Our cookies

We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience with personalized content, relevant ads and enhanced functionalities. By allowing all you agree to the use of cookies as per the cookie policy and remember you can manage your preferences anytime.
The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

How to prepare for the IELTS writing test?

Getting the best result for the IELTS writing test means that you need to know as much about the test as possible, from how it is marked to what questions are asked. We’ve got you covered.

share image

The IELTS writing test is often considered the most challenging part of the IELTS exam by international students. It requires attention to detail and the translation of ideas and information into a written form with excellent grammar and punctuation. These tasks are done under tight time constraints and with specific requirements. Although the IELTS writing test may seem daunting, good preparation and knowing what to expect goes a long way to ensuring you can ace it.


How is the IELTS writing test structured?

The IELTS Academic writing test has two tasks. The test has an allocated time of one hour. The first task involves describing and summarising information from a diagram, graph, table, or chart. The description is written in a formal style and should be at least 150 words long. You should take about 20 minutes on the first task.


The second task involves understanding a problem, argument or point of view. You will need to write no fewer than 250 words in essay format discussing the information. The information should be structured to illustrate agreement or disagreement, identify a solution to a problem or the advantages or disadvantages in a topic area.


Writing tasks one and two are evaluated using four key criteria marked on the usual IELTS marking scale of zero to nine. Remember that writing task one is worth half the number of marks as task two, so plan and practice accordingly.


Find out more about how to prepare for the IELTS test.  


What types of questions can I expect in the IELTS writing test?

For the first task of the IELTS writing test you will have to answer a question involving one of the following types of charts or diagrams:


  • Bar chart
  • Table
  • Line graph
  • Pie chart
  • Map
  • Diagram of process
  • A combination of the above


You are required to produce a formal report on the information in the chart/graph/diagram. For example, you may have a bar chart showing the number of men and women studying in the UK for a particular period and if they are full-time or part-time. You must then be able to report on the main features, make comparisons and draw possible conclusions.


For the second IELTS writing test task, which involves essay writing, you will have a particular theme or topic. These themes can include, but are not limited to:


  • Society
  • Education
  • Technology
  • Sport
  • Work
  • Transport
  • Environment
  • Art
  • Food
  • Business
  • Communication


The task requires you to create an essay of a minimum of 250 words, with one of the following essay styles:


  • Opinion essay
  • Compare and contrast / Pros and cons essay
  • Solution essay
  • Direct question essay
  • Discussion essay


For example, you can be given an essay topic that poses a question like whether children brought up in poorer families are better equipped for challenges in life than those from richer backgrounds. You will have to write an essay either agreeing or disagreeing with the proposition.


Don’t forget to find out how to prepare for the IELTS reading test and the IELTS listening test.



How is the IELTS writing test marked?


Knowing what the IELTS examiners are looking for when they mark your test gives you a sharper focus for your preparation. For the IELTS writing test examiners mark using the following criteria:


  • Coherence and cohesion
    • Do you use paragraphs consistently and correctly?
    • Is there a central idea in each paragraph?
    • Do the paragraphs and ideas link to one another logically?
    • Have you used linking words and cohesive language?


  • Grammar
    • Have you demonstrated an understanding of grammar structure?
    • Have you used tenses correctly?
    • Is your punctuation correct?
    • Is your sentence structure coherent and mistake-free?


  • Vocabulary
    • Have you used a wide range of words?
    • Have you made use of unusual word choices or synonyms for simpler words?
    • Have you spelt everything correctly?
    • Have you used words in the correct context so that the meaning is clear?


  • Task achievement
    • Did you understand the task and complete the requirements in full?
    • Did you give a clear overview?
    • Were you accurate?
    • Did you present an opinion or argument for a clear position?
    • Did you highlight the most important elements?


For both tasks one and two, you are marked on a scale of zero to nine. Each task score is added together and then divided by four, to produce your final score for the task. Task two counts for double the marks of task one. So, if you achieve a 7.0 for task one and 8.0 for task two, your overall score for the IELTS writing test will be 8.0.


Be sure not to miss out on our take on IELTS vs TOEFL.


Practice and develop your writing technique


With an understanding of the IELTS writing test marking, structure, and questions you can start developing and practising your writing technique with the tasks in mind. While the skills you’ll need to complete both tasks are similar, there are differences in what is required.


For task one it’s a great idea to start working on some of the following key skills and tips:


  • Learn the art of paraphrasing and concisely summarising information. It can help boost your vocabulary score.
  • Practice writing an overview paragraph and include complex sentences that can help you with your grammar score.
  • Learn and practice using synonyms in the correct context.
  • Avoid trying to cover everything that you see. It’s about the most important facts.
  • Practice by writing four paragraphs. The first paragraph is your introduction, the second is an overview of the main features, the third should outline the first key feature, and the last paragraph should deal with another key feature and provide a conclusion. 
  • Practice using grammar deliberately to describe data features and don’t overcomplicate your descriptions. 



When taking on task two of the IELTS writing test, some approaches and tips to consider include:


  • Practice identifying the question types asked. For example, is it an opinion or discussion essay?
  • Give yourself time to plan your answer and design what you are going to write. Ten minutes is ideal.
  • Make sure you have an introduction, a few main point paragraphs and a conclusion.
  • Always aim to be relevant and demonstrate the skills that markers look for.
  • Learn vocabulary for common IELTS topic areas.
  • Be clear with your argument or opinion.
  • Analyse the question using keywords and words indicating instructions.
  • Practice your use of linking words and cohesive devices.
  • Use practice tests and model answers.


We know that we covered a lot here, but preparation is the key to success. If you’re looking for more information on English language testing you can check out our guide to understanding test scores, the language requirements for popular courses and pre-sessional English courses.

Must read

article Img

IELTS vs. TOEFL: Which should you take?

All international students who want to study in an English-speaking country need to show they have the required level of English. There are a few English language exams that are accepted by universities all over the world, we’re going to focus on two of these: IELTS and TOEFL.   Before we continue, let’s look at what these names mean. IELTS is the International English Language Testing System. TOEFL is the Test of English as a Foreign Language.

article Img

Applying to university: Essential documents you need

You’ll learn as an international student, that nothing can be done unless you can successfully prove who you are. In countries where immigration policy and security are of utmost importance, this can be easier said than done, with long procedures involving lots of paperwork and waiting.   Originals vs. Copies However, you can make things a lot easier for yourself if you keep to hand a file containing the following important documentation. This

article Img

Understanding English language test scores

If you’ve been researching and investigating studying abroad you’ll know by now that being able to demonstrate your English language proficiency is an essential part of the application process if you intend to study at an English medium university. Universities require you to submit scores from approved English language tests to show that you can meet the criteria needed for academic study.   One thing that can prove tricky is understanding how the