How to improve your IELTS writing exam score

How to improve your IELTS writing exam score

Published: Aug 15, 2023 | By: Lucas Weaver

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If you want to improve your IELTS writing exam score, there are a few simple things you can start doing today that will help lift your score where you need it to be.

But first, it's important to understand how the IELTS writing exam is scored, and how you can best take advantage of each of the parts of the scoring system to adjust your writing to get a better IELTS band score.

What are the IELTS writing scoring criteria?

When you're preparing for the IELTS Writing test, it's essential to understand how your work will be evaluated. The scoring is based on four key assessment criteria, each carrying an equal weight of 25% of the total score:

Task Achievement/Response

This looks at how well you have answered the question and fulfilled the requirements of the task. For Task 1, you should present a clear overview with key features. In Task 2, you must address all parts of the prompt and present a clear opinion or stance.

Coherence and Cohesion

This refers to how well you organize your ideas and link them together. Coherence is about how clearly you express your ideas, while cohesion is about how you connect your ideas using linking words and phrases.

Lexical Resource

Your vocabulary is under the microscope here. You'll be assessed on the range and accuracy of the words you use. Repeating the same words or phrases can negatively affect your score, so strive for variety without sacrificing clarity.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy

Your ability to use a variety of grammatical structures accurately is vital. While minor mistakes won't hurt too much, consistent errors in grammar and punctuation can drag your score down.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Familiarize yourself with these criteria and keep them in mind as you write. This will help ensure your writing task comes out grammatically correct, and easy to read without too many run-on sentences.

What is a good score on an IELTS writing exam?

The IELTS Writing exam is scored on a band scale of 0 to 9, with each band corresponding to a level of English competence. A good score can vary depending on your goals and the requirements of the institution or organization you're applying to.

Band 6: This is considered a competent level, showing that you can effectively use English in familiar situations.

Band 6.5: Often regarded as a satisfactory score for many universities and employers, this indicates a good user with some occasional inaccuracies or misunderstandings.

Band 7 and Above: Scores in this range are considered very good to excellent and reflect a high level of proficiency in English.

Most academic institutions and professional organizations require a minimum score of 6 or 6.5 for admission or employment, but more competitive programs might demand a higher score. It's essential to check the specific requirements of where you're applying to know what score you should aim for

What if you want to aim higher and achieve a 6.5 or even more on your IELTS writing section? Continue to the next section where we'll dive into the strategies and tips to help you reach that goal.

How can I get a 6.5 on my IELTS writing section?

Achieving a score of 6.5 on your IELTS writing section is a realistic goal for many, and it's often the minimum requirement for university admissions or certain professional positions. Here's how you can work toward this score:

Understand the Criteria

Familiarize yourself with the scoring criteria mentioned earlier, as knowing what the examiners are looking for is the first step toward success.

Plan Your Response

Before you begin writing, take a few minutes to plan your response. Outline your main ideas and supporting details to ensure a well-structured answer.

Vary Your Vocabulary

Avoid repetition by using synonyms and different expressions. A varied vocabulary not only makes your writing more engaging but also fulfills the lexical resource criterion.

Use Complex Sentences 

Practice using a mix of simple and complex sentences to show a range of grammatical structures.

Edit and Revise 

Allocate time at the end to review your work. Look for grammatical errors, unclear expressions, or ideas that could be better organized.

Practice Regularly 

Regular practice under timed conditions helps you get comfortable with the format and builds the skills you need.

Seek Professional Feedback 

If possible, work with a teacher or tutor who can provide personalized feedback on your writing.

Reaching a 6.5 in the IELTS writing section takes focus and consistent effort, but it's an achievable goal with the right approach. In the following section, we'll explore how to push beyond this and target a band score 7 on the IELTS writing test.

How can I get a 7 on the IELTS writing test?

Achieving a band score of 7 in the IELTS writing test is an ambitious goal that indicates a high level of English proficiency. It's achievable with careful preparation and by building on the strategies used to reach a 6.5. Here's what you need to focus on:

Master Task Achievement: Ensure that you fully understand and respond to the tasks. Your answers should be comprehensive and directly related to the questions asked.

Enhance Coherence and Cohesion: Work on your writing skills, specifically logically organizing your ideas and connecting them smoothly. Use cohesive devices, such as linking words and phrases, to create a clear flow.

Expand Your Vocabulary: Aim for a rich and varied vocabulary. Experiment with less common words and idiomatic expressions, but only if you are sure of their meaning and usage.

Perfect Your Grammar: Work on using complex grammatical structures without errors. Accuracy is key here, so take the time to edit and revise.

Write Concisely: Clear and concise writing is vital. Avoid overly complex sentences that might confuse the reader, and stick to clear and precise expressions.

Practice with Real Exam Questions: Regularly practice writing essays using actual IELTS exam questions. This helps you get familiar with the type of questions you'll face and builds confidence.

Utilize Feedback: If you have access to a skilled tutor or mentor, make use of their expertise. Regular, personalized feedback can highlight areas for improvement for your writing skills that you might not notice on your own.

Stay Informed and Current: Reading newspapers, journals, and magazines in English will expose you to different writing styles and contemporary topics, which might be helpful in the exam.

Reaching a band score of 7 requires dedication, practice, and a willingness to learn from your mistakes. Focus on incremental improvements and don't be discouraged by setbacks. It's a challenging yet attainable goal.

Getting a 7 or above will depend on things like, did you use a mix of simple sentences and complex sentence structures? Did you make well-developed arguments and grammatically correct sentences 95% of the time?

In the following section, we'll delve into the essential skills you test takers need to develop to attain a good IELTS writing band score, helping you understand the key abilities that can propel you to success on your writing task.

What skills do I need to get a good IELTS writing band score?

A good IELTS writing band score reflects your ability to communicate effectively in English. Achieving this requires the development of specific skills that are assessed in the writing tasks:

Understanding Task Requirements: Grasping the exact requirements of the tasks is essential. Carefully read the questions to ensure that you address all parts.

Organizing Ideas Coherently: Being able to structure your ideas logically, with clear paragraphs and smooth transitions, is crucial for a good band score.

Wide and Accurate Vocabulary: Employing a diverse vocabulary accurately demonstrates language proficiency. Using words appropriately in context is as important as avoiding repetition.

Grammatical Control: Good grammar isn't just about avoiding errors; it's about using a variety of structures effectively. You need to balance complexity with clarity.

Developing Ideas: Providing detailed support for your ideas and opinions will enhance your writing. This requires critical thinking and the ability to articulate complex ideas.

Time Management: Being able to plan, write, and revise within the time limit requires practice. Managing your time well ensures that you complete both tasks fully.

Adapting Style and Tone: Understanding the appropriate style and tone for the task, whether it's an informal letter or a formal essay, is essential for hitting the right note.

Editing and Revising Skills: Proofreading for errors and making necessary revisions, such as adjusting sentence length and clarity, can make the difference between a good and an excellent band score.

These skills collectively contribute to your ability to perform well in the IELTS writing test. Focusing on these areas will not only improve your writing but also increase your confidence as you approach the test.

In the next section, we'll explore whether being a good academic writer in the English language is necessary for the IELTS writing test, shedding light on the importance of academic writing skills and how they might relate to your IELTS preparation.

Do I need to be a good academic writer to pass the IELTS?

Passing the IELTS academic doesn't necessarily require you to be an accomplished academic writer, but it does demand an understanding of how to write in an academic way. Let's discuss why this matters:

Formality and Structure 

Academic writing is characterized by a formal tone and structured approach. While you don't have to be an expert in academic writing, mimicking this formality and structure can help in Tasks that require a more formal response.

Critical Thinking

Academic writing often involves analyzing information and developing arguments. These skills can be beneficial in the IELTS writing tasks, especially Task 2, where you often need to present and support an opinion.

Vocabulary and Grammar

Although a specialized academic vocabulary is not required, having a grasp of more formal language and complex grammatical structures can enhance your writing, making it more suitable for the tasks.

Understanding Different Tasks

Some IELTS writing tasks might resemble academic assignments, such as interpreting a graph or writing a persuasive essay. Familiarity with academic writing conventions can aid in tackling these tasks more effectively.

In essence, while you don't need to be a seasoned academic writer to pass the IELTS, understanding how to write in an academic way can certainly enhance your performance. It's about striking the right balance between formality and accessibility, aligning your writing with the task's requirements.

Tips to help you improve your IELTS writing score

Improving your IELTS writing score is an achievable goal with the right strategies and consistent effort. Here are some actionable tips:

Analyze Sample Essays: Study high-scoring IELTS essays to understand what works. Notice how ideas are developed, structured, and linked.

Learn How to Write a Good Thesis Statement: A clear thesis statement will guide your writing and keep your essay focused. Practice crafting statements that effectively present your main argument or viewpoint.

Learn How to Organize Your Ideas: A well-organized essay makes your argument more compelling. Work on structuring your ideas logically and consistently.

Learn How to Use Good Transitions in Your Writing: Smooth transitions link your ideas and create a cohesive flow. Practice using transitional words and phrases to enhance readability.

Learn How to Give Good Examples: Supporting your statements with relevant examples strengthens your argument. Practice providing examples that directly relate to your main points.

Practice Regularly: Regular, timed practice tests helps build stamina and familiarity with the test format.

Use Varied Sentence Structures: Practice writing complex sentences, but balance them with simple, clear statements.

Build Your Vocabulary: Focus on expanding your vocabulary but always prioritize accuracy and appropriateness.

Seek Feedback: If possible, get feedback from teachers or tutors who understand the IELTS criteria.

Revise and Edit: Always leave time to review your work, looking for areas to improve or correct.

Stay Informed: Read widely on various topics to build knowledge and vocabulary, including newspapers, journals, and online articles.

Stay Calm and Focused: Test anxiety can affect performance. Practice relaxation techniques and approach the test with a positive mindset.

Combining these strategies with a solid understanding of the test format and criteria can pave the way to an improved IELTS writing score. It takes time and dedication, but with targeted effort, you can reach your desired band score.

How to improve your grammar for the IELTS exam

Grammar is a crucial component of the IELTS exam, and it's essential to showcase a strong command of English grammar to achieve a high band score. Here's how you can enhance your grammar for the IELTS exam:

Improve your use of the English verb tenses

Understanding and correctly using different verb tenses is vital for clear and precise communication. Here's how you can improve:

Identify Different Tenses: Recognize and learn the differences between past, present, and future tenses, and their various forms such as simple, continuous, and perfect.

Practice with Examples: Write sentences using different English tenses, focusing on context and meaning.

Use Resources: Grammar books and online IELTS prep resources often have exercises specifically on verb tenses. Practice these regularly.

Read and Analyze: Engage with well-written content like books or news articles, and pay attention to how verb tenses are used. Analyze the tense and understand why it was chosen.

Seek Feedback: If possible, ask for feedback from teachers or native speakers to identify any mistakes and learn from them.

Learn proper English sentence structure

Proper sentence structure is foundational for clear writing. To improve in this area:

Understand Sentence Components: Familiarize yourself with subjects, verbs, and objects, and how they interact to form different types of sentences.

Practice Building Sentences: Start with simple sentences and gradually work on creating more complex structures.

Use Online Tools: Various grammar tools and websites provide exercises on sentence structure. Utilize them to practice and get immediate feedback.

Read Actively: Read widely, focusing on sentence construction. Break down sentences to understand how they are built.

Write and Revise: Practice writing sentences and paragraphs, and then revise for structure. Look for variety and balance in your sentences.

Avoid Common Mistakes: Learn about typical mistakes in sentence structure and how to avoid them.

By focusing on these areas, you can significantly improve your understanding and usage of English verb tenses and sentence structures. This not only helps you in the IELTS exam but also enhances your overall English writing and speaking abilities. Continuous practice, analysis, and feedback are key to making these improvements.

Upgrade your vocabulary and score more points on your IELTS writing section

Upgrading your vocabulary is a powerful way to enhance your IELTS writing section score. Rich and varied language use demonstrates a deeper understanding of English and can impress the examiner. Here are some practical strategies to boost your vocabulary:

Try to Find Synonyms to the Common Words You Always Use: Instead of repeatedly using phrases like "For example" or "However," explore synonyms or different expressions. This adds variety and shows a broader vocabulary. For instance, you could use "Such as" or "In contrast."

Use Different Words in Your Intro Than They Used in the Essay Topic: Rephrasing the essay topic in your introduction using different words is a simple way to demonstrate your language ability. This not only avoids repetition but also allows you to set the tone for your essay.

Use Different Words in Your Conclusion from What You Used in Your Intro: Variety is key in your writing. If you use different vocabulary in your conclusion than what you used in your introduction, it can create a more engaging and cohesive text.

Try Not to Use the Same Transition Twice: Transitions guide the reader through your text and using the same one repeatedly can make your writing feel monotonous. Challenge yourself to use various transitions that fit the context of your writing.

Read and Take Notes: Expand your vocabulary by reading a variety of texts. Note down new words and phrases, and make a conscious effort to use them in your writing.

Practice Writing on Different Topics: By writing on various subjects, you will naturally encounter and learn new vocabulary related to those topics.

Use Vocabulary Building Apps or Tools: There are many tools and applications designed to help you learn new vocabulary in a fun and engaging way.

Seek Feedback: If possible, have someone review your writing and suggest areas where you could use more varied vocabulary.

By embracing these strategies, you are taking concrete steps to upgrade your vocabulary. Remember, it's not just about using complex words but using the right words in the right context. 

Continuous practice and an active approach to learning new words will surely contribute to a higher score on your IELTS writing section.

Be concise to write faster and get a higher band score

Conciseness is an essential writing skill, particularly in a timed exam like the IELTS, where you must communicate your ideas effectively within a limited time frame.

 Being concise can help you write faster and achieve a higher band score. Here's how to be more concise in your writing:

Don't Be Too Wordy Trying to Sound Smart or Impressive: It's tempting to use complex sentences and big words to sound more intelligent, but being overly verbose can cloud your message. Focus on expressing your ideas in a clear and straightforward manner.

Be Clear About Your Thoughts, Ideas, and Examples: Your writing must be easily understood by the examiner. Ensure that your thoughts and examples are clearly presented and directly related to your main points. Avoid ambiguity or overly complex explanations.

Don't Use Words You Don't Know: Using words or phrases you're not familiar with can lead to confusion or incorrect usage. Stick to the vocabulary you know well, ensuring that it's used appropriately in context.

Practice Summarizing: Try summarizing long passages in a few sentences. This exercise can help you get to the core of an idea without unnecessary words.

Avoid Redundancies: Be aware of unnecessary repetitions or words that don't add meaning. For example, instead of saying "absolutely essential," simply say "essential."

Use Active Voice When Possible: Passive voice can make sentences longer and less direct. Where appropriate, use active voice for a more concise and engaging style.

Revise and Edit: Always leave time to review and edit your writing. Look for areas where you can eliminate unnecessary words or phrases without losing meaning.

By embracing conciseness in your writing, you're likely to write faster, make your points more clear, and ultimately achieve a higher band score in your IELTS exam. 

Remember, being concise doesn't mean oversimplifying: it's about delivering your message in the most efficient and effective way.

How to practice for the IELTS writing test

Preparing for the IELTS writing test requires focused practice and a strategic approach. It's not just about writing well, it's also about adapting to the specific requirements and time constraints of the test. 

Here's how you can effectively practice for the IELTS writing test:

Write Practice Essays, at Least 2-3 Per Week: Consistency is key. By writing multiple practice essays each week, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses and progressively improve. Make sure to use actual IELTS topics to make your practice as realistic as possible.

Get Someone Who's Experienced to Grade Your Essays and Give You Feedback: Feedback from a knowledgeable tutor, teacher, or someone who has experience with the IELTS can be invaluable. They can point out specific areas for improvement, provide insights into scoring, and help you align your writing with the IELTS criteria.

Time Yourself Writing Your Essays and Track Your Times: The IELTS writing test has strict time limits, so practicing under timed conditions is essential. Track your writing times for different tasks to ensure that you can comfortably fit them within the allowed time. It might be challenging at first, but with practice, you'll become more efficient.

Analyze High-Scoring Essays: Reading and analyzing essays that have received high IELTS band scores can provide insights into what examiners are looking for. Notice the structure, vocabulary, coherence, and other aspects that contribute to a high score.

Use Official IELTS Practice Materials: Official practice books, websites, and other materials are designed to closely replicate the actual test experience. Using these resources helps you become familiar with the exact format and expectations of the test.

Create a Study Plan: Set clear goals, create a study schedule, and track your progress. Having a well-structured plan helps you stay focused and ensures that you cover all necessary areas.

Stay Informed and Updated: The IELTS test format and topics can change. Stay informed by visiting official IELTS websites or forums to ensure that your preparation aligns with the current test requirements.

By incorporating these strategies into your practice routine, you're positioning yourself for success in the IELTS writing test. Regular writing practice, timed conditions, insightful feedback, and a strategic approach can make the difference in achieving the band score you aim for.

How can you get feedback on your essays if you don’t have someone experienced?

Getting constructive feedback on your IELTS essays is crucial for improvement, but what if you don't have access to a teacher or someone experienced in IELTS grading? Don't worry; there are still ways to receive valuable insights on your writing:

Use my AI IELTS Essay Grader Tool 

I've developed an AI-powered tool to grade IELTS essays specifically designed for individuals who might not have access to a traditional tutor or teacher. This tool provides a general idea about the direction of your essay scores and highlights areas that might need more attention.

How it Works

You simply submit your essay, and the tool will analyze it against IELTS grading criteria. It will give you a band score, along with detailed feedback and instructions on how you can improve. This feedback covers aspects such as task response, cohesion and coherence, lexical resource, and grammatical range and accuracy.

Why it's Beneficial

The AI IELTS essay grader offers an accessible and cost-effective way to understand where you stand in your preparation. While it might not replace human judgment entirely, it provides a consistent and data-driven evaluation that aligns with the IELTS scoring system.

How to Make the Most of It 

Use the tool as part of your regular practice routine. Write essays, grade them using the tool, and then apply the feedback to your next essay. Track your progress over time to see how you're improving.

Supplement with Other Resources

While the AI tool offers valuable feedback, you can also supplement it with other resources like online forums, peer review groups, or free online courses that focus on IELTS writing.

By leveraging technology and the AI IELTS essay grader I created, you can get valuable insights into your writing even without access to an experienced grader. It's a convenient way to receive consistent feedback, understand your strengths and weaknesses, and make informed improvements in your writing.

How to make sure you pass your IELTS writing exam

Passing the IELTS writing exam requires understanding the test format, mastering the necessary skills, and having the right strategies in place. For those looking for a comprehensive guide and personalized assistance, my online IELTS Writing Prep course is the perfect solution:

About my IETLS Course

The IELTS Writing Prep course is a 23-lesson online video course designed to equip you with all the knowledge and techniques needed to maximize your score in both Task 1 and Task 2 of the IELTS writing exam. It's tailored to suit various learning levels and covers everything from basic writing principles to advanced strategies.

What You'll Learn

  • How to analyze IELTS writing tasks

  • Structuring your essays effectively

  • Strategies for time management

  • Mastering coherence and cohesion

  • Enhancing vocabulary and grammar skills

100% Money-Back Guarantee: Enrolling in the course is risk-free. If you feel like it didn't help you in your exam, there's a 100% money-back guarantee. Your success is the priority, and this assurance is there to make sure you are satisfied with the learning experience.

Flexible Learning Experience: Since the course is online, you can learn at your pace, revisit lessons as needed, and fit your learning around your schedule. Support and guidance are available throughout the course to address any questions or concerns.

Why Choose This Course

Expert Insights: Benefit from my experience in the field of IELTS preparation.

Proven Methods: The course incorporates strategies and tips that have been tried and tested by many successful IELTS candidates.

Holistic Approach: Not only does it cover IELTS writing skills, but it also integrates essential aspects like mindset, confidence-building, and exam-day preparation.

Taking this structured and comprehensive course is a step towards ensuring success in your IELTS writing exam. By focusing on the essential skills, providing continuous support, and offering a risk-free investment, the IELTS Writing Prep course aims to make your IELTS preparation effective, manageable, and successful, so you can improve your IELTS writing skills and get the band score you need.

Check out the IELTS writing prep course here.

Good luck with your exam preparation

Preparing for the IELTS writing exam is a journey filled with learning, growth, and, inevitably, some challenges. But remember, the investment you make in your preparation is an investment in your future. 

Whether you choose to utilize online resources, practice extensively, seek feedback, or enroll in a specialized course like my IELTS Writing Prep course, the path you're on is the right one.

Stay committed to your goals, keep refining your skills, and don't hesitate to seek help or guidance when you need it. The tools, strategies, and insights shared here are designed to support you every step of the way.

Your success in the IELTS writing exam is within reach. Believe in yourself, apply what you've learned, and approach the exam with confidence and clarity.

Good luck with your exam preparation, and may you achieve the score you aim for. If you have any more questions or need further support trying to improve your IELTS writing skills, I'm here to help. Happy studying!

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Lucas Weaver from the Weaver School

Lucas Weaver founded The Weaver School in 2016. He's passionate about using the latest learnings in neuroscience and education to create the best language learning experience possible for our students, so they can quickly build effective language learning habits that will last for years. Lucas is a graduate of Texas A&M University and after 7 years of living in the Netherlands, he is currently traveling through Southeast Asia while learning their languages along the way.

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