Facts about the IELTS writing test

about the IELTS writing testThere’s a lot of incorrect information on the internet these days, and facts about the IELTS writing test are no exception. Here are the facts about what you can expect on test day for both the computer based IELTS and the paper based IELTS.

I am taking the paper based IELTS test – is my handwriting important?

Not really – so long as it is legible (can be read). At least 2 examiners have to agree that your written work is not readable before you lose any points.

I am taking the Computer Based IELTS test – is there an automatic word count?

Yes there is. However, bear in mind that there is no spell check, so if you are normally not an accurate typist and rely on spell check to show you errors, you may be better taking the paper based test.

Can I ask for extra paper if I need it? Can I prepare my plan or make notes on another piece of paper?

You can ask for extra paper, but it’s better to make notes and prepare your plan on the question paper. The reason is that ALL extra answer paper is collected and given to the examiner, even if it is only notes. However, the question paper (although it is collected) is not given to the examiner.

Are articles (a/an/the) and numbers counted in the word count?

Yes, all words are included. However, here are some useful tips: numbers written as words only count as one word (e.g. ‘100’ and ‘one hundred’ only count as 1 word each. Contractions (couldn’t / wasn’t etc) are counted as one word, so if you think you may be a little short, make sure to write the full words (could not / was not etc). Incorrectly separated words (e.g. writing ‘someone’ as ‘some one’) is still only counted as one word.

Am I penalised if I write more than the minimum word word count?

Technically there is no penalty if you write more than the minimum, but there are 3 potential problems: you risk showing more errors to the examiner; you risk running out of time to complete and proofread both tasks; the examiner can penalise you for not being concise in your answer. Ideally, aim for between 170 and 200 words in Task 1 and 2870 to 300 words in Task 2.


We hope these facts about the IELTS writing test help! When you’re ready to really get started with your IELTS preparations, become a full member and get your writing assessed by former IELTS examiners!