IELTS is the high stakes English test for international study, migration and work. It opens a world of opportunity. Are your students (or you) going to take the IELTS exam? Do you need advice on resources and preparation strategies? Here are the articles on how to teach IELTS Speaking, Listening and Reading. In this article, we have collected useful links and tips for the IELTS Writing part of the Academic exam.

Academic IELTS Writing consists of 2 tasks: Writing task 1 requires to describe a graph, diagram or chart. You will be asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in your own words.

In Task 2 you will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem.

The IELTS Writing test takes 60 minutes. It is advised to spend 20 minutes on Task 1, and 40 minutes on Task 2. You will be asked to write at least 150 words for Task 1 and at least 250 words for Task 2 (there is no maximum limit).

The Writing test is marked by a certificated IELTS examiner. Task 2 is worth twice as much as Task 1 in the IELTS Writing test. Scores are reported in whole and half band.

Here are the band descriptions and samples:

Key points to remember for all task types in IELTS Writing Part 1:

Students should spend 20 minutes doing Writing Part 1. When they’re developing skills, they can spend longer. However, it’s better to set time limits even while doing practice tests to see how much they can do within 20 minutes. Then they can spend more time improving their writings.

Never skip the planning stage though — it will save time later and will help make sure they have enough to say and don’t miss anything.

Try to leave a little time at the end for students to read through their writing and check for any obvious problems.

If students are writing by hand, they should use a pencil so that it is easy to make changes.

Exam takers should write a clear introduction paraphrasing the question and describing exactly what they will be reporting on. Imagine that the person who is reading the report cannot see the chart or diagram at all. The first thing they need to know is what is being described.

No matter what type of data they are given, they must summarise the main points in one or two sentences, called the overview. If they do not include an overview they will get a reduced score for task achievement.

As in any exams it is very important to follow the instructions exactly. Students are asked to summarise the information, report the main features and make comparisons. They don’t need to analyse the data, interpret it or explain it. Even if the reason for something seems obvious, e.g. ice cream sales going down in winter, they shouldn’t write ‘this could be because of the cold weather’ in your answer.

Make sure they write enough, at least 150 words. There is no maximum limit, however, if students try to write more, they tend to spend on this task more than 20 minutes, lose precious time and not double check their writing.

With dynamic graphs, charts and tables if the x-axis shows a number of years, e.g. the period from 1982 to 2010, then the past simple to describe the data should be used. If there isn’t a year mentioned, then it is describing daily, weekly or monthly figures in general —  the present simple should be used. It is also possible to get a forecast of the future, and have to use ‘will’.

Useful links:

You can find more practice tests for Task 1 here:

The Academic Phrasebank from the University of Manchester has a complete guide to the vocabulary needed to describe trends.

This useful video has more tips to remember when tackling IELTS Task 1.

Practise your Task 1 Writing skills with these activities:

Key points to remember for tasks IELTS Writing Part 1:


  1. Be aware of the different types of essays and be sure about what students are supposed to do.  
  2. Allow only 40 minutes for Task 2. Even for practice tests! 
  3. Start with planning! Set time limits for planning and stick to them. In Task 2 it means analysing the question, coming up with ideas and opinions, selecting the main points you want to make, noting down what evidence or examples you will use to support them, and arranging them into paragraphs.
  4. Finish by checking the essay to make any important final changes and improvements.
  5. Practise a lot. The more students feel confident about answering all the different task types, the better they’ll feel going into the test.
  6. Practise your essay writing skills with these different tasks


  • Ignore what the question asks to do. If it asks students to consider both sides of an argument, then they should include pros and cons in their answer. 
  • Try to be too complex. Exam takers should make sure their language and plan are appropriate. 
  • Introduce new ideas at the end of any of your writing: the conclusion should bring together what you’ve already written about in the main body.
  • Put anything extra in your answers – nothing unnecessary. Keep it simple!

Useful links for IELTS Writing:

  1. A useful video on planning and organising your ideas.
  2. Academic writing: Writing paragraphs has a good guide on how to create effective paragraphs, as well as practice exercises.
  3. The following resources have useful guidance and practice on using linking words correctly:

Some other useful links:

You can find out more about formal writing and practise with these resources:

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