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 write an informal letter for IELTS General Training Writing Task 1

When was the last time you wrote a letter to a friend? I'm guessing it may have been a long time (or perhaps never) because you use texts, email or social media instead. If you haven’t picked up a pen and paper for a while, now’s the time to practice because you may have to write a letter to a friend for IELTS General Training Writing Task 1.  You don’t want to do what some test takers do and use language that’s more formal in style (serious and official) when it should be more informal (relaxed and friendly), or use language that’s too informal and that should only be used in text messages or on social media. IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 The General Training Writing Task 1 exercise below taken from IELTS Trainer General Training is an example of one that asks you to write an informal letter. You know that the letter has to be more informal because it’s to a friend and about something positive. (If the Writing Task 1 asks you to apologise to a friend for something you’ve done, you could write in a more semi-formal style to make it sound slightly more serious). (Click to enlarge) It also tells you to start your letter with ‘Dear...,’, which is a signal that you need to write a letter that’s more informal in style! If the Writing task tells you to start your letter with ‘Dear Sir or Madam,’, you need to write a letter that’s more formal in style. IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 example answer If you read the following answer you’ll see that the writer writes an informal letter, suggesting a place their friend could live, describing public transport in their city, and saying how their friend could meet new people. (Click to enlarge) As you’ll see below, the letter also contains a lot of informal language features that you could use if you have to write an informal letter. Informal language So, what language features are informal and which should you avoid in an informal letter? Informal language features include: informal openings, e.g. ‘Dear…, ‘ or ‘Hi…,’  informal closings, e.g. ‘Love…’, ‘All the best,’, ‘Take care,’, ‘Bye for now,’ or ‘See you soon,’ contractions, e.g. It’s… (instead of ‘It is…’) the use of more informal vocabulary, e.g. ‘job’ (rather than ‘position’), ‘help’ (rather than ‘assist’) and ‘pretty’ (rather than ‘reasonably’) exclamation marks, e.g. ‘Congratulations on your new job!’ the use of ‘should’ and ‘could’ to make suggestions (instead of a more formal way, e.g. ‘May I suggest...’) Language features you should avoid in an informal letter include: formal language features, e.g. formal vocabulary like ‘obtain’ (rather than ‘get’ or ‘buy’) language that’s too informal and that should only be used in texts or on social media, e.g. shortened words like ‘congrats’ (rather than ‘congratulations’)  Why not pick up a pen and paper and write a letter to an English-speaking friend you haven’t contacted for a while? As well as being good practice, I’m sure your friend will appreciate receiving it. Bye for now, Pete

Pete Jones

25 August, 2020

Comparatives in IELTS Speaking and Writing

Would you like to show your IELTS Speaking examiner how good your range of language is? Would you like to do better in your Writing test? If the answer to these questions is 'Yes!', then read on. In both the Speaking and the Writing test you will be asked to discuss your opinion on a given topic.  Questions like these in the Writing test:     These questions will require you to compare sets of data or discuss two different points of view. In both, you will need to use the language of comparison.  For example: There is a far higher percentage of sugar consumed at snack times than at any other mealtime.  Or I believe that although it might not be easy to improve a bad situation it is far better to try to change things than it is to just accept your lot.  To get a higher band score you need to show that you can use more sophisticated language of comparatives. Just using ‘better than,’ ‘bigger than’, ‘more difficult than’ will not get you a higher band score. You need to use a wider range of comparative language.  The same is true for your Speaking test. Here is an example Speaking test question: Do you think your home town has changed much in recent years? (Why/ Why not?) Listen to this response. What do you think? ‘…there are more people and more buildings.’  This response answers the question but the range of language is quite limited so the examiner won’t be able to give a higher band score.   Now compare it to this response. ‘… there are far more people and far more buildings…’ ‘… it’s become much more cosmopolitan.’ By adding the adverbs and using your voice to emphasise these words you can convey much stronger feeling and show a much wider range of structures. It’s essentially the same answer but the second response gives the examiner a much better idea of the person’s English language ability. Here’s another example question: Do you think it’s more important to earn a large salary or to be happy in your job? Again, here is a lower band score example answer: ‘It’s more important to earn more money than be happy in your job.’ How can we make this response better? Here’s an example: ‘…it’s as important to earn a high salary as it is to be happy’ ‘ …I would much rather be far happier in my professional life … than to earn a lot of money.’ I hope you found these examples useful. Now Ii’d like you to try one! Here is a Speaking test question for you to try: Why has online shopping become so popular in many countries?  Record yourself answering the question. Listen to your answer. Could you make it better by using some of the language in this blog? far better far more far higher far happier much more  … as (adjective as… Record a second response using some of the language above. Was the second attempt better? Keep practising answering Speaking and Writing test questions in this way. The more you practise, the easier it gets!  I hope you’ve found this blog useful. Let us know if you’d like to see more blogs like this. Liz  

Liz Marqueiro

13 August, 2020

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 12 (part of our Authentic Practice Tests): (Click to enlarge) 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

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