The Basic Facts of IELTS Writing Task 2

Student learning about IELTS Writing Task 2 basics - image by Magoosh

IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 is the second and slightly longer writing task on the IELTS exam. While it’s the harder of both tasks, preparation and familiarity with the task can help you score well on it. Please be encouraged to check out our complete guide to IELTS Academic Writing Task 2, but below are the basics about IELTS writing task 2.

IELTS Writing Task 1 vs. IELTS Writing Task 2

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

Handwritten Responses (for paper-based IELTS)

While you can now take the IELTS exam on a computer in most places (which you can read more about here), many test takers still take the IELTS on paper. 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. (Paper-based IELTS test takers can go to this article for more information on handwritten IELTS responses.)

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 (download and print them here), 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.

Timing

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.

A Final Word on IELTS Writing Task 2

Remember the absolute most important key to scoring well on IELTS writing task 2 is practicing! For more practice and support, check out our official IELTS prep materials which include over 125 lessons, 600 practice questions, email assistance, and more!

Happy studying and good luck!

By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

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