IELTS writing

The writing test takes 60 minutes and you have two tasks to complete. In task 1, you are asked to describe some given visual information (graph, chart, diagram, table or map). Write at least 150 words and it's advisable not to spend more than 20 minutes on this task.

Task 2 you have to write an essay and you are assessed on your ability to present the solution to a problem; present and justify an opinion; compare and contrast evidence, opinions and implications; or evaluate and challenge ideas, evidence or an argument. Write at least 250 words and take approximately 40 minutes on this task

Tips for the Academic Writing test - Task 1

In Task 1 of the IELTS Academic Paper you will be asked to describe a graph, chart, table, diagram or map. You need to write at least 150 words. It’s best to spend 20 minutes on Task 1 to leave yourself enough time for Task 2 (remember Task 2 is worth more marks).

Here are some tips to help you with the task:

  • Read the question carefully and make sure you understand the graph, chart, table, diagram or map. Be clear about what you are describing.
  • Write a short introduction by paraphrasing the question (i.e. rewrite the question in your own words).
  • Be sure to give a summary (i.e. look at the big picture – what’s happening overall. There’s no need to mention any numbers in this part.)
  • Try to use a variety of sentence structures and vocabulary.
  • Separate your paragraphs.
  • Choose the key information to describe or compare.
  • Make comparisons where you can. Avoid simply stating what is in the question.
  • Describe specific details. Use the numbers in the chart, table or graph to help you describe the key points.
  • Divide your main description into 2 paragraphs. This will help you to have a clear structure and organisation; especially important when the question has two separate diagrams, tables or maps.

A couple of things to avoid:

  • Describing every single detail – there are usually a lot of numbers. You don’t need to mention them all.
  • Giving reasons or sharing your opinions - the question will not ask you to do this.

The video below teaches you how to describe a bar chart. Watch it and take notes

Academic Writing Task 2 - question types and essay formats

In the Academic Task 2 essay you may be asked from a range of questions. Whatever the question, it’s good to have an essay structure in mind. A four-paragraph structure is the most common, and the easiest to adapt to different questions.

Before you take the test, practice using the structure so you can plan your essay quickly on the day of the test.

Here are some possible question types and four-paragraph structures to match:

  1. Agree or Disagree
  2. Advantages or Disadvantages outweigh each other
  3. Problem and Solution
  4. Discuss two views plus your opinion
  5. Two-part questions

Some tips for Task 2:

  • Introduce the topic by paraphrasing the question
  • Try to give two or three ideas in each paragraph
  • Always support your ideas with examples
  • Make sure examples are quite general – not personal examples
  • Conclude by summarising your opinion in a different way from the into (paraphrase)
Let's now look at an answer to a Task 1 question on the Academic paper. For this task, students looked at a bar chart showing changes in average house prices in a number of cities over time. They were asked to summarise the information and make comparisons.

The illustration presents data on shifts in average home worths between 1990 and 2002 in five various cities. It is contrasted with the average house prices in 1989. It is clear that there is an erratic pattern of variation between these periods.

On the average, there is a negative deflection of prices from 1990 to 1995. Sixty percent of the five cities shows a lower than zero percentage change from the 1989 prices. The involved areas are New York, London and Tokyo. On the positive side, Madrid and Frankfurt gained an above zero change.

From 1996 to 2002, most of the cities have an average house price above zero. The peak percentage change was reached with more than ten percent of the marks. Tokyo was the only city with a negative deflection in this time period.

Among the five places, two cities showed a consistent positive change in the average house prices. On the other hand, Tokyo remained below negative in a twelve year period. This comprises 10% of the total areas.

In conclusion, the average house prices in the period for 1990 to 2002 is varied. The percentage changes also differ in comparison from the 1989 prices.

Now let's watch the observations made by a teacher:

A Task 2 example

Now look at an answer to a Task 2 question. In this question learners were asked to talk about job satisfaction. What does job satisfaction mean to the individual and what does it mean in a wider context?

As adults, many people find they have less time on their hands to spend on themselves. This usually occurs in adulthood because people tend to spend most of their time on working on their career. With all the hours put into building a career, it is important to have a job that can cater to a person’s needs.

There are several factors that contribute to job satisfaction. First and foremost, it is important that there is a healthy work place environment. This is essential for keeping a person in a good state of mind and body. It is also vital for a person to love his or her job, whether it is writing for a newspaper or walking on the moon. When people are passionate about what they do, they will not have to work a day in their lives. However, it is important to keep in mind that money does matter. Though it would be idial to have a wonderful job and high salary, it is not always the case. It is important for these two elements to meet in the middle to have a truly satisfying job.

Having job satisfaction can easily be achieved if a person remembers those three ideas. As long as a person has the right credentials, there will always be an opportunity to find a job he or she will love. Reaching job satisfaction is not impossible if a person shows great interest in his or her work, receives a good salary and has a good environment having a satisfying job is easy to do.

Watch the teacher's observations:

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