Having trouble with IELTS writing? Four quick-and-easy tips

Do you have to take the IELTS writing test? 

This can be a difficult part of the test, especially if you are aiming for band six or above.  There are two versions of the IELTS writing test (general and academic), but this post will focus on the academic version. 

While doing realistic practice tests is a great way to prepare, there are a few other basic things that can help.  I’ve outlined a few of them below.    

Manage your time carefully

You only have 60 min in the writing section, so it’s important to manage and track your time effectively in order to finish both tasks.  If your answers are too short (ie. <150 words for task 1, or <250 words for task 2) you will likely be penalized and this can have a big effect on your final score.  Also, remember that task 1 is worth half as much as task 2.  So,  plan in advance how much time you want to spend on each task . Try and also plan to have 4-5 min left at the end so you can check your answers for basic mistakes.

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Take more time to plan

Many students rush to start writing their answers without thinking or planning enough first.  This often results in answers that are unclear and disorganized.  Take more time to think about how you will answer the tasks before writing.  For example, before answering task 2, make brief notes on the main points and examples you will use to support your opinion (making notes on the question sheet is permitted and will not be included as part of your answer).  Don’t worry, even if you spend around 20% of your task time planning, you will be able to write more quickly when you have a clearer idea of your points in advance.

Support with details

Be sure to always give specific information to support your points in both tasks.  In task 2, support your opinions with personal examples or your own general knowledge eg. “In my case,…” or “I heard that…” (for this task, it is not necessary to quote specific data/sources).  In task 1, you can give details by quoting specific examples using data from the graphs/tables on the question sheet, eg. “As shown in graph 1, the highest percentage of visitors were from the United Kingdom at 38.1%.”

Use summary sentences

It’s very important that your task answers have clear key points.  Help the reader understand these by using short summaries or general statements.  This might be a sentence at the end of task 2 reminding the reader of your opinion eg. “In conclusion, for the reasons above, I agree that…”  In task 1, this might be a general sentence about the graphs/tables before describing more specific points eg. “Overall, we can see that…”

Related links:

Five tips for improving your writing

How can I study for language tests?