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Is your IELTS exam tomorrow? How to avoid writing penalties

This article is kindly provided by Mike Wattie of IELTSanswers. It contains extremely good advice: advice that is both practical and informative. Before you read, think about these questions:

  1. Do you know how many words you must write?
  2. Do you know the penalty for not completing both tasks?
  3. Do you have a strategy for completing both tasks in the exam?
  4. Do you know how to practise before the exam?

If you are not sure of any of these answers, read on. It’s much best if you learn these skills/strategies before the exam. But it’s not too late if your exam really is tomorrow. These are the sort of ideas you should be thinking about just before the exam – really practical things.

Finish both tasks and avoid penalties in IELTS writing

On any given test day it seems that around 30% of candidates are unable to finish their writing exam. Task one requires you to write a minimum of 150 words and task two requires you to write 250 words. If you do not write enough words your score for task response is penalised by 1 to 3 points! In addition to that, if you didn’t complete the task you are unlikely to score well for task response anyway, as you are unlikely to have completely answered the question. In this case your score for task response would be restricted to 5 and you would still get the penalty on top of this. In other words you probably will fail your exam! The following are my suggestions for managing your time:

  1. Make sure you make a plan before you start writing. A plan will save you time when you start writing because you will not have to keep stopping to think about what point you want to make next. This is the area that most students do poorly on and in order to do it well it takes practice. The best way to practice is to look at past exam questions and prepare a plan of how you would write them.
  2. Don’t write too much for one task and then run out of time to write the second task. This is a very common mistake in the exam. Somebody will write over 200 words for their task one and then just a single paragraph for task 2. This is a foolish way to fail your exam!
  3. Make sure you have practiced writing sufficiently before your exam and that you understand how to structure the three types of essays that get asked, and the different types of task ONE questions that get asked. If you are familiar with the types of questions that get asked you won’t get a nasty surprise and you will be able to answer the question more quickly.
  4. If you really have trouble with finishing on time, learn some stock phrases that you can write quickly in the exam. If you have learnt the sentences well you will be able to write them quickly and without errors. The best way to learn these is to look at model answers and underline sentences you think you would like to use in your own writing. Then you need to memorise the sentences by writing them, and even better, practice writing them in an essay.

When practising if you find you are unable to complete both tasks fully within one hour then you are not ready to take your exam and you need to practice more.

More from Mike

Mike is an extremely experienced IELTS tutor and he has his own excellent site. It is particularly good on writing and it has an explanation of the different type of essays in IELTS you may want to look at.

Questions for IELTS essays

He also is sometimes available to help you (for a fee!) with his tutoring service. He’s a busy man, so book now! You’ll find the details on his site.


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2 Responses to Is your IELTS exam tomorrow? How to avoid writing penalties

  1. Nirmal October 6, 2016 at 8:40 am #

    Will I be penalized for overwriting. I have written near 350 words in writing task 2 and over 200 words in task 1.

    • Dominic Cole October 6, 2016 at 9:18 am #

      Not as such. There is no upper word limit. That said it’s just much less efficient to write around 350 words. You give yourself less time to think/plan and review. There’s also a good chance that you include material that isn’t relevant to the question

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