Do’s & Don’ts In IELTS Writing Task 2

May 8, 2020 | IELTS WRITING TASK 2

Today, let’s review the checklist of what you should and should not do in Writing Task 2.

  • Read the question carefully. By understanding the requirements, you avoid going off topic.
  • Allocate time to plan your answer. It is wise to spend 5 – 7 minutes making an outline and structuring your initial thoughts. For one thing, you do not have to shift back and forth and think about what to write as you go. And for another, it ensures logical reasoning and helps you stay on track.
  • Answer the question fully. From time to time, you will receive two-part question (e.g., cause-effect, problem-solution, advantages and disadvantages, do advantages outweigh disadvantages + is this a positive or negative development). Unless you address all parts of the question, your score in Task Achievement is reduced significantly.
  • Use an appropriate structure. There are various types of questions whose structures differ, and you need to learn.
  • Ensure consistency throughout your essay. Your view in the Introduction must go in tandem with your rationale in Body paragraphs as well as your summary in Conclusion. Otherwise, it will leave the examiner confused.
  • Paraphrase key words in the question to avoid repetition.
  • Use linking words to connect sentences as well as ensure smooth transition between paragraphs. Examples include but are not limited to ‘in addition’, ‘moreover’, ‘however’, ‘nowadays’. That being said, try not to overuse them; you do not have to start every sentence with a linking word. Use them with care and appropriacy.
  • Use a wide range of grammar structures. You are recommended to use a mix of simple and complex sentence forms (such as conditionals, tenses, relative clauses, and modal verbs). Having said that, make sure you know what you are doing, or you make mistakes otherwise. In order to achieve a 7.0 and above, you are expected to produce frequent error-free sentences.
  • Write a Conclusion. Unlike Task 1 in which no Conclusion is needed, you must include a Conclusion in Task 2.
  • Write in paragraphs. A typical Task 2 response should have 4 – 5 paragraphs: Introduction, Body (2 – 3), and Conclusion. Do not try to write everything in one big chunk.
  • Leave an empty line between paragraphs. This is for the purpose of clarity.
  • Allow time to proofread your work. By doing so, you can avoid repeated vocabulary, basic grammar mistakes, mis-spellings, and the like.
  • Check punctuation. Your punctuation needs to be accurate, using capitalization, commas and full stops correctly. For example: If the government invests funds in implementing environmentally friendly solutions, pollution in the atmosphere will be reduced.
  • Write at least 250 words. This might sound elementary, but it is critically important to meet the word limit. You lose points on Task Achievement for under-length response.
  • Write legibly. That does not necessarily mean that you have to write beautifully in admirable calligraphy. There is no evidence that shows your score will be reduced as a result of bad handwriting. But make it readable at least. Put yourself in the examiners’ shoes, and make their life easy. You do not want to upset them, do you?!


  • Mix ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments in one same paragraph. For instance, if it is an Opinion essay in which you are asked “To what extent do you agree or disagree?” and your view is neutral, do not back up your supporting argument for ‘agree’ with another argument for ‘disagree’ in one paragraph. In other words, you should split your arguments for ‘agree’ and ‘disagree’ into separate paragraphs.
  • Write sentences that add little value to the argument you are trying to make. Some students do this to reach the required word limit. Phrases and sentences that do not have a clear purpose should be left out, because they will hurt the overall structure or flow of what you are trying to present. Each sentence has a job to do in an essay, so never write a sentence without a purpose.
  • Give examples based on your own stories. While Task 2 questions ask you to “include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience,” this does not necessarily mean you should give your personal anecdotes or tell your past experience (e.g., I had a great time …). This is because it makes your supporting details too personal and less academic, while the topic covered is often global in nature. Having said that, you can include your observations in your city or country. You can also support your ideas with clear examples from a university study, academic research, survey result, newspaper report, magazine article, or government opinion poll.
  • If you catch yourself using such words as ‘everyone’, ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘all’, replace them with tentative language instead. ‘Tentative’ means that you say something might be true, or might happen, rather than saying something is always true or always happens. Check out Grammar secrets for Writing Task 2 for examples of tentative language.
  • Include new ideas in Conclusion. In your Conclusion, you should only summarize main ideas and reiterate your thesis statement.
  • Use rhetorical questions. A rhetorical question is a question that is asked merely for effect with no answer expected, such as “Industrial activities cause vast amount of environmental pollution, so why do we still do them?” Although rhetorical questions are used to add style in blogs, diaries and creative writing, they do not belong to academic writing. You had better rephrase them with statements; make your point clear and ‘up front’.
  • Start every sentence with a linker. Try to put it in the middle of a sentence for some change. For example: “Some people believe, however, that individuals must also take responsibility for the environment,” or “I believe, on the other hand, that individuals do have a responsibility to …”
  • Impress examiners by using pompous words or complicated structures. Many students crave complexity without fully understanding how to use certain words or structures in proper context, and this tends to backfire on them. Only use grammar and vocabulary you are sure about. You are being marked on vocabulary and grammar, but that does not mean you should try to use very complicated words. If you are not 100% sure, do not use them. Drop the need to show off.
  • Use colloquial expressions. Idioms (e.g. easier said than done), clichés (e.g., Ignorance is bliss), proverbs (e.g., A friend in need is a friend indeed), informal phrasal verbs (e.g., get through it), and slangs (e.g., stuff, gonna) are inappropriate for academic writing.
  • Use emotional language. Examples include but are not limited to ‘crazy’, ‘ugly’, ‘stupid’, ‘disgusting’, ‘fabulous’, ‘gorgeous’. You should not be too sentimental in presenting your opinion.
  • Use imprecise word ‘thing’. All too often, students are accustomed to using ‘something’, ‘something like that’, ‘thing’, or ‘things like that’. ‘Things’ sounds solid but is dangerously vague. Do you mean aspects, components, factors, features, or phenomena? Figure out exactly what you want to convey and find the appropriate word. Precise vocabulary expresses your vocabulary clearly and succinctly.
  • Use ‘you’. One of the main rules of formal writing is to avoid second-person pronoun (you). Academic papers should not address the reader directly. Visit Grammar secrets for Writing Task 2 for suggestions to replace ‘you’.
  • Use contractions. Contractions (e.g., didn’t, doesn’t, won’t) are considered informal, and hence, should not be used in academic writing. Write full forms instead.
  • Use ‘lazy’ expressions (e.g., ‘and so on,’), abbreviations (e.g., ‘etc’), or symbols (e.g., ‘&’). Try to be specific and complete your sentences properly.
  • Memorize or copy sample answers. You will earn points for the correct grammar and vocabulary, but it is very unlikely that you will answer the question correctly.
  • Mix up American and British spelling. You should use either one.
  • Write too many words (more than 300 words). Going 10% over the minimum requirement is about just right. This means 250 – 275 words should be an ideal range. For the most part, quality is better than quantity. Writing lengthy responses often means more mistakes in grammar or cohesion. Instead of writing more words, you are advised to focus on proofreading and refining your work.


Hope this helps!


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