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The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

Top tips for IELTS Academic Writing

Do you want to improve your score on the IELTS Academic Writing test? We've got insights, advice and tips on how to achieve the best result possible.

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Sixty minutes, two parts and a minimum of 400 words to write. Many students find it difficult to write so many words so quickly. This article will give you top time-saving tips and advice on how to improve your score on the IELTS Academic Writing test. 


This article will not talk about the types of IELTS tests available, nor will it focus on preparing for IELTS reading, listeningwriting and speaking. There are plenty of articles on that already. My years in teaching, examining and IELTS test materials writing have given me insights that I’d like to share with you.


General advice


Read and listen to English every day. It will help to increase your vocabulary on a wide range of different topics. It will also expose you to different grammar structures and help you with spelling too. 


If you’re going to be taking the paper-based IELTS test you’ll also need to practise writing for an hour. Because we no longer write by hand for an extended period, writing for that amount of time can be difficult. Practise so that you can help make your hand muscles stronger. If you’re taking the computer-based test, you will need to practise typing at speed. 


Top tips about timing


There are two tasks in the Academic Writing test. In Task 1, you are shown a graph, table, chart or diagram. You must describe the information shown using a minimum of 150 words. In Task 2, you are given a task or question you need to answer. You must write a minimum of 250 words. You have 60 minutes to do this all in. 


Here are some top tips for how to use your time wisely.

  • Task 2 is worth double (2x) the score.
  • Task 1 – write for 15 minutes.
  • Task 2 – write for 35 minutes.
  • Take five to ten minutes at the end to read check your answers. (See useful checklist below).


Top tips for Task 1


Read the information in the graph, chart, table, or diagram carefully. Highlight the title, the information in the key, and the information on the graphs. Here’s a highlighted example:

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1


  • You must write an overview. You will get a lower score if you don’t include an overview. Your overview needs to include ALL the highlighted information from the question.
  • Do NOT copy the words from the question. Use paraphrase – this is key in both the writing test and the Academic Reading test. This means you need to write the information in your own words, using different vocabulary or expressions. For example: men and women = both genders; further education = higher education / university; three periods = three decades from 1970/71-1990/91.
  • Only describe what you see – do not add information/detail that is not there on the page.
  • Describe only the most important or interesting information – not every single detail. For example, from above: The number of men in part-time education over the three decades changed only slightly (between around 850 thousand and 1 million). Whereas the number of women in part-time education increased from just under 800 thousand to around 1,100,000 in the same period.
  • Make sure you include data from the chart to support your description. (See example above.)
  • Make sure that the data you give is correct
  • Link the sentences and the paragraphs
  • Use language of comparing and contrasting:


on the other hand





higher than

lower than

more expensive than

fewer than


  • Use language of increase and decrease:






go up

fall / go down



shoot up (really sharp rise)

plummet (really sharp fall)



  • give your opinion
  • give reasons
  • try to explain why


Top tips for Task 2


This task offers more marks than Task 1, so make sure you spend more time on this part.

  • Read the question carefully and highlight the key words.
  • Decide on your opinion on the subject.
  • Spend five minutes writing a plan. Only use key words and not full sentences.


Your essay may follow the following structure (but it depends and can be adapted):

Intro: Introduce the topic and tell the reader the order of the points you will make

Paragraph 1: Point one + reason(s), examples.

Paragraph 2: Point two + reason(s), examples.

Paragraph 3: Opposite point of few + reason(s), examples.

Conclusion: Summary of the points you have made above.


  • Each paragraph should have one clear focus.
  • Always give reasons and/or examples to support your ideas.
  • Make sure you link your ideas and paragraphs using linking words and expressions:





in addition

on the one hand


in general




on the whole




in brief


Useful checklist

Lastly, use the last five to ten minutes of your time to check through your answers.

Here’s a useful checklist to use for each essay you write.

Have you:

  • written in a formal academic style?
  • answered each part of the question?
  • included an overview for Task 1?
  • used a wide range of language?
  • used a wide range of grammar structures?
  • checked your spelling?
  • checked your punctuation?
  • used a wide range of linking expressions?


I hope you’ve found these tips useful. There are further top tips for the Academic Reading, Listening and Speaking tests. We've also got some information on how to book your IELTS test when you're ready. 

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