To score well in Writing Task 2 you need to show that you
- can answer all parts of the question effectively
- can make your opinion clear in 250 words (40 minutes)
- can write formal, academic English
- can think critically
- can argue your point and give relevant examples to defend your argument
- can organise your thoughts logically
- can develop and extend your ideas
- can write a concise introduction
- can write accurately
Here are my 9 best tips to improve your IELTS Essay-writing techniques.
1. How do I answer the question?
There is no correct way to answer a Task 2 question. You can answer the question in many different ways, and they could all achieve a high score.
But there are some things that you can do to get the highest score possible.
- Answer the question very closely and specifically.
- Give your own opinion strongly and clearly throughout (include it in the Introduction)
- You can 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.
- Show the other points of view if you need to, but argue clearly why you think the other point of view is wrong.
- Make sure you answer all parts of the question and keep referring back to the question throughout your essay
2. How many words should I write?
IELTS Writing is about quality, not quantity.
The minimum word count 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 300-320 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.
Some people like to do Task 2 before Task 1 – this is up to you, but I would recommend getting Task 1 ‘out of the way’ so that you can fully concentrate on Task 2.
3. How formal should my language be?
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’.
I have many lessons on how to make your language more formal. Here are some:
- How to use formal language in IELTS Task 2 (20 tips and examples)
- A Band 9 essay about crime (10 formal language tips)
I do NOT recommend inventing research articles to make your essay more ‘academic-sounding’.
4. Is it ok to memorise a ‘template’ essay?
It is better to avoid using large chunks of language that you have memorised. These types of sentences are often empty and meaningless e.g.
‘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!)
Examiners can easily see if you are using language that you have memorised and will give you a lower mark for this.
The questions are designed to test your ability to analyse and think critically about a topic. 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 spend your time developing your language so that you can tackle ANY question with confidence.
Here are some lessons to help you do that:
- How to hedge (another feature of academic writing)
- How to show concession in IELTS Writing (showing that you can see both points of view)
5. How to structure a Task 2 Essay
The main types of Task 2 questions are:
- problem – solution
- advantages – disadvantages
- agree – disagree
- for – against
- cause – effect
I do NOT recommend learning ‘types’ of essay. There is only one ‘type’ of IELTS essay: an opinion essay. This can be a one-sided opinion essay, or a two-sided opinion essay.
Forget all the things you have been taught about essay types. The examiner just wants you to answer the question clearly.
I recommend that you structure your essay into 4 clear paragraphs like this:
General statement related to the topic
Your opinion (what you think, and what you will argue)
Problems | Causes | Disadvantages | Arguments AGAINST
Solutions | Effects | Advantages | Arguments FOR
A summary of your main argument and opinion.
A final thought such as a recommendation or a consequence.
I have many examples on the site that follow this structure. Please see
- How to structure an IELTS Task 2 essay (1 question – 3 options)
- IELTS Task 2 structures that strengthen your argument (same question – ‘alternative’ structure)
- The best 4-paragraph essay I have ever seen (Crime topic)
- How to talk about cause and effect in an IELTS Task 2 essay
- How to answer ‘to what extent do you agree?’ questions
6. How to write the introduction
Many teachers recommend that you paraphrase the question in the Introduction.
This option is popular because it is an easy option.
It is not difficult to substitute words and follow the structure that the question has already given you.
However, I believe this option is dangerous for two main reasons:
- The easy option is unlikely to get you a Band 7, which requires an ability to write independently without relying on the input
- Many students just replace words with synonyms that are incorrect, which will lose points.
I recommend that you write a General Statement that reflects on the issue, followed by a VERY clear statement of your opinion.
Get more details on how to write an IELTS Task 2 introduction here.
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)
Learn more about PEEL paragraphs here.
Learn more about Coherence and Cohesion in IELTS Task 2 here.
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’)
Get my full list of how to write more complex sentences here.
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
Find some of my favourite grammar and spell-checking tools on this page:
The Members Academy Courses
The Members Academy has a 28-Day Writing Course for both General Training and Academic Test-Takers.
It includes videos, worksheets, quizzes, ebooks, cribsheets, lists of essential phrases, grammar practice, progress trackers, private Facebook group and personal Writing Feedback every week.
It also includes a 28-Day Course and Challenge for EACH skill – have a quick look at the Writing course here:
Want more writing tips?
How to make your writing more complex – 10 ways and a YouTube 10-minute tutorial.
How to refer to research articles in Task 2.
The ultimate guide to the best Writing Websites for IELTS
Join the Members Academy and get the full Essentials and Advanced Writing Course.
The course includes:
- 28 Days of videos
- 28 Worksheets
- Integrated Grammar course
- Integrated Vocabulary Course
- real Feedback Videos
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- 60 x Task 2 Models
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and that’s just the Writing Course!
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