Academic Writing Task 2: The Basics

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      IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 involves composing a formal five-paragraph essay in 40 minutes. 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

      Let’s look at some basic IELTS essay writing tips for IELTS Writing Task 2:

      Handwritten Responses (for paper-based IELTS)
      Although the computer-delivered IELTS is becoming more wildly available, the majority of test takers still take the IELTS on good old fashioned papr. If your IELTS is a pencil and paper exam, your responses will be handwritten. In that case, 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, 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.

      Academic/Formal Writing
      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.

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