IELTS Writing FAQs

IELTS Writing FAQ Section aims to answer all the questions you might have regarding the IELTS Writing test. Some of the FAQs are designed to give you as much information as possible to eliminate any doubt you might have.
Read carefully the questions and answers listed here as they will better prepare you for your writing test. Some answers would even guide you to prepare well for this test. 

IELTS Writing Test Information

  1. How many parts to the writing test are there? 
    There are two parts. Writing task 1 is a report for the academic test and a letter for the General Training test. Writing task 2 is an essay for both tests.
  2. How long is the IELTS writing test? 
    It takes a total of 1 hour. You should spend 20 minutes on writing task 1 and 40 minutes on writing task 2.
  3. How many words should I write for task 1 and task 2?
    You must write over 150 words for task 1 and over 250 words for task 2.
  4. What is the difference between the General Training paper and the Academic Paper? 
    The general training paper is mainly for people who want to migrate to a foreign country. For this paper, students need to write a letter for task 1 and an essay for task 2.
    The academic paper is mostly for people who want to enter college or university or for doctors and nurses. Most people take this paper. For this paper, students need to write an academic report for task 1 (based on a bar chart or other types of graphs) and an essay for writing task 2.  
  5. Can I have extra paper for planning and making notes? 
    You should make notes and plan on the question paper before you start writing. You are not usually given extra paper for planning.
  6. Should I do writing task 1 or writing task 2 first? 
    It is recommended that you spend the first 20 minutes writing task 1. However, if you choose to start with writing task 2, it is your choice. Do what works best for you.
  7. Should I leave a space at the start of a paragraph? 
    No, it is not necessary to do that. It is better to leave one empty line between your paragraphs to help the examiner identify the paragraphs.
  8. UK spelling or US spelling?
    You can use either UK spelling or US spelling, but you can’t mix them. You need to choose which one you will use.

IELTS Writing Task 1

The information below is about Writing Task 1. To learn from free lessons, model answers and tips for task 1, click here: Writing Task 1

  1. How many types of task 1 are there?
    There are many types for the academic IELTS paper. Here are the main types: diagrams, maps, building plans, bar charts, line graphs, pie charts and tables. It is also possible to get more than one type in your task 1 test. However for the GT paper, you only need to write a letter.
  2. How much is writing task 1 worth?
    It is worth only one third of your marks for IELTS writing. Task 2 is worth twice as much.
  3. What’s the difference between the academic paper and the general training paper in task 1?
    In the general training paper you have to write a letter whereas in the academic paper you must write a report based on a chart.
  4.  Is the general training task 1 marked the same way as the academic task 1?
    No, there is a difference between the way one of the four criteria is marked. Task Achievement, which accounts for 25% of your marks, is assessed differently in the general paper and academic paper.
  5. Will I get a chart or letter in task 1?
    In the general training paper you have to write a letter whereas in the academic paper you must write a report based on a chart, table etc.
  6.  Can I take more than 20 minutes to write my task 1?
    You must manage your own time in the writing test. However, it is highly recommended that you don’t take more than 20 minutes to write task 1.
  7.  How can I organise the information in my task 1 academic?
    Always organise your information into the following paragraphs for task 1:
    1. Introduction
    2. Overview (key features)
    3. Body Paragraph A (accurate detail in a logical order)
    4. Body Paragraph B (accurate detail in a logical order)
    Task 1 is like a formula that you apply to all task 1 types. The more you get used to the formula, the quicker it will be to write your task 1 report. Also, the more you practice and develop a technique for each kind of task 1, the quicker you will write.
  8.   Do I need to compare and contrast data in each body paragraph for task 1 academic?
    No, you don’t. The instructions say to compare and contrast where relevant. It is not always appropriate to compare and contrast everything. In fact, it can sometimes make your report very confusing to read. You must decide if the data should be reported only or compared and contrasted when you look at the chart and plan your writing.
  9.  How can I write the introduction for task 1 academic?
    The introduction is quite formulaic and can be learned. You look at the information given by IELTS and paraphrase it. You also need to add the dates, countries etc. It is usually short and no more than two sentences. Here is an example introduction: “The graph illustrates the number of people travelling abroad from the UK over a ten year period from 2000 to 2010.” You can also add information about the units: “Units are measured in …..” 
  10. Should I write a conclusion? 
    No, you don’t need a conclusion for writing task 1.
  11.  Will the examiner check my spelling?
    Yes, the examiner will pay attention to your spelling. This is part of the criterion of vocabulary. If you have a lot of spelling mistakes, you will get a lower score in that criterion.
  12. Should I put only two key features in my overview for academic task 1?
    It depends on the chart, some charts have more than two key features so you will need include all of them in the overview. There is no fixed rule about how many key features to have.
  13. How do I organise my paragraphs in GT letters?
    Follow the order of the bullet points – don’t change that order. You will also have an opening line and closing line.
  14. Can I make information up for my letter in GT?
    Yes, you need to imagine the information you will use to write your letter. But control how creative you are. These are functional letters, not creative writing. For academic candidates, you cannot include any made up information or opinions in task 1 reports.
  15. Do I need to write my own name at the end of the GT letter?
    It’s up to you. You can use your own name or any name at all.
  16. Do I need to add the date and address at the top of the letter?
    No, this isn’t a real letter. Your first words will be “Dear Sir” or “Hi Dave”, for example.

IELTS Writing Task 2

  1. What is IELTS Writing Task 2?
    For writing task 2, you must write an essay which is over 250 words and you have 40 mins to do this. IELTS will provide you with the essay question.
  2. How long does writing task 2 take?
    It is recommended to take 40 mins to plan and write your essay.
  3. Can I spend more than 40 mins on my essay?You can decide the length of time to spend on your essay but I wouldn’t recommend spending more than 40 mins on it.
  4. Should I write task 1 or task 2 first?
    It is your choice. You can decide which one to do first. Most students do task 1 first and I would recommend that. However, it is your choice.
  5. What is the difference between the General Training writing task 2 and the academic task 2?
    There is little difference. Both the GT writing task 2 and the academic are essays which have similar topics, the same format and techniques. The only difference is that the GT essay question is slightly easier than the academic test.
  6. How much is writing task 2 worth?
    t is worth double the marks of writing task 1. So, make sure you give yourself the full 40 minutes to write your essay.
  7. What kind of essays are there in writing task 2?
    There are a number of different essay types: opinion essays, discussion essays, advantage /disadvantage essays, solution essays and direct question essays. Some teachers give these essay types different names.
  8. How is writing task 2 scored?
    It is marked by an examiner who will assess you on 4 criteria: Task Response, Coherence and Cohesion, Vocabulary and Grammar. Each criteria is equal and worth 25% of your task 2 marks.
  9. Do I need to give my opinion in the essay?
    Only give your opinion if the instructions ask for your opinion.
    For example, Do you agree or disagree? this is clearly asking for your opinion. Don’t give your opinion if it doesn’t ask for it. Read the instructions carefully.
  10. How long should my essay be?
    You must write over 250 words but there is no upper limit. F
  11. What happens if I write under 250 words?
    You will receive a penalty from IELTS if you are under the word count. This will affect your band score for the criterion of Task Response.
  12. How many paragraphs should I have?
    You can have either 4 or 5. You must have an introduction and conclusion. You can have either two or three body paragraphs.
  13. Do I need a conclusion?
    Yes, you do. It is vital that you conclude your essay. If you think you are running out of time, then jump to your conclusion.
  14. What kinds of topics will I get in writing task 2?
    There are common topics which appear frequently in the test.
  15. Should I write the title of the essay on my answer sheet?
    No, you shouldn’t. The examiner has the essay title so you do not need to repeat it on your paper. Your first sentence should be the beginning of your essay.
  16. Is spelling important?
    Yes, the examiner will check your spelling. It is part of the criterion of vocabulary.
  17. Is punctuation important?
    Yes, it is. This is part of the grammar marking criterion. Try to avoid using ; or : because they are not necessary. Just use commas and full stops.
  18. What’s the difference between an IELTS essay and a normal essay?
    There are quite a lot of differences. Firstly, you’ve got a time limit of only 40 minutes. Secondly, you’ve got a specific word count of over 250 words. Thirdly, IELTS is testing your English grammar and vocabulary – you have to demonstrate particular skills and ability to get a particular band score. Fourthly, there is a particular essay structure and use of linking devices that is recommended to follow. Lastly, you need to get used to the different types of essay questions and how to address the tasks fully to get more marks. So quite a lot of differences really.
  19. What’s the difference between an opinion essay and an argumentative essay?
    There’s no difference. Teachers give essays different names. Some teachers call them opinion essays and some teachers call them argumentative essays. They are both essays in which you need to give your opinion because the task states “To what extend do you agree?” or something similar, directly asking what you think.
  20. Can I use a pen or a pencil for writing?
    For IELTS writing, you can choose whether to use a pen or pencil – it’s your choice.
  21. Can I get extra writing paper if I run out of space on my answer sheet?
    Yes, you can.  Put your hand up and the exam supervisor will come to you. You can then ask for more writing paper.
  22. Can I get the official writing paper to practice with?
    Yes, you can.