Common IELTS Writing Questions

The IELTS writing test is usually considered the most difficult part of the IELTS Exam by students from Singapore and on a global level as well. The IELTS writing test consists of two tasks, which are different depending on the type of IELTS exam you are taking.  Students who take the Academic module have to write a graph for writing task 1 and an essay for writing task 2. Students who opt for the General Training module have to write a letter for writing task 1 and an essay for writing task 2.

In this article we will take a look at the common types of IELTS writing questions that you can encounter during the writing test.

In each case it’s important to organize your ideas clearly, and support and justify your points with proper examples and explanations. Also, since Task 2 is longer than Task 1, it is advised to spend approximately 40 minutes on task 2 and 20 minutes on the first task.

IELTS Writing Task 1 Academic Questions

In this task you will be given some graphic or pictorial information. This could be in the form of a graph, a chart, a table or a map. You will have to write a descriptive formal report of at least 150 words based on the information provided.

  • There are 7 common question types which you can encounter during this task. These include:
    • Bar Chart.
    • Line Graph.
    • Pie Chart.
    • Process Diagram.
    • Multiple Graphs.

Each of these questions will display some sort of statistical information and you will have to write a factual report based on the given information. Here is a brief overview of what to expect for each Academic writing task 1 question.

Bar Chart

A bar graph contains either horizontal or vertical bars to present data comparison or contrast among categories or variables. Each bar will represent different numerical values of different variables

Line Graph

A line graph contains information represented along an x and a y axis. It is usually a comparison of how a certain numerical variable has changed over time.

Table Question

In this question you will be asked to write a report which summarizes data given in a table. It is a bit more difficult because it’s just data with no form of visual representation.

Pie chart

You will be asked to write a report based on a pie chart depicting a number of percentages and proportions.

Process Diagram

There are two types of processes that could be shown in the writing test:

A linear process starts and finishes at different places. It will often involve the manufacture or creation of something, with raw materials going in at one end and the finished product coming out the other end.

A cyclical process is a process that goes back to the beginning and repeats over and over again, such as the life cycle of a frog.

Maps Question

You will be asked to compare two or three maps of a place over a period of time as in this question.

IELTS Writing Task 1 General Training Questions

In this task, you will have to write a letter of at least 150 words based on the information provided. The letter could be a formal, semi-formal or formal letter.

These are some common letter topics you can find in the General Training Writing test:

  • An Apology.
  • Letter of Complaint.
  • A Request.
  • Letter of Explanation.
  • Letters of Application & Resignation.
  • Letters to Make an Arrangement.
  • An Invitation.

IELTS Writing Task 2 Questions

The second task is more demanding. You are expected to produce a written essay on a given topic. The essay topics for the academic module are usually more difficult than the general module. You will have to write at least 250 words within 40 minutes.

Some of the common essay topics include:

  • Arts & Culture
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Family & Children
  • Globalization & Global Issues
  • Government & Policy
  • Health
  • Science & Technology
  • Transportation & Infrastructure
  • Work & Money

Some of the common types of essay questions asked in the IELTS writing test are:

  • Opinion essay
  • Advantages and Disadvantages essay
  • Problems and solutions essays
  • Discussion essays
  • Mixed Essays

Opinion Essay

These are simply essays that ask you to discuss your views or opinion about a particular issue. They are commonly known as the agree/disagree essay question type

Sample Opinion essay question:

Advances in technology and automation have reduced the need for manual labour. Therefore, working hours should be reduced.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

or Has this been a positive or negative development?

Advantages and Disadvantages Essay

In this essay question, you will be asked to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of a particular topic or issue. There are two types of Advantages/Disadvantages essays. In the first type, you need to simply discuss the advantages and disadvantages. In the second type, you have to discuss the advantages and disadvantages AND give your opinion on whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages or vice versa.

Sample Advantages and Disadvantages Essay:

The number of old people around the world is increasing dramatically.

Could this have more positive or negative effects on society? or…

Do the advantages of the trend outweigh the disadvantages?

Problems and Solutions Essay

In this essay, you will be asked to identify the reasons behind a particular issue/problem and you also need to offer possible solutions to this problem. This question asks you to describe the causes and propose solutions for a given problem.

Sample Problems and Solutions Essay:

The influence of human beings on the world’s ecosystem is leading to the extinction of species and loss of biodiversity.

What are the primary causes of loss of biodiversity?

What solutions can you suggest?

Discussion Essay

In this type of essay question, you will be asked to discuss both sides of a particular issue or topic. You may also be asked to give your own personal opinion.

Sample Discussion Essay Question:

The free movement of goods across national borders has long been a controversial issue.

Some people argue that it is necessary for economic growth, while others claim that it damages local industries.

Discuss both views and give your own opinion.

Mixed Essay

These questions are also known as double essay questions because they have one statement with two different questions after it. The questions may or may not be linked.

Sample Mixed Essay Question

People use the Internet for medical advice and to do medical check-ups rather than directly meeting with doctors in an office.

Why are they using the Internet for this?

Discuss your viewpoints on this.

To aid in your preparation it would be useful to take a look at authentic IELTS writing task 2 sample questions and band 9 sample essays in order to get a better idea of the type of language required by examiners. Make sure that you always use with official IELTS materials, from trusted sources. Using questions and model answers that are sourced from reliable institutes like Cambridge, the IDP or British Council, is important because there are far too many fake sample answer and materials which can give an incorrect impression of the type of language required by examiners for the IELTS test writing test. You could also consider enrolling in an IELTS preparation course to overcome any weaknesses you may have regarding your essay writing skills.

Jonathan has been teaching students to prepare for the IELTS and PTE Exams for more than 10+ years. He's taught English to students in various countries in the world including Singapore, China, Australia, Canada and Colombia.