IELTS Writing: The Starter Guide

The IELTS Writing test is the part of the IELTS exam which most students find the hardest. In fact, in every country in the world, students get a lower band score in the writing test than they do in speaking, listening or reading.

In this section we include information, advice and preparation tips for the IELTS Writing test. Read this page and click on the links for more information.

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Like the reading test, the writing test has two different types: the Academic IELTS and the General Training IELTS.

The Academic IELTS is for people who are going to study overseas in an English-speaking country. The General Training IELTS is for people who want to work or live abroad.

You do the writing test after the listening and reading parts of the test.

IELTS Academic Test

The academic writing test consists of tasks. It takes 60 minutes.

IELTS Writing Task 1

In writing task 1 you have to write a short descriptive report about some visual information or a table of data. The visual information is most commonly presented as a bar chart, a line graph or a pie chart. However, it could also be a process diagram or a map.

In task 1 you should write at least 150 words. You should spend about 20 minutes on task 1.

How is Task 1 assessed?

You are assessed on the following:

  • how well you achieve the task set out in the question (Task Achievement)
  • how well you organise your essay and link your ideas together (Coherence and Cohesion)
  • the range, accuracy and appropriateness of the vocabulary you use (Lexical Resource)
  • the range, accuracy and appropriateness of the grammar you use (Grammatical Range and Accuracy)

Read more about cohesion in IELTS writing.

For more information, read The Essential Guide to IELTS Writing Task 1.

IELTS Writing Task 2

In writing task 2 you have to write an academic-style essay on an everyday topic, such as the environment, health or education.

In Task 2 you should write at least 250 words. You should spend about 40 minutes on Task 2.

How is Task 2 assessed?

You are assessed on the following:

  • how well you respond to the question (Task Response)
  • how well you organise your essay and how well you link the ideas together (Coherence and Cohesion)
  • the range, accuracy and appropriateness of the vocabulary you use (Lexical Resource)
  • the range, accuracy and appropriateness of the grammar you use (Grammatical Range and Accuracy)

Read more about cohesion in IELTS writing.

For more information, read The Essential Guide to IELTS Writing Task 2.

IELTS General Training Test

IELTS Writing Task 1

In writing task 1 of the General Training test, you have to write a letter in response to a certain situation. The most common examples of Task 1 letters are to request information or to make a complaint.

In task 1 you must write at least 150 words. You should spend about 20 minutes on task 1.

The General Training letters are assessed in exactly the same way as the Academic IELTS reports.

IELTS Writing Task 2

Writing Task 2 in the General Training IELTS is almost the same as for the Academic IELTS. You have to write an academic-style essay on an everyday topic, but the topics are more familiar and everyday that those in the Academic IELTS test.

In Task 2 you must write at least 250 words. You should spend about 40 minutes on Task 2.

The General Training essays are assessed in exactly the same way as the Academic IELTS essays.

IELTS Writing: Points To Remember

What happens if I do not write the minimum number of words?

IELTS Examiners used to lower your band score for Task Response / Task Achievement by a whole band if you did not meet the minimum number of words. They no longer do this.

However, you should still aim to reach the minimum number of words. If you write less than 150 words in Task 1 and less than 250 words in Task 2, it is likely that your report / letter / essay will lack the detail and range of language needed to get a high band score.

Read more about how many words you should write in IELTS Writing, and what happens if you don’t.

IELTS Writing Task 2 is worth more than Task 1

When the IELTS examiner assesses your essay, they will give you a band score for Writing Task 1 and a separate band score for Writing Task 2.

It is important to understand that Task 2 is worth double that of Task 1. This is why you should spend more time on Task 2 than Task 1.

Read more about how IELTS Writing band scores are calculated.

Posted in IELTS Writing Task 1, IELTS Writing Task 2.

Charles Cornelius is a PGCE and CELTA-qualified teacher and former IELTS Examiner with 25 years' teaching experience all over the world. He has worked for some of the major English language schools including International House, IDP and The British Council. He holds a MA in Education from the University of Bath. His courses, for both English language learners and teachers, have been taken by over 70,000 students in over 160 countries around the world.