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IELTS writing - 10 top tips

Saturday, May 23, 2009 Posted by Dominic

Here are 10 of my top tips for IELTS writing. They focus on the writing process in the exam.

1. Read the question - answer the question
Rule number 1 is to answer the question: read the question carefully, identify what it is about. Don't copy an earlier essay you have written on a similar topic - you will lose a lot of marks for this.

In task 1: there are certain points the examiner expects you to note. If you fail to cover these points you will lose marks. Think before you write.

2. Don't start writing too soon - think and plan!
It is important to finish both pieces of writing, but the way to do this is not necessarily starting to write immediately. If you do that, you may get half way through the writing and realise you cannot finish it. Only start writing when you know how you are going to finish.

In the essay this can mean up to 10 minutes. The more you think, the better and more quickly you will write. 2/3 minutes is almost certainly not enough. For more detail on this, try looking at Planning an IELTS essay - the 10 minute solution

3. Write enough words
250 means AT LEAST 250 and 150 means AT LEAST 150.

4. Don’t write too many words
The more words you write, you more mistakes you are likely to make. The more words you write, the less efficient you become and the quality will fall. The ideal is to aim for between 260 - 280 words.

5. Don’t copy whole sections of the question
If you do this, the examiner will deduct those words and you may not write enough words. You can, however, use individual words from the question.

6. Have a watch
Timing can be a problem. It is important to keep moving and stick to your timing. Don’t be tempted to spend more than 40 minutes on your essay - you need 20 minutes to answer task 1 properly.
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7. Task 1 and task 2 - which do you answer first?
The essay is worth twice the marks of the report. One idea is to do task 2 (the essay) before task 1(the report), just to ensure you finish the essay.

8. Check your writing
It is important to check your writing for grammatical errors. You need to have a checklist before you enter the exam of what mistakes you typically make. For a little more detail on this, try checking this post about how to check your writing

9. Think about range of vocabulary
You should also check your writing for unnecessary word repetition - you are graded on the variety of your language. You should note that this does not mean you need to use long, complex words, rather it means you should use precise words.

10. Think about the examiner - structure your writing clearly
The examiner will not spend very long grading your paper. You need to create an immediate good impression and the best way to do this in my experience is to present a well-structured piece of writing with clearly laid out paragraphs. This way the examiner is going to be on your side. If, however, it looks disorganised, the examiner is not going to be impressed. For more detail, try looking at this post on how to impress the examiner

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  1. Anonymous said...

    Spelling is really important in IELTS especially if you are targeting a score of above seven. Importance of spelling is more for listening and writing. To score seven or above, you need to get around 33 out of 40 on an average. Wrong spelling is penalised and no mark is awarded. So 2-3 spelling mistakes can be damaging.

    Take the following test many times and wee if you are consistently scoring Green. If not, you need to give special attention to spelling.
    click here to take exam My best wishes to all IELTS exam takers.

  2. Dominic Cole said...

    Thank you for this. Yes, spelling does matter of course and, as you say, if you are aiming for a 7.0 your spelling needs to be very accurate.

    It looks like a good site. Another suggestion is to make use of Microsoft Word: it isn't perfect, but it will highlight your errors and, provided you are close enough, show you the correct spelling.

    I'd only add that, curiously or stupidly - depending on your point of view, spelling is absolutely critical in the listening and reading papers.

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