Students who are learning English might feel nervous about taking the IELTS test, especially if they are aiming for a higher band score, however, thorough preparation and practice can make the difference between an average score and a great one.
We’ve asked our colleague Theresa to compile some helpful tips, to aid your IELTS exam preparation!
#3 IELTS Writing test
If you are looking for some tips on how to improve your writing skills for the IELTS Academic Writing test, then you’ve come to the right place.
Prepare well for both tasks
The IELTS Academic Writing test takes one hour and there are two tasks: describing data in a graph or chart and writing an essay. The essay is worth more marks but it is important to complete both tasks well. Common advice is that students should spend roughly 20 minutes on Task 1 and about 40 minutes on Task 2, but you need to organise your time in the way that suits you best.
For Task 1, the data description, you should write at least 150 words. Write an opening sentence that summarises what the graph shows. Don’t copy the words from the task instructions but use synonyms where you can. Then provide a brief overview of the main features of the data - what stands out for you? You only need to select a few of the data trends and write about these in more detail in the following paragraph. Make sure you give relevant examples from the graph or chart to support your points.
For Task 2, the essay, you should write at least 250 words. You will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. Essay types include:
It’s really important to read the instructions in the IELTS Academic Writing test and understand what you are being asked to write about. Make sure you get practice in writing the different types of essays - they don’t all follow the same pattern.
Plan your essay
It’s essential to write an essay plan! All students benefit from making a plan in the IELTS Academic Writing test. So many good students don’t take time to do it and this can really affect their scores because they don’t answer the task.
Get into the habit of planning your essays on paper in under ten minutes. Underline the keywords in the question and then think about what you need to include. Write down all your ideas. Choose the best ones and think about how to explain these with relevant examples. Put these into a good idea and think about how to order them.
The introduction of your essay should set out the main idea and your position or specific ideas you will present in relation to the essay question.
The body paragraphs (the sections of the essay between the introduction and conclusion) should be clearly introduced and contain examples and reasons to support your points. Two or three paragraphs are usually sufficient. Your ideas should be clear to the reader.
The conclusion can be brief but should restate your position and show that you have completed the essay task.
And don’t forget - as you are writing, refer back to your plan to keep you on track!
Structure is only part of your strategy
Although it is really important to learn how to organise your writing, don’t forget to work on your grammar and vocabulary too as these elements together are worth 50% of your score. Many students try to reproduce essay structures and follow a formula at the expense of learning language to express their ideas in an appropriate and interesting way.
It’s okay if you make some mistakes in your IELTS Academic Writing test, but try to use a range of grammar structures and suitable academic vocabulary. Remember to write in a semi-formal style and don’t use clichés or proverbs in your writing. Write complex sentences with conjunctions and learn how to use linking phrases, as these will help connect your ideas. Pay attention to correct word form (noun or verb) and tenses
Good writing takes time to develop so try and enjoy writing in English. Don’t always write to the time limit! It can be helpful if you take your time over developing a single paragraph, or spend at least an hour writing one essay. As you improve, you can do more timed practice but build up your skills gradually and take the opportunity to redraft your writing (this means writing parts again so they are better). This will also help you in your future studies.
If you want to write well, then read good writing! Pay attention to content and language choice. Read a range of English language sources, from newspaper articles to academic texts, to develop your vocabulary knowledge and give you some ideas. Ask yourself what you think about what you have read. Do you agree? How is the writer explaining key points?
Look at the visual data that comes with text: graphs, charts and infographics and read the descriptions to help you with task 1. Look at high-scoring samples of task 2 to get a feel for how to develop your essay writing style. Highlight examples of language that you can adapt for use in your own writing, for example complex sentence constructions and synonyms for paraphrasing. You will still need to develop your own ideas, however. Keeping an opinions notebook, organised by topic, can help.
Know your writing
Practise writing the correct number of words so you know what it looks like on a page and get a feel for how long it takes. How many words do you write on a line in normal handwriting? You can save time counting every word during the test.
While you are studying for the IELTS Academic Writing test, compile a checklist of errors that you commonly make and refer to it when you have finished a written task. Soon you will know what to watch out for - and what to avoid.
On the day of your IELTS test make sure you leave enough time to read through what you have written and check your work carefully. You will be surprised at the number of small mistakes you can make if you are feeling stressed or tired. Don’t miss this opportunity to show off your best writing!
We hope these ideas will help you to produce better written work as you prepare for your IELTS Academic Writing test.