How to prepare for the IELTS written test?

IELTS written test

The IELTS Writing test is often considered the most challenging part of the IELTS exam by international students. Requires attention to detail and the translation of ideas and information into written form with excellent grammar and punctuation. These tasks are performed under strict time constraints and with specific requirements. While the IELTS writing test can seem overwhelming, good preparation and knowing what to expect goes a long way in ensuring that you stand out.

How is the IELTS writing test structured?

The IELTS Academic Writing test has two tasks and an allotted time of one hour. The first task is to describe and summarize information from a diagram, graph, chart, or table. The description is written in a formal style and must be at least 150 words. You should spend about 20 minutes on the first task.

The second task involves understanding a problem, argument, or point of view. You should write no less than 250 words in essay format discussing the information. The information should be structured to illustrate agreement or disagreement, identify a solution to a problem, or the advantages or disadvantages in a subject area.

Writing tasks one and two are assessed using four key criteria marked on the usual IELTS grading scale from zero to nine. Remember that writing task one is worth half the number of points as task two, so plan and practice accordingly.

What types of questions can I expect on the IELTS Writing test?

For the first task of the IELTS writing test, you will need to answer a question that involves one of the following types of graphs or diagrams:

  • Bar graphic
  • Mesa
  • line chart
  • pie chart
  • Map
  • process diagram
  • A combination of the above

You must produce a formal report on the information in the chart / graph / diagram. For example, you can have a bar chart showing the number of men and women studying in the UK during a particular period and whether they are full time or part time. You should then be able to report on the main features, make comparisons and draw possible conclusions.

For the second IELTS writing test, which involves essay writing, you will have a particular theme or topic. These topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Sociedad
  • Education
  • Technology
  • deporte
  • Works
  • Transport
  • Environment
  • until
  • food
  • Business
  • Communication

The assignment requires you to create an essay of a minimum of 250 words, using one of the following essay styles:

  • opinion essay
  • Compare and Contrast / Pros and Cons Essay
  • solution test
  • Direct Question Essay
  • discussion essay

For example, you may be given an essay topic that asks a question such as whether children raised in poorer families are better equipped for life’s challenges than those from richer backgrounds. You will have to write an essay agreeing or disagreeing with the proposal.

How is the IELTS writing test scored?

Knowing what IELTS examiners look for when they score your test gives you a more focused approach to your preparation. For the IELTS Writing test, examiners score using the following criteria:

  • Coherence and cohesion
    • Do you use paragraphs consistently and correctly?
    • Is there a central idea in each paragraph?
    • Do the paragraphs and ideas link together logically?
    • Has it used link words and coherent language?
  • Grammar
    • Have you demonstrated an understanding of grammatical structure?
    • Have you used the verb tenses correctly?
    • Is your score correct?
    • Is your sentence structure consistent and error-free?
  • Vocabulary
    • Have you used a wide range of words?
    • Have you used unusual word choices or synonyms for simpler words?
    • Have you typed everything correctly?
    • Have you used words in the correct context so that the meaning is clear?
  • The achievement of tasks
    • Did you understand the task and complete the requirements in full?
    • Did you give a clear description?
    • Was it successful?
    • Did you present an opinion or an argument for a clear position?
    • Did you highlight the most important elements?

For both tasks one and two, you are scored on a scale of zero to nine. Each task score is added together and then divided by four, to produce your final score for the task. Assignment two counts for double the grades of assignment one. So if you achieve a 7.0 for task one and 8.0 for task two, your overall score for the IELTS writing test will be 8.0.

Practice and develop your writing technique

With an understanding of the IELTS writing test scores, structure and questions, you can begin to develop and practice your writing technique with the tasks in mind. While the skills you’ll need to complete both tasks are similar, there are differences in what’s required.

For the first task, it’s a great idea to start working on some of the following key skills and tips:

  • Learn the art of concisely paraphrasing and summarizing information. It can help improve your vocabulary score.
  • Practice writing an overview paragraph and include complex sentences that can help you with your grammar score.
  • Learn and practice using synonyms in the correct context.
  • Avoid trying to cover everything you see. These are the most important facts.
  • Practice writing four paragraphs. The first paragraph is your introduction, the second is an overview of the main features, the third should describe the first key feature, and the last paragraph should cover another key feature and provide a conclusion. 
  • Practice using grammar deliberately to describe data features and don’t overcomplicate your descriptions. 

When taking task two of the IELTS writing test, some approaches and tips to consider include:

  • Practice identifying the types of questions asked. For example, is it an opinion or a discussion essay?
  • Give yourself time to plan your response and design what you are going to write. Ten minutes is ideal.
  • Make sure you have an introduction, a few main point paragraphs, and a conclusion.
  • Always try to be relevant and demonstrate the skills markers are looking for.
  • Learn vocabulary for common IELTS subject areas.
  • Be clear with your argument or opinion.
  • Analyze the question using key words and words that indicate instructions.
  • Practice the use of linking words and cohesion devices.
  • Use practice tests and model answers.