About the Writing Test
The IELTS test has two modules: The Academic Writing Module and the General Training Module depending on whether the candidate is applying for further studies or immigration.
The IETLS Writing Test lasts one hour, and within that time the candidate needs to complete two writing tasks.
- In the IELTS Academic Writing Module (AW) for Task 1, the candidate needs to analyse a diagram, map, graph, or table and accurately describe and summarise this visual information. The allotted time is 20 minutes, and the expected length is about 150 words.
- In the IELTS Academic Writing Module (AW) for Task 2, the candidate is expected to write a discursive essay where they may be asked to evaluate a problem and provide a solution, compare, and contrast different ideas, or even challenge an idea/argument. The total time allotted is 40 minutes and the minimum length required is 250 words.
The IELTS General Training Writing Module (GT) also comprises two tasks.
- The IELTS General Training Writing Module (AW) for Task 1 is of 20 minutes duration, is about responding to a given situation/problem by writing a letter in which the candidate is asked to request information or explain/resolve a situation.
- The IELTS General Training Writing Module (AW) for Task 2 is allotted 40 minutes and here the candidate is expected to write a composition that is similar to the essay for the Academic Writing Task.
To crack the test to the best of their ability, the candidates need to thoroughly understand the IELTS assessment criteria. This will also help them in their practice and preparation for the test.
The assessment follows the criteria given below:
- Task Achievement /Task Response
- Coherence and Cohesion
- Lexical Resources
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy
The weightage of Writing Task 2 is twice as much as for Writing Task 1.
Now let us look in detail at the assessment criteria:
- Task Achievement refers to the completeness, precision, and appropriacy with which the candidate attempts the Task. Since Task 1 AW module presents a visual input, it requires the candidate to refer closely to the input diagram/graph/table and use the information to answer the specific question(s) asked, without omitting any relevant data or adding any additional information.
The IELTS General Training module requires the candidate to request information/explain a situation or problem/complain about a service/suggest or recommend something with a short letter. All parts of the question/key bullet points must be answered clearly and appropriately, giving sufficient details for each part.
Task 2 is along similar lines for both the Academic and General Training IELTS test. The candidate must fully address all parts of the task and present a well-developed position in answer to the question with relevant information well supported by examples. The writing must have a seamless flow to it, so that the reader effortlessly comprehends the arguments.
- Coherence and Cohesion:
Coherence refers to the way information is presented and arranged. The candidate must ensure that their ideas are organized in clear paragraphs to enable the reader to follow the argument easily. Each paragraph should have one main idea supported by an explanation and example. Cohesion refers to how smoothly the sentences connect to one another so the use of cohesive devices such as, First, … Secondly, …Furthermore, for instance, etc. is important throughout the answer. A lack of cohesive devices often makes the message difficult to follow.
- Lexical Resources
This criterion refers to the effectiveness and range of vocabulary that the candidates have at their disposal, in relation to the specific questions being answered. They will be judged on the appropriateness and correctness of the lexical choices rather than on the use of ‘so-called’ difficult words. So, do watch out for spelling errors when you write.
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy
This criterion assesses the candidate’s ability to write both simple sentences and a range of complex sentences with accuracy, backed of course by correct punctuation. If you wish to get a high band, then do ensure you are using a range of complex structures such as conditionals, relative clauses and so on accurately.
You might wonder what a simple sentence is, a simple sentence has finite one verb, e.g., I like early mornings.
Complex sentences are those that have one or more than one finite verb and have a main clause and one or more subordinate clauses, for example, Early morning is the time when I like to be by myself (subordinate-- adverb clause of time); If had seen you waiting at the bus stop, I would definitely have given you a lift in my car (subordinate--if conditional clause). If you wish to know more about different sentence types, please refer to LearnEnglish.britishcouncil.org or any grammar book by Raymond Murphy.
How to improve your score from Band 5 to Band 7 for the IELTS Writing module? Here are some tips:
i) For IELTS Academic module Task 1 - it is important to give an overview of the main information in the graph. You will not be awarded a high Task Achievement Score if your answer does not include an overview statement or two. You need to study the graph/table/chart carefully and describe all the most significant and relevant information contained in the visual. You must point out the key similarities and differences in the visual. Your answer must accurately describe the information presented in the graph. Do not draw any conclusions or include information that is not supported by the visual, even though you may have specialist knowledge of the subject. You must write at least about 150 words. Fewer words than that will not reflect the information that is required of you. Finally, do not use bullet points or numbers as you will be penalized if you do so.
ii) If it is a General Training Writing Module Task 1, all parts of the question must be answered in the correct style---informal if the letter is to be addressed to family and friends; semi-formal if it is a work colleague and formal if it is for a business or newspaper. All letters must have a closing statement and an appropriate end to the letter such as ‘Yours Sincerely’ in a formal letter.
iii) For Task 2 of both the IELTS Academic and General training tests, it is important to plan before you begin to write. If you don’t do this, your answer will be disorganized and will lack coherence. Remember, in most questions you are asked to give your own opinion and also examples from your personal experiences. Make sure you include these aspects to obtain a good score.
All essays include a body, middle, and conclusion. Often, we want an effective beginning and waste a lot of time trying to write an impactful introduction. I would suggest avoiding wasting time on this. Once you have your ideas planned out, begin to write immediately. One way to start is to restate the question in your own words.
For the body, it is important to produce a balanced answer that looks at both sides of the issue. You need to make sure that your ideas are organized into separate paragraphs. Inadequate or no paragraphs will lead to a score of 5, even if your answer is well articulated and complete. When you come to the end of your writing, you need to write a conclusion. Your conclusion should be a brief summary of your arguments. This would also be a good place to give your own opinion.
iv) Your vocabulary should reflect effectiveness, precision, and a sense of style rather than the use of “so-called” difficult words. To display a wide range of vocabulary, it is imperative that you do not merely pick words/phrases from the question but practice the skill of paraphrasing. Nor must you repeatedly reiterate the same words. You must use synonyms instead. A good technique to practice would be to pick out some common everyday words and look up a thesaurus to make a list of synonyms against the word. For example, for the word - going up – there are many synonyms. Please see the list below:
- Verbs: rise, increase, grow, go up, improve, jump, surge, shoot up, soar, rocket.
- Nouns: a rise, an increase, growth, an upward/rising/increasing trend, an improvement, a jump, a surge
Please ensure that you avoid spelling mistakes, because if they are frequent and impact communication, you are likely to be penalized.
v) We have already told you the difference between a simple and complex sentence and shown you examples of complex sentences. To earn a really good score, you must not only use complex sentences but display a variety and range of complex sentences in an effortless manner.
vii) Make sure that you leave time in the end to revise and proofread your writing. First, you need to check your ideas against your plan. Did you include all your ideas? Are your ideas well organized and connected logically? You need to make sure that your language has both flow, accuracy, and appropriacy. Also, check for careless spelling mistakes and punctuation errors. If a word is used several times in a paragraph, use synonyms instead. Be aware of mistakes in tenses, articles, and prepositions. You need to know your weak areas and practice them. Of course, your writing must be neat and legible.
viii) Do not anticipate questions and learn them by heart. You will receive a very low score if you do this.
If you carefully follow our suggestions, you are likely to get a good band. We do recommend that you practice doing several reliable mock-tests even if you feel you have an excellent command of English. Each Test has different expectations and test-preparedness is the key.
Good luck with your preparation and for your test.
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