IELTS Academic Writing Introduction for Beginners

Candidates answer two questions in one hour. The first question, called Task 1, is a 150-word report. The second, Task  2, is a 250-word essay.

As there is one hour, most candidates write over these word limits; they are not penalised. Writing fewer, however, leads to a penalty, and a maximum of Five is awarded for Task Fulfilment, which represents 25% of a candidate’s score.

Some candidates, like Indians, seem used to writing a lot in exams and may believe that more writing equates with a higher score. However, the score has to be earned according to the marking criteria. If a candidate’s script is full of errors, its length won’t help.

For Task 2, IELTS research has shown that a Four usually writes between 110-370 words; a Six, up to 485 words; and an Eight, up to 455 words. Higher-level candidates write fewer words than mid- level ones because their writing is well-organised, and their vocabulary is precise.

What is IELTS Academic Writing Task 1?

Task 1 is a short report. The writing style is formal. Candidates use complete sentences in clear paragraphs. Bullet points or notes are not accepted.

Task 1 inputs are non-verbal devices (NVDs) with titles and keys. These may be graphs, tables, charts, maps, plans, or diagrams. Candidates transfer the non-verbal information into at least 150 words. If the NVD is a diagram, there is only one to describe. It is usually a process like the life cycle of an animal, or how something works or is made. Otherwise, there are NVDs to compare and contrast. These could be: two bar charts; a graph and a table; or, two plans. Often different times are mentioned, for example: a plan of a community centre in 2005, and a second plan in 2015; or, literacy rates in three countries from 1800 to 2000. Occasionally there are three NVDs to compare.

The instructions for Task 1 are something like: Write a summary of the information below by selecting and reporting the main features.

 What is IELTS Academic Writing Task 2?

Task 2 is a formal essay. Again, candidates use complete sentences with suitable academic vocabulary. Clear paragraphing is essential.

Candidates are given a proposition with a question. There are three basic types:

  1. A Argument: The proposition is a social issue. The question asks candidates to write about both sides of the issue, favouring one. Or: There are two similar ideas in the proposition. Candidates discuss both, saying which one they think is better.
  2. O Opinion: The proposition is a social issue. Candidates give reasons for this development, and say whether it is positive or negative. They do not discuss both sides.
  3. P-S Problem-solution: In the proposition, a social problem is posed. Candidates describe the problem and provide a solution.