IELTS Writing Test Format

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This page contains information about the different aspects of the IELTS Writing Test, as well links to our lessons.


The IELTS writing test is a 1-hour test in which the candidate must complete 2 tasks. Task 1 is very different for Academic and General candidates but Task 2 is more similar.


Task 1 is concerned with reporting information from a graph, chart, map or process diagram. Candidates must write 150 words and should take about 20 minutes doing this task.
Task 2 is a longer essay. The candidate is given details of an opinion or idea, an argument or a problem, and has to respond. It is important for the ideas to be logical and the essay has to be well structured. The candidate must write 250 words and this should take around 40 minutes.


Task 1 gives candidates a situation and they must write a letter in a personal, semi-formal or formal style. Candidates must write 150 words and should take about 20 minutes doing this task.
Task 2 is very similar the Academic Writing Task 2 as the candidate is given an opinion or idea, an argument or a problem, and has to respond. As with the academic module, the candidate must write 250 words in 40 minutes.

To find out more about the whole IELTS test, go here.

Candidates are given a band score for 4 different areas of the 2 tasks and the average of these scores is the final writing band score. The 4 areas (with links to essay writing lessons) are:

Task Achievement (TA) is how well the question is answered. If all parts of the question are dealt with and the ideas are logical or the data is accurate and well summarized, then TA will be high.

Coherence and Cohesion (CC) is how well structured the answer is, and if ideas are signaled and logically follow on from one another in paragraphs. Referencing and substitution are also important for good CC so the candidate doesn’t repeat the same things too many times.

Lexical Resource (LR) is the range of vocabulary a candidate uses. The wider the range of vocabulary a candidate uses to accurately express themselves, then the higher their band score will be. Spelling and word formation are also important for good LR.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy (GRA) will receive a high band score if the candidate uses lots of complex sentences with few errors. Complex sentences are sentences that have subordinate clauses such as relative clauses. Punctuation, using full stops and commas accurately, is also important for GRA.

Below are the band descriptors. They tell the examiner what to look for when awarding a band score.

Band 9 | Expert User
has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.
Band 8 | Very Good User
has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.
Band 7 | Good User
has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.
Band 6 | Competent User
has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
Band 5 | Modest User
has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field.
Band 4 | Limited User
basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.
Band 3 | Extremely Limited User
conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.
Band 2 | Intermittent User
no real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs. Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.
Band 1 | Non-User
essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
Band 0 | Did Not Attempt the Test
No assessable information provided.

Writing Task 1 Descriptors

Writing Task 2 Descriptors

 Notice for the Task 2 descriptors that Task Achievement has been replaced with Task Response, as the purpose of the task (to write a well organised and relevant essay) is different to Task 1. You can see that ‘a clear position’ (the writers opinion) is important. For the higher bands, the arguments must be relevant and fully developed. That means that you need to think carefully about how you support your main points. Learn more about essay writing here.

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