The International English Language Testing System – more commonly known as IELTS – is a test for those planning to live, study or work in a country where English is the native language, such as the UK, the USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Taken by over three million people each year, it’s the most widely used English language assessment in the world. There are two types of IELTS, Academic and General Training, and each is a test of four skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking. The IELTS Academic test is aimed at those planning to embark on higher education or seeking professional employment; General Training is suitable for those applying to study below degree level and can also be taken for work experience or other training.
Passing your written exam is an important step towards your new life overseas, and it can feel daunting – but with the right IELTS preparation you can feel confident on test day. In this post, we will focus on what to expect from the Academic Writing tasks, with examples, plus how the British Council can support you.
What is the IELTS Academic Writing test?
The 60-minute test is divided into two tasks, which we will now explore.
For the first task, you will be presented with visual information like a graph, table, chart or diagram and asked to describe, summarise or explain it in your own words. This is the shorter of the two writing tasks, so plan your time accordingly; you will be expected to write a minimum of 150 words in no more than 20 minutes.
Writing Task 1 examples
- Look at a graph showing levels of online shopping by age group for different times of the day. Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.
- Look at a simple table showing the amount spent on healthcare in different countries. Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.
- Look at a flow diagram showing how bricks are made. Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.
The second task will ask you to respond precisely to a point of view, argument or problem. The key here is to write a specific and relevant answer to the question (not just the topic in general). You will need to demonstrate full, connected sentences totalling at least 250 words. Allow yourself 40 minutes or more to craft a logical and carefully checked response.
Writing Task 2 examples
- Some countries have become much richer than others. Richer countries should now help poorer countries. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion?
- Some people think that the main purpose of school and university education should be to prepare people for work. Others, however, think that the true role of education is to make us better citizens. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.
- In many cities around the world pollution levels have risen in recent years. Why are some cities becoming more polluted? What effects does this have?
Remember that you are not being assessed on your knowledge of a particular topic, only your understanding of the question, so try not to be distracted by the subject area. Instead, take a moment to consider how a good, clear response should be structured. Plan how you will use the 250 words before you start writing, making sure to include varied sentences that flow neatly from one to the next.