Word count in IELTS writing
As you probably know, there is a minimum word count in IELTS writing (a minimum 150 words for Task 1 and 250 words for Task 2). Test what you know about the IELTS word count by answering the question below.
Question: According to IELTS rules, how many words are there in the sentence below?
It’s believed that some one who has studied the course will be twenty five times more likely to pass the exam.
Answer: In the world of IELTS, there are only 19 words here. See below for an explanation.
Tip 1: Contractions in the word count
Apart from the fact that using contractions in formal writing is not considered good academic style, the other problem is a contraction (it’s, don’t, can’t) is only counted as one word, which won’t help you reach the word limit! Always write the complete word or words. The example sentence above should now be changed to:
It is believed that some one who has studied the course will be twenty five times more likely to pass the exam (20 words as far as IELTS is concerned)
Tip 2: Separating words
If a word in English is written as a single word, but you have written it as two words (some one / no body) this will just be counted as a single word. In addition, you risk being penalised for your vocabulary! The example sentence above should now be changed to:
It is believed that someone who has studied the course will be twenty five times more likely to pass the exam. (19 words as far as IELTS is concerned)
Tip 3: Writing numbers as words
Writing a number (e.g. 100) as a word (one hundred) is not an effective method of expanding your word count as it will count as a single word. However, this does not mean you should just write numbers – you can use both formats, just bear in mind that it will not influence the word count. The example sentence above could be changed to:
It is believed that someone who has studied the course will be 25 times more likely to pass the exam. (still 19 words as far as IELTS is concerned).
Can I write more than the minimum word count?
Yes, but we recommend aiming for no more than 180 for Task 1 and 280 for Task 2. The risk of writing more is that you could potentially be showing the examiner more errors, thus reducing your overall result. You could also run out of time writing too much, meaning that your writing may end abruptly. Writing too much is also a sign of poor planning, and this can affect how coherent your written work, and you could also be writing off-topic.
Do I have to count the words in my writing before the end of the test?
No, you don’t have to, but of course it is a good idea to have some idea of how many words you have written just to make sure you have reached the required limit.
How do I keep track of how many words I’ve written?
As you are preparing for the IELTS test, you need to get into the habit of handwriting your essays. You may be surprised how hard it can be to write for 60 minutes and complete at least 400 words, especially as most of us spend more time on a keyboard than we do with a pencil in hand! By practising, you’ll get to know the average number of lines you need to write on an A4 piece of paper to reach your goal. The average number of words per line is between 8 and 11, so divide your average number of words by 150 (for Task 1) or 250 (for Task 2) to have some idea of how many lines your essay needs to be. For example, if you write 8 words per line, that’s 250 / 8 = 31.25 (32 lines) for Task 2.