IELTS Academic Writing Advice

The Essential English Centre staff profile

IELTS teacher Patrick talks you through some useful tips and advice for the writing section of the IELTS Academic exam:

IELTs Academic Writing

Question Types

In the writing section of the IELTs academic test there are 2 tasks. 

  1. In the first task you are required to summarise and compare data. The data which you need to write about may be in the form of a graph, bar chart or pie chart for example. You have 20 minutes to do this, you must write at least 150 words and this part carries 1 third of the overall writing mark.

An example of this question type can be found here:

  1. In the second task, you will need to produce an extended piece of writing in the form of an essay. The essay will be one of 4 different types.

It could be an essay question asking you to…

  1. …agree or disagree with a statement
  2. …discuss the advantages and disadvantages of something
  3. …analyse a problem and identify a possible solution
  4. …evaluate the effects of a development

Here is a website where you find plenty of examples of questions you might need to answer.

Can you find an example of each type (A-D) on the website?

Grammar and Vocabulary

With both tasks 1 and 2 it is important that you have the necessary grammar and vocabulary to answer the questions which might come up.  Obviously you can’t predict the topic of the question but there are some aspects of grammar and vocabulary that are more likely to come up than others.  Can you match the following language points with the relevant task(s)? 

general structures for cause and consequence (X causes Y to happen/ This is usually due to X/ X has a major impact on Y)*

structures for introducing positives and negatives (One positive point about X is…/ Another major drawback of doing X is….)**

comparatives (X is much better than Y/ X is not nearly as good as Y)***

conditional structures for expressing consequence (This would almost certainly lead to…, There is a fair chance that this could make it easier to…)****

passive structures for introducing common opinions/ beliefs (It is widely believed that…., X is often though to be…)*****


Although some of the language points above could be useful with more than one task, I’d suggest that the most commonly appropriate areas are as follows: 1***,  2A*****, 2B**, 2C****, 2D*.

If there are any areas which you think you need more practice with or any other language that you think will be more likely to come up in the writing exam it’s worth making the effort to focus on these areas.

It’s a very good idea to look at sample answers and try to extract good examples of language and re-use them in your own work.  It also gives you a better idea of what the examiner is looking for, particularly if you can find examples with examiner’s comments attached.

These 2 examples from the British Council website are a good start but there are many other useful resources you can find on the internet.