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How to Prepare for the IELTS Test Writing Module

Mar 7th 2018

The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is one of the world's most trusted English language tests.

IELTS is designed to test the language ability of people who want to study, work and live in English-speaking countries. It's natural to feel nervous before taking the test, but you will have plenty of support to help you prepare for it.

Even native English speakers need to practice for IELTS, or they may be unpleasantly surprised on the day of the test. In fact, some native English speakers do not score as well on the test than other test takers because they are completely unprepared.

Understand the test format

There are two types of the IELTS test, one for Academic and one for IELTS General Training. Both tests consist of listening, reading and writing components. The listening component is the same, but the reading and writing components differ.

A speaking component can be completed a week before or after the other tests. The other components of listening, reading and writing all take place on the same day and you have no break in between each section.

The writing component of the test takes 60 minutes, and you do it after the listening and reading components.

Get to know the different parts of this test – for example, the general training test consists of a letter writing task of at least 150 words and a short essay task of at least 250 words. You write the test in an answer booklet.

Gather practice materials

Many practice materials are readily available, most of which are free.

  • Download the IELTS test app which includes practice tests, tips, and quizzes.
  • The Road to IELTS is the British Council's comprehensive, online preparation course. (The free version consists of 30 interactive tests and 4 videos)
  • Make use of free IELTS online practice tests and resources.
  • Buy IELTS books and study guides
  • WORDREADY is the British Council's free vocabulary tool. It's an online resource designed to help you improve your English skills.

Understand what's required

The purpose of the written module is to assess a range of writing skills including:

  • Writing an appropriate response
  • Organizing your ideas
  • Correct usage of vocabulary and grammar

The topics used in General Training writing test are ones of general interest about common, everyday issues. The letter you write will request information or explain a situation.

You may need to provide information, express needs or wants, likes or dislikes, express opinions or make suggestions. If you write to a friend, you'll write in an informal tone, but if you write to a manager, it will be in a semi-formal or formal tone. You won't have to include an address at the head of the letter.

The second task in the General Training writing test is an essay written in response to a problem, argument or point of view.

You can use a personal style, and you will be asked to give reasons for your answer and support what you say from your own experience. This is more abstract than the first task and carries more weight.

Time yourself doing written tests

To achieve the best score in your test, it's important to prepare well – even if you are confident about writing tests.

Aim for mock tests. Mock tests are the best way to gain real-time experience and see where you stand. Various coaching institutes and online platforms provide mock tests that are real-time.

Time yourself to complete both parts of the written test in one hour. As you will need to write 250 words for the second task and only 150 for the first task, you need to allocate your time correctly. The letter writing task should take your 20 minutes, allowing you 40 minutes to spend on the essay task.

  • Read instructions for each task carefully.
  • Write clearly, organize your ideas and use vocabulary and grammar correctly.
  • Aim for quality rather than quantity.
  • Review your work once you have completed both tasks.
  • Download the model answers as good examples of what you should have written.

Understand how examiners will assess your answers

The IELTS examiners assess answers by:

  • Task achievement
  • Coherent and cohesion
  • Vocabulary
  • Grammatical range and accuracy

These criteria all carry equal weight.

Practice, practice and practice some moreYou cannot cram the night before and expect to do well. Learning the right grammar and vocabulary takes time.

Your writing improves if you read so make sure to practice reading newspaper, magazines, etc. as well as practice tests. Reading can help you to understand proper sentence structure, increase your vocabulary and make your writing more fluent.

Particularly for task one, if you know the proper sentence structures, you can, to some extent, easily learn and adapt sentences to suit several types of the first task.

Test day advice

Find out ahead of time where the test center is located and when the test starts. Try to get there well ahead of time, so you're not stressed or rushed before your test. If you arrive late, you're not allowed to take the test.

Make sure you have your identity document with you. Without it, you will not be allowed to take the test. A photograph will be taken of you before you do the test and this is used on your test report.

Have something to eat and drink beforehand as you'll be busy for nearly three hours with no breaks. Food is not allowed in the test room, but you can take in a drink in a transparent bottle.

Keep calm – take some deep breaths if you feel stressed. You need to be able to focus on the questions and think calmly about how to answer.

Make sure you have all your test materials ready – pencil, pen, eraser.

Don't be afraid to ask the staff questions if you have any queries – they are happy to help you.

Make the most of your written test

  • Read both tasks and underline keywords.
  • You're allowed to write your test in pen or pencil, and you can make notes on the question paper if you wish.
  • Plan how to tackle each task.
  • Put one idea in a paragraph.
  • Don't repeat your ideas using different words.
  • If you copy whole sentences from the question, you receive no marks.
  • Keep strictly to the topic. Writing about something unrelated will earn you extra marks.
  • Remember that you won't have time to count the number of words you've written in the test. Learn how to recognize the space 150 and 250 words take up in your handwriting.
  • If you don't write the required number of words, you lose marks.
  • Answers must be written in full. Bullet points and incomplete sentences will lose you marks.
  • Don't memorize the model answers and regurgitate them. Examiners are trained to recognize them.
  • Take time to read through and correct spelling and grammar if necessary.


Feeling apprehensive before taking a test is perfectly normal. Fortunately, when you need to take the IELT, you receive plenty of information and advice, materials to practice and other support. Preparation for the test is vital, and as long as you are well prepared, you have absolutely nothing to worry about.

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