IELTS - International English Language Testing System - Academic writing tips and hints

Are you studying for IELTS (International English Language Testing System), one of the more internationally recognised English tests?

IELTS is jointly managed by The University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES), The British Council and IDP Education Australia: IELTS Australia. IELTS tests reading, writing, listening and speaking. It is recognised worldwide. There are two modules of the IELTS Test - Academic module and the General Training module. Our online English lessons will help you pass IELTS! We offer a large selection of interactive ESL lessons for students preparing for IELTS.

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IELTS Academic Writing - Task 2

IELTS Cambridge examinations have 2 modules: General training and Academic. In Writing Task 2 of the academic module, IELTS candidates are asked to write an academic essay. You are tested on your ability to:

  • put forward a point of view on a given topic and justify opinions
  • argue in support of or against a given statement
  • compare and contrast evidence or opinions
  • discuss a problem and present a solution
  • speculate on implications of a given issue

Task 2 is the more heavily weighted of the writing tasks. In the IELTS test, you should spend more time on this writing task. You have to write at least 250 words. You are advised to spend 40 minutes on this task.

IELTS candidates are given a discussion topic and presented with an opinion, an argument or a problem. You need to discuss the question with two or three main points and supporting detail for each point.

Your performance in Task 2 will be assessed on the criteria below:

  • Arguments, Ideas and Evidence - being able to present a clear, logical, well-supported argument without including irrelevancies.
  • Communicative Quality - being able to write fluently enough to make your message clear to the reader, being able to write cohesive sentences and paragraphs
  • Vocabulary and Sentence Structure - using a range of appropriate vocabulary, using a variety of sentence structures
  • Spelling and punctuation.

Academic essay types and structure

You need an introductory statement, body and conclusion in an academic essay. The structure for your essay will depend on the type of question you are answering. For example, in an argument essay your introduction will have a general statement introducing the topic, background information, the main points you will make and an outline of your opinion. Your first body paragraph contains a 'for' argument and a reason or justification for this. This paragraph will need a topic sentence and 3 supporting sentences. Your second body paragraph will follow a similar pattern, while your third body paragraph will need a 'con' or against argument and a refutation which points out the problems with the con-argument and strengthens your own argument. Your conclusion is a restatement of your opinion and a summary of your main points.

In a problem solutions essay, your introduction will outline the problem and the main point you will make. Paragraph 1 will contain problem 1 – cause or effect. This paragraph will need a topic sentence and 3 supporting sentences. Your second body paragraph will follow a similar pattern, while your third body paragraph will need solutions to problems discussed in paragraphs 1 and 2 . For each solution you should evaluate both the pros and cons. Your conclusion will be a summary of your main points and your view on the best solution.

In a compare/contrast essay, your introduction again contains background information, the main points you will make and your opinion. Your first body paragraph, which contains a point of comparison 1, will need a topic sentence and 3 supporting sentences. Your second and third body paragraph will follow a similar pattern. The conclusion is a restatement of thesis and summary of your main points.

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How to pass an IELTS writing test - tips

  • Study the question carefully.
  • Underline key points in the question.
  • Make sure you read all parts of the question, so you include everything required.
  • Think about the topic. Think about your point of view and any personal experience you can add.
  • Write a plan. Decide which points are your main points or topic sentences.
  • Decide what supporting details you have for each main point. You should have at least two main points.
  • Make sure you organise your points logically.
  • Link your ideas within and between sentences and paragraphs.
  • Use a range of structures and vocabulary.
  • Do not copy from the question as this will not be marked.
  • Leave at least 5 minutes to check through what you have written.
  • Write at least 250 words.

To improve your writing, you need to focus on three things: practice, reading and planning. Reading not only helps your vocabulary increase, but helps with your writing.

Become familiar with as many sample questions as you can and practice underlining the key points and identifying topics. Make brief outlines for each topic. At Selfaccess we think it is better to increase the time spent on planning, and reduce the time spent on writing and checking. If your writing is well planned, you should be able to write quickly without having to stop to think, and there should be fewer problems to correct. Planning is essential.

Look at as many sample essays as you can and examine the language used. We have many model IELTS essays that can help your IELTS preparation. Note the language for making paragraphs and sentences cohesive, for linking your ideas within and between sentences and paragraphs. You need to be able to use logical links to show addition; as well as, in addition, added to this, or contrast; However, on the other hand, for expressing your opinion; ‘I believe that …’ ‘I would argue that …’, and concessions; 'Despite the fact that …’, for refuting an argument; ‘There is little evidence to support the …’, for giving opposing arguments and for providing support to your main points; ‘In my experience …’, A good example of this is …’. and for conclusions; ‘In conclusion ..’ or ‘ ’In summary…’.

Think about the topics that could be used for this task: technology, the environment, crime, tourism, transport, education, population, media, health, society. Our online lessons will help you to become familiar with the vocabulary in the topics that could be used for this task. They are on a variety of subjects and are chosen for their suitability for candidates entering university, as are all our Reuters news article topics.

Selfaccess.com is useful for exam candidates as it provides lots of model essays and readings on the types of topics you may have to write about in when you sit your exam.
Remember the key to improving is lots of practice!

Need to pass the IELTS writing test? Remember, in the exam you only have an hour to plan, write and check your work; therefore timing is very important!

After doing the reading and grammar exercises on some of our lessons, why not read the writing topics, then time yourself writing an answer before using our model essays and reports. Then time yourself doing the writing task again. You will see the difference!

Try our free lessons and IELTS tips to help you study IELTS!

Remember, reading not only helps your vocabulary increase, but will also help with your writing. Practise as much as you can! Selfaccess.com makes IELTS preparation easy and convenient. You can do it in your own time - all you need is a computer, the Internet and headphones or speakers so you can hear the online listening exercises.

Abbreviations on Selfaccess.com
ESL = English as a second language
TESL = teaching English as a second language
NESB = Non-English speaking background
EFL = English as a foreign language
TEFL = Teaching English as a foreign language
TESOL = Teaching English to speakers of other languages
FCE = Cambridge University First Certificate English
TOEIC = Test of English for International Communication
IELTS = The International English Language Testing System
TOEFL = Test of English as a foreign language
CALL = Computer assisted language learning