IELTS writing task guide [August 2022 Update]
There are two types of IELTS tests:
- General Training
To study at a university, you need to take the IELTS Academic test.
In this guide, you will learn about how to get your desired score in the IELTS writing task.
- IELTS writing task 1
- IELTS writing task 2
- Analysis of samples of IELTS writing
- How to get a 9 band score
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IELTS writing task: Time and sections
Under 14 minutes
The test is marked using band scores, 1 – 9. Each section is marked and the marks are converted into bands. A score of 7 or higher is expected in all top ranking colleges.
IELTS writing task
The main skills assessed are how well you can:
- Organize your ideas
- Write a response to a prompt
- Use a range of vocabulary and grammar accurately
IELTS writing task 1 format
You will be given a graph, table, chart or diagram. Based on the representation, you’ll be asked to describe, summarize or explain the information in your own words.
For example, for a graph you might have to explain and describe the data or you might have to describe an object or event in a diagram.
You are expected to spend 20 minutes of the 60 minutes on task 1. The expected word limit is at least 150 words.
IELTS writing task 2 format
Task 2 is an essay question. You will have to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem.
10 most common topics:
- Public Transport
- Criminal Justice
- Youth Crime
- Government Spending
You are expected to spend 40 minutes of the 60 minutes on task 1. The expected word limit is at least 250 words.
You can also take a free IELTS writing practice test.
How to do well on IELTS writing task 1
1. The marks distribution
You receive a score for Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. The scores are then averaged which gives the overall score. Scores are always rounded up to the nearest half score. For example, if you get 5.75, it will be rounded up to 6.
Getting a 7 or above shows that you can cope with complex situations in English. Getting a band 7 is a basic requirement by most colleges to study in an English-speaking country.
The four criteria used to judge the writing section:
- Task achievement – ability to present relevant ideas, explain them and support them.
- Coherence and cohesion – ability to clearly express your ideas and link different ideas together.
- Lexical resource – the quality of language, mainly focused on vocabulary.
- Grammatical range and accuracy – ability to write a combination of complex and simple sentences and use a variety of appropriate structures.
Now, that you know the four criteria, you have to frame an answer that does well in these areas.
2. Structure your answer
Even in 150 words, you need to have an introduction, body and conclusion.
You can start with paraphrasing the question in the first paragraph and introduce your main idea. Don’t include the supporting evidence.
You can add the supporting evidence in the body and finally sum up your thoughts in the last paragraph. A rough division could look like 25 (intro) – 100 (body) – 25 (conclusion)
3. Answer according to the representation
Depending on what you have been asked to describe, your answer will vary.
For example, if you have been asked to describe two maps and outline the changes, you will focus on asking key questions about the changes and answering them in your essay.
If you have been asked to describe a diagram that depicts the process of photosynthesis, you will focus on the relationship among the different stages in the same diagram rather than focusing on comparison.
Sample 1 of IELTS writing Task 1
The paper received a Band 6.
Things done well:
- Good attempt to describe the graphs looking at global trends and more detailed figures
- Smooth flow
- Grammatical accuracy
- Good use of language
Areas of improvement:
- Missing information and inaccurate information
- Overused connectives
- Ideas not linked well
- Problems with expressions in some places
- Lack of complexity and variation in the sentences
Sample 2 of IELTS writing task 1
The paper received a Band 9.
- All key features of each stage of the process are appropriately and accurately presented.
- Excellent overview in the beginning
- Changing grammatical function
- Easy to read and cohesive
- Paragraphing, linking and referencing are all skilfully managed.
- Language is fluent
- A wide range of vocabulary and structures
How to do well in IELTS writing task 2?
The marking system for task 2 is the same as task 1. The two key differences are:
- Question type
- Word limit
1. Plan well
You might be asked to argue for a motion or give your opinion on something. To do this, you have to plan beforehand.
You have 20 more minutes on your hand in this section. Use the extra time to make bullet points. This will help you cover all the essential points, link your ideas and find a coherent flow.
2. Form a thesis statement
To argue or present your point of view, having a thesis statement is mandatory. This helps you argue for one thing, giving your essay structure rather than being all over the place.
For example, the question is ‘The privatization of the medical sector mainly affects the marginalized communities. What is your opinion?’
Your thesis statement could be: Privatization of the healthcare sector leads to the selective exclusion of those from the marginalized communities as they lack economic and social capital.
3. Line edit
After you are done with your essay, don’t skim over it and identify mistakes. Read each line carefully to see if there are any grammatical errors.
This can also help you polish your sentences.
4. Develop a vocabulary list
Based on the common topics, develop a vocabulary list.
How to develop vocabulary.
- Try guessing the meaning of words from the context.
- Link new words to existing words you already know. You can also look at synonyms instead of definitions.
- Review the new words regularly and try to use them in writing.
Sample of IELTS writing task 2
This paper received Band 5.
Things done well:
- Topic is well-expressed and a position is taken.
- Ideas are clearly organized and there is an overall progression within the response
- Use of cohesive devices
- Range of vocabulary
Things gone wrong:
- Note – in the third paragraph there is an unclear development.
- Some ideas are not well-developed
- Over-use of linkers
- Short paragraphs
- Spelling errors
- Flaws in task response
Comparison of scores
This table compares Band 9 and Band 6 scores based on the four above-mentioned criteria.
You have to fully satisfy all the requirements of the task. This means doing everything the question asks you to. Clearly present a fully developed response to the question.
Present a clear overview of main trends, differences or stages for task 1. Clearly state your argument for task 2.
Address the requirements of the task
Present an overview with appropriately selected information
Highlight key features/bullet points but missed out on revelace or accuracy
Coherence and cohesion
Use cohesion effortlessly. This means that it should come organically and not look forced.
Examples of cohesive devices – also, equally, and, but, and more.
You also have to paraphrase the question well and add value to it.
Arranged information and ideas coherently and there is a clear overall progression
Used cohesive devices effectively, but cohesion within and/or between sentences may be faulty or mechanical
Did not reference clearly or appropriately
Use a wide range of vocabulary with very natural and sophisticated control of lexical features. Rare minor errors occur only as ‘slips’ and do not affect your overall score.
Used adequate range of vocabulary
Used less common vocabulary but with some
Made some errors in spelling and/or word formation without impeding communication
Grammatical range and accuracy
Use a wide range of structures with full flexibility and accuracy
Used a mix of simple and complex sentence forms
Made some errors in grammar and punctuation but they
rarely reduce communication
Conduct your IELTS writing practice with these bands in mind.
Now, focus on IELTS writing practice. With our IELTS writing task guide, you know how to start preparing to get your desired score.
Depending on your score, you can decide which colleges you want to apply to. If you don’t get your desired score, that’s okay as well.
There are plenty of colleges abroad that you can still attend, some don’t even require English proficiency tests.
How to find them?
SelectRight can help you. SelectRight uses 6 million data points across 10,000+ STEM, CS & MBA programs to give you transparent and unbiased recommendations on best matched fundable programs as per your requirements.
All the best for your IELTS writing task. With the help of AI-powered SelectRight, you can get into your dream school.