Writing Section - Overview

The writing section is arguably the most feared part of the exam. Here's some information you should be aware of before sitting the exam.

Hi there!

Welcome to the writing section preparation page!

On this page we will discuss the basics of the writing section of the IELTS. You need to have a good idea about what’s involved in the writing section, so you know how to prepare for it and get the best possible score.

Simply put, the IELTS writing section consists of 2 tasks and it lasts 60 minutes in total. The tasks are different for the General and Academic versions of the exam, but will require you to answer specific questions.  

We will go into more detail about the writing section below, but before we start, if you haven’t already checked out our writing mini-course, sign up below. It is a great little email course designed to give you an advantage in the writing section. Just click on the green button below.


OVERVIEW: What’s involved in the writing section?


The first thing you need to know is which version of the exam you are taking because there are differences. There are 2 types of IELTS exam; the ACADEMIC test and the GENERAL test.

The diagram below illustrates the differences:

These are the only differences between the writing section in both exams.


There are lots of commonalities in the ACADEMIC & GENERAL versions (writing section), including:

  1. There are 2 parts to the writing section – TASK 1TASK 2.
  2. Both the Academic and General writing section lasts a total of 60 minutes. TASK 1 should take no more than 20 minutes and TASK 2 should take no more than 40 minutes.
  3. TASK 1 should be at least 150 words and TASK 2 should be at least 250 words
  4. TASK 1 is worth 33% of the total writing score and TASK 2 is worth 67% of the overall writing score.
  5. You will be marked according to certain band descriptors (discussed below).


What are the tasks?



You will be given a chart, table, graph, diagram, map or a combination of these. You will have to write about this information and follow specific instructions in the question. 


You will be given a scenario and will be asked to write a short essay about it. For example, you may be asked to write about the problems & solutions to a particular issue. Or you may be asked to discuss 2 points of view and give your own opinion on the matter. The content may be of an academic nature.

However, don’t worry, you are not at any disadvantage if you don’t have specific knowledge on the subject! The exam is designed to be fair to all.




You will be given some background information and will be asked to write a letter. The letter will be EITHER personal or formal and it is up to you to decide the correct style to write in. There are proven band 7+ strategies you can use which we include in our Ebooks.


This is basically the same as the Academic version. You have to write a short essay (at least 250 words). However, it is often about a more simple topic and less complex than the academic exam.


How is the writing section scored?

There are 4 criteria used by the examiner to score your answer in the writing section (known as Band Descriptors). These are:

  1. Task achievement – how well you fulfil the requirements of the task 
  2. Coherence & cohesion – how clear and fluent your writing is 
  3. Lexical resource – range and appropriate use of vocabulary 
  4. Grammatical range & accuracy – range and appropriate use of grammar  

 An official Band Descriptor document can be found here: 

Band Scores

The banding system ranges from 1 to 9 for each of the 4 criteria.

A score of 9 is the highest possible per section. Band 0 is the lowest, though you will only score 0 if you make no effort to answer the question, or you simply do not turn up to the exam.

You get an overall writing score, which is the average band score from all 4 sections. Each of the 4 sections are worth 25% of the marks, so you must score well in each of the categories to score well overall.

There is not a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ mark, though you may need a minimum score for you to be successful in the exam (depending on the reason you are taking it). Commonly, this is an average score of Band 7 for each section. This means you must score at least a Band 7 in all 4 criteria to stand a good chance of achieving Band 7 overall!

For example, if you score Band 7 on Coherence & Cohesion, Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range & Accuracy, but do poorly on Task achievement, you will get a poor overall score!! So it is REALLY important to READ THE QUESTION CAREFULLY and know exactly what the examiner wants you to write!!

We have developed a range of educational content to help you prepare for the IELTS and achieve your desired score. 

Have you read our FREE Writing Ebook? It includes essential information to help you achieve band 7+ in the writing section. Download it FREE here:


Once you have downloaded the Ebook, make sure you check out the other writing resources on the website!

Don’t forget to share this page with a friend.

Much love!

Sam 🙂

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