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 thinking about burgers can help you with your IELTS Writing score

When you are writing IELTS Task 2 essays, it is very important that you know what you need to include in each paragraph. One easy way to remember this is to think of a big juicy burger with 2 pieces of meat in the middle! If we think of the bread on top as the introduction, the two burgers in the bun as the meat or main information in the essay and the bottom bun of bread as the conclusion we have a formula that works for all essay types in Task 2. Agree or disagree essay e.g. Some people believe that you should be fined if you don’t recycle. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement? In this type of essay, in between the bread (the introduction and conclusion), paragraph 1 can have your ideas for and paragraph 2 can have your ideas against. A useful tip is to first write the arguments for and against before you write the introduction. Doing this will ensure that you make a good job of linking the introduction to the main body. Advantages and disadvantages essay e.g. In the past most people used to have to travel to their place of work. With increased use of the internet, computers and smartphones, more and more people are choosing to work from home. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this development? So here, after the introduction, the first paragraph will look at the advantages and the second at the disadvantages before finishing with the conclusion. Problem and solution essay e.g. Social media has completely changed the way family and friends communicate with each other. What are the reasons for this? Is this a positive or negative development? These essay questions are often phrased in different ways, they will however always ask you to provide some form of answer to a problem. In this the first main body (meat) paragraph you should look at the problem and in the second at the solution. Like all the different types of essay, you also need an introduction and a conclusion. Two question in one essay  e.g. Social media has completely changed the way family and friends communicate with each other. What are the reasons for this? Is this a positive or negative development? In this type of essay, in between the introduction and conclusion, Paragraph 1 can answer the first question (e.g. What are the reasons for this?) and paragraph 2 can answer the second question (e.g. is this a positive or negative development?) How to approach the questions 1. Analyse the task: A good way to start is to make sure that you are clear what the topic is and what type of task you are completing. 2. Brainstorm your ideas: Quickly note down any ideas that you can think of. 3. Structure your essay: Use the ideas above to decide how you are going to structure your essay. Remember that we called the introduction and the conclusion ‘the bread’, this is because they are important, but they are not the most important part of the essay. Your introduction shouldn’t be too long. It’s best to paraphrase the question and briefly give your opinion. The conclusion is typically one or two sentences that summarise your opinion and give one or two reasons for it. You must have an introduction and conclusion, but the important information is in the ‘meat’ or the main paragraphs in the middle. Organisation is very important. It makes it easier for you to order your ideas, it makes it easier for the examiner to follow your ideas and as you are marked on Coherence and Cohesion it could mean the difference between a band score 5 and 6. Remember that you will lose marks if you write ideas that are not relevant to the question. Each paragraph should express one main idea and some supporting ideas. It is important that the examiner can see what your point of view is as you develop your ideas in the essay. When you are practising for the exam it can be a good idea to make checklists of all the things that you need to include in the essay, it will then come more naturally as you get closer to the day of your test. Therefore, when you are writing an IELTS Task 2 essay it’s essential that you organise your essay well. Thinking about the burger and the other ideas here will help you fully address all parts of the test and help you receive a higher mark in Task Response. By organising the information logically and organising your ideas, you will also help yourself to get a higher mark in Coherence and Cohesion. Who said burgers weren’t good for you? Neil

Neil Holloway

16 June, 2021

Describing the main features on charts in Academic IELTS Writing Task 1

In Academic Writing Task 1, you are asked to summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant. But what are the main features and how should you report them? In this blog post, we will be looking at the main features on bar and pie charts and how you should report them. Introducing main features When introducing main features, you can usually use one of a few different phrases: Overall, Generally, In general, The most noticeable feature(s) is/are Example: In general, the number of people attending concerts declined in 2020. Main features – bar charts Have a look at this simple bar chart: (Click to enlarge) Looking at all of the months, what is the general trend? For this, it may be easier to look at the first and last months. You can clearly see that the number of users has increased over the time period. In other words, there is an upward trend. Even though there is a slight drop in the month of September, the general trend is still upwards. Examples: Overall, the number of users on MyBook website showed an upward trend through 2020. The most noticeable feature of the bar chart is that users of the website generally increased over the year. Note: When writing about general trends, we usually don’t give specific data, such as exact numbers or percentages – this information comes later in your answer. Main features – pie charts Now have a look at this pair of pie charts. What do you notice first about the data? (Click to enlarge) You would probably notice the information about Facebook first, right? Even though there are fewer users in 2020 in comparison to 2015, it remains the most used social media platform. Have another look. What do you notice about Pinterest and Twitter? Yes, they have both increased their share of social media usage from 2015 to 2020. So, what could your writing say about the main features of the pie charts? How about this: Example: The most noticeable feature of the pie charts is that despite a drop, Facebook remains the most popular social media platform, while other social media platforms are increasing their popularity. Note: When going into more detail and comparing particular features remember to include specific numbers and data. Also consider: What does the category ‘Other’ tell you? Not much, so it’s probably not worth mentioning that in your answer. Why are the main features important? Main features are terribly important as they form part of what we call the overview. In order to get a band 6 rather than a band 5 for Academic Writing Task 1, you must provide some kind of overview, which describes the main trends (or differences, or stages) in the data you have been given. Where should the overview go? Some IELTS professionals say the overview should go in the introduction of Academic Writing Task 1, whereas others say it should go at the end. There is no requirement in the assessment criteria, however. Personally, I prefer the overview to go in the introduction, which is then followed by detailed comparisons (including figures!) in the main body. I hope this has helped with identifying and reporting the main features in bar and pie charts. Let me know how you get on! Peter

Peter Fullagar

26 May, 2021

Modal Verbs Exercises for IELTS on Ability and Possibility

Hi everyone! Today I want to talk about modal verbs, this is the first of two posts that I am writing on this topic so keep an eye out for the next one in the coming weeks. I will start with a brief overview of modal verbs and then focus on ability and possibility. Don’t forget to complete the activities as you read. Overview Modal verbs are auxiliary verbs that give information about ability, possibility, necessity, obligation and suggestions. They are used in both spoken and written English, a lot!   Quick Facts Modal verbs are followed by the infinitive without to. A modal verb always appears before the main verb. Modal verbs don’t take the -s ending in the third-person singular. To make modal verbs negative add not between the modal verb and the main verb. ‘Could’ and ‘would’ are the only modal verbs that can be used as past tenses of their present versions. Ability We use the following modal verbs to talk about ability: (Click to enlarge) Be able to is used instead of can/can’t and could/couldn’t to express ability in the perfect tenses or future: Have you been able to finish the report yet? Parents will be able to send their children to extra clubs after school. In more formal written English, we often use be able to instead of can or could, although both are possible: The hotels on the island are able to accommodate hundreds of visitors. (more formal) The hotels on the island can accommodate hundreds of visitors. (less formal) Watch out! When we are talking about ability on a specific occasion in the past, we use be able to instead of could: Firefighters were able to (not could) rescue all residents of the building before it collapsed. (Click to enlarge) Possibility We use modal verbs when there is some evidence, information or belief that something is probably or possibly true or not true. The modal verb we choose depends on the strength of the evidence we have to support our ideas. (Click to enlarge) Watch out! May not and might not do not express the same probability as couldn’t. The supermarket may/might not be open today because it’s a national holiday. (not the supermarket couldn’t be open today) So how do we talk about possibility in the present, the past and the future? Present We use may (not), might (not), could(n’t), must, can’t + infinitive without to to talk about possibility in the present: The government may have a new scheme. (= it is possible the government has a new scheme) It couldn’t be easier to do. (= it is very unlikely that it is difficult) Past We use may (not), might (not), could(n’t), must, can’t + have + past participle to talk about possibility in the past: The journalists must have asked everyone. (= there is strong evidence they asked a lot of people) Some people might not have received the letter. (= this is a possible situation) They can’t have heard the alarm. (= there is strong evidence they didn’t hear it) Future We use may (not), might (not), could (not) + infinitive without to to talk about possibility in the future: He could make a total recovery one day. We might find life on another planet one day. (Click to enlarge) Modal verbs are important in your IELTS Writing in Task 2 because they help to ‘soften’ the message and show that you are expressing your opinion, not reporting proven facts.   Compare: a) People are unkind to others because they feel insecure. b) People can be unkind to others, this might be because they feel insecure.   a) Banning cars with a high fuel consumption is a good idea as it will result in less pollution. b) Banning cars with a high fuel consumption may be a good idea as it could result in less pollution. In both pairs of sentences, we can see that option a) is very bold and makes claims that the writer is not able to prove. Option b), on the other hand, shows us that these are the opinions of the writer, not facts. (Click to enlarge) As you practise for your IELTS test try to soften your opinions by using modal verbs, especially in Writing Task 2 and Speaking Part 3. Using modals correctly in these parts of the test shows the examiner that you have a deeper understanding of English grammar. Look out for my second blog post on modals coming soon. I will be looking at how we use modals to show obligation, necessity and make suggestions and give advice. Bye for now, Emma

Emma Cosgrave

19 May, 2021

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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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