Here are my best tips to improve your IELTS Essay-writing techniques.
- Make your opinion clear in the introduction
- Write 270 – 330 words
- Use formal, academic English
- Use collocations
- Use a 4-paragraph structure
- Write a 3-part introduction
- Use PEEL paragraphs to develop your ideas
- Use SOME complex language
- Write clearly and accurately
- Prepare your ideas beforehand
Get my free ’10 reasons you’re not getting Band 7 in IELTS Writing’ guide below.
1. Make your opinion clear
Don’t ‘sit on the fence’. Make your opinion clear in the introduction (e.g. ‘This essay will argue in favour/against…) and summarise it again in the conclusion.
- It is good to show both sides of the argument, but you must say which side you agree with and why.
- Answer the question with strong and relevant examples to support your main points.
- Avoid using personal examples (e.g. your friends/family) to support your points – choose evidence that is generally applicable
- Show the other points of view if you need to, but argue clearly why you think the other point of view is wrong.
This gives you a good opportunity to use linking words of concession and balance (‘Although others might argue that…. I believe that…’)
2. Write 270 -330 words
IELTS Writing is about quality, not quantity.
The minimum word count guide is 250 words so it is important not to go UNDER this limit.
Don’t be afraid to go over the word limit, especially if you’re a confident writer, aiming for a Band 7 or above.
Even if you’re a strong writer, try not to go over 300-330 otherwise the examiner might not read your final paragraph, and you risk losing focus/going off topic.
Make sure that you leave a full 40 minutes for Task 2, as it is worth more than Task 1.
3. Use formal language
The IELTS exam tests your ability to write Academic English, so it has to be formal. For example, you
should NOT use contractions (don’t/ isn’t/ won’t) – always write two words (do not/ is not/ will not)
should NOT use ‘spoken’ language like ‘I’m gonna/ I wanna’ – always write ‘I am going to/ I want to’ or slang words like ‘kids’.
should avoid personal stories such as ‘Me and my friend text each other all the time, so mobile phones are really useful’. It’s better to use more general examples: ‘One of the major benefits of having a mobile phone is the ability to get a message to the recipient without having to disturb them with a phone call’.
Do NOT invent research articles to make your essay more ‘academic-sounding’.
Do these lessons on academic writing:
4. Use collocations (not long, memorised sentences)
Memorised sentences are often empty and meaningless, as you can see in the example below:
‘This controversial topic has become a heated debated recently. In my essay I will firstly discuss the advantages and then I will go on to discuss the disadvantages. Finally I will summarise my opinion and conclude that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages’.
(46 words which say almost nothing)
The questions are designed to test your ability to analyse and express your ideas about a topic clearly.
This will not be possible if you try to use ‘template’ essays, as these cannot be made to fit each topic.
It is much better to learn and use collocations or ‘chunks’ of langauage (such as the language of effects) so that you can tackle ANY question with confidence.
5. How many paragraphs should you use?
You need to organise your ideas so that they are logical and easy for the examiner to follow.
It is very simple to structure an IELTS essay based on the question types, for example:
- problem – solution
- advantages – disadvantages
- agree – disagree
- for – against
- cause – effect
Structure your essay into 4 clear paragraphs like this:
- How to write a ‘To what extent do you agree?’ Task 2 essay
- How to write an IELTS Cause and Effect essay
- How to write a ‘Discuss both views’ essay (Crime topic)
- ‘Discuss both views’ essay structure (Finance topic)
- A simple 4-paragraph structure that works
- IELTS Writing Task 2 structures
- 3 structures you can use for any IELTS Task 2 essay
6. How to write the introduction
Many teachers recommend that you paraphrase the question in the Introduction.
I disagree with this advice.
I recommend that you write a 3-part introduction.
- General Statement that reflects on the issue
- Mention both sides of the issue
- Give a VERY clear statement of your opinion
7. How to organise your writing logically
Writing a quick plan, and structuring your essay into 4 or 5 paragraphs will help the reader follow the logic of your argument.
There are a few more things you can do.
- Give each paragraph a topic sentence – tell the reader what that paragraph will be about e.g ‘There are several reasons why people argue in favour of [topic]’
- Use linking words that tell the reader what you’re doing (First of all, On the other hand)
- Extend each point with an explanation or an example so that the reader sees the relevance of your point.
- Organise your paragraphs into ‘PEEL’ paragraphs (Point – Example/Explanation – Link back to the question)
- How to write PEEL paragraphs
- How to improve Coherence and Cohesion in IELTS Writing Task 2
- How to use advanced linking words (Present Participle)
8. How can I make my writing more complex?
Examiners would much prefer to read an essay that is clear and easy to understand, than one where the writer is trying to be complex.
So you should not try to use language that is more complex than you are comfortable with.
But there are some simple changes you can make to improve your writing if you tend to use very simple structures. You can
- link 2 short sentences with ‘and’ or ‘but’ or ‘so’ or ‘because’
- use simple conditionals with ‘if’
- use relative clauses, which will make sentences longer
- make simple contrasts with ‘although’ (‘Although some people argue in favour of this, I disagree’)
9. How to write accurately
According to the Official Band Descriptors, you do NOT need to write perfect English to get a high score.
Having a good teacher and getting regular practice and feedback will obviously help you write accurately, but there are lots of ways you can help yourself too e.g.
- Buy a good grammar book
- Use free grammar checkers
10. How to get ideas
Ideas build up over time.They come from:
- reading widely (news articles, journals etc)
- listening to what other people think/argue (news reports, debates etc)
- questioning and analysing what you believe to be good/bad/right/wrong/acceptable/unacceptable
- thinking critically and in-depth about a wide range of issues
Ideas come from your life experience and awareness of the world around you, so there’s no quick way to get ideas.
Don’t wait till Test Day to search your brain for ideas.
Answer the question very closely and specifically.
For example, if the question is about the benefits of mobile phones, make sure that your arguments relate to mobile phones and not just the internet or computers. The argument that they are useful in emergencies is better than the argument that you can chat with your friends.
- Underline key words and keep looking back at the question to check you’re still answering it as you write.
For every point you make, tell the examiner how it relates to the question, for example by using a ‘so what’ sentence or a PEEL paragraph (Point, Explanation, Example, Link back to the question).
- Give your own opinion strongly and clearly
- How to write a Band 9 essay (Charity topic).
- Features of a Band 9 essay: PEEL paragraphs (CEO topic).
- Features of a Band 9 essay: Organisation (Human impact on the environment)
- How to hedge in a Task 2 essay.
- How to use ‘despite’ and ‘in spite of’ in Task 2.
- How to use a formal tone in Task 2.
- How to use concession (‘although’) in Task 2.
- How to write a Task 2 introduction. (Bicycles vs Cars)
- How to answer ‘To what extent?’ questions (School uniform)
- Coherence and Cohesion for Task 2 (zoos)
- A simple 4-paragraph structure (Prisons)
- Option: 5-paragraph structures (Vivisection, Machines)
- For and Against: brainstorming ideas (Dress codes at work)
- Cause and Effect essays (Public transport)
- ‘Discuss both views’ essays (Fixed punishments)
- Categorising Task 2 arguments (Should education be free? Distance learning vs face to face)
- An alternative essay structure for Task 2 (zoos)
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