IELTS Writing: how many words should I write?

One of the most common questions I am asked by my students is how many words should they write in the IELTS writing test. Here is the answer:

  • In Task 1, you should write a minimum of 150 words.
  • In Task 2, you should write a minimum of 250 words.

IELTS Writing how many wordsWhat happens if I go below the minimum number of words?

But a more common questions is this: what happens if I go below the word count? The answer is not nice:

If you write fewer than 250 words in Task 2, you can lose a whole band score for task response – even if you write 249 words! In other words, if your Task Response was 7, your score will be reduced to 6. If you are a long way below the word count, you could even lose 2 whole band scores. The same applies to Task 1.

If your essay is short, you could also lose marks in the other assessment criteria. A short essay will have a smaller range of vocabulary and grammar, so you could also lose a band score in these areas too.

So make sure you write well above the word limit!

How do I make sure I write enough words?

Here are my main tips for doing this:

  1. Before you write, plan your essay and come up with lots of ideas. If you have lots of things to write, you should easily reach the minimum word count.
  2. Do not aim to ‘just reach’ the minimum word count. Instead, aim to write well over the minimum, around 170 words in Task 1 and 280 words in Task 2. If you aim high, you will reach the target more easily.

How are words counted?

  • Contracted words (e.g. I’m, they’d, she’ll) = 1 word. However, because Task 2 is a formal piece of writing, try to write without contractions.
  • Hyphenated words (e.g. point-of-view, up-to-date) = one word
  • Articles (e.g. the, a, an) are counted
  • Punctuation is not counted

Don’t: to add extra words, some students copy whole sentences from the question and repeat themselves. Do not do this! You will be marked down for these things.

To get more information and tips, read my article on the IELTS Writing Test.

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