How much should I write?

Should you write as much as possible in the IELTS writing test?  Will a longer answer receive a higher band score?  The answer to both questions is ‘no’.

When the IELTS examiner assesses your writing test, it is not compared to other tests in any way.  Instead, the trained assessor reads each individual answer, assesses it using very clear criteria, and awards a band score. There is no ranking or comparing and there is no limit to the number of Band 6 or 7 (etc.) scores that are given. The scores are also checked by other experienced examiners, so you can be sure that the scores given are very reliable.

One important problem with writing ‘as much as possible’ in the writing test is that the instructions for each writing task tell you how much time you should spend on the task and how many words you should write.  If you produce an answer that is very long, then it is likely that you will take more than the allocated time and you are also likely to make mistakes in some important areas.  For example, your ideas may be repetitive, may lack coherence and it’s likely that you will not have enough time to check the accuracy of your answer.  More importantly, if you spend more than 20 minutes and write a very long answer for writing task 1, you will not have the full 40 minutes needed to produce a well-organised and complete answer to writing task 2.  Writing task 2 is worth double the marks of writing task 1 and needs a full 40 minutes to answer it well.

The best advice for the IELTS writing test is to follow all of the instructions in the question. These tell you to:

  • write ‘at least 150 words for writing task 1
  • write ‘at least 250 words for writing task 2.

Use the time you are given for each writing task to:

1) Plan and organise your ideas
(making sure they are relevant to the task)

2) Write your answer

3) Check your answer for accuracy and to make sure you are not repeating the same ideas or the same vocabulary and structures.