10 Reasons Your IELTS Writing Test Score May Still Be Low

Here is a quick article to help you out if you have been wondering why you keep scoring low on your IELTS writing test score. Actually, this sort of applies to Task 1, but if you can concentrate on everything below while writing the Task 2 part of the test, I’m pretty sure you should be able to increase your all-round band score.

10 Strategies to Increase Your IELTS Writing Test Score

Here are ten strategies that will help you raise your IELTS writing test score. If you have not been doing any of the below, it may well explain why you have not been doing so great on your writing test. And hopefully, you should be able to get a band of around of 6.5 or more in writing if you follow these tips.

1. Handwriting

If your handwriting is crap, you are always going to struggle. And I know you’re bored with hearing about this, but you got to fix your handwriting. The important thing to understand is how well… important your handwriting is.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

So, if you think your handwriting is a problem, fix it. Every badly written word or letter that looks like another letter will affect your IELTS writing test score. Doesn’t matter how much you complain or say how unfair it is, if the examiner can’t read your writing, you’re going to lose marks.

If you can’t fix your handwriting, then you’re going to have to finish early so that you can check your writing. This is not a good idea because you should be using your time to write a good essay, not to check if your ‘r’ looks like an ‘l’.

2. Word Count

Candidates often worry about whether it is important to hit the word target. The other main worry is how many words is too many. So, let’s look at these two points and clarify them once and for all. First, let’s talk about the word target.

Yes, it is important. You not only need to hit 250 words but you should be finding difficult to write only 250 words. If you are not writing 250 words every time you do Task 2, your not writing nearly enough details.

Now, how many words is too many. You should be aiming for anything between 260 and 320 words. If you go over 320 words, you’re probably going to piss off the examiner. They get paid per essay, not per word, so don’t go crazy because you want to keep the examiner happy.

3. Grammar/Spelling

I can’t stress how important grammar and spelling is for your IELTS writing test score. You can get away with a few grammar mistakes in speaking and still get an okay score. But that won’t work in writing. If you’re looking for 6.5 or more, your grammar and spelling needs to be spot on.

Your best choice to improve your grammar when writing is to have a writing teacher. This means someone who’ll go through your essays with you, and explain where you went wrong. More importantly, you need to be able to say if you don’t understand until you do.

However, if you can’t afford a real-world teacher, or an online teacher (like me), then you next best bet is to go for Grammarly. Grammarly is an online grammar and spell checker, and can check your writing against more than 250 grammar rules, which is pretty cool. You can check it out by clicking this link.

4. Sentence Structure

The better your sentence structure, the better your score will be. If your level of English is 6.5, then your writing will probably be at that level. Which means that if you’re looking for a 7.5, you’re going to be struggling. Let’s look at a couple steps you can take to improve your sentences.

Firstly, check to see what sort of sentences you’re writing. You should be writing a mix of simple, compound, and complex sentences. Too many simple sentences will make you sound childish. Too many complex sentences will make your writing boring.

However, don’t go crazy with your complex sentences. If you’re not strong at English, and you try to write a 60-word complex sentence, the chances are the examiner is going to get confused. Basically, know what your strengths are and write that way.

5. Know Your Vocabulary

You have got to have a wide range of vocabulary, which means you need to do a lot of studying on various topics that you may meet in the IELTS. Plus, you need to know lots of synonyms. One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is repeating the same words.

IELTS writing test score
Image by PDPics from Pixabay

The problem is how to learn the vocabulary you need to know. I have written about this in another blog post about idea generation. However, if you don’t have time to read it, here is a very quick summary.

Choose a topic; for example, free university education, and spend a day reading and/or listening about it. Make notes of the pros and cons, and the vocabulary used. By the end of the day, you should have a good understanding of the topic and vocab to use. Obviously, I recommend you read the original post.

6. Correct Tone

You need to make sure you are using the correct tone. If you are writing an informal letter, write it in an informal way. You can use idioms and phrasal verbs, as long as they sound natural. Again, don’t go crazy. Don’t use an idiom in every paragraph, it will sound ridiculous.

If you are writing something formal, use more formal language. Avoid idioms and phrasal verbs, but also don’t go over the top. For instance, if you’re writing a formal letter, don’t make it sound like an entry in Wikipedia.

Having just re-read this, it sounds a bit vague. I’ll try and write a more in-depth post about formal vs informal writing in a separate post. When it’s finished, you can click here to read it.

7. Answer the Question

Make sure you answer the question completely. There are three types of essay: agree/disagree, advantages/disadvantages, problem/solution. Make sure you know how to answer each essay format. Below is a template to help you.

If you’re writing an agree/disagree essay, say whether you agree, disagree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree. If you’re talking about the disadvantages and the advantages, write both sides and give your opinion. With problems and solutions, write about the problems and solutions.

Make sure you use good ideas (see idea generation post). There is nothing worse than arguing a point by just repeating the point. You need strong supporting ideas and details. If you don’t have them, you should. The topics in the IELTS are NOT a secret; research them.

8. Don’t Be Too Dramatic

Remember, you are not writing a narrative essay and you are most definitely not being asked to write some sort of Harry Potteresque story. Sure, you can put a bit of descriptive language in if you like, and you can do it well, but don’t go overboard.

The best advice for writing is to try and keep the content as simple as possible, while trying to make your writing as advanced as possible. Simple content does not mean weak content, by the way. You still want to try and make strong arguments.

9. Check Your Writing.

I’m adding this but I’m not convinced that this is necessary. In 23 years of teaching, I still can’t decide whether checking your work has any real value. You either know your grammar or you don’t, you either know how to spell well or you don’t.

I mean, if you know how to write tenses well, then you’ll write them correctly in the first place. If you don’t know the difference between past perfect and past simple, then no amount of checking is going to fix the problem.

I know that’s a simplistic argument, but I don’t see any reason to think it’s untrue. Sure, if you have time, read through your writing to check your spelling, but that’s about as far as I would go.

10. Planning and Preparing

I’m putting this here as a reward for those of you who made it this far. Preparation and planning is the key. This is the most important part of your writing, and I’m talking about Task 2 here; Task 1 requires no planning to do properly. Plus, you don’t have time to plan both writing pieces anyway.

There is no way I have enough space here to talk about how to prepare properly, so I’m going to write another post about that. When it is done, you will find it here.

However, I will say that you need to make sure you come up with good ideas, as I have mentioned before. Even if you have the best planning in the world, if your ideas suck, so will you mark. Many countries do not teach these skills well, so you need to be proactive and learn how to do them.

Wrapping It All Up

And there you have it. I hope you found the above useful. As always, if you can think of any other strategies, do not hesitate to add them in the comment section below. And, of course, if you want some seriously good help, check out the book below.

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