Top Tips for IELTS

How many words in IELTS essays?

How many words do you need to write for IELTS? The short answer is 250 for the essay and 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.

Repeating the question

If you repeat the wording of the question, the examiner may not include those words in the final word count. What this means is that you should not take whole sentences and phrases 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.

Wordle: 150

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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.

Repeating yourself

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 probably 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.

Do not waste time counting words – count lines

Time is your enemy in IELTS writing. Whatever you do, do not waste time counting all the words you have written, there are far 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 23/5 lines in your essay.

Do not write too many words – spend more time planning and checking

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.

A sensible target?

It’s quality that quantity that really counts. So my suggestion would be to aim for between 250-275 words in the essay and 150 – 170 words in the report. This means that you have some margin for error.

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23 Responses to How many words in IELTS essays?

  1. fraz June 23, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    thanks alot

  2. Anonymous February 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    yeap thanx a lot!

  3. vini April 14, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    thank u

  4. nora June 25, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Thanks a lot!
    i thought there was a penalty for writing too many words! are you sure there is none? That would be great, because i wrote more than 300 words in my essay!

    • Dominic Cole June 26, 2011 at 9:52 am #

      Quite sure. If you are a strong candidate, it maybe that you need over 300 words to express yourself fully. One danger is that the more you write, the more chance you have of going off track.

      • nora June 27, 2011 at 5:22 am #

        OK, so it does not have to be a bad thing? Thats good to hear. Thanks a lot!

        • top July 2, 2011 at 8:54 am #

          Hi, teacher

          I wrote more than 320 as well, I really would like to know that whether my approach of doing this type of essay is correct or not.

          25 th June 2011 (T2 essay question)
          “Task 2: Nowadays, advertising is having an increasing influence on our lives. Some people think that the positive effects outweigh the negative effects. Do you agree or disagree?”

          1st paragraph) Intro
          2nd paragraph) advantages of advertising
          3rd paragraph) disadvantages of advertising
          4th paragraph) conclusion

          but I focused on both point nearly equal and in conclusion I agree with my 3rd paragraph, so will that be considered a bad essay?


          • Dominic Cole July 2, 2011 at 10:34 am #

            Nope. That sounds like a very logical structure to me.

            My one question is whether you focussed on the effects on advertising and the way it influences our lives, as asked in the question. There is a possible danger of repeating a standard essay you wrote before on good points and bad points of advertising that does not relate to the effect it has on our lives.

  5. Lasam Ola September 17, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    This is quite an interesting contribution to my knowledge in ielts writing.Thank you.

  6. Lasam Ola September 17, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    Thanks for your help

  7. ieltstaker September 28, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    I have a query,

    If i write 145 in writing task 1 and 245 in writing task 2 ? Is that really a blunder to do, and how much does it affect my band, if i have fulfilled the other criterias?

    please kindly suggest me.


  8. jiss December 22, 2011 at 4:20 am #

    superb site

  9. Mohamed August 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Hi Dominc,

    Some couple weeks a ago I read the tip from your site that you suggested a template for our essays. As in IELTS there is a term ” memorized” Is it considered a memorized part?

    • Dominic Cole August 16, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

      Hmmm. I think I know the post you refer to. This is a super important point and in the next few weeks I intend to go back and review some of my older posts and perhaps replace them with clearer advice. For now, I will say this. It is possible to follow templates, they help you structure your answer. However, if you are looking for 7 or above, then my best advice is to try and write each essay simply according to the question itself and avoid answers that follow templates too closely. The point is that if you want a higher mark, you need to answer the question as exactly as possible and templates are dangerous in that they tempt you to write general answers and not exact answers.

  10. m farhan minhas September 20, 2012 at 1:17 am #

    thanks sir for providing information to us

  11. AYaan October 22, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    Unfortunately, i have written 120-130 words in essay because i was not feeling well that the time writing task was conducted… will anybody please guide me how much band would be deducted for this if my essay is complete but words are considerably at word limit

  12. naveed November 7, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    Hi Dominic ,

    I usually do the thinking before starting to write a letter or essay but still while writing i am not really satisfied with the sentence i wrote :) , and do erasing and re-writing a lot .

    is that a bad impression ?

    Because i guess , examinar can see that there had been lot of re-writing / erasing on this essay / letter .


  13. Sneha February 25, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    Hello Dominic,

    I must Thank You for the extremely detailed advice that you have put out and the enormous amount of effort that you have put into helping people.
    I am sure that many have benefited from your site before and many more will enjoy the IELTS experience with your guidance.

    Thank You for the great advice.

    I am due for my IELTS on the 9th of March and this seems like the only place i need to refer for landing a higher score.

    Wish me Luck!! Will post you the score i get! :)

    • Dominic Cole February 25, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

      Best of luck! And yes do let me know how it goes. It’s always nice to hear from people who use the site – it’s a very strange form of “remote” teaching where I don’t really know who is out there.

  14. vijay April 16, 2013 at 1:33 am #

    If i write 149 in writing task 1 and 245 in writing task 2 ? Is that really a blunder to do, and how much does it affect my band, if i have fulfilled the other criterias?
    please kindly suggest me.
    thanks..plsss reply me its really important for me…..

  15. Bilal November 13, 2014 at 7:16 am #

    Hi.hope u r fine dominic.It is very intresting that you are helping students through this forum.God wil be happy with your good deed of instructing people I took ielts previous year and received 5.5 overall (and reading module score was 4.5) which is extremly low.i m apparing in 13 dec again.i have problem in reading section whenever i take ielts cambridge test i get only 40 percent of questions right. i m very anxious about this particular section,i skim well the paragraphs but when it comes to scaning i perform intesnly low.I had read all your instructions.but i dont see any improvemet…i have read all the reading tips and guide line.plz help me..i m from target is 6.5 but reading is challenging for me
    i read a lot…but what do i have to do specifically.

    • Dominic Cole November 13, 2014 at 8:47 am #

      Learning to read well for IELTS does take time. Your problem may not be with actual reading skills though but with the general level of your English. The reading paper is in many ways a vocabulary test.

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