Top tips to improve your academic IELTS writing task 2 score

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an exam that measures the English language proficiency of candidates who wish to study or work in countries or organisations where English is used as the means of communication. It tests the four language skills, listening, reading, writing and speaking. This blog will focus on the writing test, task 2.

Firstly, yourself with the task and the time limit. Time management and planning are key factors when taking any kind of exam. As is thinking time especially for this writing task. What are the examiners looking for? How is writing task 2 different from writing task 1? If somebody asked you this question would you be able to explain it to them? If the answer is No, then your first task is to do some research. Hopefully reading this blog will help to inform you and give you some tips to improve your writing for academic IELTS writing task 2.

What is task 2 writing in Academic IELTS and how is it different from task 1 writing in Academic IELTS?

Writing task 2 is essentially about task response whereas writing task 1 is about task achievement. What does that mean? Quite simply writing task 1 is about how well you describe and summarise the information in the diagram whereas writing task 2 is about how well you respond to the question set. In addition, how well do you develop an opinion or argument. There is more scope to show off your language ability & knowledge of the English language and to communicate your ideas & opinions. Change your mindset, do not think of it as an awful exam question you have to answer. Think of it as an amazing form of written communication & a chance to share your thoughts and ideas about a topic. Think of writing as a form of personal expression.

What do international students find difficult about academic IELTS writing task 2?

There are a number of things that students of all levels find challenging. Firstly, writing in the English language may follow different conventions to that of your own language. There are different ideas of how to organise your writing in different  languages and cultures. It is more than knowing  grammar and vocabulary. Remember grammar accounts for 25% of the total mark. Secondly, in English writing  there is a prescribed way of writing paragraphs. It is a good idea to start at the paragraph level. Thirdly, do not run before you can walk. By this I mean be aware of your own level and what you need to work on. Manage your own expectations, improving an aspect of your language ability takes time and effort. Writing is one of the more challenging skills. However, there are simple improvements you can make that can improve your score whatever your level. 

How can I write a good paragraph? 

Think of a paragraph as a mini essay. That means it must have an introduction, a body and a conclusion. The sentences must flow and be linked. A paragraph usually contains one idea and starts with a topic sentence. The topic sentence tells the reader what the paragraph is about clearly. A paragraph is usually 5 sentences but this of course depends on the length of the writing. 

What are the question types for academic IELTS writing task 2?

They are discursive questions in various formats for example, problem/solution, cause/effect, advantages/disadvantages and agree/disagree. Learners often make the mistake of not reading the question and therefore not answering the question. They may merely describe the topic in the question but not answer the question posed. Doing this means that you will score low on task fullfilment /response. Good preparation for academic IELTS writing task 2 is to brainstorm topics and have discussions in class to generate ideas and opinions that learners can write about in their essays. They sometimes find it hard to see both sides of the argument. This is a key skill not only for IELTS but for EAP too, if the student’s goal is to advance to higher education in the UK then this skill will be invaluable. 

What register should students use?

Students should aim for a formal register or style not necessarily an academic style which is another genre of writing. They should constantly upgrade their language. When you are writing, can you think of a better higher level word. If you do this you will score higher on lexical resource. Remember avoid phrasal verbs and simple verbs like make, do, have and get. This is where a good dictionary and thesaurus are invaluable. 

Think and plan your answer before you write.

Should students plan their essays?

The simple answer to this is yes. Remember, preparation is key. A teacher can see that an essay has been planned very easily. A well-planned essay avoids rambling and going off topic and not answering the question. It contains paragraphs and ideas are linked and developed. Students should plan each paragraph too. That way they will not forget the topic sentences and the concluding sentences. Students should also factor in some thinking time. 

How long is the academic IELTS writing task 2?

Students have 40 minutes to write 250 words. Within this time they need to think, plan and write their answer not forgetting to respond to the question. Avoid the mistake of purely being descriptive. Even if you have perfect grammar and brilliant vocabulary you will be marked down in this area. Do not play it safe either, do not be too basic. Play around with your ability and knowledge of the English language. You will be awarded marks for attempting more complex structures even if you make a slight mistake.

Good luck and happy writing. Try and incorporate some kind of writing into your daily routine. You may love it so much that you start writing a blog. Who knows?

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