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How to Score High in Your Writing Test (General Training)

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by John Joseph Wong

by John Joseph Wong

ILAC IELTS Teacher

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Want to score well on your IELTS General Training Writing test? You’re not alone. Whether you love or hate writing, the writing tips in this article will help you get a high score on your Writing Task 1 and Writing Task 2. Keep reading!

What Is The Writing Test? (Overview)

IELTS Writing Test Format

The IELTS General Training Writing test is 60 minutes long and has 2 questions: Writing Task 1 and Writing Task 2. Answers must be written in full sentences and not written using notes or bullet points.

Remember that the IELTS General Training Writing test is different from the IELTS Academic Writing test, so be sure that you are preparing for the correct one. 

Task 1

Task 1 of the test requires you to write a letter in response to a particular situation. Letters must be written in the appropriate formal or informal style, according to the context.

Your letter for Task 1 must be at least 150 words, and you should spend no more than 20 minutes on the task.  

Task 2

Task 2 of the test requires you to write an essay in response to a specific point of view, problem or argument given in the question. The writing can be semi-formal.

Your essay must be at least 250 words, and you should spend no more than 40 minutes on the task. 

Is IELTS General Training different to the Academic test?

Yes, IELTS General Training is different from the IELTS Academic test.

The General test is primarily used for temporary or permanent migration to English-speaking countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. It is also taken by people who are studying below degree level, applying for a visa, applying for certain jobs, or training for non-academic purposes. It features everyday English used in social and workplace environments.  

On the other hand, the Academic test is required for university and professional registration processes. It features more academic vocabulary and tasks such as describing charts, tables and graphs.

Is anything the same? Yes, test-takers from both tests will sit the same Speaking and Listening tests. However, the Reading and Writing tests are different. While both IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic involve two tasks for the Writing test, the content is different, as each test has a different purpose.

What Will I Need To Do? (In Detail)

Task 1: Writing a letter

Task 1 of the General Training test requires you to write either a formal or informal letter in response to a specific circumstance. The formality style depends on the context. For example, if the question includes the word “friend”, then you should write an informal letter. If the question does not include the word “friend”, then you should write a formal letter.

There are 7 common Task 1 types

  1. an apology 
  2. letters of application & resignation 
  3. letters of complaint
  4. a request 
  5. letters to make an arrangement 
  6. letters of explanation 
  7. an invitation 

While the different letter types can seem scary at first, the good news is that all IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 questions have the same question structure. There will be:

  • a topic,
  • the person you must write to,
  • and what you should write about (in 3 bullet points).

No matter which letter type you get, you can use a similar letter structure to write a well-organized answer. 

Task 2: Writing an essay response

Task 2 requires you to write an essay response to a particular topic. You can write in a semi-formal style. A great writing tip is to spend a few minutes planning your ideas before you start writing, and to follow the structure below so that your answer is clear and organized. 

There are 5 types of Task 2 essays: 

  1. opinion
  2. discussion 
  3. problem solution 
  4. advantages & disadvantages 
  5. double question (tasks with 2 questions)

How Is It Scored?

The 4 marking criteria for IELTS Writing are:

  1. Task Achievement/Response
  2. Coherence and Cohesion,
  3. Lexical Resource,
  4. and Grammatical Range and Accuracy.

To score well on the IELTS Writing, make sure that your writing satisfies all the marking criteria, or “skills”. Below are some writing tips for each skill. 

Task Achievement/Response

To score high on Task Achievement, make sure that you read the question carefully, satisfy all requirements of the task, and present a fully developed response in a clear and organized way. 

Coherence & Cohesion

To score high on Coherence and Cohesion, make sure that you use clear paragraphs. Furthermore, try your best to write one idea at a time. Logic is an important part of having a good score. Remember that you are trying to present a clear answer, not an exciting one. 

Lexical Resource

Lexical Resource is about the vocabulary and language features that you use in your writing. The important thing here is to use appropriate vocabulary. If you are writing something formal, use formal vocabulary. If you are writing something informal, use informal vocabulary. You do not need to show off every word you know. 

Grammatical range & accuracy

Grammatical Range and Accuracy is about using correct grammar and grammar forms. Read your writing out loud after you finish so that you can “hear” your grammar mistakes. Don’t write long and complicated sentences. If possible, write in a way that one sentence equals one idea. 

Tips & Sample Questions

Structuring Your Letters (Task 1)

In Task 1, follow this six-part structure:

  1. Dear… (Dear Sir, Madam, or “Dear + ” for a formal letter, and Dear for an informal letter) 
  2. Paragraph 1: Purpose of the letter 
  3. Paragraph 2: Write about the 1st bullet point*
  4. Paragraph 3: Write about the 2nd bullet point*
  5. Paragraph 4: Write about the 3rd bullet point*
  6. Signoff (“Kind regards, + ” for a formal letter, or “All the best, + ” for an informal letter) 

(*These are points of discussion given to you in the task question.)

Remember, you only have 20 minutes, and you only need to write 150 words. You don’t need many ideas or the best idea in the world. Just make sure that you respond to each bullet point in a clear way, using full sentences. 

Task 1 Sample Questions

Here is a sample Writing Task 1 question: 

You are planning a holiday abroad and will be visiting a town where an old friend lives. You haven’t spoken to this friend in a few years. 

Write a letter to your friend. In your letter: 

  • give your friend a brief update on your life since you were last in touch 
  • explain why you will be travelling to his/her town. 
  • say what you plan to do when you visit their town.

Notice that this question has the word “friend”, so remember our earlier writing tip? It’s an informal letter. 

Below is another sample Writing Task 1 question: 

You want to learn a language. There is a teacher near to where you live. 

Write a letter to the teacher. In the letter: 

  • say how you came to know about him/her 
  • explain why you want to learn 
  • ask what help they can offer.

Notice that this question does not have the word “friend”. That’s right, it’s a formal letter. 

Structuring Your Essays (Task 2)

Writing Task 2 requires a 4-paragraph essay structure: 

  1. Introduction paragraph: Paraphrase the question and provide your opinion if required 
  2. Main body paragraph 1: Explain your first idea 
  3. Main body paragraph 2: Explain your second idea 
  4. Conclusion: Summarize your opinion and key reasons 
Tips for Task 2
  • In Task 2, read the question carefully and then respond only to what the question asks. For example, if the question asks whether you agree or disagree (an opinion essay), you should be clear about your position. Do not be “on the fence” and say you both agree and disagree at the same time if the task has asked you to decide. Furthermore, focus on your opinion. In other words, there is no need to talk about the other opinion. If you agree with the statement, concentrate on why you agree. By contrast, if the question asks you to discuss both views and give your opinion (a discussion essay), then be sure to do just that.
  • You do not need to write everything that you know about a topic. Instead, focus on the most important ideas and make sure that you provide a statement of the idea, an explanation of the idea and a good example to illustrate your point. This will ensure your writing demonstrates fully developed ideas.
  • A common mistake that test-takers make is reading the question too quickly, then writing any and every idea that comes to mind. Take your time to understand the question and organize your thoughts before you start writing. You will find that your writing is clearer, and your answer will be better written.  
Task 2 Example Questions:

A big salary is much more important than job satisfaction. 

Do you agree or disagree? 

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience. 

Write at least 250 words.

In this opinion essay, you only need to focus on your opinion of whether you agree or disagree. Do not write about both sides.

Some people think that zoos are cruel and should be closed down. Others, however, believe that zoos can be useful in protecting wild animals. 

Discuss both views and give your opinion. 

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience. 

Write at least 250 words.

In this discussion essay, you need to write about both positions presented in the question and also provide your opinion on which position you support. Be sure to focus on the position provided by the question and not your own ideas about the general topic.

Essay Checklist

After you finish writing your Task 1 or Task 2 response, be sure to spend time reviewing and editing your essay so that you can get a great score. Here are some questions for you to think about: 

  • Did you read the question carefully and answer every part of the question?
  • Is your answer appropriately formal or informal
  • Did you write in an organized way and use structured paragraphs? 
  • Did you write in full sentences and include fully developed ideas
  • Did you check for any word-choice or grammar errors

Once you’ve completed this checklist, you’re ready to succeed on your IELTS General Training Writing test! 

Congratulations, you’re ready to get a good score on your IELTS General Writing test. While the information can be a lot, there’s no need to stress yourself out. If you feel like you’d benefit from some expert guidance, one of the best things you can do is sign up for an IELTS Preparation class. Contact our friendly program advisors to find out more about the classes we offer at our ILAC Toronto and Vancouver campuses.

Before your test, be sure to practice a few sample IELTS General Training Writing questions and read some sample answers. By doing this, you will be able to see different styles of writing and find patterns that are common among all great IELTS Writing answers.  

When you’re ready to do the IELTS General Training Writing test, remember to read the question carefully, plan your ideas, organize your paragraphs, and be mindful of both the time and word limit. Take a deep breath, follow these writing tips, and you will score well on both Writing Task 1 and Writing Task 2 of your IELTS General Training Writing test. All the best for your test!

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