Unfortunately, the Writing section presents quite a challenge for many who take the IELTS test. The good news is there is a lot you can do to prepare yourself. To help kick off your IELTS Writing studying, we’re sharing 7 tips to help you get a high score.
But before we get to that, let’s break down the difference between the Academic and General Writing tests.
- Topics of general interest to test takers entering undergraduate or postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration
- Answers must be in formal style
- Writing Task 1 – Describe and analyze data in one of the following:
- Bar chart
- Line graph
- Pie chart
- Topics of general interest
- Answers can be fairly informal
- Writing Task 1 – Write a letter in one of the following styles:
- Formal (to someone you do not know)
- Semi-formal (to someone you know formally)
- Informal (to friend or family)
Got all that? Okay, let’s move onto the tips!
Do IELTS Writing Task 2 First
Since IELTS Writing Task 2 is the same on both the Academic and General tests, many find it easier than Task 1 (especially writers of the Academic test). The other major advantage Task 2 has is that it’s worth more marks than Task 1. Of course, it also takes longer to complete. For these reasons, it’s best to not only devote the majority of your time to Task 2 but to complete it first.
You don’t want to get stuck on Task 1 and only leave yourself 20 minutes to frantically write something for Task 2. IELTS recommends spending 40 minutes on Task 2 and about 20 minutes on Task 1. This is a good guideline but of course, your own experience may vary. Don’t get too stressed about sticking to these exact time limits – just make sure you don’t devote more time to Task 1 than you need to.
Avoid Informal Writing
This tip applies primarily to the Academic test, but it’s important to keep in mind for the General test as well. While your answers don’t have to be in formal style on the General test, it’s best to avoid certain informal writing practices. For instance, avoid using abbreviations – write out the full word. Also try not to write in the first or second person (I, me, you) unless instructed to do so.
Watch Your Word Count!
One of the most challenging things about the IELTS Writing test is staying within the word count. Contrary to popular belief, it can actually be more challenging to hit a small word count than a large one. Large word counts give you the space to flesh out your thoughts, but the IELTS test only asks for 150 words for Task 1 and 250 words for Task 2.
Even though this isn’t a lot of words, it’s still important to make sure you write enough. If you write too little, your band score may be reduced. However, you can go a little over the word counts without being penalized. Of course, it’s not realistic to count your words by hand – you just won’t have time. Instead, get an idea of how many words you typically write on one line. This way, you’ll know approximately how many lines of text you’ll need to hit 150 and 250 words.
Ultimately, IELTS uses a word count to test whether you can explain your thoughts clearly and succinctly. Just remember it’s about quality over quantity and you’ll be fine.
Understand The Marking Criteria
Writing is difficult to assess because it’s often quite subjective. As such, the IELTS Writing tests aren’t marked based on right and wrong answers. Instead, the marking criteria breaks down as follows:
- Task Response (25%) – Measures how appropriately, accurately, and relevantly your response fulfills the task requirements.
- Coherence & Cohesion (25%) – Assesses the overall clarity and fluency of your response. Test scorers are looking for how well your response organizes and links information, ideas, and language.
- Vocabulary (25%) – Looks at the range of your vocabulary and how well your word usage adheres to the specific task.
- Grammar (25%) Looks at the range and accuracy of your grammar.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
The only way to get better at writing is to keep doing it. Take as many practice tests as you can before the real test. Get someone you know with strong English writing skills to look over your answers and offer feedback.
Consider picking up some practice test books too. The Cambridge IELTS Practice test books are a great study resource, as they contain full IELTS tests from past examinations. This will help you know exactly what kind of questions you can expect on the real test.
Paraphrase, Don’t Copy
You should never copy any part of the question into your responses for either Task 1 or 2. Instead, learn how to paraphrase. You may need to use part of the question in your responses in order to illustrate a point but if you do, make sure you put it into your own words.
Make Sure Your Response Actually Answers The Question
When under a strict time limit, it’s all too easy to let your writing get off track and turn into a rambling mess. Organizing your thoughts before you start writing will help prevent this but even a well put together answer may fail to answer the actual question. Make sure you know exactly what’s being asked of you and that your response provides an answer to the question.
We hope these tips were helpful and that you now have a good understanding of how the IELTS Writing test works!
For more IELTS help, check out our list of the 5 Best IELTS Preparation Books for International Students, as well as our study tips for the IELTS Listening and IELTS Reading sections.