What's Tested on the IELTS Writing Section?

The Writing module consists of two tasks that must be completed in a total of 60 minutes.You are given one answer sheet for both Task 1 and Task 2 answers. It does not matter where on the answer sheet you write your answers. You can start with Task 1 and do Task 2 afterwards, or start with Task 2 and do Task 1 afterwards.
You may write your essay in pen or pencil. Pencil is recommended as it is tidier to make amendments.
Task 1 carries one-third of the marks, and Task 2 carries two-thirds of the marks. As such, you should give yourself 20 minutes for Task 1 and 40 minutes for Task 2.
You must complete both tasks in full sentences and paragraphs – do not answer in a list of notes or bullet points. You should write in a formal, neutral tone, and only include information that is directly relevant to the task.
In Task 1 of the Academic IELTS, you will be presented with visual information in the form of a chart, graph, table or diagram. You must write at least 150 words based on the information, discussing any key features and trends. In Task 1 of the General English IELTS, you will be given a prompt to write a letter, including bullet points which you should address. You must write a letter of at least 150 words in a personal, semi-formal or formal style, which addresses all of the points in the prompt.
In Task 2, you are given an opinion or a statement, followed by a question. You must write at least 250 words in response, ensuring that you answer the question asked in the task. You may be asked to argue for or against an opinion or a statement, to explain a statement, to give your own view on two conflicting opinions, or to say how much you agree or disagree with a statement.

Writing Strategies

Be familiar with the types of questions that will be asked.
Know the vocabulary for description, comparison/contrast and opinion/argument.
Follow the Kaplan Method for Writing:
  • Step 1

    Read the prompt carefully. Make sure you understand what you are required to write about.

  • Step 2

    Brainstorm and note down your ideas. Do this on your question paper because no one will look at it after the test. At this stage your notes do not need to follow any logical order. Just write down anything that you think is relevant to the task.

  • Step 3

    Plan your essay. Select, prioritize and group your ideas according to the task.

  • Step 4

    Write your essay. Do this in pencil, so it is easier to make changes later.

  • Step 5

    Review and improve your essay. Check for grammar and spelling mistakes.

Stick to the suggested timing for the Kaplan Method for Writing:

  • Steps 1 to 3 should take no more than 2 minutes for Task 1 and 5 minutes for Task 2.
  • Step 4 should take no more than 15 minutes in Task 1 and 30 minutes in Task 2, provided you have done a productive job in the first 3 steps.
  • Step 5 should take no more than 3 minutes for Task 1 and 5 minutes for Task 2.

For Task 2, follow the appropriate structure for an essay:

  • Start with an introductory paragraph, with a general statement of the topic in your own words. If you copy the words in the question these will be deducted from your word count. Include a sentence which directly answers the question.
  • The main body of your essay should consist of at least two paragraphs which discuss both views. Each should have a topic sentence and supporting evidence. Use specific ideas or examples to support the views from the task.
  • In the last paragraph, you should summarize the main points discussed in the body of the essay and include a solution, prediction, result or recommendation. If appropriate you may include your point of view in the conclusion.
  • If the task asks you to present both sides of an argument, or to choose a side, you have two options.
    • First option: Introduce the sides of the argument in the first paragraph, explain one side in more detail in each of the body paragraphs, then choose a side in the conclusion.
    • Second option: Briefly introduce both sides in the introduction and choose a side at the end of that paragraph, explain your reasoning in the first body paragraph, explain the arguments for the other side in the second body paragraph, then resolve the argument in favor of your side in the conclusion.

Follow a compressed structure for Task 1:

  • Begin with a brief overview of the visual information and its purpose (introduction: 1–2 sentences).
  • The body of your response should focus on how the visual information works, or significant differences and similarities within/across the visual information. Do not try to describe every detail of the information. Focus on the most important points, or on key trends.
  • Conclude your description with a summarizing statement.

Scoring on the IELTS Writing Section

Two sets of criteria are used to assess your writing.

  • Task 1: You must either write an analysis, normally involving a comparison of information in a table, graph or diagram, a description of a process in a diagram, or a comparison of two maps. You need to report the information from the graph accurately and, where appropriate, identify and compare the key features.
  • Task 2: You are given a prompt in the form of a question or statement, and are required to formulate and express your point of view on this subject. You should support your ideas with relevant examples from your own experience.

For both of these Tasks, reading the question carefully and responding to that specific question are key factors in getting a good band score.
The Writing module is marked using the following criteria:

  • Task Achievement (in Task 1) and Task Response (in Task 2): This assesses how well you have answered the question given.
  • Coherence and Cohesion: This assesses how well you link ideas within a paragraph and how you organize the paragraph to create a clear progression of your ideas.
  • Lexical Resource: To obtain a high score for this criterion, you must demonstrate flexibility in your use of vocabulary. You need to be able to use words appropriately and spell them correctly. Credit is given to candidates who use more advanced and imaginative vocabulary.
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy: You should use a variety of simple and complex grammatical structures accurately. You will also be assessed on your ability to punctuate your writing appropriately.

The Writing Tasks are marked by certificated IELTS examiners who are regularly monitored to ensure that the accuracy of their marks meet the IELTS Standard. Each task is given a mark in each of the four criteria above. The value of Writing Task 1 is worth half that of Writing Task 2; so make sure you do not spend more than 20 minutes on task one, which leaves you with 40 minutes for task two. Your final band score will be a weighted average of the 8 scores given.

Need some help prepping for the IELTS? Check out Kaplan’s resources.