The writing component of the IELTS exam is designed to assess how you “write a response appropriately, organise ideas and use a range of vocabulary and grammar accurately.”
It comprises two tasks and candidates have 60 minutes to answer them.
For Task 1, candidates must provide at least a 150 word written response to describe, summarise or explain some visual information such as graphs, tables, charts or diagrams, using their own words.
On the other hand, Task 2 requires candidates to “respond to a point of view or argument or problem” through a “discursive consideration of the relevant issues”. Answers should be relevant and not in general, eg. computer sales vs. computers in general.
Like the other three components, you will get a band score for the writing test as well, together with an overview band score.
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Candidates usually dread the writing test, an understandable feeling because writing isn’t something you can self-study and any progress can only be marked by a teacher.
For those who aren’t confident with their English abilities, it can cause anxiety as this test demands precision in terms of grammar, vocabulary used and cohesiveness between sentences. Even those who call English their native language and are trained in it have failed the test!
But with enough preparation and practice, anyone can pass this test. Below are some tips on what you can do to prepare:
1. Be mindful of your word count
Task 1 requires candidates to provide at least a 150 word written response, while Task 2 requires at least a 250 word written response. You must write above the word count or you will lose marks. There’s a risk of losing marks even if you are just a few words below the word count. There is no upper limit on how many words you can write.
IELTS Liz recommends: You should aim to write between 160 to 180 for Task 1, and 260 to 280 for Task 2. This will ensure that you do not lose marks for writing too little while also ensuring you aren’t adding too much additional information. Pro tip: Aim for quality and not quantity.
Learn to count the words by lines instead of individual words so you save time during the real test.
2. Manage your time wisely
Write your answer for Task 1 within 20 minutes and no more. Task 2 contributes double the marks so it’s crucial to ensure you have at least 40 minutes left for this.
Both tasks require planning and checking, so it would be wise to factor in four minutes or less before and after answering each task. Do not enter the exam hall without having practiced time management beforehand. Remember, practice is the key to good time management.
3. Understand the requirements of both tasks
The IELTS examiners use detailed performance descriptors when assessing your answers for both tasks:
- Task achievement (25 percent);
- Coherent and cohesion (25 percent);
- Vocabulary (25 percent); and
- Grammatical range and accuracy (25 percent)
Your final score will be the average of the four criterion above.
4. Practice, practice, practice
Practice makes perfect. There are tonnes of resources online for both tasks that candidates should make good use of. Although model answers are aplenty, your practice should not include memorising them as examiners can spot such answers and you will risk having your entire test rendered invalid.
Getting your spelling, grammar and punctuation right cannot be stressed enough. These aren’t things you can cram the night before so you best sharpen your skills for each as much as possible before taking the test. The more mistakes you make, the lower your score will be so best to ensure you make as little as possible.
Knowing the proper answer structures for each task is important, too. This is particularly true for Task 1 as these sentence structures can, to some extent, be easily learned and adapted to suit the several types of Task 1.