IELTS Writing
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In the IELTS writing test, you will have to complete two different tasks. These have some similarities and some difference, which will be explored in this article. We will look at both the academic and general IELTS tests to get the best possible understanding of this issue.

IELTS Academic Writing – Similarities and Differences

First of all, let’s look at the two tasks of the IELTS academic writing exam. In this part of the test, you need to write two essays:

  • Task 1 – a short report (150 words) about some visual data (like a line graph, bar chart, map, etc)
  • Task 2 – a longer essay on a given topic that requires some discussion of ideas

On the surface, these are quite different, so let’s look first at the key differences.


In this part of IELTS writing, you will need to write two quite different essays. Task 1 should be 150 words and task 2 should be 250. It is recommended that you spend 20 minutes on task 1 and 40 minutes on task 2, reflecting the importance of these to your overall score.

IELTS writing correction

In terms of content, task 1 will require you to write a description of some sort of data. The whole point of this part of the exam is to show how well you can interpret and describe something and it requires accurate language for numbers and processes, as well as showing changes, particularly over time. Task 2, however, requires more traditional formal writing that is broken into coherent paragraphs to discuss an issue. This will be in response to a question prompt that gives you a topic and then a task. These include describing advantages and disadvantages or stating your opinion on a potentially divisive topic.

Naturally, the language required for these two types of essays is quite different. Whilst task 2 requires standard formal essay language, task 1 is more specific to the content. It will require you to highlight changes and present data. The language used will vary greatly dependent upon whether you are given a line graph, bar chart, process diagram, or map.


Although there are many surface differences, there are definitely some similarities. Because these are both parts of the IELTS writing test, they both essentially test your written English. Whilst the language required may differ somewhat, there is much that remains the same.

In particular, you will be required to present your ideas with accuracy. This means that your grammar and vocabulary should be relatively free of errors. You need to know how to use verb tenses, articles, prepositions, and punctuation, among many more skills. Mistakes in these would cause you huge problems.

In addition, both parts of the test require you to format your ideas in a coherent way. Although task 1 and task 2 need different types of structure, you are still meant to divide your ideas into paragraphs for coherent presentation. You must also present ideas logically and develop them thoroughly.

IELTS General Writing – Similarities and Differences

The IELTS general writing exam is pretty similar to the academic one, except that task 1 features a quite different assignment. For this part of IELTS writing, you need to do the following:

  • Task 1 – write a letter to someone (such a friend, manager, landlord, etc)
  • Task 2 – a longer essay on a given topic that requires some discussion of ideas

The task 2 essay will be the same as it would for IELTS academic, so really the difference between these parts of the IELTS writing test is task 1. Still, let’s see how letters and essays differ.


Again, the first and most obvious differences are the word count and suggested timing: 150 words in 20 minutes for task 1 and 250 words in 40 minutes for task 2.

In the academic IELTS writing test, you need to use very formal writing all the time, but in the general test that may not be true. You certainly must use formal language for the task 2 essay, but for your letter it will depend upon the prompt. If you have to write a letter to a friend or family member, it would be appropriate to use informal language.

Indeed, this is one of the challenges of task 1. You need to distinguish between formal, informal, and semi-formal language if you want to ace this exam. Choosing the wrong kind could really hurt your chances of a high band score.

Beyond that, of course a letter requires very different formatting from an essay. Whilst both need coherent paragraphs, a letter may have many short paragraphs and requires certain conventions like greetings and sign-offs. Essays are more traditional and would seldom have more than four paragraphs.


The similarities here are basically the same as they are in the academic test. Namely, you will be judged upon your use of written English, which means that you need to have good vocabulary and grammar. Mistakes in spelling, word choice, verb tense, article use, and so on would not be tolerated. All of these could lower your score substantially.

Whilst I mentioned the issue of shorter paragraphs and things like greetings, you still need to structure your letter intelligently. It is not acceptable just to produce one large chunk of text or to write each sentence as its own paragraph. Instead, you need to group your ideas logically, just as you would in an essay. This is how you get a good score for Coherence and Cohesion.

Finally, in terms of ideas, task 1 and task 2 may seem different, but it is important to think logically but creatively. Come up with realistic ideas that you can explain in detail. Don’t say anything that is too outrageous or which you could not justify. Make sure to read the question prompt very carefully so that you don’t stray off-topic.


There are many similarities and differences between task 1 and task 2 of the IELTS writing test, and to understand these you need to know what the purposes of these assignments are. Fundamentally, this is about checking how accurately you can use language, so it is of the utmost importance that you write with very good English. You also need to structure and organize your ideas and keep them reasonable. Of course, the different parts of the exam test different skills, so you need to practice in advance so that you are prepared for this. Understanding the format can really help you to get a better score.

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