Formal vs. Informal Writing in IELTS Writing Task 2

Woman studying formal vs informal writing on IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 - image by Magoosh

IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 is the second of two writing tasks you’ll be asked to complete on the IELTS exam. As the name suggests, the writing you will be asked to do is academic by nature, so below we will be covering how to write in the the style necessary to perform well on the exam.

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 IELTS Writing Task 2 response template, you’ll find 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.

For more about this component of your test, check out our complete guide to IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 for everything you’ll need to know to score well.

A Final Word About IELTS Academic Writing Task 2

This writing task is definitely considered a bit harder than IELTT Academic Writing Task 1, but with the right preparation, you’ll be able to score well on it. For more support, check out our complete IELTS test prep including hundreds of lessons, practice questions, email support, and more.

Happy studying and good luck!

By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

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  • Nadyja Von Ebers

    Nadyja von Ebers is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. Nadyja holds an MA in English from DePaul University and has taught English and at the high school and college levels for twelve years. She has a decade of experience teaching preparation for the AP exams, the SAT, and the ACT, among other tests. Additionally, Nadyja has worked as an academic advisor at college level and considers herself an expert in all things related to college-prep. She’s applied her college expertise to posts such as UCLA Admissions: The SAT Scores, ACT Scores, and GPA You Need to Get in and A Family Guide to College Admissions. Nadyja loves helping students reach their maximum potential and thrives in both literal and virtual classrooms. When she's not teaching, she enjoys reading and writing for pleasure and loves spending time in or near the ocean. You can connect with her on LinkedIn!

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