Understanding the IELTS Writing Test

On the day of your IELTS test you’ll take the Listening, Reading and Writing tests in one sitting. To be successful in any test, you need to know what to expect and to have practised all the different possible question types.

The IELTS Writing test has different questions for the Academic and General Training papers. Whichever test you are taking though, there will be two tasks and BOTH must be completed.

You’ll have 60 minutes to complete both tasks, that includes planning and checking your writing. The IELTS Writing test is designed to assess a wide range of writing skills, including how well you organise ideas, use vocabulary and grammar and whether you can write in an appropriate write in the correct formal or informal style.

Make sure you’re preparing for the correct test. To find out more about IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training, check out the About IELTS page on our website.

Let’s have a look at the different tasks.

Academic Writing Task 1

You’ll be asked to write at least 150 words describing some visual information (e.g. a diagram, chart, graph or table). You could be asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in your own words. You may be asked to describe and explain data, the stages of a process, how something works or an object or event. You should use an academic, semi-formal/neutral style, so imagine that you are writing for a teacher or boss. You are not expected to give opinions or reasons in your writing, simply report what you can see in the visual information.

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Top Tip!

Task 1 is shorter and carries fewer marks than Task 2, so you should spend about 20 minutes on this task.

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Have a go at this authentic test question.

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For more authentic test questions, sample answers and examiner comments, take a look at IELTS Academic Mini Writing Task 1

Read Describing the main features on charts in Academic IELTS Writing Task 1 – this is a great lesson all about describing the main features on charts. You can also listen to this podcast about describing statistics:https://open.spotify.com/embed/episode/7gpUyIyN67mX60FZdj0qFR

Academic Writing Task 2

Task 2 requires you to write at least 250 words about a point of view, an argument or a problem. You’ll be asked to do one of the following things: present a solution to a problem, present and justify an opinion, compare and contrast evidence and opinions or evaluate and challenge ideas, evidence or arguments. Don’t worry about the topics being too specialist or niche, the IELTS test is carefully designed so that the issues raised are of general interest, suitable for, and easily understood, by test takers entering undergraduate or postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration. Again, you should use an academic, semi-formal/ neutral style.

You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.

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This lesson will help you get a band score 7+ in IELTS Writing Task 2. You can also boost your IELTS Writing skills with our Practice Test Minis eBooks for Academic Writing Task 1 and Academic Writing Task 2

General Training Writing Task 1

In Task 1 you need to write a letter of at least 150 words to respond to a situation, ask for information or explain a situation. You need to show you know how to use letter-writing language, asking for and giving information, expressing needs, wants, likes and dislikes, opinions and complaints. You may need to write an informal, semi-formal or formal letter. You’ll be expected to know how to start and finish a letter in an appropriate way depending on the context.

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Task 1 is worth half as many marks as Task 2, so you should only spend 20 minutes on it.

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Here’s Ollie with some advice for you:

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Check out these mini lessons to learn more about each kind of letter.

  • How to write an informal letter for IELTS General Training Writing Task 1
  • How to write a semi-formal letter for IELTS General Training Writing Task 1
  • How to write a formal letter for IELTS General Training Writing Task 1
General Training Writing Task 2

Just like in IELTS Academic, in the General Training Task 2 you have to write at least 250 words about a point of view, an argument or a problem. You’ll be asked to present factual information, outline a problem and present a solution, present and justify an opinion, evaluate and challenge ideas, evidence or arguments. You also need to show you can write in an appropriate style, in paragraphs with a clear essay structure.

You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.

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Here is a lesson from one of our teachers, Pete Jones, showing you how to reach band score 7+ in Task 2.

Things to remember in the IELTS Writing test:

  • You can write your answers in pencil or pen.
  • Pay attention to the number of words required for each task. You will lose marks if you do not write at least 150 words for Task 1 and at least 250 words for Task 2.
  • You should spend approximately 20 minutes on Task 1 and approximately 40 minutes on Task 2. You will need to manage your own time, make sure you move on to Task 2 after 20 minutes if you start with Task 1.
  • You must write your answers in full; answers written in note form or in bullet points will lose marks.
  • Check your spelling, grammar and punctuation; you will lose marks for mistakes.
  • Avoid using bullet points.
  • You should write in an appropriate style.
  • You can make notes on the question paper but nothing you write on the question paper will be marked.

You can also boost your IELTS Writing skills with our Practice Test Minis eBooks for General Training Writing Task 1 and General Training Writing Task 2.

For general all-round prep, IELTS Booster General Training and IELTS Booster Academic eBooks are great for self-study. They include techniques for how to approach each task in the IELTS test and show you how to avoid common mistakes students make.

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