IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 involves composing a formal five-paragraph essay in 40 minutes. This is the second of two writing tasks on the IELTS. The first section—Task 1—should take you only 20 minutes. Why spend more time on IELTS Writing Task 2? This basic comparison offers a few reasons:
- Points: Task 2 counts more towards your Writing band score
Task 1 = 1/3rd of your score
Task 2 = 2/3rds of your score
- Word count minimums: Task 2 is longer
Task 1 = 150 word minimum
Task 2 = 250 word minimum
- Planning your response: Task 2 questions require more thought
Task 1 = transfer of information from a visual into writing
Task 2 = answer an open/abstract question with no clear or “correct” answer
Even though Task 1 is by no means easy, most students find IELTS Writing Task 2 more challenging. It is well worth your time to write many Task 2 practice essays as you prepare for exam day. Understanding Task 2 deeply and developing an approach to the various question types you might face will make your practice even more effective.
The purpose of this guide is to help you master the IELTS Writing Task 2 skills you need in order to do well on this important section of the IELTS exam. Click on a section in the table of contents to skip directly to that topic, or continue reading below to start learning all about IELTS Writing Task 2.
Table of Contents
This post is all about the IELTS Academic Writing Task 2. If you’re looking for IELTS Writing Task 1 tips, click here!
IELTS Writing Task 2 Basics
Let’s begin with some basic tips for IELTS Writing Task 2:
The IELTS is a pencil and paper exam, so your responses will be handwritten. It is essential that you handwrite (don’t type!) your practice essays for Task 2. Writing by hand helps you develop a sense of pacing. In other words, you will learn how quickly (or slowly!) you write with pencil and paper in English.
Importantly, as you’re probably aware, precious points will be deducted if you do not meet the minimum word requirements in the Writing section. But it is a huge waste of time to actually count your words on exam day. If you take the additional step of using official IELTS Writing Task 2 response sheets (download and print them here), you can see how many words you typically write on each page. You won’t have to count because you will know what that number of words looks like on the IELTS answer sheet.
Writing speed varies a lot from student to student. How you allocate time depends a lot on how fast you can write. The more you practice Task 2 responses, the quicker you will become. Your goal should be to allow enough time for these three things:
- Essay planning 2 – 10 minutes
- Writing 25 – 32 minutes
- Editing 5 minutes (or more if possible)
As you practice, try very hard to cut down on the amount of time it takes to plan your responses before writing. Some students can take up to 10 minutes to brainstorm and plan. For most people, however, using 10 minutes at the beginning will take away too much time from writing and editing. I usually recommend three to five minutes of planning as a reasonable target. The more practice questions you answer, the faster you will become at generating ideas before you write.
The IELTS expects you to use an academic/formal writing style. This means you should use the same kind of language that you would when writing a report for work or an essay for school. Obviously, you would avoid using “slang” words. You would also write in complete sentences and use proper punctuation. Here are some additional features of academic/formal writing to keep in mind for Task 2:
- Organize ideas into separate paragraphs: You will lose points if you do not divide your essay into paragraphs. In the next section of this post, I’ve included an IELTS Writing Task 2 response template. The template includes the essential paragraphs you should include in your Task 2 response. Generally speaking, your essay must have an introduction paragraph, 2 – 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
- Write in complete sentences: Make sure each sentence you write has an independent clause with a subject and verb. When you write complex or compound sentences, use “connectors” like coordinating conjunctions (and, but, so, etc) or subordinating conjunctions (when, although, because, etc).
- Avoid repetition of words and ideas: Your ideas should move from one to the next logically, and you should show off your vocabulary by avoiding redundancy (don’t repeat the same words over and over).
- Avoid “slang:” The English you hear in the movies or read on social media is often inappropriate for formal writing. It is a big problem to use words like “dude” or spellings like “U” (for “you”) on the IELTS.
- Thoughtful and Neutral Tone: Academic/formal writing has a very careful and thoughtful tone. It rarely sounds angry, excited, or overly certain about an idea. It is also best to avoid broad generalizations in formal/academic compositions. Here are some examples to demonstrate:
NOT ACADEMIC: I hate this idea! (Too excited/angry)
ACADEMIC: This idea has some problems to consider.
NOT ACADEMIC: Everyone is distracted by cell phones these days.(Too broad)
ACADEMIC: Many people are distracted by cell phones these days.
NOT ACADEMIC: I have the best solution to the problem. (Too certain)
ACADEMIC: I would suggest this solution to the problem.
IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 Essay Organization & Example
In this section, we will look at the overall structure of an IELTS Writing Task 2 response. Before we get to that, however, let’s take a look at a sample Task 2 question. Read it over and take a moment to think: How would you respond?
IELTS Writing Task 2 Sample Question
Planning Before You Write
When you first encounter an IELTS Writing Task 2 question, try to decide what perspective you will take fairly quickly. Unfortunately, the IELTS doesn’t give you much time to do this. Making matters worse, it is fairly likely that you won’t have strong, well-developed opinions about the topic. Don’t worry. Task 2 questions are (intentionally) debatable, with no clearly “correct” answer.
Fortunately, unlike an essay you might write for work or school, it is not important to present your true opinions on the IELTS. Remember, the IELTS is an English language test. It is not a test of what you know about the topic of your Task 2 question. While you should present reasonable ideas in a clear and logical way, you can argue any side of the question and do well. Therefore, rather than worrying about (and spending time on) formulating your true opinion on your Task 2 topic, ask yourself the following question instead:
“What is the easiest way for me to answer this question?”
Can you think of some main ideas and/or examples quickly for one side of an argument? Even if these ideas don’t fully represent your perspective, just go with them on the IELTS. You don’t want to waste too much time thinking about how to express your true opinions.
Once you’ve chosen a perspective on your question, you can do some planning/brainstorming. Below are some planning notes for our sample Task 2 question (introduced above). On exam day, you won’t have a chart like this to fill in. The chart simply helps to make the information easier to read in this post. Basically, your goal in the planning phase is to come up with a main idea for each paragraph of your essay. We will discuss each of these paragraphs in more detail below the chart.
Writing your Essay
When you’ve done some initial planning, you’re ready to dive into a writing. Let’s take a closer look at how to organize your Academic Writing Task 2 response paragraph by paragraph. After you read about each paragraph, look at the sample Task 2 essay immediately below this section as an example.
The Introduction Paragraph
An introduction is a very important element of your Task 2 essay. Practicing introductions can really pay off, even if you don’t follow through and write a full practice essay every time. Many students get stuck at the very beginning, not knowing how to respond to the question in the introduction. Let’s look at what to do.
IELTS Writing Task 2 introductions can be short and simple. A two-sentence introduction should be your goal. There are two main parts of a Task 2 introduction to include every time:
- Topic Presentation:
In this first sentence of your introduction, you simply need to paraphrase the topic described in your question prompt. In other words, find a way to accurately state the topic in your own words. Try to avoid using the same words and phrases as the prompt.
After presenting the topic, you need to provide your perspective on it. This is your thesis. It is a sentence that expresses the main idea of your essay. At a minimum, you need to provide a general answer the question prompt in your thesis: “I believe that…”, or “I agree that…”. A really great thesis also introduces the main ideas of each body paragraph in a general way. Take a look at the sample essay below. Notice how the thesis introduces the main idea of both body paragraphs.
Important! You MUST answer the essay question directly in your thesis. Students sometimes lose points because their thesis does not answer the question directly enough. Read your question prompt carefully and make sure your essay will answer every part of the question.
2-3 Body Paragraphs
The next two (or if necessary, three) paragraphs of your IELTS Task 2 essay are your opportunity to explain your thesis. Each body paragraph should present ONE main point. If your question prompt includes several questions, you should write a body paragraph for each one. The main point of each body paragraph must relate directly to your thesis statement in the introduction. Use supporting details and/or examples to explain your main point before moving on to the next body paragraph.
Don’t spend a long time on your conclusion. A good IELTS Task 2 conclusion should be one or two sentences long. Simply paraphrase your thesis and main points from your body paragraphs to close out your essay. This means you should avoid using the same words, phrases, and sentence structures as your thesis statement. Definitely do not copy your thesis statement word-for-word as your conclusion.
Before we dig into an example IELTS Task 2 essay, check out the video below and try your hand at writing an introduction paragraph.
Sample IELTS Task 2 Essay
Let’s take a look at an example essay containing each of the Task 2 paragraphs described above.
Some parents may worry that pushing their children towards a particular career could be harmful. While I agree it is unwise to predetermine a child’s profession, parents should still offer guidance through open communication.
Young people need freedom to make choices, especially when it comes to their careers. Even parents who agree with this idea may still feel some anxiety about it. Ultimately, most parents hope their children will be financially secure. Deep down some parents may also want their children to choose prestigious careers, or jobs that will impact society in some way. These wishes are normal and not necessarily harmful. Yet, it can be problematic if these desires turn into firm expectations. In such cases, the main motivation for a child becomes fear of disappointing her parents. It can lead to resentment if she spends her life doing something she doesn’t enjoy. With freedom to explore, by contrast, she can take ownership of her career decisions and develop internal motivation to reach her goals.
Yet, offering a child freedom does not imply that parents should be absent. To the contrary, parents should strive to foster open communication about career decisions. If a child’s aspirations do not line up with his parents’ wishes, he may fear that approaching them could lead to judgement and confrontation. However, if he feels that his parents will listen carefully and maintain an open attitude, he may let down his guard and welcome their feedback. When this happens, parents can provide guidance and, importantly, even critiques of their child’s plans. In this way, open communication creates opportunities for young people to benefit from their parents’ wisdom and experience.
In conclusion, even though parents should avoid pressuring their children to follow specific career paths, they should not abandon the discussion. Parents should strive to create an environment where they can offer caring guidance through open communication.
IELTS Writing Task 2 Question Types
No matter what question you get for IELTS Writing Task 2, your goal should always be to answer the question completely and directly. Take time, every time, to read the prompt carefully and understand it fully. In Task 2, you are always required to provide your perspective on a topic. However, there are a variety IELTS Writing Task 2 question types you may encounter. The charts below present the five basic IELTS Writing Task 2 question types, and offer some tips on how to organize your responses for each one.
Improving Your IELTS Writing Task 2 Score (By Scoring Category)
There are four scoring categories for IELTS Writing Task 2:
- Task Response
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy
- Lexical Resource
- Coherence and Cohesion
Here are some tips to help you improve your score in each category.
IELTS Writing Task 2 Scoring Categories
1. Task Response
This his is a measurement of how well you fulfilled the basic requirements of the task based on the instructions. Following the template and organization advice above helps you most in this category.
2. Grammatical Range and Accuracy
This is a measurement of your ability to use a wide range of grammatical structures without making a lot of grammatical errors. If you have enough time (a few months or more) before you take the IELTS, consider taking an English class or investing in a good grammar book for self-study. I often recommend this grammar book to intermediate and advanced students. It offers clear grammar explanations and contains many practice exercises.
Here are some additional grammar tips to help you, even if your IELTS exam is coming up soon and you don’t have time to take a class or study a textbook!
Grammar Tip 1: Don’t use the same simple sentence structures over and over.
The next time you write a practice response, take a close look at your sentence structures. Do you use a variety of sentence patterns? English language learners often develop a habit of using forms of the “BE” verb (am, is, are, was, were) very frequently as the main verb of the sentence. Using “BE” verbs is not a problem (I have used many in this blog post!!), but using them too often makes your writing sound very basic. Importantly, using “BE” verbs repeatedly also limits your grammatical range. Choosing more descriptive verbs opens up many grammatical possibilities. For example, you can use adverbs and adverbial phrases to describe an action. By limiting yourself to forms of “BE” as the main verb, you will mainly rely on adjectives for description.
To work on this, go back through your practice essays and try to change every sentence that includes a “BE” verb as the main verb. Don’t worry about sentences with “BE” auxiliary verbs like this:
She is running.
“Running” is the main verb of this sentence and “is” is an auxiliary. There is no need to change this. You want to edit sentences that look like this:
Michael is a history professor at my college.
“Is” is the main verb of the sentence. When you revise these sentences, don’t change the meaning of the sentence too much. The sentence should still fit logically in your essay. This can be tough! Making these changes will force you to use different sentence patterns and, importantly, more descriptive verbs and adverbs when you write. Please note—you do not need to avoid all “BE” verbs when you write for the IELTS exam. This exercise simply helps you to develop your ability to use a variety of grammatical structures. Review the following examples:
Original sentence: Mary is an excellent teacher, so students always love taking her class.
Revised sentence: Mary teaches so well that students always love taking her class.
Grammar Tip 2: Use complex sentence structures
On the IELTS, you need to prove that you can write advanced sentences without mistakes. Therefore, you should include some complex sentence patterns in your writing. What is a complex sentence? Complex sentences include “subordinating conjunctions,” which introduce a variety of dependent clauses in English. Look over this review of dependent and independent clauses if you need to. Below are some examples of subordinating conjunctions:
Adverbial Subordinators (there are many!):
Adjective Clause Subordinators:
Noun Clause Subordinators:
A few complex sentence examples:
Even though it rained all weekend, we had a great time.
I like playing chess because it provides a mental challenge.
I threw the ball to my friend, who was not ready to catch it.
The key to IELTS Writing Task 2 success is to give the examiner exactly what they want and nothing else.
Below you will find everything you need to achieve a high score in IELTS Writing Task 2.
- 5 Step Approach Video
- Essential Information
- Task 2 Preparation
- Writing Task 2 Tips
- Essential Skills
- Sentence-by-Sentence Structures
- Common Topics
- Full Lessons On All Question Types.
- Sample Answers
- Correction Service and Online Course
- Easy to Understand Infographic
IELTS Writing Task 2: 5 Step Approach
IELTS Writing Task 2 requires you to write an academic-style essay on a common topic. You have 40 minutes to write at least 250 words.
Task 2 can be broken down and thought about more easily in 5 steps:
1. Question Analysis
You must first understand the question to know exactly what the examiner is looking for. One of the biggest mistakes students make is not answering the question properly. If you do not answer the question fully, you can’t score higher than a Band 5.
In order to do this, you must first identify the question type, then identify the keywords in the question and finally identify the instructions words in order to find out what the examiner wants you to do with the question. We will look at these skills in more detail below.
The students who get the highest marks plan before they write and they often plan for up to 10 minutes. Planning helps you organise your ideas and structure before you write, saving you time and helping you write a clear essay.
The introduction should tell the examiner what the rest of the essay is about and also answer the question directly. This tells the examiner that you know what you are doing straight away and helps you write your main body paragraphs.
4. Main Body Paragraphs
This is where you give the examiner more detail. You do this by stating your main points and supporting these with explanations and relevant examples.
Here you provide a summary of what you have already said in the rest of the essay.
That’s it you’re done!
See below for articles on the specific skills you need to do this and full lessons on each different question type.
IELTS Writing Task 2 Essential Information
Below are 10 essential facts about Task 2. Many students worry about these small details instead of focusing on what really matters- improving your performance. These facts will help you understand what the test is and how it is scored so that you can move on to improving your performance.
- You must write an essay in response to a question.
- You must write 250 words or more.
- You should spend around 40 minutes on this part of the test.
- Task 2 is worth 2/3 of your total mark on the Writing test.
- General Training and Academic are essentially the same for Task 2, but different for Task 1.
- There are certain types of questions you will be asked, such as opinion, discussion etc. See below for more detail on these.
- You will be assessed in four areas:
- Task Achievement (25%)
- Coherence and Cohesion (25%)
- Lexical Resource (25%)
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy (25%)
- The questions will be about common topics that most people in the world should be aware of.
- The most important thing is that you can demonstrate that you can clearly communicate in English.
- The key to doing well is to know exactly what the examiners want and giving it to them.
IELTS Writing Task 2 Preparation
Many people know that they need to improve their writing, but have no idea how to do that. Below is the methodology that I use with all of my successful students.
You must first understand what the IELTS Writing Task 2 is, what the examiners expect you to do and how to give the examiners what they want. This is the first stage and one that is often overlooked. There are a huge number of online resources, often with conflicting and poor quality information, so finding a reliable source of information is key.
If your car broke down, you would try and identify which part caused the problem. If you are sick, your doctor will run tests to find out the exact cause of your symptoms.
Task 2 is exactly the same. We must first identify WHY you are not getting the score you need before we can move to the next stage.
However, be very careful! You wouldn’t ask the average man on the street for medical advice, so make sure you find someone who actually knows what they are doing to help you with this.
Now that we know what the problems are we must fix these problems.
If your grammar needs work, fix those issues. If your vocabulary is lacking, work on fixing this issue.
Just like a good doctor will be able to help you fix a medical issue, a good IELTS teacher will be able to help you fix your particular issues.
Practice and Feedback
Practice alone is not going to help you. It is an essential part of your preparation, but you must also get feedback on your work if you are really going to improve.
You wouldn’t try to teach yourself how to drive without an instructor, would you?
Find someone who will give you accurate and helpful feedback on your work. If you don’t, you will not be able to move to the last stage.
Now that you understand what you need to do, you’ve identified the exact areas you need to work on, you’ve improved those areas and got feedback on your work, you are ready to improve and get the score you need. You are not ready to get the IELTS Writing Task 2 score you deserve.
Essential Writing Task 2 Skills
No matter how good your English is you still need to learn some IELTS writing skills before you do Writing Task 2. Below are helpful guides that will take you through each of these skills step-by-step.
Making a good plan actually saves you time when you write your essay. If you don’t plan you are more likely to get lost halfway through your essay and the result is normally a very confused piece of writing that is difficult to read. This guide will show you how to write a clear essay every time.
Thinking of good ideas is one of the most challenging parts of the test for some people. This guide provides 5 different methods to help you quickly think of relevant ideas that are directly linked to the question.
Complex sentences help you boost your score for grammar. Complex sentences are actually very simple to write and are not complex at all- in this article we show you how.
Paraphrasing is one of the essential IELTS skills, not just in Writing Task 2, but in all parts of the IELTS test. You should paraphrase the question in every essay and I recommend doing this in the very first sentence to help boost your vocabulary score.
Supporting paragraphs are the main body paragraphs and are the meat in the sandwich. This is where you provide the detail the examiner is looking for in the form of explanations and examples.
A thesis statement tells the examiner your opinion. Many IELTS Writing Task 2 questions specifically ask for your opinion and if you don’t write it clearly you have not answered the question properly. This article shows you how, where and when to give your opinion.
Around 250 words? Exactly 250 words or over 250 words? How many words over? How do I know how many words I have? This article answers all those questions.
A critical part of answering any question. This article shows you how to break down any Task 2 question and identify the keywords, micro-keywords and instruction words to help you answer the question effectively.
The introduction is the first thing the examiner reads and it is, therefore, essential that we give them a good first impression. I have a very specific sentence by sentence structure that I share in this article to help you write introductions quickly and effectively.
Do you know how Task 2 is marked? What is the difference between a Band 5 and a Band 8 answer? This article breaks the marking criteria down for you and explains it in simple language so you can give the IELTS examiners exactly what they want.
A good conclusion should be a summary of your main points. The conclusion is the last thing the examiner reads and if you can write a good one you will leave them with a very good impression.
Each of your supporting paragraphs should have a specific example that supports and illustrates your main point. This is an essential skill to learn if you want to get one of the higher band scores.
Cohesive devices, sometimes called linking words, are one of the most misunderstood and misused elements of writing. Learn how to use them and when to use them here.
Synonyms are very important, but they can also really reduce you mark if used incorrectly.
Learn how Tina went from a Band 6 to and Band 8 in IELTS Writing in just 6 weeks.
I recorded a video of me answering a Task 2 question live and thought out loud as I recorded my computer screen. This will give you an insight into how someone with lots of IELTS experience thinks about these questions.
This article will show you how to make your writing as clear and as easy to read as possible. It will also give you advice on whether to use a pen or pencil.
I have compiled these tips after years of teaching IELTS and all of them have been approved by IELTS examiners.
This is a video lesson that shows you in practical terms how to improve your coherence and cohesion score.
Writing Task 2 Structures
These structures give you a sentence-by-sentence structure for all the main Task 2 question types, making your job much easier on exam day.
One thing I would like to warn you about structures is that they are not a magic wand that will help you automatically get a higher score. They will help you, but please realise that they are just a small part of the overall score.
Writing Task 2 Common Topics
Knowing the common topics can help you prepare for the test more efficiently. Here are the 10 most common topics over the last few years. Studying hard is great, but don’t forget to study smart.
The article below will show you the top 10 most common IELTS topics.
The article below will show you how you can use the most common Task 2 topics to your advantage.
Full Writing Task 2 Practice Lessons
Here are some lessons that I have used when teaching students about Task 2. I have changed them so that you can easily learn at home. They are very long but combined with the skills above, they contain all the information you need.
Grammar and Vocabulary
Grammar is one of the four things you will be marked on in the Writing test. Finding out what your common grammar mistakes are and then fixing them is a very powerful way to boost your score in this area. Here are some common grammar mistakes I have found after making hundreds of tests.
It’s very important that you have some good examples so that you can compare your writing and see if you are on the right track. Click the link below for lots of sample answers and over 100 questions.
IELTS Writing Course
We offer help to a very small number of students with IELTS Writing Task 2 and all other areas of the test. I do not believe that simply offering students lots of videos helps them, so we do things very differently on our online courses.
We believe that students do best when they have full support and can get feedback and help with their particular problems. We treat our students as individuals, not numbers in a classroom. If you would like more information about our courses, please feel free to check them out here.
Due to the success of our courses and overwhelming demand, there is normally a waiting list.
Essay Correction Service
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