How To Maximize Your Use of Time During the IELTS Writing Module

March 5, 2018 by Angela Rutherford

Timing is important in the writing section of the IELTS exam. Many can execute the two tasks brilliantly when they haven’t a deadline, but the one-hour time limit on test day is a challenge. It’s a good idea to learn how to use those precious minutes well so you can complete the tasks and keep your scores up.

It’s easy to divide the time between the assignments based on length and weight of score. Whether you are writing the Academic or the General test, you will be required to complete two writing tasks in one hour. If you are taking the academic test, Task 1 is a 150-word report, and Task 2 is a 250-word essay. For the general, it’s a 150-word letter and a 250-word essay. The essay is worth more, so spend more time on it giving yourself 20 minutes for task 1 and 40 for Task 2.

More specifically, your timelines might look like this:

TASK Analyze and Plan Write Revise
1 3 minutes 10 minutes 2 minutes
2 5 minutes 30 minutes 5 minutes

Now, some of you will walk into the test knowing these details but still won’t be able to finish. So, to help you out, I’m going to give more specific advice and resources so you can learn how to work efficiently within the time frame.

Here are four things you should know:

1. KNOW HOW TO ANALYZE THE QUESTION Use your first few minutes to completely understand what the task requires. Smart candidates are already familiar with the various question types and how to answer them. To learn about the questions, invest in some IELTS preparation books, read some of my previous blogs about writing Task 1 reports and letters and visit one of the many excellent tutor-run sites like IELTS Advantage where you will find information on question types with clear instructions on how to answer them.

2. KNOW HOW TO PLAN YOUR WRITING The reports and letters have general outline techniques that you can learn about in the links above. For the essay, using five minutes to briefly plan out your writing is such a time saver in the long run. You don’t want to be struggling for ideas and digressing as time passes and pressure mounts. Look to these blogs for tips on brainstorming and outlining.

3. KNOW WHAT AND HOW TO REVISE Chances are if you don’t already know your weaknesses, you will probably miss them when you proofread your paper. Knowing that you often forget articles, for example, can save you time because by isolating one or two types of common errors, you are more likely to catch and change them. Being self-aware can save you precious time in the end. This is true for word counts as well. To make sure you have met the length requirement (you will lose points if your writing is too short), be prepared by knowing how many words you usually write in two lines. Counting lines instead of words can help to save time.

4. KNOW WHAT THE TIME LIMIT FEELS LIKE I suggest that you complete several practice tests using the 1-hour timing. You probably won’t be able to finish the first few tests in the hour, but eventually, you will become conditioned to end on time. You can find some free practice tests here. Understand how to use your time wisely and you’ll be getting the scores you desire and on with your life into time at all. Good luck!

Angela Rutherford is an experienced English teacher and exam preparation coach who lives and works in Toronto, Canada. After a career teaching in Ontario public and international private schools, she established her own tutoring business and enjoys working exclusively with IELTS candidates who want to do their best on the exam.

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