Writing test advice

by Elisa

First thing you should know is that you can use either pen or pencil to write answers and you can even can write everything in CAPITAL LETTERS.

You will not have any spare paper to make notes but you can write anything you like on the question paper (in other words, question paper is where you can make notes)... 

  • Time is the big enemy in the IELTS Writing test. You need to be able to manage your time very well if you are to complete both tasks to the best of your ability. Task 1 accounts for one third of the marks and Task 2 the remaining two thirds. You should therefore spend 20 minutes on task 1 and 40 minutes on task 2. We don't recommend spending more time on one at the expense of the other, even if you feel you can answer one more easily than the other.
  • Answer both tasks to the best of your ability. It isn't important which task you do first. However, be sure to answer each task in the correct place. The answer sheet has "Task 1" and "Task 2" written on it in the appropriate place. Task 1 is on page 1 and Task 2 on page 3 If you do accidentally answer a task in the wrong place make sure you mark it clearly and, if in doubt, inform the invigilator who will make a note of this. As long as it is clear to the examiner there will be no problem.
  • Read the instructions carefully. If you do not fulfill the requirements of the task you will be penalised.
  • Allow yourself some time to plan your answer. You need a well planned, coherent answer to get good marks. You must answer the task set. Be sure to read the entire task description carefully. Quite often the introductory sentence will indicate what aspect of the topic is most relevant. Don't misread it! If you don't respond to the topic, you will lose marks. If you don't answer the task that is set, or include information that is irrelevant, you will lose marks.
  • Don't change the topic to something you are more familiar with (or have memorised). You will surely be disappointed!
  • You will not be given any rough paper so use the question sheet for notes and planning. Anything you write on the question paper will not be used for assessment.
  • You are required to write a minimum number of words - 150 for task 1 and 250 for task 2. If you write less than the minimum number you will be penalised. If you write more you will not be penalised but writing more may mean you don't have time to complete the other task. Ideally you should try to write just over the minimum number for each task. If you find you don't have enough room on the answer paper to complete your script ask the invigilator for more paper.
  • There is no requirement to fit your entire script on the answer paper supplied, though this is usually sufficient. Don't try to pad out your script by copying the rubric (bullet) from the question paper. If you do, it won't be included in any word count made by the examiner.
  • Don't try to memorise a 'model' answer before the test. It is unlikely that you will have a task on the same topic and scripts that are memorised or plagiarised are easily detected by the examiner and will be penalised.
  • Write clearly. Although you won't be penalised for untidy writing, if the examiner can't read your script it will be marked down. Poor spelling, however, will be penalised.
  • When writing your script remember that it will be marked by an examiner who is looking to see if you have fulfilled the requirements of the task, that your writing is coherent, that you can use the appropriate vocabulary and have a good range of sentence structures. The examiner will be looking to see how accurately you can manage these things. Your examiner can only work with what he is given so do your best to provide him with a variety of language used accurately and appropriately to show what you are capable of.
  • If you finish both tasks before your time is up, don't just sit there feeling smug! Use this time to check what you have written. While it is unlikely you will have time to make major changes to the content or layout of your essay, you should certainly spend the time proofreading. Check carefully for spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. Inaccuracy in these areas will lose you marks so time spent proofreading is time well spent. 

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