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5 Tips For Improving Your Writing Essays (IELTS General Training)

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by Hiral Joshi

by Hiral Joshi

IELTS Expert


The IELTS General Trainings test is for those who want to immigrate, work and settle in English-speaking countries including Canada, New Zealand, Australia, or the UK. One section of the General Training test – IELTS Writing – can be overwhelming for many candidates as it involves two essay-style pieces of writing; both Task 1 and Task 2 need preparation, practice, and persistence. But don’t worry! This blog has 5 excellent IELTS Writing tips to help you achieve a high score.

The IELTS Writing test can seem overwhelming to some candidates as it involves writing two essays.

First, what is IELTS Writing?

The Writing section is divided into two tasks, totaling 60 minutes.

  • Task 1 is letter writing. Spend 20 minutes on Task 1, and write at least 150 words. 
  • Task 2 is essay writing. Spend 40 minutes on Task 2, and write at least 250 words.  

Writing a little more than the minimum word count is sensible. You will lose marks if you write less than 150 words in Task 1 and 250 words in Task 2.

How are these tasks marked?

Writing tasks in IELTS is marked in 4 criteria.

  1. Task Response: Addressing and answering all parts of the task.
  2. Coherence and Cohesion: Managing a good flow and following the structure throughout the writing task.
  3. Lexical Resource (Vocabulary): Naturally using a wide range of vocabulary.
  4. Grammatical Range & Accuracy: Showing a wide range of grammatical structures with flexibility and accuracy. 
For a more detailed explanation and a better understanding of each, read the IELTS Writing Band Descriptors:
Is the Academic test the same?

Short answer: no.

The IELTS Academic test focuses more on academic or semi-formal writing styles, and often includes more graphs, tables, and similar sources that you might find in an education or business setting. Academic Task 1 involves writing a report describing or explaining a visual (such as a graph, diagram, table, etc.), whereas General Training Task 1 is letter writing. 

There are only minor differences between Task 2 for both tests (for example, the Academic test may involve more academic topics or more difficult task questions.) 

What IS the same, however, are the above-mentioned 4 marking criteria. 

Find out more about the differences between IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.

Task 1 of the General Training test involves writing a formal, semi-formal or informal letter.

Tip 1: Understand the task requirements

Task 1 Requirements

There are 3 kinds of letters you might be asked to write in the General Training test, Writing Task 1: (1) Formal, (1) Semi-formal, and (3) Informal 

  • Formal letters are written to people we don’t know. For example, if we are writing a letter of complaint, applying for a new job, or resigning from our existing job, it will always be formal. Also, if we do not know the name of the person we are writing to, then it will be formal. 
  • Semi-formal letters are written to someone that you know by name and with whom you have a professional or business relationship with, for instance; your teacher, accountant, the landlord. 
  • Informal letters are written to someone you know, for example, a friend or family member. They’re written in a style that is more friendly and familiar in comparison to a formal letter. 

It is important to remember that each letter has a different tone and style which is vital for high scores. 

Task 1 Example

You should spend 20 minutes on this task and write at least 150 words.

You recently spent a night in a hotel and had to put up with a great deal of noise very early in the morning because of a faulty central heating system. The manager promised to contact you regarding compensation but you still haven’t heard from him. 

Write a letter to the hotel. In the letter 

  • describe the problem at the hotel 
  • explain what the manager had said at the time 
  • say what you want the manager to do. 
Task 2 Requirements

Writing Task 2 is a bit complex to understand but we are here to help you! 

There are 5 main question types in IELTS Writing Task 2:

  1. Agree/disagree 
  2. Advantages/disadvantages 
  3. Two-part question 
  4. Cause/solution 
  5. Discuss both sides and give your opinion 

Each of these tasks has a different format and expectations for high-scoring answers.

Task 2 Example

You should spend 40 minutes on this task and write at least 250 words.

Many young people choose to take a year out between finishing school and starting university to gain work experience or to travel. The experience of non-academic life offers benefits to the individual when they return to education. 

To what extent do you agree or disagree

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your knowledge or experience. 

This is an example of an “agree or disagree” type question. It is important to address all parts of the question to score well. Expressing your opinion is also extremely essential; don’t forget to state and explain whether you agree or disagree, and why!

It's a good idea to read and understand the band descriptors (marking criteria) to know what makes a high-scoring answer.

Tip 2: Understand what makes a good answer (Band 7+)

IELTS examiners use the band descriptors to look for specific criteria in your answers. If you adhere to them, you’ll achieve top marks. So, let’s dive deeper into these marking criteria and find out what your examiner is looking for. 

Below, I’ve explained a few of the key band descriptors for a Band 7.

Task Achievement

“The candidate…”

  • “…covers the requirements of the task.”  Addressing all parts of the task is highly important. Some candidates are excellent in grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation but they can score a low band if they do not address all parts of the task. I recommend writing all parts in equal detail to achieve a higher band. 
  • “…presents a clear purpose, with the tone consistent and appropriate.” – In Writing Task 1, it is of utmost importance to find out the purpose of writing, set the tone, and stick to it throughout the task. 
  • “…clearly presents and highlights key features/bullet points.” – Task 1 usually includes 3 bullet points which you must mention, then extend. In Task 2, present ideas in an elaborate manner by explaining your point and supporting it with examples.
Coherence and Cohesion

“The candidate…”

  • “…logically organizes information and ideas.”  This means that the answer follows a logical structure and progresses naturally from one paragraph to the next. 
  • “…uses a range of cohesive devices appropriately.” – Your answer should use various connectors (although, therefore, finally…) to show the flow of clear ideas in your writing. 
Lexical Resource

“The candidate…”

  • “…uses a sufficient range of vocabulary.” – Try not to repeat words again and again and use synonyms to showcase your vocabulary skills. 
  • “…may produce occasional errors in word choice, spelling and/or word formation.” – If you misspell a word or write the wrong one just a few times, you don’t have to panic. IELTS examiners understand that even a native speaker can make a few casual errors. However, these errors should be kept to a minimum in both tasks, to achieve a band 7 or above.
Grammatical Range & Accuracy

“The candidate…”

  • “…uses a variety of complex structures.” – Writing simple grammatical sentences is not wrong but they are not enough for a band 7 answer. More complex, passive, and compound sentences are encouraged in an IELTS Writing task.
Don't forget to spend 2-3 minutes planning the structure and content of your answer.

Tip 3: Plan. Plan. Plan!

Before starting each task, use 2-3 minutes to:

  • read the question thoroughly,
  • understand the type of answer you’ll need to give,
  • decide how many paragraphs you should write
  • and decide what the key content will be. 

Planning your answers can save a lot of time when writing them out, and it also saves you from making strategic mistakes which lead to a lower score.

Remember to check your answers for errors and make sure you have answered all parts of the task.

Tip 4: Know that writing isn't enough

As much as planning and writing your answer is important, don’t skip the part where you review it. Spend at least 5 minutes carefully reading your answers to find errors – and correct them. If you wrote (or typed) quickly, you may have a few mistakes that will significantly affect your score if they go unnoticed.

Look for grammatical errors, punctuation, repetition of words, task achievement, and check the tone of the letter. Don’t forget that in a conclusion, you never introduce new ideas. Furthermore, remember to give your opinion if asked.

Tip 5: Practice under mock conditions

To achieve your goal score, I recommend you do at least one sample test for IELTS Writing. Find a quiet area where you can sit for 60 minutes, uninterrupted, and take note of the timings for each task (20 minutes for Task 1; 40 minutes for Task 2). Practice tests are designed to give you a real exam situation. Practicing them will help you boost your confidence and enhance your time management skills. I strongly suggest giving yourself enough practice before your big day.  

Indeed, IELTS writing is not a piece of cake and various details need to be addressed to get a high score. That is why IELTS with ILAC is your real-time companion. Put your stress far away by speaking with our IELTS expert today and make your IELTS dream come true. ILAC loves to help you always! 

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