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IELTS Academic Writing

Module format

IELTS Academic Writing test lasts a total of 60 minutes. It consists of 2 tasks (Writing Task 1 and Writing Task 2) and candidates must answer both tasks.


Students are advised to spend 20 minutes on Task 1 and 40 minutes on Task 2. They must complete both tasks in one hour.

Task 1

For Writing Task 1 candidates are given some visual information (diagrams, charts, graphs or tables) and are asked to describe the information or data. Candidates must write at least 150 words on this task.

Writing Task 1 assessment is based on the following criteria:

  1. Task Achievement
  2. Coherence and Cohesion
  3. Lexical Resource
  4. Grammatical Range and Accuracy

Task 2

For Writing Task 2, candidates are presented with an opinion, problem or issue. They will then be asked:

  1. to suggest the solution to a problem
  2. to compare and contrast evidence or opinions
  3. to evaluate and perhaps challenge an argument or idea
  4. to present and justify an opinion.

Candidates must write at least 250 words and are advised to spend 40 minutes on this task.

Writing Task 2 assessment is based on the following criteria:

  1. Task Response
  2. Coherence and Cohesion
  3. Lexical Resource
  4. Grammatical Range and Accuracy

What are the main skills tested in IELTS Academic Writing?

1. General writing skills

  1. Matching the piece of writing to its audience and purpose
  2. Structuring writing
  3. Coherence and cohesion
  4. Clarity of expression
  5. Accuracy of language

2. Specific skills

  1. Choosing the most relevant information
  2. Organising information
  3. Describing data correctly and clearly
  4. Writing in the correct style and register
  5. Adopting an appropriate style
  6. Adopting appropriate order of information

The structure of the text

Structure is given to a piece of writing through the use of paragraphing. The meaning of the paragraphs is made clearer by the use of topic sentences and specific phrases that signal the writer's intentions.

We use paragraphs to signal that we are moving on to a new point or new topic. Paragraphs help the reader to understand that one point has ended and another is just beginning. It is also much easier to read small chunks of text than long, continuous ones.

Topic sentences contain the theme of the paragraph. They make the theme of the paragraph clear to the reader and so help to give the text coherence. The rest of the paragraph is usually elaboration and/or exemplification of the theme.

Signalling phrases are words and phrases we include in our writing to signal to the reader what we are going to talk about next. We use expressions such as this essay will examine, I would like now to consider, firstly, secondly, finally, in contrast, however, nevertheless and so on.

Coherence and cohesion

Coherence involves the adoption of a logical pattern in the written text. There are also a range of cohesive features that a student can bring in to their writing: adjectives, articles, conjunctions, pronouns, possessives and so on.

Clarity of expression

Expressing yourself clearly involves using language accurately and with an appropriate range, writing coherently and cohesively, following the conventions of the particular kind of writing (e.g. a letter or an essay), and writing relevantly and comprehensively.

Accuracy of language

Using the correct forms of language - language which contains no mistakes of grammar, punctuation, spelling or vocabulary use.

IELTS Report Writing Academic Writing Task 1

The students will be assessed on:

  • Comprehension of the data - clear signs that the students has understood it.
  • Selection of data to demonstrate trends and specific detail.
  • Organisation of the report - making it appropriate in arrangement, and clear and easy to understand.
  • Appropriate style - the report should be objective and written in a formal style.

Discursive writing conventions for IELTS Academic Writing Task 2

Students will be assessed on:

  • Appropriate style - this should be objective and formal.
  • Appropriate order of information - essays in English often follow the pattern introduction → body → conclusion. However, the precise pattern used depends on the kind of discursive writing (e.g. discussing advantages and disadvantages, evaluating evidence, giving your opinion).


Learning resources, notes and exercises for international students and teachers of English