How to Get a Top IELTS Writing Score: Examiner Insights & Proven Strategies 

 March 16, 2024

By  Jonathan

The IELTS Writing section can be a daunting obstacle for many test-takers. However, understanding what examiners are looking for and employing the right strategies can significantly boost your chances of achieving that coveted high band score. Let’s dive into the key things IELTS examiners analyse, as well as actionable steps you can take to excel in the writing part of your IELTS test.

Decoding the IELTS Writing Rubric

The IELTS Writing assessment is based on four main criteria:

  1. Task Achievement (Task 1) / Task Response (Task 2): This refers to how well you fulfil the requirements of the writing task. Do you fully address all parts of the question? In Task 2, do you present a clear position and support it with relevant ideas?
  2. Coherence and Cohesion: Your writing should be logically organized and flow smoothly. Ideas should be connected with appropriate linking words and your paragraphs well-structured.
  3. Lexical Resource: This looks at your vocabulary range and accuracy. Do you use precise words? Can you vary your word choice and demonstrate the ability to use less common vocabulary effectively?
  4. Grammatical Range and Accuracy: Examiners assess your sentence structure variety and control over grammatical structures. Do you consistently write error-free sentences with a mix of simple and complex grammatical forms?

Examiner Insights: What Makes a High-Scoring Essay Stand Out

  • Clear and Focused Response: Top-scoring essays don’t beat around the bush. They directly answer the question with a well-defined thesis statement (Task 2) or a clear overview of the main trends (Task 1).
  • Depth of Thought: Examiners appreciate essays that offer insights beyond simply describing data or restating the obvious. Demonstrate your ability to analyze information, draw connections, and offer a nuanced perspective.
  • Sophisticated Language: This doesn’t mean using obscure words for the sake of it. It’s about using precise vocabulary to express ideas clearly, as well as demonstrating your awareness of collocations (words that naturally go together).
  • Controlled and Varied Grammar: A high-scoring essay will use a range of sentence structures. Don’t just stick to simple sentences; show that you can confidently use complex structures while maintaining accuracy.

Proven Strategies for IELTS Writing Success

  1. Practice Makes Perfect: Regular writing practice is crucial. Analyze sample essays, break down their structure, and try to emulate their strengths. Get feedback from a qualified IELTS tutor or someone with strong English writing skills.
  2. Master Task Formats: Become intimately familiar with the requirements of Task 1 and Task 2. There are specific essay structures and approaches for each.
  3. Upgrade Your Vocabulary: Go beyond basic words. Read widely and create vocabulary lists with synonyms and example sentences. Use online resources like thesaurus.com and example sentence databases.
  4. Grammar Matters: While fancy phrases won’t make up for grammatical errors, a strong grasp of grammar allows your ideas to shine through clearly. Do focused grammar practice, identifying your common error patterns.
  5. Time Yourself: The IELTS Writing section has strict time limits (60 minutes total). Practice writing full essays under timed conditions to train your brain for the test-day pressure.
  6. Edit Ruthlessly: Leave time for proofreading. Look for typos, grammar slips, unclear sentences, or words used incorrectly. Even small errors can chip away at your score.

Additional Tips for Maximizing Your Score

  • Plan Before You Write: Spend a few minutes at the start outlining your ideas and essay structure. This prevents rambling and ensures a focused response.
  • Paragraphing Power: Each main idea should have its own paragraph. This makes your writing easier for the examiner to follow.
  • Avoid Informal Language: The IELTS assesses academic writing. No slang, contractions, or overly casual phrasing.
  • Data Doesn’t Lie (Task 1): Be accurate in describing the data! Misrepresenting information will severely impact your score.
  • Don’t Panic If You Get Lost: Stumbling over a word, or having a minor brain-freeze moment is okay. Regroup, paraphrase if needed, and keep going.

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.