This advice may well sound too simple to be serious. It is indeed simple advice, but it is critical to IELTS Writing success.

When you write an essay, how many times do you look back at the question to check that what you are writing is answering the question you think you have been asked?

Many candidates get a very low IELTS score in Task 2 writing because they have not answered the question they were asked. Look at what the Public Band Descriptors say about this:

Band 5: addresses the task only partially;
Band 4: responds to the task only in a minimal way or the answer is tangential (not directly related to what was asked)
Band 1: answer is completely unrelated to the task

If you think Band 1 would not be given to a good writer, think again.

How do you make sure you are writing on the topic you have been asked?

Re-read the question every time you start a new paragraph and identify which part of the question the paragraph you are writing answers.

Every time you write a sentence identify how that sentence answers the question you have been asked. Don’t do this from memory – take your pencil and POINT to it on the question paper.

Even though you are under severe time pressure, do not just write the essay without constantly referring back to the question you have been asked.

The penalty for missing the topic and writing an irrelevant answer is huge – do not become a victim to this frequent mistake by IELTS candidates.

Too many teachers place far too much emphasis on essay types in the IELTS Writing Test. They will tell you about problem and solution type essays, advantages and disadvantages essays, agree and disagree type essays and so on. This is a real TRAP.


I cannot say this enough. Too many students write essays that are unrelated to at least one part of an essay question because they talk about advantages and disadvantages when that was not the question that was asked.

Here is a very simple example of this. Suppose you were asked this question:

“Some people think that children learn history best from historical television programs. Others believe they can learn best from history websites.
Discuss the advantages of both of these methods and give your own opinion.”

This essay IS NOT asking for advantages and disadvantages. In this question candidates must do three things very, very clearly:

1. Explain some of the benefits of learning history from TV programs
2. Explain some of the benefits of learning history from history websites.
3. Explain clearly which they think is best.

On point 3, candidates MUST give a clear opinion. That opinion might be that it is possible to learn effectively both ways or that one way is better than the other. BUT … it must be a very clear opinion and NOT something like:

“… the issue is so complicated that individuals must make up their own minds about this matter.”

Many students fail to put clear opinions on these types of essays, either not giving an opinion at all, giving a very confusing opinion or stating an opinion unsupported by the essay they have written.

If you read the question carefully, it is very clear what you have to do. DON’T TRY TO REMEMBER PATTERNS for essays. READ THE QUESTION and ANSWER THE QUESTION ASKED.

I promised to show how to write the full introduction today but I have made this slight detour to explain the importance of giving a direct response to the question asked because the way we must write the full introduction is determined by the need to give a direct answer to the question and we will continue this tomorrow.