down - we use decrease, fall, drop.  If figures stay the same - we use remain steady or show little change or show no change. If figures go up and down a lot - we use fluctuate.    DO NOT use these verbs to describe a chart or graph: ❌ demonstrate  ❌ display   ❌ tell   Grammar Now, let’s move on to looking at the grammar you use when describing charts and graphs.  It’s really important to look at the dates in the chart or graph.  If the dates are in the past you will need to use the past simple.  For example In 2002 the figures increased from 25% to 30%.  Temperatures fell in May.  The price of oil remained steady during that period.  The cost of electricity fluctuated during those five years.  We can also change these verbs into nouns. You do this by starting the sentence with: There was / were … (Click to enlarge) If the dates start in the past but go up to a date in the present then you will need to use the present perfect. So, if there is a connection between the past and now, you will need to use have + past participle.  Let’s adapt the examples above to show you how to do this. For example The figures have increased from 25% to 30%.  Temperatures have fallen over the last few years.  The price of oil has remained steady during this period.  The cost of electricity has fluctuated over the past five years.  Again, we can change these verbs into nouns. This time you need to start with There has been … (Click to enlarge) I hope you have found this useful, we’ll be covering more common mistakes in later blogs so please come back for more.  Liz 

Liz Marqueiro

29 June, 2020

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In this recording IELTS teachers, Emma and Liz are focusing on IELTS Academic Writing Task 2.

Episode 5: Top tips for IELTS Writing

In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz give some top tips on the IELTS Writing Test.

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Episode 1: Top 5 IELTS questions answered

In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz answer five questions they are frequently asked by their IELTS students.

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