IELTS Writing Test Overview & Strategies

May 5, 2022 ...

Writing a sub-test is considered to be the most complex and difficult test of the IELTS exam. You will only be given 60 minutes in which you have to write 400 words by hand. This includes 150 words describing a diagram or graph, plus 250 words giving your opinion on an issue. To write 150 or 250 words in the allotted time is the biggest challenge for many IELTS candidates. And yes, there is a penalty in IELTS if you fail to write enough words which is usually a 0.5 reduction in your score.

In IELTS Academic, you have to describe a graph or diagram (Task 1) and write an essay (Task 2).
In IELTS General Training, you have to write a letter (Task 1) and write an essay (Task 2).

IELTS Writing tests are evaluated across 4 dimensions:

  1. Task Achievement – To what extent does the examinee address all parts of the task with a fully developed position, inclusive of fully extended and well-supported ideas?
  2. Coherence and Cohesion – Does the examinee logically organize the information and ideas? Is the entire essay cohesive?
  3. Lexical Resource – To what extent does the examinee use a wide range of vocabulary with accuracy? Do they demonstrate sophistication regarding the use of lexical items?
  4. Grammatical Range and Accuracy – Does the examinee use the range of grammatical structures accurately?


  1. There is a minimum 150-word limit for this task. Though the upper limit is not set, you should try to complete this task in less than 200 words.
  2. The diagram (showing a process) or map comparison questions are comparatively easier but usually require more words (200+ words) to explain the process or describe the changes in the map over time.
  3. The Graph, Pie Chart, and Bar Chart questions are comparatively difficult and also require fewer words (approx. 190-200 words)
  4. Try not to repeat the same vocabulary over and over again in task 1 as it is very brief and repetition of the same words easily catches the eye, as a result, they might reduce your marks.

TASK 2 (Essay writing)

  1. A minimum limit of 250 words for this task. Though the upper limit is not set, try to complete this task in less than 300 words.
  2. Task 2 consists of three basic types of questions;
    • Discussion type essay (compare and contrast – discuss both aspects of the topic)
    • ‘’Do you agree or disagree with the mentioned point/topic’’ type essay (choose a side and explain with examples why you agree or disagree with the given topic)
    • A statement/problem is given, you are asked to explain why the phenomena (mentioned in the statement occurs) or what the solution for the problem mentioned is, and then you are asked to give your own opinion regarding the phenomena/problem.
  3. When trying to write an argument essay, try to stand firm on one side. Either you agree with the problem in question or you disagree. Don’t take the middle ground.
  4. When you attempt to give examples, try to be as specific as possible. Do not use broad terms or examples like, “the city” or “a town”, try to use names like, “Dhaka city”.
  5. Try using real examples that you might have heard in the news lately or read on the internet, as they sound more authentic than made-up examples.
  6. Try to avoid irrelevant information while writing an essay.
  7. You should try to structure your essay in 4 paragraphs, an introductory paragraph, then two paragraphs each discussing the reasons for your stance against or in favor of the topic in question, and a concluding paragraph giving your opinion (in case of a discussion type question) or re-establishing your opinion (in case of an argument type response).
  8. In case you feel two reasons are insufficient, you may add a 5th paragraph as well, but try to limit yourself to no more than 320 words.
  9. The number of pages you write is not measured, so do not try to just fill pages. It will only be assessed based on task completion, structure, vocabulary, and grammar.

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12 Important IELTS Writing Test Strategies

1. Word limit:

You must write at least 150 words for task 1 and 250 words for task 2. The examiner will count your words and there will be a penalty for being under the word limit. So do remember to count your words. Also, writing excessive words will not earn you extra marks so try to keep your writing within 250-270 words.

2. Time Allocation:

You should spend 20 minutes for writing task 1 and 40 minutes for writing task 2.

3. Instructions:

Instructions given in Tasks 1 & 2 are very important. With all of the modules of the IELTS test, make sure you read all the instructions carefully. These will tell you where you need to write each answer and what you need to do.

4. Grammar:

Marks are deducted for every mistake you make, so you need to be very careful about your grammar while writing. Make sure to keep some time left for revising your script so you can look out for any mistakes.

5. Vocabulary:

You would be doing your IELTS score a favour by memorizing a variety of words that you can use in your writing. Without using a wide range of vocabulary, you will not be able to earn band 7 or higher. But don’t lose coherence in thought just to put in a few big or complex words. Remember, the right use of vocabulary will signal the examiner that you deserve a high score.

6. Paragraphing:

On all writing tasks, paragraphing is important. You will really limit your score if you don’t use paragraphs or don’t use them well. So, make sure when you are making preparations for the exam, you review and practice proper paragraphs. A few key ideas here are topic sentences, supporting ideas, and staying on topic.

7. Sentence Structure:

Avoid writing using only simple sentences and have a good mix of sentence structures. Use of complex, compound sentences. Usage of transition words enriches your essay and helps you attain higher scores.

  • A compound sentence has at least two independent clauses that have related ideas.
    Example: It was getting dark, and we weren’t there yet. Everyone was busy, so I went to the movie alone.
  • Complex sentences consist of at least one dependent clause and an independent clause. The complex sentence is an effective way to show that one idea takes precedence over another.
    Example: Though he was very rich, he was still unhappy.
  • A transition sentence connects two stages in your writing. It may refer to what has already been written, or it may explain what will come next. Transition words and phrases help make a piece of writing flow better and connect one idea to the next.

Example: Ayman didn’t have enough money to buy his father a watch because he wasn’t old enough to get a job. Nevertheless, he felt sad on Father’s Day.

The example above combines two sentences into one and helps a third sentence flow logically from the one before it. Adding these transition words(because, nevertheless) shows how three disjointed sentences are related to each other, which otherwise might not be obvious to the reader.

8. Linking Devices:

Using linking devices is a very important factor in earning a good score in IELTS writing. Using linking devices, you will need to connect and compare information in a coherent way. It’s not very difficult to learn to link though, so don’t worry. Here is a list of such words that you can use in your writing.*

9. Write legibly:

You will not be graded based on your handwriting but if the examiner cannot read clearly what you have written, it is not going to help you! So you need to write clearly.

10. Formal tone of writing:

Avoid the use of abbreviations (Examples: Lib. For Library/abbr. for abbreviation / approx. for approximate), all informal ways of writing (like using urban or meme culture language), and use of possessive pronouns (Examples: your, mine, they’re, our, etc)

11. Summarize:

Sometimes it can happen that you reach your conclusion and find that you still need to write at least another 50 or more words! There’s an easy solution to this. Summarizing your main points is a great way to conclude the essay. If your Task 1 answer seems to be at least 150 words already, don’t waste time summarizing. Just get straight on to Task 2.

12. Don’t copy the question:

Never copy the question! You may want to use the question and the information provided in the introduction of both tasks in order to introduce the topic, but make sure you put it in your own words.

Lastly, try to be calm and relaxed before the test! You should practice the writing part to get a good hold of it. But attempting to do one or two practice tests just a day before the main exam won’t help you increase your score or give you many ideas about the sub-test. As a matter of fact, it will make you feel stressed and less confident. So practice more and more & try your best to apply these strategies. Best of luck!


Check out:

  1. IELTS Course by Munzereen Shahid
  2. ঘরে বসে Spoken English
  3. English Grammar Crash Course
  4. সবার জন্য Vocabulary
  5. Study Smart



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