Task Response: What Is It, And How To Get Band 7+

IELTS-Task-Response

When IELTS Examiners assess your writing, they assess you in four different areas, or criteria. One of these is called Task Response. In this lesson you will learn what Task Response is, and how to get a high band score for Task Response.

Task Response is about how well your essay answers the essay question.

To help them assess your essay for Task Response, the IELTS Examiner will be asking themselves 3 questions:

  1. how well have you addressed the task?
  2. how clear is your position?
  3. how well have you developed your ideas?

Let’s look at each of these:

1. How Well Have You Addressed The Task?

The IELTS Examiner will look to see how well you have answered the question and if you have discussed the exact topic presented in the topic statement.

Let’s look at this question:

Some people spend most of their lives living close to where they were born.

What might be the reasons for this?

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

(Cambridge IELTS 16 General Training Test 3)

There are 2 questions in this task. To get a high band score you need to answer both questions. You need to discuss some reasons for this situation. And you must discuss both the advantages and disadvantages.

You must also discuss the exact topic of the task. In the above task, the topic is people who live most of their lives near to the town of their birth. To get a high band score you need to write about this exact topic. If you write about people who live most of their lives in the country where they were born, it would be too general and it may limit your band score for Task Response.

This is why you need to read the question carefully, not quickly.

2. How Clear Is Your Position?

The Examiner will also assess how clear your position is. Your position is your view, it’s what you think. In the IELTS Writing Test, your position is, in effect, your answer to the essay question.

So in this task,

Some people spend most of their lives living close to where they were born.

What might be the reasons for this?

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

(Cambridge IELTS 16 General Training Test 3)

your position is your answer to these two questions: ‘What might be the reasons for this?’ and ‘What are the advantages and disadvantages?’

In this task:

Many manufactured food and drink products contain high levels of sugar, which causes many health problems. Sugary products should be made more expensive to encourage people to consume less sugar.

Do you agree or disagree?

(Cambridge IELTS 16 Academic Test 3)

Your position is your answer to the question, ‘do you agree or disagree?’ In other words, your position is your opinion.

Tasks which ask you to discuss both views and give your own opinion are a little different.

Some people say that advertising is extremely successful at persuading us to buy things. Other people think that advertising is so common that we no longer pay attention to it.

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

(Cambridge IELTS 15 Academic Test 3)

In a ‘discuss both views’ task, there is no direct question, just an instruction to ‘discuss’ the 2 views and ‘give’ your opinion. Your position is your discussion of the topic. So you need to present the reasons for each view, followed by your own view and the reasons for it.

You can read more in this lesson about how to answer a discuss both views essay question.

3. How Well Have You Developed Your Ideas?

The third thing the IELTS Examiner looks for is how well you have developed your ideas.

An idea can be:

  • a reason for your view
  • an advantage
  • a problem
  • a reason for one of the views in a ‘discuss both views’ essay

To get a high band score, you need to develop these ideas, which essentially means explaining your ideas in more detail, and illustrating your ideas with a specific example. This helps the IELTS Examiner to understand your thinking.

Read more in this lesson about developing your ideas when you plan your IELTS essay.

If you find it difficult to think about your main ideas, go to this lesson about Generating Ideas for your IELTS Essays

Task Response: How to get Band 7

As you have just seen, your band score for Task Response depends on how well you address the task, how clear your position is, and how well you have developed your ideas.

To get a band 7 for Task Response, how well do you need to do these 3 things?

The IELTS Writing Task 2 Band Descriptors say that a Band 7 essay:

  • addresses all parts of the task
  • presents a clear position throughout the response
  • presents, extends and supports main ideas

What do these mean?

Addresses all parts of the task

This means you need to answer all the questions. You should also address the exact topic of the task, so if the question is about ‘travelling in the future’, don’t discuss travelling in the present day.

It’s also important to cover all parts of the question in roughly equal depth, so if you are asked to ‘discuss both views’, don’t discuss one view in depth and the second view only briefly.

Presents a clear position throughout the response

This means your view needs to be clear, and to be clear all the way through the essay. As I explained above, your position in an IELTS essay is really your answer(s) to the question.

So in an opinion essay, your opinion needs to be clear throughout the essay.

In an ‘advantages / disadvantages‘ and ‘problems / solutions‘ essay, it’s useful to see position as “answer“. For example, your answer to the question ‘what are the advantages and disadvantages’ needs to be clear throughout the essay.

In a ‘discuss both views and give your own opinion‘ essay, your discussion needs to be clear throughout. You need to be clearly discussing one view, or the second view, or giving your own opinion. This means presenting the reasons for each view, but it’s also a good idea to say what you think about each view during your discussion.

Presents, extends and supports main ideas

This means that you not only need to present your main ideas (e.g. reasons for your view, reasons for the 2 views, advantages, solutions), you also need to explain and illustrate them; you need to get into specific details.

And you need to explain and illustrate ALL of your main ideas, not just some of them. In fact, this is one of the main reasons test takers get stuck at Band 6 – they do not explain and illustrate ALL of their main ideas.

The Three Most Common Mistakes in Task Response

In my time as an IELTS Examiner, I found that test takers made the same mistakes when they wrote their essays. These three mistakes will STOP you getting Band 7.

They don’t develop ALL of their ideas

To get Band 7, you need to develop ALL of your main ideas. In other words, you need to explain all of your ideas and, where it’s useful, to illustrate your ideas with examples.

If you just present an idea briefly, and then start writing about another idea, your band score for Task Response will be limited to Band 6. You must develop ALL of your ideas to get Band 7.

Writing supporting details that are not relevant to the essay question

Your supporting details must also be relevant to your main ideas. In other words, your explanations and examples must directly relate to the main idea (e.g. an advantage, or a reason for your view, or the cause of a problem).

If your explanations and examples don’t support your main idea, your band score for Task Response will be limited to Band 5. This sometimes happens when a student uses a “fake research study” to support one of their main ideas – often these fake studies are irrelevant to their main idea.

Here’s a simple argument: “Cats make the best pet. A research study by Harvard University in 2002 found that cats slept for an average of 14 hours a day.” This fake study doesn’t actually support the claim that cats make the best pet, so it’s irrelevant.

Addressing parts of the question more fully than others

You should also address each part of the question in roughly equal depth. So if you are asked to write about the advantages AND disadvantages of a situation, you need to cover both of these roughly equally.

If you wrote in detail about the advantages, and wrote very briefly about the disadvantages, your band score for Task Response would be

Task Response: Summary

So if you are aiming for a high band score, make sure you understand what you need to do for Task Response.

You need to:

  • answer all the questions or instructions in the task
  • address the specific topic of the task
  • answer all parts of the task in roughly equal depth
  • your opinion / answers should be clear throughout your essay
  • explain and illustrate all of your main ideas

Read my IELTS Model Essays to see how I manage to do all these things.

Posted in 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.

Leave a Reply