Tips for Organizing Your Writing

April 25, 2019 by Lyla Hage

One crucial aspect of the IELTS writing exam is that the writing responses be well organized. Having well-organized answers is one of the criteria your IELTS examiner will look for.

This blog provides some things to keep in mind to help you effectively prepare for and organize your writing on the IELTS exam.

A quick note on format. There are two tasks on the IELTS writing exam: Task 1 and Task 2. For the General Training version, Task 1 will be a letter requesting information or explaining a situation; for the Academic version, Task 1 will be a description and explanation of a diagram, graph, table or chart. Task 2 for both versions of the IELTS is an essay responding to an argument or problem.

Read the question carefully

The first thing to help ensure you have a well-written answer is to carefully read the question. Be sure you know what you are being asked to write about before you start writing.

Question flowchart drawn by a man

Do a quick outline/take notes

After you have read the question, take a few minutes to plan your answer. I suggest taking some notes, and perhaps quickly making a mind map of your ideas. Once you have some ideas written down, choose the ones that you think give the best argument, that you know the most about, etc. Then consider how you will support those ideas with details, examples, etc.

Now that you have done the above, it’s time to start writing.

Use paragraph structure

To help keep your writing organized and easy to follow, be sure to use paragraph structure. Please note: do not write in point form, and do not use bullet points.

For the Task 2 essays, use an essay-style format: an introductory paragraph, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. In the introductory paragraph, briefly introduce the topic and the main idea(s) of your essay. Start with a few sentences that introduce your topic, then include your thesis - what your argument/topic will be. In your body paragraphs (usually 2 or 3 paragraphs) make your key points. Support the points with examples, details, etc. Finally, your concluding paragraph will briefly summarize the points made in the essay.

A quick word about the format for Part 1 of the exam. For the General Training test (a letter), include a greeting, information about why you are writing, and then the details from the question. Be sure to read the question very carefully so that you include all key points in the letter. End the letter with a short closing.

For Task 1 on the Academic version of the IELTS, include the key points from the graph, chart or diagram in the question. Include a short introduction, highlight key points and trends and their relevance. Finally, include a short conclusion.

students taking test at desks in classroom

Manage your time

To ensure your writing is organized and your answers are complete, you must manage your time throughout the exam. Remember you have 60 minutes to complete both parts of the writing exam, so plan accordingly. Candidates writing the IELTS generally spend 20 minutes on Task 1 and 40 minutes on Task 2. You should also build in some time at the end to quickly re-read your answers and make any necessary adjustments, corrections, and so on.

Use cohesive devices

Cohesive devices are words that help keep our writing organized and easier to follow. They connect our ideas, and ensure our writing flows, helping the reader move from one point to the next. Some examples include, on the other hand, therefore, so, furthermore, first, next, then, etc. These are just a few examples of cohesive devices, so be sure to study the proper use of these words as they will help keep your writing organized.

A few final words

I suggest spending some time online to review some sample questions and answers for the writing exam to see the format, the types of questions and possible answers. Check here for sample tests to help you prepare for the IELTS.

By keeping the above points in mind, you will be better prepared for your IELTS exam. Good luck and happy writing!

Lyla is an English language instructor working with international students and immigrants in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Lyla loves everything about her work, especially helping people reach their language and learning goals.

Blog posts via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to posts from as they happen!