IELTS Writing: word count

You probably know how many words you should write in each part of the IELTS Writing Test:

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

What happens if I go below the minimum number of words?

Before 2018, if you wrote less than the minimum number of words, your band score for Task Response or Task Achievement was reduced by a whole band score.

This no longer happens. However, you should still try to write more than the minimum number of words.

If you write less than the minimum number of words, your writing will almost certainly not be detailed enough for a high band score. If you want to get a Band 7+ for Task 2, you need to explain your ideas in detail, and you can’t do this properly in only 240 words. So an essay that is less than 250 words will lose marks in Task Response. In addition, your writing will have a smaller range of vocabulary and grammar, so you might also get a lower band score in these areas.

It’s the same for Task 1, if your letter (General Training) or report (Academic) has less than 150 words, it won’t be detailed enough for a high band score.

So make sure you write well above the word limit!

How do I write enough words?

Here are my main tips for doing this:

Do not aim for the minimum word count. Aim to write well above the minimum, around 170-180 words in Task 1 and 280-350 words in Task 2. If you aim high, you will reach the target more easily.

Task 2: before you write Task 2, plan your essay. This will give you the ideas and arguments to help you write detailed explanations and examples.

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

About the author

Charlie is a former IELTS Examiner with 25 years' teaching experience all over the world. His courses, for both English language learners and teachers, have been taken by over 100,000 students in over 160 countries around the world.