5 Writing Tips for the IELTS Essay

Angela Fabunan
Helpful tips to succeed in the IELTS writing exam: understanding the prompt, outlining, good vocabulary, supporting details, and proofreading
IELTS Writing 2

The IELTS is scored overall from 1 (lowest) to 9 (highest). The IELTS Writing Task 2 (AKA the IELTS Essay), is scored similarly, from 0-9. It’s a formal essay, the second part of the writing test, and the one most feared by test takers. You are presented with a POV, argument, or problem, then asked to write a response where you defend a position. Your essay should be at least 250 words in length and should be completed in 40 minutes or less. But there’s nothing to fear. Unlike the other parts of the IELTS exam, there is no right or wrong answer for the essay question. This is your chance to show that you have what it takes to communicate effectively in English. You can show your grasp of language, your experienced use of vocabulary, and your knowledge of the topic to demonstrate that you know and comprehend the task.

Tip 1: Understand the prompt clearly

The prompt, the task, or the question, for which the essay asks for a response, should be clear in your mind. One of the first things you must do is to identify the task. Once you understand what the task is asking, then identify your position as well as the topic or main idea your essay will take. Engage with the prompt throughout your essay–your answer should be relevant to the prompt. For example, if you’re asked about government regulation of the arts, your answer shouldn’t be about science. Your answer should be a thorough and thoughtful direct response to the prompt. Otherwise, you will be marked with a 5, for having an irrelevant answer.

Secondly, you will be asked to defend a position, either to agree or disagree. For example, if you are given a prompt about how technology and the arts are not able to coexist, then the prompt will ask you, “Do you agree or disagree?” You must be clear about your answer–whether you agree or disagree. Then you must back up your stance with your main idea and supporting detail. Doing so will get you at least a 6.

Tip 2: Outline your essay structure

Once you have your position clear, outlining will get you further in answering the prompt/question thoroughly. Once you have your position of agreeing or disagreeing, explain why. This explanation should form your outline, with the main idea or main reason why, and two or three supporting details. For example, your outline might look like this:

I. Introduction
II. Main Body 1
III. Main Body 2
IV. Main Body 3
V. Conclusion

This outline would ideally be five paragraphs long, with your introduction, three body paragraphs (your details at length to support your main idea), and your conclusion. However, some writers may opt to make paragraph variations to this outline, such as having only 2 main body paragraphs. It’s just a sample, so feel free to use your own. Just a note here that a concluding paragraph is necessary, as you may be marked down without
a concluding paragraph.

Tip 3: Employ good use of vocabulary

Vocabulary choice is particularly important in this essay since they will be noting how you use vocabulary throughout. Here are some ways to use good vocabulary for the IELTS:

  • Vary your sentences with vocabulary that you know how to use
  • Use synonyms and antonyms that will show your knowledge of English vocabulary
  • Use linking words for structural directions throughout your essay, such as despite, although, moreover, since, however

Tip 4: Support your opinion with details

Use relevant examples in your defense. For example, if you’re writing about how you agree with nationwide governmental regulations regarding climate change, you will be tasked with providing evidence to support your claim. One could be the effectiveness of climate change regulation in socialist countries. Another could be the ineffectiveness of countries without climate change regulation. Make sure to know the details surrounding these points, as well as their significance or how they help prove your answer.

Tip 5: Proofread

When you’re in a timed exam, you may think proofreading is not important and you don’t have time for it. This kind of thinking can get you into trouble and may cause a markdown. Remember, the exam is testing your English writing skills, and with that comes right spelling, grammar, verb agreement, as well as clear and polished writing. Take some time to go over what you’ve written, whether you’ve answered as comprehensively as possible, and what other changes you could make to improve it further.

The Takeaway

The key to scoring well on the IELTS writing tasks and the overall test is writing well and to do so you should practice, practice, practice. Take practice tests such as this frequently. Browse through encyclopedias and dictionaries for vocabulary practice. Make flashcards. Read anything and everything. And you’re sure to do well on the exam.

Written by Angela Fabunan for EnglishClub April 2021
Angela Fabunan is a copywriter, with a particular interest in the history and application of the English language.

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