Top Tips for IELTS

IELTS writing tips

Here are 10 of my top IELTS writing tips. They focus on the writing process in the exam. Much the most important tip is number 1. If you are a band score 8.0 candidate, you may want to check out my other essay writing tips for more advanced candidates.

1. Read the question – answer the question

Rule  number 1 is to answer the question: read the question carefully and underline all the information you need to include. This works differently in the essay and the report.

In the essay, often you will find background information and the question itself. Make sure you answer the question

(eg “Do you agree?”) and do not write generally about the topic. If you copy another essay you have written on the same topic, you will lose a lot of marks.

In task 1, all the information you need to include is in the chart/graph: make sure you identify the key points before you start writing.

 

2. Don’t start writing too soon – think and plan!

It is important to finish both pieces of writing, but the way to do this is not necessarily starting to write immediately. If you do that, you may get half way through the writing and realise you cannot finish it. Only start writing when you know how you are going to finish.

In the essay this can mean up to 10 minutes and in the task 1 report it can mean up to 5 minutes. The more you think, the better and more quickly you will write. 2/3 minutes is almost certainly not enough. For more detail on this, try looking at Planning an IELTS essay – the 10 minute solution.

3. Write enough words

250 means AT LEAST 250 and 150 means AT LEAST 150. See my post on how many words for more detail on this.

4. Don’t write too many words

The more words you write, you more mistakes you are likely to make. The more words you write, the less efficient you become and the quality will fall. The ideal is to aim for between 260 – 280 words in the essay and 160-180 words in the report.

5. Don’t copy whole sections of the question

If you copy whole sections of the question, the examiner will not include those words in your word count: 260 words can become 230 words if you are not careful.

6. Time is your enemy – have a plan and a watch

Timing can be a problem. It is important to keep moving and stick to your timing. Don’t be tempted to spend more than 40 minutes on your essay – you need 20 minutes to answer task 1 properly.

7. Task 1 and task 2 – which do you answer first?

The essay is worth twice the marks of the report. One idea is to do task 2 (the essay) before task 1(the report), just to ensure you finish the essay. You do need to spend at least 20 minutes on part 1 though. Do not try to answer it in 15 minutes.

8. Check your writing

It is important to check your writing for grammatical errors. You need to have a checklist before you enter the exam of what mistakes you typically make. For a little more detail on this, try checking this post about how to check your writing

9. Think about range of vocabulary

You should also check your writing for unnecessary word repetition – you are graded on the variety of your language. You should note that this does not mean you need to use long, complex words, rather it means you should use precise words.

10. Think about the examiner – use paragraphs well

The examiner will not spend very long grading your paper. You need to create an immediate good impression and the best way to do this in my experience is to present a well-structured piece of writing with clearly laid out paragraphs. This way the examiner is going to be on your side. If, however, it looks disorganised, the examiner is not going to be impressed.

Get more writing advice

If you are looking for more specific advice, this is where I keep all my writing materials.

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56 Responses to IELTS writing tips

  1. Anonymous January 3, 2011 at 6:35 am #

    Hi Dominic,

    What do you think of using templates?
    I have read some tutors give templates to the student.
    Do you have any templates?Or do you encourage using of templates for essay writing.
    Many thanks.

    Phoebe

  2. Dominic Cole January 3, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    I’m in two minds.

    Templates can help in understanding essay structure and the planning process in general. The danger is though that they encourage you to write the same essay every time, rather than answering the question if front of you. That’s a really big danger as mistake number 1 is not to answer the question. I’d suggest that if you are going to use them, you need a variety of templates – to deal with the different range of essay questions and the different types of answer.

    Do I have any? Well in a way this is what my sample essays are all about. They show you different approaches to answering essays.

  3. Anonymous May 6, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

    can we use idiomatic phrases in graph for instance sank to the bottom of trough or reaches a plateau and even for fluctuating …full of ebbs and flows

    • Dominic Cole June 26, 2011 at 10:00 am #

      It’s generally better to keep your writing as neutral as possible for this task. You don’t need a great deal of varied vocab here (it’s only 150 words or so), I’d rahter concentrate on using vocab that was as clear and precise as possible. It’s all about clarity not variety.

      • shazia mirza August 27, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

        you are awsome…… :) thanks alot

      • Godly August 6, 2014 at 5:56 am #

        Hi Dominic
        Thank you so much for this fantastic website it seems to be working nicely for me. I am going for an ielts exam on 16th of August but I don’t have enough material for reding and listing. Could you please recommend me where I can get some academic reding tests

  4. pawan July 5, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    hi, i am having difficulties achieving 7 in writing and stuck at 6.5.i dont have any idea whats missing to get 7.

    i think my introduction needs to be improved.
    is there any idea to produce good introduction?

    • Sarabjit Mathon March 24, 2012 at 3:51 am #

      Hey Pawan,

      I am not an IELTS teacher but have recently achieved 7 each and my situation was similar to yours. I could never get 7 in writing. Today i got 7.5 and honestly i did not practise much and didn’t even write 1 practice paper before exam. Only thing which i did and think worked was, avoiding past mistakes.

      I believe that examiner look at common mistakes and pull scores down once they track those silly mistakes. Give examiner what he is looking for, this is a time to give your best. You could be writing best thoughts and ideas but examiner is not going to be impressed with how brilliant your points are but he will looks how you present them.
      Try not to make spelling mistake and avoid simple words and swap them with more hi-fi words. For example use jeopardise instead of risk or Excellent instead of good. these are just example, i hope you got my point. When examiner look at these words, he gets an idea that you are good language user and confident to write them.
      PATTERN, The way you express your point must not be the same through out the essay or letter. Try to write different patterns. Using same pattern to express your thoughts make examiner feel that you have memorised this way of writing and just changing words. Examiner must feel that this person has strong control over the language.
      This website has fantastic example of how to write effectively using different patterns. if you look at them and try to learn those skills, i think you will be fine.

      I can understand the frustration but do not give up. i got this result after 6 attempts and in past exams i was repeating same mistakes, resulting into 6.5 bands in writing.

      Spend last 5 minutes on rechecking your work because you will be surprised, how many mistakes we make while writing. Those simple mistakes can be easily fixed and get you that 0.5 band which you are missing.

      I wish you very good luck with your exam. This is a excellent website and i am 100% sure once you eliminate above mistakes, your result will improve dramatically.

      Good luck mate.

      Sarabjit Mathon

  5. Dominic Cole July 5, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    Oh yes. The intro is the first thing the examiner reads and it is where s/he gets the first impression of your writing. A good intro is key.

    Two things to think about. Do you clearly identify the task and your approach to it in the intro? Do you put the question into your own words?

    Also take a look at my post on the planning process: it’s a good place to start. Problems often start with not thinking clearly about the essay before you start writing.

    http://www.dcielts.com/ielts-essays/10-minute-planning-solution/

    Another thing to think about is the checking process. This is not an optional extra. If you are not improving, then the chances are that you are making the same mistakes. The place to start here is:

    http://www.dcielts.com/ielts-writing/editing-a-checklist/

    Let me know how it works out. Also if you want a particular resource/lesson added to the site, put a request in on the facebook site

  6. lasam o August 15, 2011 at 4:03 am #

    Thanks so much it’s helpful.

  7. TheIELTSSolution August 19, 2011 at 12:57 am #

    Hi,

    First of all, I would like to commend you for posting this topic on your blog. This seems really good and interesting as well. Of all the tips you’ve enumerated, I agree most on the tip number 2, because we all know that writing a piece for a certain topic is not that an easy task, you have to think eagerly and plan deeply otherwise your output would become such a mess. TheIELTSSolution.com

    Thank you.

  8. Anonymous October 7, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    Hi

    I would like to ask you how one can improve his score in writing from 6.5 to 7.

    I have given both Academic and General test recently and my scores were as follows:

    Academic L8.5 R7.5 W6.5 S7

    General L8 R7 W6.5 S7

    I have no clue, what I need to do, in order to reach 7 in writing.

    Any tips?

    • Dominic Cole December 8, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

      You are obviously close. There is no great difference between 6.5 and 7.0. The likelihood is that you already are getting 7.0 in some criteria of the writing. You need a teacher to advise you whether you should work on your grammar, vocab, cohesion or task reponse.

  9. Indika Nimalrathna February 24, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    Dear Sir,
    Thanks a lot for your great effort.
    I have sat for IELTS 3 times. During all those attempts, i scored 6.5 for writing where i got over 7 for others. I have attended few classes as well. But non of them worked for me. Then I found this fantastic website. I followed your advice as much as I could & here I am. I got 7 for writing (which was a huge barrier for me), 7 for speaking, 8.5 each for Listening & Reading.
    Thanks again. You’re a life saver….! Cheers…!

    Indika

  10. Ravi March 4, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

    Dear Dominic,

    I have scored 7 (overall 7.5) in writing, listening, reading and 8.5 in speaking. I owe all of my success to your wonderful tips as I didn’t had enough time to enroll into any course or classes. I have scored badly in writing in the past and was afraid of it again. But I came across your website and just worked through your tips everyday for 3-4 weeks before taking my exam. I have achieved desired result today with your tips. Thanks a lot for your great help.

    Regards,
    Ravi Jain

  11. Sarabjit Mathon March 24, 2012 at 3:25 am #

    Dear Dominic,

    Thanks for your help and tips. It really helped me. I Just got my result and i have achieved 8 band overall(L-8, R- 7.5, W-7.5, S- 8). I found your website really helpful, especially for writing. Tips given by you were fantastic and worth to follow. I am glad that i read your website and achieved my goal of 7 each in IELTS.
    I wish everyone good luck for there exam.

    Sarabjit Mathon.

  12. Lavinia April 11, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    Hi,
    I’m having trouble finding ideas for some topics, mostly the ones about politics and economy. Could you recommend me some websites with good articles that would help me out? I would be very grateful.

    • Dominic Cole July 26, 2012 at 9:38 am #

      The best place to look is possibly the Economist – though national newspapers also work well. Try The Guardian – it is certainly the best online newspaper in the UK.

      • shabbnnam June 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

        Hi,
        i have the same problem too ,,,, i cant find ideas above more general topics ,, such as education or health

        where should i take a look at ?!

        • Dominic Cole November 12, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

          Start with words. If you have words then ideas normally follow. Also remember that you don’t need complex ideas.

  13. mohammed April 12, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    hi sir
    I have a problem with the word count.I almost always exceed the word limit.
    Mainly,I think,because I can’t deliver my ideas in shorter sentences.

    this is the case in both task1 and2.
    what do you suggest and is exceeding the word limit sharply lessen my mark?

    • Dominic Cole July 14, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

      You can write more than 250 words – in fact you must – that is the minimum figure. typically, if you are a stronger student you will need to use more words but even then I generally suggest you don’t exceed 300. The way to do this is to plan carefully and to remember that you don’t have to include all your ideas.

  14. Andrea June 27, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    Hallo Dominic,

    I am having trouble in writing especially because the structure is not helping me put my ideas in order. I am practicing in a class and usually get a 5 or 6, but haven’t improved in a month. My vocabulary is fine, and most of my grammar correct but it seems that I always end up with a weird essay. Would you give me some advice?

    Thanks

    • Dominic Cole July 5, 2012 at 2:33 am #

      The first point is that language does take time to improve. You may nmot want to hear this but a month is a relatively short time in language learning – so don’t despair. One suggestion is to focus on writing paragraphs first and not a complete essay. This is something that works well with many of my personal students. The idea is to focus on the skills of writing rather than trying to produce an essay. If you can write one paragraph, you can write two, if you write two then with an intro and a conclusion, you can write an essay.

      Having taken some time off, I’m about to get back into business and my first series of lessons will be precisely on this point.

  15. theju July 11, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    hello dominic,
    i have taken my IELTS thrice , bet there is no change in my results i landed only on 6.5 band with 6 & 6.5 in reading , writing.
    now as such my friend has suggested me to go through with your website. if you can please help me in providing some very exam cracking tips i would be really happy .
    am waiting eagerly for you reply.
    thanks.

    • Dominic Cole July 12, 2012 at 7:24 am #

      Good to hear from you. I am now back at work on the site after having taken some time off. I am currently sorting out one or two small technical problems with the site, but from the beginning of August I intend to posting lots of new material on writing. The reading may take a little more time to put together.

  16. Sara July 15, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    Hello sir,

    I have registered in your website to receive your daily lessons. I recently got the
    required IELTS score of 7.5. I have no words to express my happiness. I got this in my
    second attempt which wouldnt have been possible without you. You are doing great service of helping students like us. The best teacher I ever had who could simply things so easier. I followed each and every step of your lessons. Thank you so much for recovering me from this obstacle to continue my medical postgraduation. I am glad I found your website for my exam preparation. My hearty wishes for all those who are preparing for the exams.

    • Dominic Cole July 15, 2012 at 9:19 am #

      Excellent news – best of luck with your future studies/career.

  17. Mohamed August 16, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    Hi Dominc

    Honestly, Great thanks to your efforts in this amazing site. I do myself learned a lot from you. I already asked this question somewhere in this site, but unfortunately I dont know where it is. Then let me ask it again.

    Once you prepared us with some templates that looks very useful and save our time. As

    they are mostly same Are they considered “memorized”? I do really afraid of this term and

    do not know what should I do in this case. This is somehow vague and Id really like to

    explain it or ask from eximner at your most convenience . Again I do appreciate these

    really useful/valuable tips.

    • Dominic Cole August 16, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

      Okay. I’ll do something on this next week. I do follow the same sort of pattern for most of my essays – it’s easy for me – I’ve written quite a lot now! I do try and vary the patterns a bit though to show that there are different ways to write any essay – an important point for me. I don’t particularly recommend people follow my “models” because they are written with my knowledge. it may be if you think/know something different about the topic you will write a different essay – just as good.

      The key for me is to ask yourself 2/3 questions. One is do you want to write 2 or 3 content paragraphs? That will depend on what you know. For any essay both options are available. The other main question is whether the content paras support each other or will make different points. That second question will depend slightly on the question type but just as much as on what you know – very often both approaches are available. The third question is slightly more sophistacated. Do you want to use a listing paragraph structure – to make a number of related points or a more normal structure developing one point.

      More next week. I promise.

  18. Mohamed August 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    Hi

    Thanks for your response. Id be grateful if you explain us how examiners consider

    something memorized or not? As in the bottom of writing test sheet we see this term.!!

    Best Regards,

  19. Pemala September 7, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    Hello Dominic,
    I gave my IELTS exam recently & had been following your posts regularly before giving the exam.My IELTS results came in today & I scored 8.5 overall (L-9,R-8.5,W-7.5,S-8.5)……..& I’m extremely happy !!! It wouldn’t have been possible if i hadn’t followed your wonderful guidance.I think your blog is very helpful and you are doing a marvellous job by helping students like me realise our dreams.Thank you so much & I will recommend your blog to anyone who is interested in giving the exam in future.

  20. Happy Girl September 29, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    You are the best thing that has happened to me prior my IELTS examination. Your tips are so useful. Thank you so much Sir!
    Respect,
    Happy Girl :)

  21. Shaima Mazhar November 19, 2012 at 6:53 am #

    Hi , Dominic firstly theres a big thankyou to you for your heaps of efforts down there . me n my sister ended up seeing ur website just like anyother ordinary websites , but i started reading through every article written by you and the advices you have been putting up. the tips are excellent , your method of conveying is so effective. keep up teh great work may Allah bless you for such a good deed thants helping billions of people out there.
    i initially had a 6.5 band in my writing when i sat for the exam but going through this resource, i improved upto a band 8 in writing :) in 25 days
    thanks tonns

  22. varinder pal February 21, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    Hi there,

    First of all, I would like to thank you for your work you are doing through this website to help student like us whi is struggling to achieve good band score in IELTS. I have given my IELTS recently, but couldnt get the desire score of band 7 in each module. I got 6, 6.5,7.5 and 7.5 in writing, speaking , listening and reading respectively . I would appreciate if you help me in improving my writing score. I have given IELTS after 2 year but I got the same score which I got 2 year ago . Anyways, I am following your tips and guidelines for writing . I hope this will be helpful for me to get 7 in writhing.

    regard’s

    varinder pal

  23. Dilshi dernando March 5, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    Thanks a a lot Mr.Dominic.I shall be obliged.These lessons you have listed were many useful for me.every day I follow you.Because I can get a good knowledge & brush my knowledge because of you! Thanks once again.!

  24. aditya April 4, 2013 at 4:38 am #

    hi, i recently appeared for my IELTS (academic). i scored L:7.5, R:7, S:7, W:5.5 overall 7. i am planning for retake bcz all uni. requires min. in every section. could u help me improve my writing skills ?

    • Dominic Cole April 4, 2013 at 11:48 am #

      Not really. Or not in person. The only way i can help you on the site is through my writing lessons. These are limited in a way because I do not know your problems – and very has their own problems. This is why I have added tutors to the site – these are all skilled professionals with experience. The idea is that they can look at YOUR writing and suggest ways YOU can improve.

      The good news is that you may be one of those people who might be able to improve their score quite quickly. You already have 7.0 in all the other skills, so 7.0 in writing should be possible too. It may be that there is some technical thing that you are doing wrong – that’s the sort of thing a teacher can help you with.

  25. Akylbek April 23, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    Hi, Sir Dominic Cole thank you so much!! I have just recieved my results from ielts and I am happy with that. Definitely it is with your help. I have earned 7,0 it is better than before and most importantly all the parts 6 and above!! Thank you and god bless you!

  26. fary August 15, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    Hi sir Dominic
    how are you?I m tanks you for your website.
    I want to exam ielts but it is dificult.plz Help me
    tanks

  27. ben September 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    sir,i want to write ielts but i don’t know how how to process it,sir please teach me

  28. Abhilash October 10, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    Hi,

    I kindly requesting evry one, please help to to score good band 7.

    i have got 5.5 . (sp-6,wr-5,Re-5.5,Li-5).

    I am reday to work hard so please guide me how to learn and score.

  29. zoheb anwar October 26, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    i have written the ielts test thrice with almost the same score in each attempt. the latest result is an overall of 7.5 L8 R8.5 W6.5 and S7.5. i require 7 in writing. please let me know how you can help. thank you.

  30. top essay writing service March 12, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    Knowing all of the does and don’ts in writng an essay in university abroad is a good advantage for those foreing students to have a greater chance to be a part on that certain university they wanted to stay for their study. You details seems short but it was full of precise information’s that totally be uesful to learned.

    • Dominic Cole March 12, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

      Hi Farid

      Thanks for the recommendation. Can I pick you up though on one error in your comment. It’s worth doing simply because so many learners get this wrong. Information is uncountable.

  31. Jeanne-Marie Viljoen May 7, 2014 at 1:27 am #

    Hi
    Great site. Where are the essay writing tips for advanced candidates please? Best wishes Jeanne-Marie

  32. george July 8, 2014 at 1:00 am #

    when a question says to what extent do you agree or disagree? should you write the extent to which you agree and then write the extent to which you disagree

  33. MIchael July 14, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

    Hello,
    i have a question about the writing task, what does it mean 250 or 150 words ! i do not think there is someone who has time to count how many words he wrote in each essay neither do the examiner! so can you tell me approximately how many lines or paragraphs do i have to write in each task

    Thank you

    • Dominic Cole November 12, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

      If you think you might be short count the words on one line and then multiply by the number of lines. It is a waste of time counting words.

  34. Abhilasha July 27, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

    Hi there,
    I need a help in writing . Could anyone suggest me if they know any tutor who could mark my essays please ?
    Thank you

    • Dominic Cole November 12, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

      Try the teachers’ page on this sitehttp://www.dcielts.com/online-ielts-tutors/

  35. Abdulhamid August 10, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    thank you

  36. amarjeet singh September 23, 2014 at 7:21 am #

    Sir , is it necessary to add instance in paragraph of test 2

    • Dominic Cole November 12, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

      The questions asks you to use examples so I think it would be a mistake not to.

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