The Great IELTS Writing Guide
The Writing section of the IELTS test doesn’t have to be scary! With the information that we’re sharing with you here you can be confident of succeeding in this section of the test. We’re going to give you some expert advice as well as strategies on how to prepare and answer the different question types in the Writing test.
IELTS: General and Academic Writing
- You have a total of 60 minutes to do the whole Writing test. Task 2 is 250 words and Task 1 is 150 words so you need to spend more time on Writing Task 2.
- I recommend 20 minutes for Task 1 and 40 minutes for Task 2.
- Don’t start with Writing Task 2. Do Task 1 first.
- You also need to allow time for planning. YOU MUST PLAN!!!
- It really depends on you and how you prefer to write but I recommend that you practise and see what’s right for you in terms of planning time.
- As a general guideline, budget 3 minutes for planning and 2 minutes to scan your work afterwards. Stick to it!
- When you practice brainstorming and coming up with ideas in the planning step, don’t forget to write down everything you think of.
- In Task 2, spend 5 minutes planning, 30 minutes writing, 5 minutes to check. When you check, look for spelling, grammar, vocabulary, etc.
- You need to practice the timing for all of these steps and adjust it based on what you need.
- Practice is the key with time management.
- The biggest mistakes that people make with time management on IELTS Writing is when they skip both planning and checking at the end. Don’t expect to write one or two pieces and be ready. Invest as much time as possible. This is where having a specialist teacher could actually save you a lot of time.
- You are severely penalized for underwriting, partially or wholly plagiarizing and if it is not written in full, connected text (bullet points).
- Task 2 is twice as important as task 1, so spend any extra time and effort on that
General Writing Task 1
You must respond to a given problem with a letter requesting information or explaining a situation. You must write 150 words and it is generally recommended that 20 minutes is spent on Task 1. Depending on the task, you will be assessed on your ability to:
- engage in personal correspondence
- elicit and provide general information
- express needs, wants, likes and dislikes
- give opinions (views, complaints etc.)
You are studying a short course in another country. Your accommodation was arranged by the course provider. There is a major problem with the accommodation.
Write a letter to the course provider. In your letter:
- Say what the problem is.
- Describe the accommodation you thought you were getting.
- Ask the provider to solve the problem.
Academic Writing Task 1 (which can be scary!)
This task requires you to write a transfer of information from a bar chart, graph, pie chart, line graph and other types of diagrams. NO OPINIONS must be offered!
What are the most common Task 1 questions?
- Change Over Time question
- Static questions
Change Over Time Essay Questions:
In your essay you must include the beginning numbers, end numbers, highest numbers, and lowest numbers for each line. Those are the most important numbers and they must be in your essay.
Circle the numbers for the highest, second highest, and lowest and include them in your essay.
If you give too many numbers in your essay your score goes down to a 5.
If you don’t use any numbers in your essay your score also goes down to a 5.
These are some examples of the charts used for Academic Writing Task 1:
* Google Images
Top Tips for Academic Writing Task 1:
- There are 7 or 8 different types of graphs and sometime more than one is used in a question. Do as many timed practice tests as you can. You can download model (true example of what you must produce) and sample answers (real answers by students, with a band and usually examiner comments). You can use these to compare your practice tests and see if you are on the right track.
- It’s recommended that you have some of your practice tests graded by an IELTS preparation teacher who can give you feedback on how to improve certain areas and tell you want you are doing incorrectly, or not doing, which could cost you entire bands.
- What should you do with the numbers in your essay? Tell the examiner why the numbers are important!
- DO NOT give opinions, the information is not a democracy – it is what it says. Just transfer it into writing.
- You must use high level vocabulary – eg: As you can see = As is illustrated…
- Highlight the key information and make sure you write about them.
Find Academic Writing 1 tasks and samples here
Writing Task 2 (General and Academic)
General and Academic Writing Task 2 are virtually the same. The questions are different, but the topics and task types are the same. Both require 250 word answers. The same four criteria are used to assess both versions too (Task Response, Cohesion and Coherence, Vocabulary and Grammar). The same examiners assess the tasks. So, they can be considered as equally challenging to pass.
The general exam is easier to prepare for because it’s unlikely that you will get nasty surprise on exam day if only because task 1 involves learning how to write a few styles of letters, whereas the academic version requires the students to learn how to write about a wide variety of charts, different time periods, and passive tense in order to be able to write about processes and maps.
The majority of IELTS questions are about opinions. You’ll get questions like: “Do you agree or disagree?” or “To what extent do you agree or disagree?”
Some people believe the aim of university education is to help graduates get better jobs. Others believe there are much wider benefits of university education for both individuals and society.
Discuss both views and give your opinion.
Many high-level positions in companies are filled by men even though the workforce in many developed countries is more than 50 per cent female. Companies should be required to allocate a certain percentage of these positions to women.
To what extent do you agree?
Get More Practice
Visit this site for as many General and Academic Writing practice as you can handle, there are many tasks and samples available for you.
Anton, from China: “Writing for me was never important because I am a chef, so I never practiced writing and I didn’t study English at school. I just learned it by living in South Africa. When I saw what I had to do in order to get my band, I knew I needed a teacher. I could not do this without help… no way! 3 weeks before the exam I could not put my ideas on paper and I could not find words in my head. My teacher made me work very hard, but it worked!”
English One offers an online IELTS Exam Preparation Course to students wishing to prepare for their exam, but who are not in a position to go to school. An Academic English teacher is assigned to a student for the duration of the course and free writing grading is offered – even after the course!