On this page are tips and hints for writing in the IELTS test. If you have a question or a tip that you think would benefit others, let us know using the message form at the bottom of the page.
Start with Task 2
The scoring system for IELTS means that your Task 2 essay is worth more than Task 1. For example – if you get a 6.0 for Task 1 and a 6.5 for Task 2, your overall score is 6.5. However, if you get a 6.5 for Task I and a 6.0 for Task 2, your overall result is 6.0. that’s why it always pays to start with Task 2! The answer sheet you are writing on has different areas for Task 1 and Task 2, so there’s no problem completing them in any particular order.
DO NOT copy the title of the Task
This will not be counted in your word count and will be simply ignored by the examiner. However, it will cost you time which would be better spent in planning, writing or editing your work.
Making corrections to your completed written work
For the writing test, you will be given a pencil to write with (you are not allowed to take in any pens or material of your own), but if you have made a mistake or want to change something you have written, don’t waste time erasing it – simply put a line through it like this just put a line through it and carry on.
If you don’t understand the the question (or a word in the question)
The best way to handle this is by having a well structured introduction. By including a rephrased definition of what you think the question means, you may lose points for not answering the question directly, but you won’t lose further points for not being clear and to the point. Take a look at the Writing an introduction page for more information.
Is handwriting important in IELTS writing?
It doesn’t matter if your handwriting is not very neat and tidy, so long as the examiner can read it. You can write in cursive (where the letters are joined to each other) or you can print (where each letter is separate). You can even write in capital letters for the whole test if you want to (as confirmed here http://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/prepare-your-test/test-day-advice/writing-test-advice – thanks to Ahmed El Talkawy for this link)
Make sure your paragraph breaks are clear
Accurate paragraphing is very important, so make sure that the examiner can clear see where your paragraph begins. Leave an empty line between each paragraph to make it very clear, and you can also indent your writing (that is, the first sentence of the paragraph should have a slight margin to the left). Also take a look at Writing better paragraphs.
Not writing enough words
The IELTS writing test is assessed based on 4 different criteria. Writing below the minimum word count in either Task 1 or Task 2 will mean your score for Task Completion will be reduced by up to 2 bands, so it is very important that you write at least 150 words in Task 1 and 250 words in Task 2.
Writing too many words
For Task 1, you should write at least 150 words and for Task 2 you should write at least 250 words. However, it is also a mistake to write too much beyond these limits. Writing too many words in the IELTS writing test can potentially reduce your overall score for two reasons. The first is that the examiner may penalise you for not being concise and getting to the point. The other, more common reason for losing points is that the more you write, the more you risk exposing additional errors to the examiner. The ideal number of words in the IELTS writing test should be around 10% above the required minimum – that’s 165 words for Task I and 275 words in Task II.
Get used to handwriting for an hour
This might sound like a strange tip, but these days very few people write by hand for more than a minute or two (in fact many people are quicker on a keyboard than with a pen!). It is essential that as part of your IELTS preparations, you hand-write for increasing periods of time until you can comfortably complete over 400 words (Task I and Task II) in less than an hour. Getting a cramp (an ache) in your hand as you are writing can slow you down and will make it more difficult to focus.
Plan, Plan, Plan!!!
One of the most common failings in IELTS writing is when it is clear from the essay that the candidate has not had a clear plan before they started to write. This can mean that your work does not logically flow, repeats vocabulary and is not well organised. Spending a few minutes making a rough plan of what you will include in each paragraph means that you can focus more on your sentence formation, vocabulary and grammar when actually writing. Although you are not given any ‘rough’ paper on which to make notes, you can write on the question paper (this is collected at the end of the test but is then destroyed, not kept with your answer).