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How Long Should You Write?


IELTS Writing Test consists of two tasks. In Task 1, you must summarise and compare information from a graph, chart, table, diagram, or a combination of these, and Task 2 is a topic on which you have to write an essay. Task 1 tests your ability to analyse data objectively without giving an opinion, whereas Task 2 usually requires a subjective piece of writing on a fairly general topic. In addition, it is worth noting that the exam is not testing knowledge of English language, but rather competence in using English.

In the exam, the minimum word limit for Task 1 is 150 words and you need to spend about 20 minutes on this task. Task 2 must be at least 250 words, on which you need to spend about 40 minutes. There is no maximum word limit for both tasks. Many candidates frequently exceed the minimum amounts by a very wide margin, which creates several problems. Rather than concentrating on producing a good essay, candidates write beyond what is necessary, thinking that there are extra marks for writing more. This is usually not the case.

It is very important that you try to keep the word limits, and perhaps write just a little more. You could write between 150 and 170 words for Task 1 and 250 and 280 for Task 2. If you write too few words, you will lose marks. If you write less than the limit of 150 words for Task 1 and 250 words for Task 2, you will lose marks too.

How to tell we wrote enough to pass the minimum word count? While practising for the IELTS Test, count the number of words you write per line and then work out how many lines you need to reach the 150/250 word limit. It might be worth trying to draw a line to mark the word limits when you are practising. This will help you to keep to the limits and help you to focus on where you are going and what you are aiming for.

Another important reason for writing just a little more than the word limit is to give yourself enough time to check what you have written. During the actual exam, for example Task 2, you should spend 5-6 minutes analysing the question, about 30 minutes writing your essay, and 4-5 minutes checking your essay for mistakes.

What should you do first? Task 1 or Task 2? From the psychological point of view, it is probably wise to do Task 1 first as it gives you a sense of accomplishment when you have finished it. However, note that the value of the marks given to each task is different. There are twice as many marks for Task 2 as for Task 1. The marks are combined to produce one Band Score from 1 to 9 for the whole test.
Source: Tips are compiled from IELTS Jakarta Material
Be SpecTacular! ;)

(Fredrik Nael)

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