IELTS Writing – A Complete Guide

The Writing module is the third and final section you should attempt in your LRW test.  It is vital to understand the different writing tasks and the scoring criteria to achieve the required grades in writing.

The writing tasks for the IELTS exam differ depending on whether you are taking the General or Academic IELTS test. Candidates take the General IELTS for work/PR purposes, while the Academic IELTS is taken for study abroad. (NOTE: Health Professionals can take Academic IELTS when applying for a skilled migrant visa.)

Let us thoroughly understand the two writing tasks included in the IELTS exam, as well as strategies for performing better and achieving the required scores.

Structure on IELTS writing 

To get a general idea of the writing tasks for the General and Academic IELTS exams, look at the flowchart below:

IELTS writing structure

A glance at the above flowchart will help you understand that the major difference between General and Academic IELTS writing is Writing Task 1, which is Letter Writing for General and Report Writing for Academic. Task 2 , Essay Writing, is common for both exams. 

Let’s discuss in further the General Writing task first:


What skills does the letter writing test?

The letter writing task is designed to assess your functional writing skills. It is to see if you are capable of writing various types of letters such as apologies, complaints, requests, invitations, and so on, in an appropriate tone and language.

The Letter writing task requires you to write a formal, informal, or semi-formal letter on a specific topic. The task rubric would include three bullet points for you to address in your letter. You should spend at least 20 minutes writing a minimum of 150 words for your letter.

What are the different types of IELTS letters?

The IELTS letters can be broadly divided into three:

Letter TypeRecipient Example 
Formal To people that we do not know or have never met.Requesting information job related (application/resignation) complaining to a bank, store et al. regarding their product/services. Making recommendations/suggestions. 
Semi FormalTo people, we may know but are not close enough to address on a first-name basis.Complaining/requesting to a landlord explaining to a neighbour asking a professor for permission letters addressed to student accommodation officers.
Informal To people, we know well like friends or family.Inviting someone you know well asking for advice thinking a friend.

These broad forms of letters can be further classified into different types:

Invitation letterAn invitation letter is a letter written by the event’s host to a guest or group of guests (company, institution, etc.) to invite them to the event. Invitation letters can be formal or informal.
Apology letterAn apology letter is typically written to acknowledge wrongdoing, mistake, misunderstanding or misbehaviour and asks for forgiveness or tolerance. Apologies are generally asked in the form of semi-formal or informal letters.
Complaint letterComplaint letters are usually written to concerned authorities when you are not satisfied with some service or you have a problem that needs to be addressed. Complaint letters are mostly formal letters.
Suggestion / recommendation letterA suggestion/recommendation letter is written to recommend something, to express your opinions, and at times to share your personal experience. They can be asked as formal or informal letters.
Request letterA request letter is typically written to draw the attention of a person concerned to the writer’s specific demands or claims. The majority of request letters are formal.
Job-related lettersAny letter that concerns a job including application, postponing or preponing of interview dates, resignation and so on. Job related letters are always formal.
Reply letterA reply letter is written in response to a letter received from another person. It is critical that you address the fact that you are writing this letter as a response in the ‘purpose of the letter’ section of your letter. Letters of response can be formal or informal.

What are the components of a 7+ band IELTS letter?

Using the right structure, tone and relevant vocabulary is of vital importance for a better score. Refer to the table below:

Salutation Complimentary clauseUsage 
Dear Sir/MadamYours FaithfullyFormal Letter
Dear M.r/Ms. Second NameYours Sincerely Semi Formal 
Dear Friend/first nameYours LovinglyInformal

Let us look into a sample letter question:

Sample letter question

Your company is about to close the staff cafeteria since not many employees are making use of it. Write to the company Director. In your letter: Request the director not to close it.give reasons on why you do not support its closure Suggest solutions.

This is an informal invitation letter question. Let’s look into a 7-band fair answer which highlights the important components of a letter:


I am writing this letter in response to the news about the plan to close the cafeteria operating in our office. As a regular customer, I must admit that this news had saddened me and many others to a great extent and feel this may not be a well thought out decision. } OPENING SENTENCE + ANSWER TO FIRST BULLET POINT {

The cafeteria being the only one near our office, closing it would be a huge blow to customers or staff who depend on it for most of their meals. Since many of us work in shifts, we find it very difficult to cook before we come to the office. Moreover, the canteen being inside the company premises saves a lot of time and we are able to put in more productive work since no time is spent driving to one of the good restaurants, most of which are at least a couple of kilometres from our office. Also, the food served here is delectable and luscious and the customer service, most affable and congenial.   } DETAILING OF SECOND BULLET POINT {

Having said that, I understand that the cafeteria is running at a loss. This might be probably due to the high prices they charge for the food which is detering many customers. I would like to humbly suggest that by providing discounts to regular customers and also by making it a one-stop restaurant, where we can enjoy different cuisines, would cater to the needs of the multicultural staff of our company. This measure would certainly attract many more customers and make the business a success in no time.    } DETAILING OF THIRD BULLET POINT {

I trust these suggestions would be useful and that you would put on hold your plans to close down the cafeteria, in favour of loyal customers like me. Waiting for your reply in anticipation.  } CLOSING STATEMENT {

Yours faithfully,

Olivia Nicholas               } FARWELL + NAME {

The first thing to remember is to use the appropriate salutation depending on whether you are writing a formal, semi-formal, or informal letter. Then, use an appropriate opening statement and state the purpose of the letter. The following step is to address the given bullet points in an orderly fashion while maintaining consistency of tone and flow. Finally, using the proper closing statement and farewell, as well as the writer’s name, completes the letter.

How to improve Letter Writing skills to get a better score?

Consistent practice can improve your writing scores to a great extent. Consider the following suggestions, which, when combined with practise, will assist you in achieving your desired score:

  1. Use different opening and closing statements depending on the type and purpose of the letter.
  2. Use relevant topic-related vocabulary. 
  3. Take care not to make spelling mistakes or grammatical errors , especially in the tenses.
  4. Follow the right structure and paragraphing.
  5. Use an appropriate time strategy for completing the letter in 20 minutes. ( 4-5 minutes – point generation, 12-13 minutes – writing, 2-3 minutes reviewing response)
  6. Use transition words and paragraph connectors to ensure that your letter has a consistent flow.
  7. Try taking grammar quizzes to test and improve your grammatical range.
  8. Using apt emotion words and phrases will aid you in getting a higher band.
  9. It’s best to get your letters corrected by a tutor to understand the mistakes and learn about your score level and improvement plan.

What are some of the important do’s and don’ts of letter writing?

Use contractions for informal letters.Don’t use contractions for formal and semi formal letters.
Use direct commands and ask direct questions in your informal letter.Never use slang words, quotes or questions for formal letters.
Choose informal vocabulary options for informal letters.Don’t use any variables like ABC for a company or X for a person’s name or as such.
Best to use phrasal verbs for informal letters.Avoid using phrasal verbs for formal letters.
Best to write to a word count between 150 and 165 words.Don’t write the letter in BLOCK LETTERS


If you are taking the Academic IELTS exam, the first IELTS writing task is report writing. Report writing questions include graphs, maps, and process diagrams. The minimum word count is 150, and the time limit is 20 minutes.

What are the different types of questions asked in report writing?

Type of graph Example 
Bar graph jDGk 9O7X6dZpv0fFO2zG8SKXgozpFkwm 5Aw4EKVQ2aleFlaK68K4mGoVxwdUMShOVH 0NiUCeE6GLYM8SnVIZEGbZaV9L0fjw Bq5lZDiotBZhwIYd WGhlxdq2P1Gn2OOc3a4MFMHdK45aic3SnmiU8INvVxLn8cXDcQLIM
Line graph bJg3uOvAQR0dUsahGM8gvV5N0zSyP3fHUxZVph7aDBt gd1AUQAg4nyJqZN279g6LgU2J2y9n9 L4Ew9ZjrVx6ghnCREor3FA27Za2jfmbNTn7ViKQTI1 4lFEN8ikLGsqIVFiEc
Pie chart 
Table 3Emfh5VWhwxxLFCvsBMBeQD QG2Z5vqLmG8BgHj 2bZsGRV9l9XOpz62O6mdho
Mixed graph I7poJDPQSSV9tQxD lHwL9A9bqKHeajLMyhtSVUq9Pl65WK1z12I22I6LSz9JUIqehk8b7GKZWS891aluCTObmIahai EovlpWazoa6QxsQsGu0iOJplziAdS507nVsvb5SdJ1YYkhoNsdX1ua1Od zfv apuES BGweddKlOd91jEE1Cvqz7LrjRQ
Map ZT3iwwKoIAwT3qpzZ9vX4Iubbxz1RChfgXPKCnQXl91mrycttR04weVBRJXwoOIRDDLMafOEtkKRLXE mpg fJLYKVAV1XNoXn88jUFtfUGmAwNI5zRzqDm
Process Diagram

How to structure a proper report?

The key to writing a proper report is to paragraph it and include all relevant points in an orderly manner. Let us look at the essential components of a report writing task:

Paragraph one 
Paraphrase + Overall/ overview
The first paragraph should ideally consist of two sentences. The first sentence means to restructure the question to include relevant information without changing its meaning. Overall/overview is the second statement, which is a summary of the graph’s overall outcome.
Paragraph two 
Body Paragraph 1
The best way to write the second paragraph is to divide the given data into manageable groups based on similarities and then form statements using graph-related vocabulary. Ideally, this paragraph should contain 4-5 sentences.
Paragraph three
Body paragraph 2
Use the rest of the information that you didn’t mention in the body paragraph 2 for the final paragraph based on similarities and differences in the data. Three to four sentences can be included in the final paragraph. It is not necessary to include a conclusion at the end if you write the overall/overview at the beginning.

Now observe the graph below where the above-mentioned components are highlighted:

The graph below shows the number of men and women who died because of random disease, in March, during the period of 1999-2004.  Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, make comparisons where relevant. 
RbkrgANLv vTxZx7MO wSyDEsosEOxSS9GWioZdmpCiIz0wcyTf4U2 RejkgvpUehe9Jbpf0wPfr7DiWP7FSNFWvT goVxEKrZoBbPB8Bn2hBAvo2W EOgIOfrc1AnF0rb qVfD 7LWyUwc27M7

The graph compares the number of deaths caused by a random disease in March over six years from 1994 to 2004. ( Paraphrase) Overall, wide fluctuations could be observed in the number of men and women dying in the same period where female deaths were highest in 1999 and male in 2002. ( Overall)

For the initial two years, the deaths amongst women were higher as compared to men. During the first year, approximately 18 lakh women died,  however, it declined to nearly 14 lakhs in the second year. Although men dying of random disease increased in 2001 (approximately 12 lakh), a dramatic decline could be observed in the number of female deaths in the same year  (below 2 lakh). ( body paragraph 1)

Closer scrutiny of the chart reveals a significant raise in deaths among women in the very next year of 2002. incidentally, the male deaths also hiked during this year. In the next 2 years, 2003 and 2004, the figures in the case of both men and women plummeted, with their death rates levelling out in 2004  to almost a negligible number. ( body paragraph 2)

How to get a 7 band in report writing?

If you require a band of 7 or higher in report writing, there are several factors to consider:

  • Use the right tense, if a past year is mentioned, then use past tense and for the present, use the present tense.
  • If a future year is mentioned, then never use will instead use estimated to, forecasted to, planned to and supposed to.
  • Learn synonyms for the most common report writing words, such as increase, decrease, fluctuations, and so on.
  • Keep in mind to compare and contrast the data in the graph.
  • Use complex sentence construction at least twice or three times to increase your score.
  • Stick to a specific structure when writing the report, and include all relevant data in the format you learned.
  • To improve your graph reading skills, practise a variety of questions.
  • It is best to have your answers corrected by a tutor so they can point out your mistakes and advise you on where to focus to get a higher score.                                                                                                                                                                              
  • When you attempt a graph question, refer and write introductory phrases ( the graph shows/the table illustrates etc), adverbs ( dramatically/ significantly etc), and linking words ( although/ similarly/ not only…but also etc) so that you will remember them better.
  • Do not include all numericals in the data as they are; instead, try to express them in words. For example, instead of 66%, you could write a large majority or precisely two-thirds.
  • In your analysis, avoid making any personal assumptions or opinions and only write a factual report.
  • There is a penalty for writing less than 150 words, so write between 150 and 165 words.

How can I do well if a map or process diagram question comes?

If your exam includes a map or process diagram question, use the following techniques to improve your score:


A map question gives you the layout of a particular area in two time periods and asks you to write a report on it. The most important factors to remember while attempting a map is as follows:

  1. Instead of left, right, top, or bottom, use words like north, northeast, and southeast (if a compass is provided).
  1. Examine the changes that have occurred or are expected to occur in nature, accommodation and health facilities, transportation, and recreational facilities.
  1. Never use the word ‘will’ when referring to a future year; instead, use forecasted to or planned to.
  1. Learn map vocabulary such as expand, demolish, reconstruct, develop, and destroy.
  1. Examine the changes in facilities made to meet the needs of the middle and upper classes.
  1. Map is also written in three paragraphs. 
Paragraph oneParaphrase + Overall ( the most significant change/s that took place during the time period)
Paragraph twoCompare and contrast the changes that occurred to the northern part of the region.
Paragraph threeCompare and contrast the changes that occurred to the southern part of the region.


A process diagram is a diagram or flowchart that depicts the life cycle, manufacture, production, or recycling of something. A process diagram is easier to analyse than graph questions. Let’s look at the most important aspects of a process diagram:

  1. To describe the stages in a diagram, only use the present tense and passive voice.
  2. To indicate the flow of the steps in the process, use time connectives such as firstly, secondly, subsequently, followed by, and so on.
  3. Before beginning your answer, observe key information like whether the process is natural or artificial, cyclic or linear, simple or complex.
  4. The overall process can be written by indicating the number of steps, stages, or phases in which the process occurred or by mentioning the process’s beginning and end product.
  5. Process diagram can be written in either 2 or 3 paragraphs:
Paragraph oneParaphrase + Overall 
Paragraph twoUsing time connectives and relevant vocabulary to describe each stage of the process.
Paragraph threeIf the process can be divided into two parts, write the remaining steps in the third paragraph.

Once you’ve mastered the techniques for scoring well in task 1, you can move on to preparing for IELTS writing task 2.


For writing task 2, you are directed to attempt an essay question. The task 2 part essay writing is common for both General and Academic IELTS. You should ideally take 40 minutes to answer the essay in a minimum of 250 words. You are expected to give your opinion, present the main ideas and support it with relevant explanations and examples while you answer.

What does an IELTS essay question look like?

Let us look at some example essay questions:

Some people say that international tourism has only advantages while others argue that they have more disadvantages. What is your opinion? 
Nowadays governments are investing more in public transport such as buses and trains rather than in building new roads. What are the reasons for this? Is this a positive or negative development?
Traffic is increasing day by dayWhat do you think are the causes of it and what after effects can it cause? Suggest some remedial measures to the problem.

Looking at the examples above, it is clear that the essay question is divided into two parts:

  1. A statement giving you information about your essay topic.
  2. The specific question you have to answer.

The first section will give you an idea of the topic on which you should write your essay, and the second section will tell you the format you should use for proper answer presentation.

What types of questions are asked in the IELTS essay?

IELTS essay topics are drawn from a wide range of sources.

The following are the most common essay question endings:

Question ending:Explanation :
Do you agree or disagree?/
To what extent do you agree/ disagree?/
 Do you stand for or against?
‘To what extent’ means ‘how much’. So, in this type of question, you should respond with whether you strongly agree (for) or strongly disagree (against) with the topic statement, or whether you agree with some aspects but not others.
Discuss both sides.You will be given a topic with two sides to it, and you must discuss points for both sides in a balanced manner.
Discuss both sides and give your opinionThis is similar to ‘discuss both sides’ but here you have to choose a side to support and specifically give the reasons on why you take that side.
Do the advantages/merits/positives outweigh the disadvantages/demerits/negatives?You can write the points for both sides here, but you should specifically mention why one side is better/worse than the other.
What are the advantages/merits/positives and disadvantages/demerits/negatives?You are not supposed to take a side here, but rather to clearly state the points for both sides.
Double question: Why is this the case? Is it a positive or negative trend/development?For double-question essays, it is best to address the first question separately in a paragraph and then answer the rest of the question in a structured pattern.
Cause problem solution questionsA problem will be specified in the question, and you must include points for the causes, effects, and solutions to the problem.

How can I get good at IELTS writing task 2?

The most important way to improve your writing task 2 skills is to practise writing real questions from previous exams. This will give you a good idea of the topics that are frequently asked in the exam. Once you have mastered the skill of formulating points for common topics such as essays on crime, education, the arts, technology, the environment, society, and people, it will be easier to address new questions with ease, as similar patterns of questions may repeat.

Remember the following factors when you practise for a better score:

  • Always divide your essay into at least four paragraphs. There should be an introduction, two body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
  • Before formulating your points/ideas, thoroughly read the question and understand what you are supposed to write.
  • Instead of presenting generalised or ambiguous information, write points that are directly related to and relevant to the question.
  • Be clear and precise in your point presentation, and avoid mixing agree/disagree points in a single paragraph, as this will confuse the examiner as to where you stand.
  • It is critical to use the proper transition words (connecting devices) such as similarly, on the other hand, whereas, despite, and so on to ensure that your ideas flow in the correct order.
  • Examine the vocabulary associated with the topic whenever you practise a question on that topic. You can improve your lexical resources this way.
  • Try activities on apps like Word Power, BBC 6-minute English, and LearnEnglish Podcasts to test and improve your vocabulary and grammatical structures.
  • Any method of correction including self, peer and corrections by an experienced tutor can aid you in rectifying your errors and enhancing your scores. 
  • Once you are comfortable with writing, do timed practise and always stick to a time strategy that includes time for proofreading your answer to correct any errors you may have made.

Are IELTS writing task 1 and writing task 2 marked using the same criteria? 

They are not graded using the same assessment criteria because one of them is different while the other three are identical. The examiner will review your writing based on the four scoring criteria, with each criterion worth 25% of your overall score for that writing task.

Similar criteria for task 1 and 2 :

  • Cohesion and coherence 
  • Lexical resources
  • Grammatical range and accuracy.

Different criteria: 

  • Task achievement (for task 1, you have included all of the information, key features, and an overview.)
  • Task response ( for task 2 only, indicating that you addressed the task, detailed and developed the relevant points and ideas, and included an introduction and a conclusion.)

As you are aware, writing task 1 accounts for approximately 30% of your total writing scores, while task 2 accounts for 60%. Your final writing band score would be the mean of both of these scores. It is best to remember the ’rounding rule’ when scoring. Your score can be either a full band ( 7 or 8)or a half band ( 6.5 or 7.5). Other fractions are not permitted. If you get a mean score that ends in.25, it is rounded up to the nearest half-band score, and if it ends in.75, it is rounded up to the nearest whole-band score.

If you get a 6.125, your score will be rounded down to 6, which is the closest band. Check the blog to understand how IELTS band score is calculated.

Example of writing band score calculation:

Task Scoring criterionBand score 
Writing task 1Task achievement 
Cohesion and coherence 
Lexical resources
Grammatical range and accuracy.
Total score for  task 16.5+ 6+ 6.5+ 7/4 = 6.5 
Writing task 2Task response 
Cohesion and coherence 
Lexical resources
Grammatical range and accuracy.
Total score for task 26 + 6 + 6.5 + 7/4=  6.37 rounded upto 6.5
Overall writing band scoreAdd 1 score of writing task 1 and 2 scores of writing task 2 and take its mean.6.5 + 6.5+ 6.5 /3=


There are no capsuled methods to excel in writing. You will need to consistently practise and work on your writing skills if you want to see progress. However, using the strategies we discussed will make it easier for you to attain the score you desire.

Shruthi Raveendran

I am Shruthi Raveendran, a TEFL-certified IELTS/PTE and ESL tutor who has 8+ years of experience working in the education industry. I am a passionate writer, logophile and film enthusiast

Recent Posts