Top Tips for IELTS

Task response explained

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.

task response

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:

Addressing the topic in IELTS essays

How to use reasons and examples in IELTS essays

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:

IELTS essay introductions – identifying the task

For more help with writing criteria you can go to this page

IELTS writing band scores explained


Get more help with IELTS preparation on the main pages of my site

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Writing Guide

Essay writing guide

Academic task 1 guide

Letter writing guide

Reading guide

Listening guide

IELTS vocabulary

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15 Responses to Task response explained

  1. jass March 22, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

    these are some great solutions ,,,even i m facing problem in level 1 writing ,i think these will be helpful for me…thanks sir

  2. Namuun August 9, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Is it possible to send you an essay I wrote and maybe you could read it and tell me my mistakes??? I’m giving IELTS real soon..and I haven’t had anyone check my papers…so I don’t really know if my writing is okay….Please give me a reply soon…..

    • Dominic Cole August 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

      Sorry. I’m too busy. The idea is that you try one of the teachers on the teachers page – they pretty much all check essays. I should be adding 4/5 more quite soon.

  3. Amr July 26, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    A teacher has recently evaluated this task to me and awarded it band 6. Besides, he told me that there is a problem in task response. However, I could not recognize where the errors are.
    Please, can you tell me more as I badly need to score at least band 7 in writing

    Disruptive school students have a negative influence on others. Students who are noisy and disobedient should be grouped together and taught separately.
    Do you agree or disagree?

    Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

    Every school around the world has a number of problems, one of which is these guys causing noise and disorder in class rooms. Consequently, schools see that putting them together in private class rooms will be far much better for both students and staff
    There is a little evidence that putting all noisy students in special class rooms is the answer. While every student has the right to study under calm atmosphere and away from disturbance, the private class rooms are a total mess. As result, many teachers are unconvinced of this way to handle the problem; they claim that making them studying together is a detrimental option to their education and future.

    On the other hand, we must acknowledge that some students are intolerable and are mainly responsible for the noise for the duration of classes. At this point, schools believe that noisy students play an extremely important role in inflicting harm to their colleagues, for they see that the advantages of excluding these guys from every class rooms weigh disadvantages of keeping them distributed to all class rooms. Furthermore, if a school does not take action to deal with them, the rest in every class room will be motivated and dissuaded into copying the behavior of the noisy students, which add insult to the injury.

    To conclude, I am very convinced that students who step out of line have to be taught together, because such poor quality of guys come to school as though they are here to kill time not to study; therefore, grouping them together is simply the solution.

    • Dominic Cole July 26, 2012 at 10:28 am #

      Okay. Two thoughts for you to consider. This is not a detailed analysis – just a quick look.

      Content para 1 – does not fit the structure of the essay – in your intro and conclusion you say that they should be taught separately – here you say there is no evidence for that.

      Conclusion – the reason you sate for your opinion (because such poor quality of guys come to school as though they are here to kill time not to study;) is not stated in the essay itself.

      The idea is that you want to identify a clear position in the essay and maintain it through out the essay. This means being super careful about how you use your intro and conclusion in particular.

  4. Paris March 2, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    Mr.Cole, I really appreciated your site as it provide many useful tips and knowledge for IELTS preparation. I visited your website almost everyday for guidance, thank you very much for creating this site.

    I just had a test today, and I failed to complete the task 1 (only summarized the data, but no time left for comparison and conclusion), but I was able to finish task 2. Is there any possibility that I will get 6.5+ in the writing band? I’m totally stressed and feel really bad for my time management.

    Again, thank you for all you tips and advises!

    • Dominic Cole March 3, 2013 at 10:45 am #


      As it happens, I have a guest post on just this coming very soon. You will have got a severe penalty in Task Response I’m afraid on task 1. If you wrote your 150 words, then there is still hope and task 2 is twice as important – so all is not necessarily lost.

      • Paris March 17, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

        Hello Mr.Cole,

        My result just came out on Friday, and I am pleased with it as my writing band landed on 6.5, and other bands result are welcoming.

        I couldn’t thank you enough for all tips and lessons you’ve provided, I solely based my IELTS preparation on self-study, and your site had contributed a great deal in it. Thank you again for creating this wonderful site for all the IELTS exams takers, I hope others would also find this site instructive and productive as I do.

  5. zanub May 26, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    is task response is important in ielts speaking
    as if examiner ask us about our appartment and we tell him about the place of my appartment and also tell him something about my appartment

  6. Trang August 13, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    Hi Dominic,

    I’ve got a 7 in writing thanks to your tips. I want to achieve 8 though. I wonder whether writing too many words than the 150/250 limits is probably the reason that deducted my score in the last time. Please give me some advices. I really appreciate it very much.

  7. salem May 25, 2014 at 4:55 am #

    I am a new student in IELTS, also my vocabulry is not enuogh, what should I do to get at least band 6 in writing task 1, and task 2.
    I am looking for your reply!

    Thanks a lot for your helpful site.

  8. rajib July 21, 2014 at 11:13 am #

    Hello mr, Cole,

    You’re awesome, i mean your site is great for IELTS exam takers. Its 100 times better than local exam preparation coaching center’s.

    Now i become a regular fan on your site. Thanks for your unconditional help to us.

  9. Pavittar Rai September 22, 2014 at 1:49 am #

    Hello Mr. Cole

    I had my test on 20 September and my task 2 was out of task …… but task 1 was good …… is there a chance that I can get overall 5.5 Band in writing ?? Plzz reply sir I am really worried

  10. jeffin August 13, 2016 at 1:41 am #

    how to write a problem solving essay

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