Video - Writing Test Overview, Scoring & Basic Strategies

Key Points about Writing

The writing section of the test is different for General IELTS and Academic IELTS. The biggest difference is part one.

For the General test, candidates need to write a letter in part one and then write an essay in part two.

For the Academic test, candidates have to analyse data in part one and then write an essay in part two.

The essays for both tests have a similar structure and require candidates to give opinions.

General Test Structure

For the General letter, candidates need to be careful about answering all the parts in the question. For example, they may need to provide information such as what, why, when, who and how. If the letter is formal, candidates need to use a formal tone and not use contractions (they should write cannot, instead of can’t). If the letter is to a friend, candidates should use informal language, (how are you) and contractions (we’re, instead of we are).

Academic Test Structure

For the Academic data analysis task in the Academic test, candidates need to think quickly to interpret the overall trend of similarities and differences that they can see in the table, graph or diagram. It is important to show critical thinking skills in the way information can be grouped. For example, the information for females may be different from the information about males. Alternatively, there may be a trend that shows people from European countries have different levels of teamwork compared with people from Asian countries. A common structure for the data analysis essay is to use four paragraphs. The first paragraph repeats the description of the data using the writer’s own words (paraphrasing). The second paragraph describes the key similarities in the data, with examples that show how much, or to what level. The third paragraph then describes the key differences between the data, using examples. The final paragraph then repeats the main similarities and differences in one or two sentences.

Task 2 Essay - Same for General and Academic IELTS

The long essay for both the General and Academic tests requires some quick planning to do properly. Candidates should analyse the question to understand what type of information is required, brainstorm ideas, and then choose the best ideas to include. The essay is usually five paragraphs. The first paragraph gives a general sentence, repeats the question using the writer’s words, then gives a thesis statement which states the three main points that will be included in the essay. The body paragraphs start with a topic sentence that identifies the theme of the paragraph and then follows with a series of supporting sentences and examples. The conclusion should repeat the three main ideas and give a future prediction, based on the information presented in the essay. 

The following criteria are used to mark the IELTS Writing tasks:

1. Task Achievement

Does your writing accurately and appropriately fulfil the content requirements set out in the task, using the minimum of 150 / 250 words? Have you dealt with all parts of the question?


2. Coherence and Cohesion

Does your writing display fluency and clarity? Does it organise and link information, ideas and language well? Coherence refers to the logical linking of ideas with sequencers. Cohesion refers to the varied and appropriate use of linking language (eg. connectors, pronouns and conjunctions) to help make the relationships between and within sentences clear.


3. Lexical Resource

Have you used a range of vocabulary accurately and appropriately with regard to the specific task? Have you used appropriately formal or informal vocabulary depending on the task?


4. Grammatical Range and Accuracy

Do your sentences display varied and accurate use of different English language grammar structures?

Strategies for the General and Academic Writing tests:

  1. Always briefly plan your answer before writing.
  2. Write quickly and neatly.
  3. Leave a blank line between paragraphs.
  4. Make sure you answer each part of the question. Do not leave anything out. You need to demonstrate that you understand the instructions.
  5. Do not copy task instructions or questions into your answer. If you do so, it is not included in your word count, and the examiner will not score you on the phrase or sentence you copied. Rephrase it.
  6. Stick to the word limit. You will be penalised for writing less. You can write more than the minimum, but doing so may result in more mistakes or spending too much time on one task, and may indicate that you are including more detail than necessary.
  7. Do not spend too long (eg. 25 minutes) trying to get Task 1 perfect. Task 2 is worth much more. Consider writing your Task 2 essay first if you are not a fast writer.
  8. Do not use bullet points or numbered lists. Write full sentences and paragraphs, like an essay.
  9. Always check your answer for accuracy. Think about verb tense, word form, punctuation and spelling.