Almost every day, I encounter people who want to have their essays evaluated for free. It is quite reasonable that they would seek a free IELTS writing correction service because not everyone can afford a paid one. But the question remains: Should you trust the free ones?
In this article, I will try to explain the ins and outs of free IELTS writing correction in a fair and impartial way, but please note that I do offer my own paid service here. It is important for me to be honest about my business and my recommendations. Here is a video about it:
Can you really get your IELTS essays marked for free?
There are various ways to get feedback on your IELTS essays for free. Here are some of them:
- Post in an online group and hope that someone will offer you help.
- Send your essay to a generous teacher with lots of time on their hands.
- Try an AI system that grades your work automatically.
Each of these is possible, but they all have their problems, which I shall explain in more detail:
1. Post in an online group and hope that someone will offer you help
If you do this, you run the risk of receiving bad advice. To be honest, most of the people who use these groups are not experts, even though some of them claim to be. They will say stupid things like “good is not a high-level word” and then suggest a ridiculous replacement.
I see these people on Facebook all the time. Some of them are well-meaning individuals who genuinely want to help others, but most of them are just bad teachers who are seeking new students. They offer bad advice that just causes more problems.
I run a group called IELTS Writing Feedback. I offer some free advice but not full corrections. I allow other people to help out, but if anyone offers bad advice, I issue a warning. This is designed to stop bad teachers from corrupting people with their foolish ideas. If you post your essay there, I will take a look when I have some free time.
2. Send your essay to a generous teacher with lots of time on their hands
Honestly, this is the holy grail for IELTS candidates, but most teachers do not have the luxury of such free time. I try to offer free advice to people every single day, but I don’t have the time to do a full evaluation of their work. I will just give a couple of corrections and some general advice on improvement. This sort of thing is quite helpful, but obviously it is no substitute for a full writing correction service.
Of course, you also need to consider the issues raised in #1. Namely, can you trust these teachers? If you post your essay online, you will likely attract the attention of hustlers who will claim to be experts but just give you terrible advice and then try to get money from you later.
3. Try an AI system that grades your work automatically
There are various programmes nowadays that claim to help you analyse problems in IELTS essays and other types of writing. Most of them work on the same basic principle as Grammarly, which I have strongly criticised in this article and the related video:
Basically, these programmes will attempt to show you problems in your spelling and grammar, as well as other parts of the essay. In some cases, they can be quite helpful. They could, for example, tell you about spelling mistakes or incorrect word choice, but note that they are far from perfect. As I explained in that video, even Grammarly is quite poor at correcting simple mistakes – and it is much better than others.
When it comes to grammar, they are generally not great, but the worst parts are the ones that check Coherence and Cohesion as well as Task Achievement. The problem is this: How could the software understand the question and your answer? It simply can’t. Only a human being could understand it.
If the programmes were honest, this would be one thing, but they claim to know whether or not you have fully answered the question. You may as well just use a crystal ball. It is pure garbage, and I will explain below.
Putting IELTS Correction Software to the Test
I have strongly criticised AI-powered IELTS essay checkers, so I feel that I should offer some evidence for my judgments.
This is the most famous IELTS checking company, but even on their main page they spell “IELTS” incorrectly. [emoji]
Actually, while Writing9.com used to be free, they now charge $9.99 per month. Their software has improved somewhat, which is good because it used to be awful. Unfortunately, they seem to have a very simplistic approach to marking, which suggests using as many cohesive devices as possible. They do not realise that having too many cohesive devices is also a problem.
They gave this essay a band 7.5 and suggested that the grammar was nearly perfect, but they missed almost every error. Just look at this conclusion, which is terrible:
If I marked this for my writing correction service, I would have changed every single mistake and explained it for my student.
(I was also quite annoyed with this company because they had used some of my essays without permission. They claim that it was a student checking the system and removed the essays, which may be true, but I feel it is quite irresponsible to allow someone else’s intellectual property to be used.)
People Who Offer Free IELTS Essay Checking as Promotions
Sometimes, companies that offer IELTS writing correction will give freebies to promote their business. This is a great opportunity if you want professional service but cannot afford the paid version. However, please do be aware that not everyone who offers writing correction is actually a professional! Some of them are just random people who speak a little English.
For example, take the company ieltsonlinetests.com. They offer free writing correction once per week but even their paid service is not great. Look at this example:
First of all, there is nothing wrong with the word “good.” Any teacher who tells you “good is very low level” is a rubbish teacher. Ignore them and go find a professional. But what’s worse is that they have suggested a mistake! “maybe a important idea” is terrible English! It should be “an important.” 🙄
If this is the example they use to promote their service, then I can only begin to imagine how terrible their actual service is. Be very careful when choosing someone to help you.
Another service is called ieltswritingcorrectionservice.com. They offer a free evaluation but say that they will fully mark your essay for a fee. However, there are some serious warning signs:
- This person claims to be from the UK but writes in a distinctly non-native style of writing, with countless errors.
- There is no personal information and nothing to suggest you should trust their abilities.
- They cannot use English properly, so why should you expect them to help you?
This is shocking. No one with English this bad could even score band 6.5. These hustlers will swindle you out of your money, so please beware!
You should not trust free online essay services, but you might be lucky if you find a qualified professional who is willing to give you some advice. To be honest, it is unlikely they will give you more than 10 minutes of their time because most people have other things to do. As for paid writing correction services, it seems that most of the people offering these are just cheats, frauds, and amateurs. You need an expert.
I will again remind you that I offer a writing correction service. I have an MA in American Literature, a TEFL, a CELTA, and a certificate from Cambridge for teaching writing skills. I have edited more than 15 books, written almost 10 books, and worked at some excellent universities. (You can read about me here.) I also post my own sample essays online for everyone to see and have many YouTube videos that show my process. My writing has been cited in Time, The New York Times, and Harper’s Magazine, as well as featured by the US Library of Congress.
I am very transparent in how I conduct my business, but most of these people online are just faceless individuals. You don’t know who they are or what qualifications they have. The reason is that they are not qualified in the slightest. Don’t waste your precious time and money on them.