How to Improve your IELTS Writing

One of the most common questions I’m asked as an IELTS tutor is, “How can I improve my IELTS writing?” It’s obviously something that many students are worried about, and it seems like the most difficult part of the exam to prepare for. Students often feel that they can progressively improve their listening and reading skills with practice, yet writing seems to defy this logic – you can keep writing and not get any better. So today I’m going to tell you how to improve your IELTS writing in this simple, short guide.

Start Small and Aim Big

The first and most important piece of advice I’m going to give you today is simple but incredibly important: You need to master the basics before doing anything more complicated. In other words, think about the small things before you move on to the hard ones.

What does this mean?

Think about an essay being produced in this manner:

  1. words
  2. clauses
  3. sentences
  4. paragraphs
  5. essay

You must first know what the individual words means and how they are spelled, conjugated, or collocated. Then you can string them together into clauses. Those clauses can become sentences, but make sure you can write a correct simple or complex sentence before attempting a compound-complex sentence. Then you can test out your paragraph structure before finally combining the paragraphs into a full essay.

One problem that many IELTS candidates encounter is trying to run before they can walk. That means they attempt something that is too complicated: their essay has six paragraphs and each sentence is thirty or forty words. This makes it sound really bad. Master the basics, and then move on to the harder stuff.

Practice Makes Perfect

Many IELTS students feel that they can practice their reading, listening, and even speaking, and that their skill will improve. They can test themselves over and over and slowly get better. However, with writing it seems impossible. However, it is the same principle – practice will help you get better. The important thing, though, is how you practice.

As with anything else, you must practice correctly to improve optimally. Just writing over and over again won’t help much. The best way to practice IELTS essays is to work on question analysis and planning. This may sound odd, but it is actually very important. In order to write a good IELTS essay, you must respond directly to the question and produce a well-structured and on-topic essay. Without analyzing the question and planning your essay, you will fail in this respect. 

By practicing these two areas, you will improve your skills and also become faster at writing the essay. The quicker you can understand the question and prepare an outline for your essay, the more time you have for writing and editing. This will ultimately reduce the number of mistakes you make.

Get Feedback

Practice is important but how do you improve if you keep doing the wrong thing over and over? Well, unfortunately, you need to get constant and constructive feedback. Just producing the same type of writing again and again won’t help you much. You need an expert to review your writing. This means you must find a teacher, partner, or friend who can offer you some advice. You can sometimes get this online – even for free! 

The reason feedback is so important is that you can begin to see what mistakes you have been making and then change your writing to remove those mistakes. It is therefore essential that you find someone who can help you in this respect. You need someone who will critique your spelling, grammar, structure, and even task response. They should be able to give you careful criticism that can push you in the right direction.

If you want my help for this, leave a message in the comment section or send me an e-mail. I’ll review your IELTS essay (academic only) for US$20.

Look at Sample Answers

It is really important that you know what you should be aiming for in the IELTS exam. For that, you should first be aware of the marking rubric (that means what the examiner judges you for) but also you should look at some high level sample answers. The reason for this is that you can see how they are structured and what sort of language is used in them. You can look closely at the question and then consider how the essay answers it. Obviously you can’t copy an essay, but you can certainly learn a lot by looking at these examples.

I have written many sample answers on this site. Here are some that you can use to help guide your IELTS writing:

When using sample essays like these, you should first look at the question and attempt to understand it. Perhaps plan a response of your own. Then you should look at the essay and see how the author responded to the question – what sort of structure was used? What kind of vocabulary? What reasoning did he/she give? How did they use examples or explanations? What sort of transitional phrases were used?

Conclusion

The IELTS writing can be difficult to prepare for, but it is just like all the other sections in that you can practice and eventually get good at it. It takes a lot of work, but with the right attitude and effort, you will succeed. Find a good book to guide you, and a good teacher or mentor to give you specific and constructive feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make mistakes – that’s how we all learn. Leave a comment below if you have any questions for me about how to improve your IELTS writing.

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Author: David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural China, and loves to travel.

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