How To (And How Not To) Organize Your Thoughts on the Writing Exam – Part 2 – Task 2

May 3, 2017 by Lauren McKenzie

Part one of this blog topic offered some specific strategies for tackling Writing Task 1 on the IELTS exam. This post will act as a follow-up - so it is recommended that you read both posts to get specific strategies for each Writing Task.

Strategic Preparation: Getting Feedback

Of course the best way to prepare for a basketball game is by playing basketball. The best way to practise the piano is by playing the piano. Based on this simple logic, the best way to prepare for the IELTS exam is by working with as much IELTS material as possible. However, it is not enough to write responses to IELTS prompts, you must also get feedback. Ask as many people to read your writing as possible, but remember, just like a buffet - you do not need to eat everything, and you do not need to take all advice from everyone who reads your work. Consider all feedback you have been given critically: ask yourself if this is advice that you should take or advice you should ignore?

Taking feedback can sometimes be difficult. Writing is personal - you create it, and then you must ask others to say what is wrong with it. Having someone critique your writing can sometimes feel like a personal attack, but remember, even professional writers have editors. It's best if you can remove emotion from the process of receiving feedback. Even if you don't agree with the comments of readers, thank them for their time and efforts. Some of the best feedback may be challenging to hear - that's why it is so important.

Writing Task 2

The second Writing Task will require a clear and concise essay style response. That means writing paragraphs with a central main idea and supporting details. Each point should be given equal time in the response so that the essay is balanced. If the candidate gives more importance to one point over another, the Task Achievement band score will be affected, therefore, it is very important that instructions are read and followed carefully.  

Let's look at an example:

In many countries schools have severe problems with student behaviour. What do you think are the causes of this? What solution can you suggest?

There are three (3) distinct points that must be addressed in the response: severe problems with students; causes of these problems; solutions to these problems. Candidates are strongly encouraged to create an outline before writing so that they can be sure that each part of the prompt is answered. An outline will save time and improve the clarity of the writing. Instead of thinking 'on your feet', an outline will tell you exactly what is coming next and will take only a minute or two.

An example outline for the above question may look like this:

Intro: Severe problems

                  -aggressive students

                  -violence in media

                  -teacher's ability to discipline students limited

Body Paragraph #1: Causes

                  -aggression stemming from home life and mental health

                  -violence in video games and on social media

                  -teachers are not allowed to punish students like in the past

Body Paragraph #2: Solutions

                  -programs to identify and address student's personal needs

                  -school curriculum that addresses violence in the media

                  -more support to be given to teachers to effectively manage problem students


                  -Restatement of thesis

                  -Summary of main ideas of body paragraphs

                  -Concluding statement: advice and/or future situation

                  -NO NEW INFORMATION

An effective outline will save time, and will also encourage the candidate to identify the logic in their writing. Notice that each of the points is carried through from the introduction to the conclusion. Good logic may feel repetitive to the writer, but to the reader, it just makes sense. The challenge is for the writer to make the essay interesting by using new language, despite the repetition of ideas.

It is impossible to stress enough the importance of the band score descriptors when preparing for the IETLS exam. The writing marker must follow the descriptors carefully to remove their personal opinion from the marking process. Refer to the band descriptors as often as possible and create your essay responses with the descriptors in mind throughout your IELTS preparation. When the test day comes along, answering Task 2 will be just like riding a bicycle.

Lauren has been teaching English for close to fifteen years in universities and language schools in Halifax, NS. To meet the needs of her students, she began her own study of the IELTS exam nearly five years ago and has since taught preparation workshops. Lauren lives in Halifax, NS where she enjoys hiking and live music as well as travelling, studying languages and reading nonfiction.

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