ielts guide

Top 10 Tips for the IELTS Writing

Kayla C. October 12th, 2021

Looking for some tips to get a high score, or improve your score on the writing portion of the IELTS? Look no further! Here, we’ve compiled our top ten tips and strategies to get the results you are looking for.

#1. Word Count

For Task 1, it is necessary to write 150 and for Task 2, you should write 250 words. If you happen to fall below the word count, you can be sure that it will have a bad effect on your scoring. This, combined with the time requirement and the question itself can be a lot to think of in the hour-long test. Should you count each word on the page? NO WAY! Download some response sheets online and practice writing on them so you know how many words you will typically write on each page. Then, when you test comes around, it is one less thing you have to worry about! Which brings us to point number two….

#2. Don’t type your practice responses on a computer!

We can’t tell you how many times students practice the writing portion on their computer, even though it is a pencil and paper test! Although you will be able to work on your responses faster, it isn’t an accurate representation of how well you manage your time during the big day. Download and print out the sample papers here. Remember, you only have one hour to spend on the writing portion. Around twenty minutes should be devoted to Task 1 and forty minutes to Task 2.

#3. Pay attention to the words you use on the test!

Don’t use slang words like “dude” or shorthand spelling like “U” for “you.” This can be difficult for students nowadays because this is the type of language used on social media. If you use this type of language in your everyday lives, we recommend that you try to cut it out at least a few weeks before your test, so you get out of the habit and don’t make a mistake on your test. You also want to avoid repetition. Using the same phrase or words over and over again will result in a lower score. Also, if you repeat the question word for word in your answer, the examiner can count those words against your total. Paraphrasing is a crucial skill for IELTS! 

#4. Mind your tone.

Because the IELTS should be written in academic/formal tone, you should have a neutral tone of voice. Despite your strongest feelings, you never want to respond “I hate this idea” on the test. It is better to take a more neutral tone of voice, and error on the formal side. A good example is to change the above sentence to “I don’t think that this the best idea for several reasons..”

#5. Remember to answer every part of the question.

Sometimes, a question on the IELTS may ask you to address more than one thing. For example, “Explain the benefits and problems of this idea.” If you only address the benefits of the idea, your answer is not complete because you failed to address the problems. If a task is not fully answered, an examiner must award less than a band six for that requirement. Underlining key task words in the question is a great strategy to ensure you answer each part of the question. You can use the underlined words as a checklist whilst writing your response.

#6. Know how the scores will be awarded.

75% of the score for Task 2 is based on vocabulary, accurate grammar and structure. This is why studying vocabulary and using new vocabulary in your practice answers is so important. We recommend that you make a list of the common mistakes that you are making while practicing and then look for those same mistakes while you are using your last five minutes to revise on the test.

#7. Use your planning time wisely.

Many writers get stressed about the time constraints and want to start their essays straight away. This leads to poorly structured responses, with many mistakes. Spend a few minutes on each response looking at the key requirements of the task, and making notes on how you will respond. Mind Maps are a great tool where you can organize your ideas quickly, using a graphic organizer and keywords. Never write full sentences in your planning stages, it is better to just get the main ideas our, and you can use your writing time to perfect the sentences. Here is an example of a mind map:

#8. Keep time and record of your writing.

Leading up to the test, you will (hopefully) be practicing writing responses to both Task 1 and Task 2. As a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to keep a record of how many words you are writing, and how many mistakes you find. The more you practice, the more words you will write and you will find yourself making far fewer mistakes. Keep track of this information as a guide for the future test. And, don’t forget to take a watch into the test with you!

#9. Do not rewrite samples.

While you are studying, you will inevitably come across many sample responses to common questions. Do not attempt to rewrite or recreate these sample answers. It may seem like the easier thing to do, but we can guarantee that the response you are trying to recreate won’t fit the question exactly. It also takes more effort to try to remember the details of a response rather than use the tools you have to write a new one. The examiners will be able to tell that a student is trying to do this- it happens all the time. Don’t be that student who ends up with a lower score because of it!

#10. Start off on a good foot!

While you shouldn’t spend too long on your introduction paragraph, you do want to ensure that you have a strong thesis statement that will clearly focus your ideas in one or two sentences. Straight away, the examiner will know what he or she will be reading about and will appreciate a well-organized essay, or response.

There you have it! 10 tips to help you study and improve your score. Did we miss any? Comment below!


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