IELTS Writing: Structure, Tips, Strategies (Academic & General)

IELTS Writing section

IELTS Writing: Structure, Tips, Strategies

IELTS Writing section
IELTS Writing section

Writing is one of the IELTS sections which assesses your writing skills.

A lot of candidates consider this part of the test the most challenging one.

We asked people on Quora about their IELTS results and came to the conclusion that it is actually true as in most cases the band for Writing was lower than for other parts.

In this article, IELTS Game will look at this part of the exam in more details and you will learn how to deal with it in the easiest way.

General Information about IELTS Writing exam

First of all, it’s necessary to know that Writing is different in two modules of the test.

  • In the General Training IELTS you will need to write a letter in Task 1 and an essay in Task 2.
  • Academic IELTS requires to write a report on some graph or chart in Task 1 and an essay in Task 2.
  • The topics for essays in General and Academic modules can be different, but the strategy to write essays is the same.
  • You will have 60 minutes for completing both tasks in the Writing part.

As a rule, the second task of writing, which is essay, requires you to write more and proves to be more challenging than the first one, and it is worth more points.

That is why it’s advisable to spend 20 minutes on Task 1 and 40 minutes on Task 2.

General Training Writing

Writing in this module of the test includes two tasks: a letter and an essay. You will have 60 minutes to complete both tasks.

1. Task one General training

Task 1 is a letter concerning everyday situation that you are likely to encounter while living in an English-speaking environment.

For example, a letter to an accommodation officer, your employer or a friend. It is recommended to spend 20 minutes on it.

You may be asked to write an informal letter to your friend, a semi-formal letter, or an official letter. You will have to write at least 150 words.

Example of Task 1:

You have received a letter from your bank, asking you to acknowledge receipt of a new bank card. However, the card was missing from the envelope.

Write a letter to the bank’s head office. In your letter:

  • explain why you are writing;
  • express concern about the missing card;
  • ask them what they intend to do.

2. Task two General training

Task 2 is an essay on some common topic, such as family, society, TV, school, communication, etc.

You should write at least 250 words and spend about 40 minutes on this task. Look at the example of an essay question:

Some people believe that teaching children at home is best for a child’s development while others think that it is important for children to go to school.

Discuss the advantages of both methods and give your own opinion.

IELTS Academic Writing

1. Task 1 Academic

In Task 1 of the Academic module you will be asked to describe any of the 6 types of charts: a bar chart, a line graph, pie chart, a table, a diagram or a map.

However, in some cases you may have a combination of charts: such a table and a pie chart.

You don’t need to write about everything you see in a picture, you should sum up the information, talk about general trends and changes, and make comparisons.

The most important thing here is that you are not supposed to express your personal opinion, so you should avoid using such phrases as I think, In my opinion, etc.

2. Task 2 Academic

Task 2 is an essay on a given topic. Here,  the examiners assess your ability to express your opinion on a topic and support your ideas with arguments and examples and make conclusions.

Essay tasks in the Academic module are more challenging than in the General module.

Look at the example of an essay question:

It is generally believed that the Internet is an excellent means of communication but some people suggest that it may not be the best place to find information.

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

How is Writing assessed in IELTS test?

Writing is marked using a 9-band scale. The examiners use 4 assessment criteria to score your writing:

  • Task response / Task achievement;
  • Coherence and Cohesion;
  • Lexical Resource;
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy.

The first criterion (task response or task achievement) looks at the content of your answer to assess whether it is accurate and relevant to the topic in the question.

The next criterion (coherence and cohesion) describes how well you organize your ideas and how logically  they are sequenced.

Lexical resource assesses your ability to use a wide range of vocabulary.

According to the last criterion (grammatical range and accuracy), you should use a variety of sentence structures and grammar forms correctly.

You can look through the assessment criteria in more details on the official IELTS Website: Task 1 and Task 2.

How to deal with the Writing part?

On a test day you will receive a question paper and two answer sheets: the first for Task 1 and the second for Task 2.

You won’t have any draft paper but you will be able to write on the question paper.

It’s really important to track your writing  time. It’s recommended to spend 20 minutes on first task and 40 on the second, as the essay is worth more marks.

So make sure that you allocate reasonable time for both tasks.

You must answer the questions you are asked.  Here is what you are supposed to do in your writing part.

  • For Task 1, select and report the main features, compare, summarize the data, identify trends illustrated in the charts, but don’t give your personal opinion.
  • For Task 2, read the question carefully and then write your answer on the topic, making sure you support your answer.

You should save enough time to proofread and check what you have written.

Don’t forget, you have to write at least 150 words in Task 1 and 250 words in your essay.

If you write shorter, you will lose points. You can write more words than necessary, but don’t expect to gain extra points for it.

How to write an Essay?

The majority of IELTS candidates really struggle with the second task of the Writing paper.

They have a lot of questions concerning types of questions, essay structure and ideas they have to talk about in their essay.

So, let’s take a closer look at this part of the Writing test.

As I have already mentioned above, essay questions can be different in two modules of the test.

But types of essay questions and structure of the answer is the same in both Academic and General Training modules.

You should always start completing Task 2 with making a plan for your answer.

It’s really important to think of the ideas you will write about before writing.

Without a plan you may get confused with different ideas, and your point of view may not be clear to the examiner.

Another point to consider is the paragraph structure.

In your essay you must have 4 or 5 paragraphs: the first paragraph is an introduction, then two or three body paragraphs, and the last paragraph is a conclusion.

Always keep in mind this general structure when you practice writing.

That was the general structure for writing an essay.

But you need to remember that there are several types of essay questions in the IELTS, so the structure of your answer can be a little bit different depending on the question.

So before planning your essay, read the question properly to understand what type of essay you have.

Types of IELTS Writing Essay

In general, there are 5 common types of essays in the IELTS test:

  • Advantage/Disadvantage essay
  • Opinion essay
  • Problem and Solution essay (or Cause and Solution)
  • Discussion essay
  • Two-part Question (General Questions) essay

1. Advantage/disadvantage essay

In the advantage/disadvantage essay, you are going to have a task to discuss benefits and drawbacks of something or to compare whether advantages of some tendency outweigh disadvantages, or the other way round.

Some countries show their criminal trials on TV for people to watch.

Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?

2. Opinion essay

In the opinion essay you will be given some statement and you’ll have to give your opinion on it (What is your opinion?) or agree/disagree with this point of view (To what extent do you agree or disagree?).

Here it’s important to choose only one side of an argument and stick to it throughout your essay.

Or you may not agree with both sides and suggest your point of view, but it should be completely different from what you have in the task.

This approach is called balanced opinion.

Some businesses now say that no one can smoke cigarettes in any of their offices. Some governments have banned smoking in all public places. This is a good idea but it also takes away some of our freedom.

Do you agree or disagree? Give reasons.

3. Problem & Solution Essay

The next type of essay (problem and solution) will ask you to find problems and suggest the solution to the problems.

In some cases you may be asked to write about causes of some problem.

Nowadays, more and more older people who need employment compete with the younger people for the same jobs.

What problems does this cause? What are the possible solutions?

4. Discussion Essay

The discussion essay will give you two opposing ideas and you will have to discuss these two points of view.

Here you don’t have to stick to this or that idea if you’re not asked to.

Very often, there will be the following phrase in the task “… and give your opinion“, in this case you must give your opinion supporting one point of view.

Or you may express your personal opinion on this question (balanced opinion).

Some people believe that living in big cities is becoming more difficult. Others believe that it is getting easier.

Discuss both views and give your own opinion.

5. Two-part question Essay

In two-part question essay you will have to answer two questions.

The questions are usually of the same topic, and you will need to present a detailed answer to each question in a separate paragraph.

Cycling is more environmentally friendly than other forms of transport.

Why is it not popular in many places? How to increase its popularity?

How to improve your score for Writing?

To improve your score for writing, you will have to practice a lot and regularly.

While practicing make sure you comply with the following rules:

  • Find out all the necessary information about types of questions in Task 1 and essay types in Task 2;
  • Be aware of the assessment criteria, it will help you know what the examiners will be looking for;
  • Practice describing different types of charts, graphs and diagrams (or writing different types of letters) in Task 1 and write as many essays of different types as possible;
  • Track the time every time you practice writing: spend 20 minutes on Task 1 and 40 minutes on Task 2. However, you need to remember that it is highly recommended that you save some time for proofreading;
  • Every time you practice writing an essay or a diagram description / a letter, count your words and try to remember what space 150 and 250 words take on Writing Answer Sheet, you can download it from the Internet. You are not likely to have enough time to count words at the exam, so it would be good to be able to visually count the approximate number of words on the answer sheet.
  • Remember that at the exam you will have to write your answers with a pencil, so while practicing you’d better use a pencil all the time to get used to it.

Good luck!

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3 Comments on “IELTS Writing: Structure, Tips, Strategies (Academic & General)”

  1. Hi,
    I appreciate your work, help and tips.

    Can you please make a printable version (print option) for your articles in your website?

    Thank you so much


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