Following on from my earlier post about IELTS test preparation, I was pleased to see a wealth of advice and information out there for students preparing for each of the four sections of the test.
It really is such a crucial test for many international students, and can pave the way for future qualifications and career moves, so palms can get a little sweaty!
In this post I have gathered together seven of the best tips out there for making the Writing part of the test a little less daunting.
Writing Test Structure
For the Writing section you are allocated 60 minutes to complete 2 writing tasks.
Those looking to enrol in universities and other higher education institutions will take the Academic IELTS writing test; those planning to complete their secondary education, take non-academic training, or to gain work experience will complete the general training writing test.
For the academic test you will need to complete both of the following:
- A passage of at least 150 words – based on some graphic or pictorial information. Write a descriptive report on the information provided.
- An essay of at least 250 words – produce a written argument on a given topic using examples to support your points.
7 Test and Preparation Tips
- Practice with a Native Speaker to Correct your Work
You really need to practice writing long passages or essays frequently; that means actually writing the answers out (not merely thinking about what you would write.) Not only that – get them checked and corrected by a native speaker, at your local English center, for example. That’s the only way you will learn to construct better sentences, link paragraphs and create coherent pieces.
- Create a Structure
When writing an essay it’s not just what you write but creating a structure that follows a logical sequence; this is what we call ‘composition’. Spend a few minutes upfront writing a brief outline before you write any piece.
Usually there needs to be a beginning statement or introduction, followed by supportive statements, evidence or examples; you can outline the counter-argument and why you disagree with it; then a conclusion or closing statement that summarises the body of your essay.
- Start with Task 2
Task 2 is the longer writing task and is worth more marks so it’s best to start with that, in case you run out of time. That’s not to say that you should not worry about Task 1 – it’s important to complete both or you will be heavily penalised. Try to spend the first 40 minutes of your hour on Task 2 and the last 20 minutes on Task 1.
- Task 1 – Learn the Structures and Apply them
There are specific structures you can use for writing about pictorial information. Practice Task 1 examples as much as possible before the exam so that you can use these “templates”, with the appropriate verbs and data, when it comes to the real thing.
- You Have a Vocabulary – Use It!
You have spent time developing your vocabulary. Make sure you use it in the exam; academic writing is formal so you will need to show examiners that you have the necessary skills to use that type of language in your writing and you will be marked up for using the full extent of your vocabulary. If it needs work beforehand, spend time to improve it.
Be especially aware of using transitional words and phrases that will help to link your sentences and paragraphs together in a cohesive ‘whole’; learn transitions for agreement, contrast and result especially. This will create an academic essay rather than an unconnected series of statements, which will be marked down.
- Keep it Formal and Avoid Repetition
As mentioned previously, you need to keep it formal. That means no abbreviations, no SMS language, no contractions and no slang.
Also, don’t be tempted to pad out your essay by saying the same thing in a different way; repetition won’t get you anywhere.
Last but not least – take a deep breath; if you’ve done the necessary practice and you are serious enough about the test to be reading this post, you will be fine in your exam. Believe in yourself, take a deep breath and relax.
The above 7 tips should keep you from losing sleep the night before the exam.
In summary, to be successful for the IELTS writing test, you need to practice hard and have your work corrected and then learn to relax before the exam; then, during the writing test itself, watch the time you spend on the two tasks and use the 4 Cs in your essay writing: conciseness, cohesion, coherence and composition. Good luck!
Are you taking the IELTS test soon? Check out our free report. You will find tips and strategies to be well prepared when taking the test. You can download it here.