In this post we will cover essential IELTS writing tips to help you get Band 7 or higher in the IELTS Academic Writing Test. First, we will look at IELTS writing tips for the whole test, then some specific tips for Task 1 and finally specific tips for Task 2.
IELTS Writing Tips for Academic Writing Tasks 1 + 2
- Deal with the time limit. This is the most important factor to consider. You have to be able to complete both tasks easily within the time limit. This includes time to think, plan and make notes before you write, as well as write both essays over the word count and have a few minutes to read your work and check it for basic mistakes at the end. I strongly suggest that you keep practising until you can do this.
- Plan before you write. You can make notes on the question papers and circle / highlight key info in the graph/chart. Make a quick plan using the essay structures we cover inside IELTS Essentials and bullet points showing the main ideas you want to include.
- Write like you speak. Many students who can speak English well find writing difficult because they over-complicate it. Do not write exactly as you speak (don’t use slang or inappropriate idioms), but also don’t think it has to be super formal / super complex – the goal is to communicate clearly.
- Always follow the structure. This is the easiest way to make sure the examiner will give you high marks for at least 2 of the IELTS writing assessment criteria because if you follow the essay structure for Task 1 and Task 2 then you are likely to get a good score for Task Achievement / Task Response as well as Coherence and Cohesion.
- Mix simple and complex (but more simple, less complex). You need to show you can use some complex structures and examples of less common vocabulary – but only a few. You also need high levels of accuracy – so use mostly simple, clear sentences and vocabulary.
- Only use words when you are sure they are appropriate. You do need to include a good range of vocabulary, but including lots of words when you are not 100% sure of their meaning or use will increase the number of errors you make, which will lower your score for vocabulary.
- Read your work at the end to check for basic errors. You will make mistakes in the writing test and some of them – simple spelling and grammar errors – you will be able to correct yourself if you have time at the end. Make sure you do – correcting those errors could well result in a higher band score.
Tips for Task 1
- Study the graph/table/diagram carefully and think before you write. The easiest way to lower your band score is to miss key features in Task 1. Make sure this does not happen to you by highlighting the key features on the Task 1 image before you start writing.
- Don’t include your opinion in T1. This is a simple mistake which lots of students make. Your opinion is not relevant in Task 1 and including it will lower your score. All you have to do is describe the graph/chart/table/diagram.
- Include an introduction and an overview. The first sentence of your Task 1 essay should say what the graph shows and the second sentence should give the ‘big picture’ / overall trend. Imagine you have to describe the graph/diagram to someone who can’t see it so that they can understand what it is about and draw a basic outline of it. BUT you only have two sentences to describe it to them. What would you say?
- Support all the key features you describe with data/examples from the graph/chart. You MUST include information from the image in your description. For example, ‘The amount of plastic that was recycled clearly rose during the period shown on the graph. Specifically, only 1.5 tonnes of plastic was recycled in 1995. This amount more than doubled to 3.2 tonnes by 2005.’
Tips for Task 2
- Read the questions carefully and think before you write. The easiest way to lower your band score is to write off topic or not answer the question in Task 2. Make sure this does not happen to you by underlining the key words in the Task 2 questions before you start writing. Make sure you are on topic and answer the question.
- Answer the question directly in the introduction. This shows the examiner that you have understood the questions and that you know how to answer. It will make it easier for them to mark and more likely that you will get a high score.
- Write four paragraphs. A short introduction in which you state the topic of the essay and your opinion. Two main body paragraphs including your main ideas, supported with reasons/details/examples. A short conclusion in which you restate your opinion and summarise the contents of the essay.