For those seeking an education or a career in English-speaking countries, the ability to write coherently in English is a must. While passing the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is important for academic pursuits or career goals, there are many ways to prepare. The test is designed to show the test taker is proficient in English and can communicate effectively. The writing portion of the IELTS is often the exam portion that worries test takers the most. But, it doesn’t have to be!
Understand the Test Format
The IELTS is divided into four sections: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The total test is 2 hours and 45 minutes. Depending on your goals, there is an IELTS Academic Exam and an IELTS General Training Exam. The listening and speaking portions of both exams are the same; however, the subject matter of the reading and writing portions will be different.
Now, let’s talk about the writing section specifically. The writing portion is composed of two separate tasks. Both tasks must be completed within 60 minutes. Task 1 asks the test taker to describe a visual (such as an infographic) in 150 words. Task 2 asks the test taker to respond to an argument by writing a short essay response in 250 words that stays on topic and supports a clear idea.
Do the Necessary Work Beforehand
The best thing you can do to prepare for the IELTS is to attend an English class. For example, students who study English in Washington DC have the opportunity to learn the language through immersion. Language schools in Washington DC, such as inlingua, offer test preparation courses that are designed to help you pass English language exams. Inlingua’s English test center is the largest test center for the IELTS in the US. So, students who attend this Washington language school not only have access to trained language teachers, but they also have familiarity with the testing location. Test preparation classes are excellent ways to prepare beforehand as you will have test preparation materials and instructors to help you.
Practice and Practice Some More
It is absolutely necessary to practice writing often. If you want to become a better writer, then you need to practice writing. Find ways to incorporate writing into your daily routines. For instance, keep a journal where you write about your day in English only. Write emails, text messages, and letters to friends in English. As the exam approaches, you should use test preparation materials to review the types of writing tasks you will be asked to perform. Then, spend time writing responses. If you are in English courses in Washington DC, you can ask your language trainer to review your responses.
Read, Read, Read
Another way to improve your writing is to spend time reading. Start reading where you are comfortable – even if this means comic books! Find things you enjoy reading and then it will not feel like a chore. But, this fun activity will actually be helping you learn how ideas and sentences are formed and written in English. Plus, there is a reading portion of the exam, so you need to show proficiency in this area as well.
Relax Before the Exam
It may be tempting to try to do some last-minute studying to bolster your test scores, but this is a bad idea. Instead, you need to try to relax. For example, instead of staying up too late preparing for the exam, you should try to go to bed at a decent time and get a good night’s rest. On the morning of the exam, you should eat a healthy breakfast and give yourself enough time to make it to the English test center. You do not want to feel rushed or frantic.
Pay Attention to the Question
When you begin the writing portion of the exam, you must pay attention to the question. Do not expect the question to be the same as the test preparation materials. While the format will be similar, the test will have unique content. For example, you will be penalized if your response is off-topic or irrelevant. Therefore, it is critical that you read the task questions thoroughly. Look for what type of written response the task involves and the required number of words.
Brainstorm and Take Notes
Before you begin writing, take time to take notes. Although the notes will not be used for your score, note taking will help you organize your thoughts before you put pen to paper. For example, consider the task and jot down the main ideas you want your written response to cover. Think about the main idea of your paragraph and how you will support it with clear examples. But, remember, only what you write in your answer booklet will be scored, and responses in the form of notes or bullet points will be penalized.
Manage Your Time
One of the hardest parts of the writing portion of the IELTS is managing your time. The writing portion consists of two tasks. Task 1 should be 150 words, whereas Task 2 should be 250 words. Additionally, Task 2 is worth more to the total exam score. Therefore, it is suggested that test takers spend approximately 20 minutes on Task 1 and 40 minutes on Task 2. Some test takers choose to respond to Task 2 first since it carries more weight than Task 1. Either way, you should avoid spending too much time or writing too many words for either task as it may prevent you from finishing both.
Proofread and Review
Try to give yourself time to proofread and review your responses. To earn a promising score on the IELTS writing portion, your ideas must be coherent, organized, and grammatically correct. Your vocabulary must demonstrate mastery of the English language as well. So, after you have finished writing, make sure your responses have stayed on-topic. Then, check for word choice errors and grammar mistakes.
Feel ready to take the IELTS? Test your English today!