How many words in IELTS essays? The short answer is should write AT LEAST 250 for the essay and AT LEAST 150 for the task 1 report. This is essential information because you can lose a whole band score if you do not write enough words. If you are concerned or new to IELTS, I suggest you read through the following points.
Learn how IELTS writing is scored
Your writing is scored under 4 different headings. One of these is task response. Part of that is you need to write a certain amount of words.
You’ll find more info about task response in this lesson on task response explained.
At least means at least!!!
Examiners count the words – every one of them. So this means that 149 words is not enough. Silly perhaps but true. So please don’t think that around 150 words is good enough.
Don’t repeat the question
If you repeat the wording of the question, the examiner will not include those words in the final word count. What this means is that you should not take whole sentences from the question. You can borrow single words: they may well be the right word to use and it would be pointless looking for another word that was not exactly correct.
Let’s look at a question to see what you can and can’t do:
Some people argue that the government should give every unemployed person a mobile phone and should make sure they have access to the Internet. They believe this is the best way of using public money to reduce the problem of unemployment. To what extent do you agree or disagree?”
Here you could of course repeat the words “government” “unemployed” “the internet” and “mobile phone”: these are simply the correct terms to use. But what you should avoid is writing ” I agree that the government should give every unemployed person a mobile phone and should make sure they have access to the internet”. This is simple copying.
In the same way, if you repeat large bits of your essay, the examiner may not count those words. The key point to remember is that it is really quality and not quantity that counts – do not repeat yourself, just to get to the word limit.
All words are words
Sometimes people ask what is a word. Small words like “a” and “is” are still words. A contracted word like “isn’t” is going to be counted as one word and not two. Generally speaking, however, you are not going to use contracted words in your IELTS writing – with the exception of a less formal letter in General IELTS.
Don’t waste time counting words – count lines
Time is your enemy in IELTS writing. I suggest you don’t waste time counting all the words you have written, there are more important things to check. Rather what you should do is to count the number of words you normally write in a line and then multiply that by the number of lines you have written. So if you normally write 12 words to the line, you need to write at least 25 lines in your essay.
Don’t write too many words – spend more time planning and checking – be efficient
Some candidates write 300 words or more in their essay. There is no deduction for this, but it is not a good idea unless you are a very high quality candidate. There are no prizes for quantity, only quality. The time you spent writing the extra 30/40 words would be much better spent either planning your essay or checking and improving its quality.
Possible problems are:
you include irrelevant ideas that will be bad for task repsonse
you make too many grammar mistakes and that will be bad for grammar
you don’t think carefully enough about organising your ideas and that will be bad for coherence and cohesion
A sensible target?
It’s quality that quantity that really counts. So my suggestion would be to aim for between 275-300 words in the essay and 165-185 words in the task 1 report. This means that you have some margin for error.
What you should read next
If any of this information was new to you I suggest you look at my task response page and other lessons about how writing is scored. It’s key that you understand the rules of the IELTS game:
If you are concerned about timing then I suggest you think about how you plan your writing. It may seem wrong but the longer you spend planning, the more likely you are to write enough words. I explain more about this here