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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How to structure your essays in IELTS Writing Part 2

Your Writing Task 2 essay must have a clear structure. Why? Because if it doesn’t, there is a risk that your ideas will not be organised in a way that is easy to read and follow. But what does structuring your essay involve and how can you do this? Let’s find out. Look at these two texts. Which one do you think is easier to read and why? (Click image to enlarge) I (and also IELTS examiners) think that Text B is much easier to read because it’s divided into paragraphs. These give the reader a ‘visual break’ and make clear where one section of the text begins and ends. (Click image to enlarge) What are you actually going to write in each section? Let’s start from the introduction. You might be wondering how you can write a good introduction. What if I tell you that the answer is in the question? Look at this example taken from the Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS  (Click image to enlarge) Now look at these two introductions. Which one is better and why? (Click image to enlarge) Again, both I and IELTS examiners think B is the best one. In Introduction A too many words have been copied from the questions. This isn’t good and you will lose marks if you do it. The solution is to paraphrase (= say the same thing using different words) the question, as I did in Introduction B. Here is how I paraphrased the question: (Click image to enlarge) This is what I mean by ‘the answer is the question’. Paraphrasing is a skill you will need to write the introduction, and a good way to develop this is to take Task 2 questions from IELTS practice tests and practise writing introductions only. These are the steps you can follow: Read the question Underline key words from the question For each key word brainstorm different ways of saying the same thing Write the introduction only Here some other examples of paraphrasing: (Click image to enlarge) The introduction shouldn’t be a long paragraph, so aim at writing no more than two or three sentences. You really don’t need more than that. So, once you’ve paraphrased the question, you just need one more sentence, and what you say in this last sentence really depends on the question. What’s important is that you make clear what you’re going to say in your main body paragraphs. In our case, for example, it’s an agree/disagree essay so in my last sentence I stated my opinion: Although there is some truth in both statements, I believe the internet brings us together more than it keeps us apart. The reader now knows what they will read about in the next sections of my essay: my opinions and ideas on the issue. Now, let’s look at the two body paragraphs. What you include in these will again very much depend on the type of essay, your opinions and ideas. This table summarises a range of options: (Click image to enlarge) OK, you have your intro and two paragraphs. Now you need your conclusion. This is the section where you summarise what you said in the three paragraphs before. Like the introduction, this is a short paragraph of no more than two sentences. Here is an example: If in my essay I made the point that I agree with the fact that the internet has some disadvantages but I also believe that it’s a powerful tool to connect people around the world, in the conclusion I will write something like this: To sum up, the internet has a number of benefits as well as drawbacks when it comes to socialising and maintaining relationships, but I firmly believe that its advantages in terms of connecting people and cultures around the world far outweigh its negative aspects. I used one sentence only, didn’t add any new information and basically rewrote what I said in the introduction using different words. In fact, my introduction and conclusion are very similar when you compare them: Introduction The internet is a wonderful tool that helps us to keep in touch with each other anywhere in the world. However, some websites might become an obsession and encourage people to stay at home instead of going out to see their friends. Although there is some truth in both statements, I believe the internet brings us together more than it keeps us apart. Conclusion To sum up, the internet has a number of benefits as well as drawbacks when it comes to socialising and maintaining relationships, but I firmly believe that its advantages in terms of connecting people and cultures around the world far outweigh its negative aspects. In both paragraphs I say that the internet has both positive and negative aspects: (Click image to enlarge) In both I say what I think: (Click image to enlarge) So, how do you structure your essay? Let’s recap: (Click image to enlarge) I hope this will help you with your essay structure!

Fabio Cerpelloni

24 November, 2021

Grammar essentials: The Past Perfect

The past perfect comes up in all parts of the IELTS test, so today I’m going to focus on the past perfect simple and past perfect continuous. These are tenses that we can use when we are telling stories and talking about events in the past when we want to show what happened first.   As mentioned above, the past perfect can come up in all parts of the IELTS test, but you may find it particularly helpful if you need to talk about things in the past in the Speaking test and in task 1 of the IELTS Academic Writing test. After you have read this blog post, be sure to download the worksheet that has activities to help you use the present perfect in some IELTS style activities. Past Perfect Simple FORM You’ll be pleased to hear that the past perfect tense is simple to form. No matter what the subject we use had plus past participle -, so you don’t need to worry about subject – verb agreement. (Click image to enlarge) USE The present perfect is used to show when something happened in the past in relation to another time or event in the past. It is used to show that one thing happened before another. To refer to ‘time up to then’ The past perfect refers to time up to a point in the past (time up to then). I’d graduated from university by the time I was 21. In this case, I’d graduated from university at some point before I was 21. Just as the present perfect does not always specify an exact time, neither does the past perfect need to. The point here is to show that graduation came before I turned 21. When we want to clearly show the order of two past events We can use the past perfect to show the order of two past events. The past perfect shows the earlier action and the past simple shows the later action. When the police arrived, the thief had escaped. It doesn't matter in which order we say the two events. The following sentence has the same meaning. The thief had escaped when the police arrived. (Click image to enlarge) Dinosaurs roamed the Earth. (NOT Dinosaurs had roamed the Earth.) Past perfect with ‘before’ We can also use the past perfect followed by before to show that an action was not done or was incomplete when the past simple action happened. They left before I'd spoken to them. Sadly, the author died before he'd finished the series.   Past perfect continuous             We use the past perfect continuous to focus on how long an activity continued or to focus on the activity itself. We are still using the tense to talk about a time before another time in the past. FORM The form of the past perfect continuous is very straightforward even though it seems complicated. Once again the auxiliary ‘had been’ does not change depending on the subject. (Click image to enlarge) USE  To show the duration of something in the past We use the past perfect continuous to show that something started in the past and continued up until another time in the past. ‘For five minutes’ and ‘for some years’ are both durations which can be used with the past perfect.   She had been living in the town for several years before she felt she belonged. She had been waiting to talk to the teacher for five minutes after the class ended. To show the cause of something in the past Using the past perfect continuous before another action in the past is a good way to show cause and effect. The children all got the answer wrong because they hadn’t been listening to the teacher’s explanation. Sarah felt great because she had been swimming at lunchtime. So what’s the difference between the past perfect simple and the past perfect continuous? (Click image to enlarge) Families had collected water ready for dinner. - completed action Families had been collecting water when she hurt her leg. - ongoing action The past perfect simple suggests something more permanent than the past perfect continuous, which can imply that something is temporary. She’d always lived with her parents. She’d been living with her parents for a few months before she got married.  REMEMBER We don’t use the continuous form with some verbs of mental process (know, like, understand, believe) and verbs of the senses (hear, smell, taste): We’d known for a long time that the school was planning to expand. We’d tasted the food there before and had decided it was bad. We can’t use the past perfect continuous to say how many times something happened. I knew what to expect, I had taken the test once before. There is a lot of information to take in from this blog post. Don’t worry if it seems impossible to use this tense right now, just download the worksheet and have a go. You will soon get the hang of it!                   Worksheet download See you soon, Emma    

Emma Cosgrave

6 October, 2021

Common mistakes: prepositions for describing change in a graph

When you describe changes in a graph in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1, it’s important to use a good range of appropriate vocabulary. As we saw in Peter’s recent post the vocabulary can include verbs (rise, grow, fall), nouns (jump, growth, drop), adjectives (steep, sharp, small) and adverbs (sharply, dramatically, slightly). However, don’t forget about the little words too! Many IELTS candidates make mistakes with prepositions when they’re describing graphs. In this post, we’ll look at why prepositions are so important and how to use some of the key prepositions for describing change. Why the little words matter (Click image to enlarge) Look at these two sentences – how does the preposition change the meaning? What was the price of a tram ticket at the end of 2020? At the start of 2015, a standard tram ticket in the city cost €2. a. By the end of 2020, the ticket price had risen to €3. b. By the end of 2020, the ticket price had risen by €3. In the first example, the ticket price at the end of 2020 was €3 because to refers to the final price or level after the rise. (Click image to enlarge) However, in the second example, the ticket price was €5 because by refers to the size of the change; €2 + €3 = €5. (Click image to enlarge) Here the choice of preposition changes the meaning of the sentence, so it’s really important to get it right. Key prepositions for describing change Let’s look at some of the key prepositions you need to describe changes and how to use them correctly. (Click image to enlarge) Examples: Global carbon dioxide emissions fell by 6.4% in 2020. India’s population grew by 13.5 million last year. Applications jumped by more than 1,000 a year. (Click image to enlarge) Examples: There was a steep decline in sales after November. The city centre saw a 3 percent increase in house prices. There is a sharp rise in the number of visitors during June and July. (Click image to enlarge) Examples: Over the same period, the UK reported a fall of 7.3%. The school district has seen a jump of 1,000 more students over two years. The total was 61,829 in March, a drop of 51 per cent on the previous year. (Click image to enlarge) Examples: The unemployment rate climbed to 6.5% in November. In the past fifty years, the proportion of Asian-Australians has increased from one percent to six percent of the population. This compared to an increase from 31% to 37% among young men of the same age. When you’re describing changes on a graph, check the prepositions you have used carefully. Do they describe the connection between the change and the number correctly?

Julie Moore

29 September, 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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