Acing the writing in IELTS

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When people write IELTS tips on forums, I often see the advice to do the second writing task first because it is easier.  I think that this is good advice if you are doing IELTS for the first time and just trying to get as high a score as you can.  If you are looking to break the 6.5 barrier though, it is time to focus your attention to each mark and make a good attempt at each one.

So I would like to dedicate this post to the first writing task.

Getting a good mark writing task one in IELTS

In this task, you will be asked to write one of the following types of letters

  • Complaint / Request (of information) letter
  • Formal business letter
  • Job application letter
  • Personal letter

and you should spend 20 minutes on this.

Some tips to help you

  1. Aim to write just over the minimum number of words.  Don’t do more as you will run out of time for the second task.  Don’t write less or you will be penalized
  2. Don’t try to memorize a letter as you will be tempted to write it even if it does not exactly match the question.  Irrelevant text will cost you points
  3. Time is your enemy if you have not practiced so keep an eye on the time
  4. Write clearly.  Don’t lose marks because the marker couldn’t read it!
  5. You can write a plan or outline on the question sheet.  It will not be marked
  6. The markers are looking for structure, vocabulary and fluency of language

Structure

You should have 3 paragraphs (or more) in your letter and each paragraph should fulfill a purpose:

  1. State the purpose of the letter
  2. Fulfill the purpose of the letter
  3. Summarize what should happen next and close the letter

Vocabulary

The vocabulary that you use should set the appropriate tone.  It should be formal for all of the letters except for the personal letter.  You should use a wide range of words that you feel comfortable using.  Do not try to use words that you are not sure about just to make your writing sound technical as you will probably lose marks for lack of sentence coherence.

Fluency of language

This means that you can make your language flow into one smooth letter.  In order to do this, read lots of sample letters and see the phrases that they use and understand how they use them.  Do not try to memorize sample letters and reproduce them in the test but understand words, phrases and conventions that are used in letters so that you can put them together into a smooth letter in the test.  These days, you can find a multitude of such sample letters on the Internet.

A lot of students start a notebook where they can write down the new language that they see.  If you do this, keep a section aside for useful phrases that you see when you are looking at sample letters on the web.  This will help you to remember to include these in the appropriate task when you do the writing test.

Good luck for your English exam preparation and I wish you all the best in the IELTS test.

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