If you want to get a high score in the IELTS Writing Test, it is very important to understand how your writing will be assessed. This will help you to improve your writing performance and maximise your score. In this post, we will discuss the IELTS writing criteria.
IELTS Writing Marking Criteria
Your writing is assessed in four areas: Task Achievement / Task Response, Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource, and Grammatical Range and Accuracy. The first criteria is different for Task 1 and Task 2, the other three are the same for both tasks.
- Task Achievement (TA) – How well you complete Task 1
Task Response (TR) – How well you respond to the task / answer the question(s) in Task 2
- Coherence and Cohesion (CC) – How well you organise your ideas and link them together
- Lexical Resource (LR) – The range and accuracy of your vocabulary
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy (GRA) – The variety of structures you use and how many errors you make
Let’s have a look at those 4 areas in more detail, focusing on what your writing needs to do to achieve Band 7:
Task Achievement (for Task 1)
- Presents a clear overview of the main trends, differences or stages
- Clearly highlights all the key features
Comments: It is in this area that even excellent students often get low scores because they don’t understand the task requirements. But it is easy to fix. Just make sure you: 1. Include an overview (very important!), 2. Include all the important features, and 3. Support all the important features with data / numbers / examples from the graph.
Task Response (for Task 2)
- Addresses all parts of the task
- Presents a clear position / opinion
- Includes relevant and well supported main ideas
Comments: Again, even very good students frequently do badly in this area because they write an essay on the topic but do not address all parts of the task. It is very important to stay on topic AND fully answer the questions.
Coherence and Cohesion
- Logically organises information and ideas
- Uses a range of cohesive devices (linking words and phrases)
- Presents a clear topic within each paragraph
Comments: For Task 1 you should write 2 or 3 paragraphs – an introduction plus one or two main body paragraphs. For Task 2 you should write your answer in four paragraphs – a short introduction, two long main body paragraphs and a short conclusion.
- Uses a range of vocabulary with precision
- Uses some less common vocabulary and shows awareness of collocation
Comments: The criteria state ‘uses SOME less common vocabulary’. A mistake many students make is trying to use lots of big / clever / unusual words but getting them wrong. This makes the essay much more difficult to read, resulting in lower scores. The keyword is ‘some’. Most of your vocabulary should be simple and accurate – you only need to include a few less common words / phrases to reach Band 7.
Grammatical Range and Accuracy
- Uses a variety of structures
- Produces frequent error-free sentences
Like vocabulary, a mistake many students make is to write all complex sentences, but make lots of mistakes. This limits their score to 6 or even 5, depending on how many errors they make. The key is in the heading – ‘Range AND Accuracy’. To get Band 7 you need frequent error-free sentences. It does not matter if these sentences are simple, as long as they are correct. For Task 2, the sentences in the introduction, the topic sentence (first sentence) of paragraph 2 and 3, and the sentences in the conclusion should all be simple and accurate. You should use more complex sentences to provide supporting details in paragraphs 2 and 3.
To get Band 7 you must reach the above criteria in all four areas. If you get 7 in two or three areas and 6 in one or two then your score will be 6.5. Like this:
7777 = 7
7776 = 6.5
7766 = 6.5
7666 = 6
Review of Important Points
- Make sure you understand and fully complete the tasks (take some time to think about and plan your answer before you start writing)
- Organise your answer and link your ideas together
- Use a range of vocabulary – mainly simple but accurate words with a few less common words
- Remember, range AND accuracy – use lots of simple, accurate sentences plus a few more complex structures
IELTS Writing Criteria Resources
The following links to videos about the marking criteria will help you understand what answers of different levels look like. I recommend watching all of them (and any other videos on the Official IELTS channel).
And you can download the IELTS Writing Marking Criteria here.