Organizing your writing on the IELTS

If you have done some research about IELTS, you know that it is very important that writing responses be organized. I suggest looking at the public rubric online where you will see that one of the many things your IELTS examiner will consider is how well your answers are organized. This blog post will provide some tips to keep in mind to help organize your writing on the IELTS test.

Before we get to those tips, let’s first review a few things about the Writing section of the IELTS:

  • There are two Writing tasks on the IELTS: Task 1 and Task 2.
  • Task 1 of the IELTS General Training Writing test is a letter. The letter will be to a friend, relative, manager, boss, etc. and you will request information or explain a situation.
  • Task 1 of the IELTS Academic Writing test is a description or explanation of a diagram, table, chart or graph.
  • Task 2 for both the IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic Writing test is an essay responding to a problem or an argument.

Here are some tips when writing your responses:

Read carefully and take notes 

Before you start writing, make sure you take a few moments to carefully read the question. Once you understand the question, you can start preparing your answers. 

To help you prepare, I suggest the following:

  • Take a few notes and write down a few ideas you think might be suitable for your answer.
  • Do a quick outline to plan and organize your thoughts. Choose the best responses from your notes.
  • When you have decided on a few ideas, expand on them with examples, supporting details, etc.

It’s time to write

Once you have chosen your ideas, it is time to start writing. To keep your answers well organized, you must write in paragraphs. Be sure you do not write in bullet points or in point form.  

Format

For the Task 2 essays, you will write in essay format. You should have an introductory paragraph, body paragraphs (usually 2-3) and a conclusion. I strongly suggest looking at sample answers online and also practice writing essays before taking your IELTS test. The format for essays is as follows:

Introductory paragraph: the topic and main idea(s), then write your thesis statement – what the essay will be about.

Body paragraphsyour points and support them with details, examples, etc.  

Concluding paragraphsummarize the points in your essay

For Task 1, here are a few suggestions about format:

  • For the letter in the IELTS General Training Writing test, include a short greeting, then tell the recipient why you are writing. Here you must also include the specific details from the question. It is very important that you include all points from the question in your answer. Also, include a short closing.
  • For the description for Task 1 of the IELTS Academic Writing test, describe the graph, chart, or diagram in the question. Be sure to include an introduction, key details about the item you are describing, their relevance, comparisons, etc. End the description with a short conclusion.

Be aware of time

Remember that you have a total of 60 minutes for the Writing test, so be sure to plan accordingly. Most IELTS test takers spend approximately 20 minutes on Task 1 and 40 minutes on Task 2. I suggest leaving some time at the end to quickly review your answers and make any necessary changes.  

Cohesive devices are your friends

There are these very useful and important words in English called cohesive devices that help keep our writing organized. Be sure to use these words to connect your ideas and help your reader follow your writing. Here is a very short list of the many different cohesive devices:

  • Furthermore
  • However
  • Next
  • First, second, third
  • Finally
  • So 
  • Then

I suggest taking some time before you take your IELTS test to study these words (and the many others!) and practice using them in your writing.  

Finally

It is very wise to take time to review some sample IELTS questions and answers online so you can gain a clear understanding about the format of the exam, the kinds of questions you may be asked, and suitable answers.  

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