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IELTS Writing & the Band Descriptors

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What’s IELTS Writing All About

In the IELTS writing section of your exam, you must write two essays.

IELTS Writing Task 1 should contain at least 150 words. For the General test, you will write a letter, and for the Academic a description of data.

IELTS Writing Task 2 has a minimum requirement of 250 words. You should answer a question in which you must express a position or opinion.

You should complete both IELTS writing tasks within 60 minutes.

Most test candidates take the paper version of the test – which means they write their essay on paper with a pencil.

However, the IELTS partners have introduced a new computer version of the IELTS writing test. The computer version has several advantages which you can read about on this page.

How Examiners Assess IELTS Writing

Examiners use exact marking criteria called Writing Band Descriptors when marking your test. You can see public versions of those here.

The descriptors contain four criteria: Task Achievement; Coherence and Cohesion; Lexical Resource; and Grammatical Range and Accuracy. All have equal weighting.

The IELTS examiner assigns a band score of between 1.0 – 9.0 for each category.

Let’s take each of them in turn.

IELTS Writing Task Achievement

This part of the band descriptors assesses whether you have answered the prompt and covered the requirements of the task.

For letters in the general test, the examiner will focus on whether you have fully answered each bullet point and the tone of your letter.

See our video course for an in-depth analysis of how you should approach the General Writing Task 1, and analysis of the biggest mistakes candidates make.

For an IELTS Academic Task 1 essay, the examiner checks whether your essay contains all the main features of the data. He will also check to see whether you have included an overview.

For IELTS Writing Task 2, the examiner wants to see that you have answered all parts of the question; included a clear position; developed your main ideas and supported them sufficiently.

Mock IELTS Writing General Task 1 Model Answer - Moving House (informal) by Andrew Turner @ EnglishWithAnExpert.com

They will also assess whether you have used an appropriate format (e.g. using bullet points carries a heavy penalty).

For more details, click on the links above. You could also purchase one of our video courses for an in-depth analysis of how to score well on the IELTS writing exam and the mistakes to avoid.

Coherence and Cohesion

Lexical Resource


After Coherence and Cohesion, the IELTS examiner will turn his attention to vocabulary.

Was your vocabulary adequate and connected to the topic? Using a word more than three times might be interpreted as a lack of vocabulary.

Did you use your vocabulary in a natural way? You should try to write in the same way as a native speaker. Don’t invent expressions or use clichés – for example, It’s raining cats and dogs.

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What impact on understanding did errors make? The examiner won’t award a high band score if they struggle to understand your meaning.

There are strategies you can use here to expand your vocabulary range, and we demonstrate how to use them in our video course.

If you want to expand your vocabulary, you could also follow us on Twitter. We often post links to articles containing high-level vocabulary that will help you on test day.

Also, keep an eye on our monthly Spotlight IELTS Vocabulary series.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy


The examiner will now turn his attention to your Grammatical Range and Accuracy.

To score an IELTS band 8.0, the descriptors say that you use a wide range of structures and that the majority of them are error free.

Punctuation mistakes (including capitalisation) are also included in this section. Most native speakers tend to slip up here.

Our video courses cover the kind of grammatical structures the examiner expects to see for each band level.

If you make consistent mistakes in this area – we advise you to book some lessons with an expert teacher.

Keep Reading/Listening/Watching About IELTS Writing



Mock IELTS Writing General Task 1 Model Answer - Moving House (informal) by Andrew Turner @ EnglishWithAnExpert.com