IELTS Writing Exam: Questions and Answers

Answers for common questions about the IELTS writing exam. Read these responses to avoid having a problem occur in a real exam. To ask a question send me an email:


What’s the difference between the Academic and General Writing exam?
In the General IELTS writing exam, Task 1 requires you to write a letter; whereas in the Academic version of the IELTS writing exam, Task 1 requires you to write a report on a graph, diagram, or map. In both versions of the test, Task 2 is very similar you need to write a 250 word essay. The topics for the essays are similar, but on any given test day there will be different questions for the Academic and General Writing exam.
How many words should I write?
For Task 1, a minimum of 150 words is needed, In Task 2, you should write at least 250 words.
What if I don’t write 150 or 250 words?
You will be given a penalty or -1 or more for your Task Response.
Should I count how many words I have written?
No, this is a waste of your time. You should use the time to check your writing instead. If you want you could approximate how many words you have by counting the number of lines and estimating how many words per line you wrote.
When writing letters I can leave a line for each paragraph?

Yes, leave a line between each paragraph.

Should I Indent the first sentence of each paragraph?

It doesn’t matter, but it is better if you DON”T indent as modern writing uses no indent and it is also easier to read for the examiner.
ii. For Essays should I put a “title” at the top before I start the first paragraph? NO, you are not supposed to write a title. You won’t be penalised if you do though.

Should I write the minimum number of words only?
If you have time you could write a few more. I don’t want to say that you need to write more, but it wouldn’t hurt to have around 170 on the letter and maybe 280 on the essay. I guess in particular the essay could be a few more words. The point I really want to make is don’t feel you should only write the bare minimum number of words. Sometimes going a little over allows you to cover the task better.
How are IELTS Writing scores calculated?

Task Fulfillment: this concerns whether you addressed all parts of the question, and also whether you fully developed all parts of your answer.

Coherence & Cohesion: Coherence refers to your writing being easy to understand and cohesion refers to the way it fits together – such as the quality of your sentence structure, paragraphing, and use of connective devices.

Vocabulary: To score highly you must use higher level words, pay attention to collocation, and also control your word endings (correctly use singular/plural and use the correct verb ending for the correct tense).

Grammar: To score highly you need to use a variety of sentence types (simple, compound, complex) and also avoid grammatical errors, such as with articles and prepositions and sentence order especially when they make your writing difficult to understand.