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Writing Points: Ten Must-Know Skills for the IELTS Writing Module

Think you’re ready for your IELTS writing test? Get prepared by checking these critical test day tips and tricks below.

  1. General or Academic? Know the difference.

Although the speaking and listening exams are the same, the writing tests are different. They both require specific writing skills. Task 1 of the writing module is particularly different. Task 1 Academic requires how-to knowledge for writing academic summaries of images, while Task 1 General is letter writing. As for the Task 2, both Academic and General are similar. They both require an essay style answer but differ on the topics.

       2. Task 1 academic? Summary, summary, summary!

This one is for Academic test takers only. If you’re not up on the standard writing style for academic summaries, you’d better start preparing now. This is a specific skill that you’ll always find in Task 1. You’ll be given some kind of image, like a graph, a chart, a process, or a diagram. Using that, you'll have to write a report. Be aware that there are no opinions, explanations, or use of your own examples in this task. You've simply gotta report what you see.

       3. Task 1 general? style and bullets are important.

A couple things jump out when people ask about the Task 1 general. First, you have to match the style of your writing to the recipient. A recipient is the person you are writing the letter to. This means if you’re expected to write to a friend or family member, your letter’s gonna be informal. If it’s to the town councillor or a bank manager, it’s gotta be formal (BTW- gotta and gonna are NOT formal). Second is bullets. These are those three black points you’ll see in the instruction test book. Make sure you answer all three in your letter or you might lose points.


       4. The capitals

Well, lots of you are going to love what I’m about to tell you. IELTS doesn’t dock marks for wrongly using capitals or lower case letters. Although it is always good practice to use capitals correctly, don’t be stressed about it on your exam. dO yoU waNna stuDY iN cAnaDA or auSTraLia? Lol.

       5. Show your lexis

No, I’m not talking about a Lexus. This isn’t a luxury car show. Lexis means your vocabulary. More specifically, it means the words you use. This, of course, is a quarter of your writing mark. A few things that will hurt you here are spelling mistakes, repeating the same words, or copying vocabulary from the test book. Some tips are to use lots of synonyms, less common idioms, and paraphrase text from the test book questions.

       6. The grammar hammer

I know everyone here loves English grammar (that’s a joke). Well, whether you like it or not, you're going to need to use it effectively on the writing exam. Accurate and appropriate grammar are important. Showing a mix of grammatical forms and a mix of sentence types is important. Remember, just like vocabulary, grammar is 25% of your writing mark.

       7. Stay connected

Another part of your writing score comes from cohesion. So what does cohesion mean? This means how your writing connects together. It’s important to use words and phrases that give direction and order to your ideas. These words are like road signs. They tell the reader where to go. A few examples are first, second, third, however, in conclusion, in sum, in my opinion, etc.... So make sure to use them and use them well!

       8. Paragraphs are paramount

On all writing tasks, paragraphing is important. You will really limit your score if you don’t use paragraphs or don’t use them well. So, make sure when you are prepping for the exam, you review and practice proper paragraphs. A few key ideas here are topic sentences, supporting ideas, and staying on topic.

       9. Stay on track

The IELTS speaking exam might be like chatting with your friend, but not Task 2 of the writing. You have to stay on topic and answer the question fully and directly. Not doing this will really limit your score. For instance, if the essay question is about winter sports, don’t start writing about beach volleyball. If the question is about university tuition, don’t go on about holidays in the Caribbean.  You get the picture.

       10. Size matters

I heard once that the most boring job is being a word counter. This means counting each and every word in a piece of writing. And yes, it’s true, the IELTS markers will count every word you write. For this purpose, all words are created equal. ‘The’ is counted as one word, and so is ‘a’, ‘banana’, ‘micro-biology’, and ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.’ Task 1 is 150 words. Task 2 is 250 words. Not having enough words will lower your score. So, when you’re doing your practice tests, count your words and be sure you have enough!

Glossary

particularly

specifically; focusing on

up on

to be up-to-date on something; to know something

BTW

Informal texting language meaning ‘by the way’

gotta

informal or slang for got to

gonna

informal or slang for going to

dock marks

to get marks taken away on a test, assignment, or exam

prepping

preparing for

get the picture

Idiom meaning understand the general idea

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