Breaking Down the Academic IELTS Writing Section

There are four parts to every IELTS exam: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. However, the IELTS Writing section can be broken into two parts, as well, because there are two different tasks for you to complete.

The first task requires you to write a descriptive essay: A piece that describes something as accurately as possible. The second requires you to write an argumentative essay: A piece that  makes a clear and logical argument about the topic given.

These two tasks are very different because they have different purposes. When you write descriptively, you need to focus on different things than when you write argumentatively.

The Descriptive Essay

The purpose of a descriptive essay is to accurately tell someone else all the facts that they need to know about a topic. That way, they only need to read the essay to understand what is going on, rather than see what the essay is about.

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In the first writing task on the IELTS, you will be required to write a descriptive essay about a diagram or a graph. Imagine having a friend that wants to know all about the graph, but only you can see it. What would you write?

A good method is to write about the big ideas in the diagram before writing about the smaller details. If it’s a chart that shows how the population of a town has grown, then start with that fact, first. By starting with these “big picture” parts, you are providing context for the smaller details, making it easier for your reader to understand how they fit, and why they are important. Then you relate these smaller details, as well.

The Argumentative Essay

The purpose of an argumentative essay is to persuade someone to adopt your point of view.

In the second writing task of the IELTS, you will be given a topic and told to give your opinion on it. Imagine writing to someone who does not know what to think about the topic, and it is up to you to make them think the same way that you do.

There are several things to do while writing an argumentative essay:

  • Clearly state your opinion, and explain why your opinion is the correct one,
  • Give examples that show why your opinion on the topic is correct,
  • Include an introduction that tells your reader exactly what you are about to say, and
  • Finish with a conclusion, which summarizes what you have said to drive all of your points home.

Be sure to look at our Task 2 Template for more ideas.

Writing Tip: Remember Why You Are Writing

The different tasks of the Writing section in the IELTS are meant to test two different forms of writing: Descriptive writing and argumentative writing. Are you describing something, or are you arguing? Remembering the different purposes between the two will help you focus on answering the question and getting a better Writing score.

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