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How is the IELTS essay component marked?

Fairness and accuracy are critically important when marking IELTS writing tasks. Your essay will be marked by at least two experienced IELTS examiners on the following criteria:

  • Task response - Whether you answered the question fully and supported your answer well. 

  • Coherence and cohesion - How well you linked your ideas together. 

  • Lexical resource - Whether you used a wide range of vocabulary correctly and appropriately. 

  • Grammatical range and accuracy - How many grammatical structures you used accurately and appropriately. 

Each of these criteria is worth 25% of your total score for the essay writing task. Both of your writing tasks are used to calculate your overall writing band score.

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How to write high-scoring essays in 10 easy steps

Step one: Plan your time

The Writing test (consisting of Writing tasks 1 and 2) takes approximately 60 minutes. Plan to spend around 20 minutes on your first task, and 40 minutes on your essay task. A sample plan for your time might be:

  • 5 to 10 minutes reading the essay question and planning your answer

  • 15 to 20 minutes writing your first draft

  • 10 minutes proofreading and editing your essay

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Step two: Read the question

While you may be anxious to jump straight into writing, make sure you take the time to carefully read the essay question. If you misunderstand the question, you risk writing an essay that does not address the issues properly which will lower your score.

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Step three: Highlight the issues to address

There will be multiple issues that you will need to address in your essay. Addressing each issue individually is key to achieving a high essay score. Highlight each individual issue that you will need to address.

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Step four: Outline your response

Create an outline of how you will respond to the issues in your essay. This will serve as your ‘blueprint’ when you write your first draft. As a general rule your essay should have:

  • An introduction stating what you will talk about

  • Two or three body paragraphs, each addressing one issue or idea

  • A conclusion summing up what was discussed in the essay

Make sure you note which idea or issue you will address in each paragraph. Check that the issues you highlighted are all accounted for in your outline.

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Step five: Expand on your ideas

Write some notes about any key points or ideas you’d like to include in each paragraph. When you’re writing your first draft, these notes will help to make sure you don’t forget any ideas you want to include.

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Step six: Plan how you will connect your ideas

Connecting your ideas clearly and correctly is critical to achieving a high essay score. Try to use a range of linking words to make your essay easy to read. You can use connecting devices and phrases to:

List connected ideas

  • ‘Firstly, secondly, thirdly’

  • ‘Furthermore’

Provide more information

  • ‘Also’

  • ‘Furthermore’

Compare ideas

  • ‘On the other hand’

  • ‘Alternatively’

  • ‘However’

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to put a linking word in every sentence. Essays will score higher when the writer uses linking words only where necessary and appropriate.

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Step seven: Write your first draft

Now that you’ve planned your essay, it’s time to write your first draft. Follow the outline you’ve created and expand on the notes and ideas you included there. 

  • Avoid informal language unless it is appropriate.

  • Avoid spelling and grammatical errors where possible.

  • Use a mix of sentence structures such as simple sentences, complex sentences and compound sentences.

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Step eight: Proofread your essay

When you have completed the first draft of your essay, it’s important to proofread it. Read your essay from start to finish.

You can read it silently, but it may help to read it out loud if you can do so without disturbing others. Make a mental note or mark your paper anywhere that you may need to fix an issue.

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Step nine: Edit your essay

Carefully go through the issues you noted while proofreading. Edit or rewrite these until they look and sound correct. Examples of issues and how to edit them may include:

  • The sentence is too long. A sentence is probably too long if you need to take a breath in the middle of reading it. Try splitting this up into smaller sentences.

  • A sentence sounds strange when you read it out loud. Try using different words or punctuation until it sounds right. It may need to be connected to another sentence.

  • The same word appears many times. Think about any other words you could use instead.

There is more than one main idea in each paragraph. Move any unrelated sentences to the correct paragraph. Each paragraph should address one issue only.

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Step ten: Proofread your essay again

After your edits and before submitting your essay, give it one final proofread. Make sure you have:

  • Included all the points you highlighted in step three

  • Followed your outline from step four

  • Used good connecting words from step six

  • Fixed any errors or issues in step nine

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Why choose IELTS?

IELTS is widely recognised by businesses and universities globally, and is the only English language competency test approved by all four of the following countries:

With convenient computer and paper based test options, your IELTS test can be completed in a way that you’re most comfortable with. If you’re in a hurry, you could even have your test results back within 2 to 5 days!

If you’d like some extra preparation before booking your IELTS, explore our preparation resources such as the IELTS Writing Assist, an official mock writing test. IELTS Writing Assist allows you to complete a mock writing test online and receive:

  • Personalised feedback from an IELTS expert

  • A detailed analysis of your strengths and weaknesses

  • A personalised action plan with simple improvement strategies

Set yourself up for success and explore our extensive library of preparation materials today.

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