This lesson is about task response in IELTS writing – one of the 4 grading criteria. In it, I look at what task response means in detail and give examples of common mistakes that candidates make. Understanding these mistakes should help improve your IELTS writing.
There are 4 issues to think about.
1. Answer all parts of the task
Often IELTS task 1 and 2 questions will give you 2 or 3 points to consider. If you fail to answer all parts of the question, you will get a penalty. This may mean losing a whole band score.
This is a problem in task 1 in particular. In academic writing, you need to include all the key points in the graph/chart, while in the general IELTS letter you need to include all the items asked for.
Common mistake: to not spend enough time reading the question and to start writing too soon. In academic task 1 this may mean missing some of the key points in the chart/graph.
Solution: You should give yourself plenty of time to read and understand the question. Underline all the detail you need to include. This means making a proper plan and giving yourself enough time to plan. See the 10 minute solution.
Common mistake in essays: to not answer the question in the essay task but to write about something similar. This can be a disaster as you may suffer a heavy penalty for this. There are 2 reasons why candidates may make this mistake. They have “learned” an essay on the topic ( see answering the question) or they try to be too clever and forget it is a language test not an intelligence test ( see intelligence test).
Common mistake in task 1: not to include all the relevant detail from the diagram
2. Present a clear position throughout the task
This means that it is important to plan the answer well. Use your introduction to state your position and then explain your position in more detail in each paragraph.
Common mistake: candidates do not make their position clear or fail to state any conclusions.
Solution: Again, the solution is to allow yourself enough time to plan. When you plan you should think about the structure of your essay and the introduction and conclusion in particular. For practice on this, I highly recommend Essay Map.
3. Extend and support main ideas
Every IELTS essay question includes language to tell you to support your ideas with reasons and examples from your own experience. Do this. If you do not, you will not be answering the question.
Common mistake: to include too many general statements that are not supported by reasons or examples.
Solution: think about writing coherent paragraphs. One way to do this in practice is to learn to ask yourself one or two basic questions. “Why do I say think that?” “How can I explain that?” What is a good example of that?”.
4. Write enough words
The question clearly tells you to write 150 words in task 1 and 250 words in task 2. That means at least 150 and 250 words. If you fail to do this, you will get a penalty. Again, you may lose a whole band score. Disaster. For more on this see my post on how many words.
Common mistake: to think that task 1 doesn’t really matter and not leave enough time to finish it.
Solution: you need to have a clear strategy for timing before you enter the exam. It can often be a good idea to answer the essay (task 2) before letter/report (task 1), but you do need to finish them both.
What you should read next
A lot of mistakes in task response come from failing to read and understand the question. These lessons help you with that:
Another idea for you is to understand the importance of establishing a clear position in your essay. This lesson on essay introductions is a good place to start:
For more help with writing criteria you can go to this page