IELTS General Writing Test

The IELTS is a standardized English test. It measures the overall English comprehension and usage of a test taker.

Four language skills are tested: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Often, the IELTS examination is split into two parts that are usually taken on two separate days and venues.

The IELTS Writing test is the final written test of the IELTS examination. It consists of two tasks. The first task is a letter, a shorter task compared to the second which is an essay.

This part of the IELTS examination takes about 60 minutes.

As part of our IELTS-related series, this article will be about the IELTS Writing test for the General Training module.

As well, there will be some tips in this article that may be able to help you get your desired band score for this part of the test.

Parts Of The IELTS Writing Test

The IELTS Writing Test consists of two parts. This is the case for both the General Training module and the Academic module. The total time it takes to finish both tasks is roughly 60 minutes.

The first task or task one is shorter compared to the second task in terms of the minimum required word count. The first task requires at least 150 words. Depending on the module, you may have to do one of the following:

  • Write a letter
  • Describe a graph or chart
  • Describe two maps showing the same place at different times (or years)
  • Describe a proposed building project and describe its pros and cons

Task one is usually given 20 minutes. Of course, the time could be more or less depending on the pace of the examinee.

The second task is an essay. Longer by at least 100 words than the first task, task two accounts for two-thirds of the total time of the IELTS writing test. Task two could take roughly 40 minutes to finish.

Unlike task one, task two is the same for both the General Training Module and the Academic module.

Examinees are given two separate answer sheets for each task. For the computer-delivered IELTS, students could type their responses.

IELTS General Writing: Task One

ielts general writing test for canada

The writing test of the General Training module differs from that of the academic training module. The key difference is the first task.

Task one requires candidates to write a letter to an imaginary recipient. The recipient may be a person at work like your supervisor or manager. In some cases, the recipient may also be someone to whom you are close like a relative or friend.

The topic of the letter is usually about a situation. As well, the contents of your letter need to be guided by a set of bullet points. These bullet points are instructions that contain what you should include in your letter.

For example:

You will plan on spending your holiday in a different country. A friend of yours lives in that country.

Write a letter to your friend.

In your letter:

  • Say why you are writing
  • Inform him or her about your travel plans
  • Tell him or her where you plan on staying

Depending on the recipient and situation, you may have to write a formal or informal letter. Since it is the first task, the letter needs to be at least 150 words long. As well, this part may take up a third of the total time of the IELTS writing test.

Getting 6.0 (Or Higher) In The Writing Test For Canadian Immigration

A person’s desired band score would depend on several things. At times, it would depend on the country to which he or she intends to immigrate.

In the case of Canada, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada or IRCC sets a minimum requirement for immigration. The minimum requirement for language ability is CLB 7.

“CLB” stands for the Canadian Language Benchmark. It is Canada’s standard for language ability. All language test scores are measured against this standard and all scores are converted to CLB scores.

Only the CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program) has a scoring system that lines up perfectly with the CLB. For other tests like the IELTS, scores have CLB equivalents.

Below is the official conversion table from the Canadian government’s main site.

The minimum requirement for most of Canada’s immigration programs like the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and several skilled worker streams of the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) is CLB 7.

Based on the table, CLB 7 is 6.0 in the IELTS examination.

Hence, if you are taking the IELTS examination to immigrate to Canada, 6.0 may be the score you have to obtain in all sub-tests- including writing.

For Which Immigration Programs Is 6.0 The Minimum Requirement

As mentioned earlier, 6.0 is the equivalent of CLB 7. CLB 7 is the minimum requirement for several immigration programs. Hence, if you are applying for any of the following, you may want to set 6.0 as your minimum goal score.

The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)

The Federal Skilled Worker Program or FSWP is one of the Federal Express Entry system’s immigration programs. Along with the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) and Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the FSWP targets skilled workers.

One of the minimum eligibility requirements for this immigration program is CLB 7 in either English or French. For the IELTS, this is equal to 6.0 in all sub-tests including writing.

The Canadian Experience Class (CEC)

The Canadian Experience Class or CEC is also a skilled worker program of the Express Entry system. It targets skilled workers and those who have educational and work experience in Canada.

The minimum CLB requirement depends on a candidate’s occupation. Different NOC skill levels have different requirements for language. If your occupation is NOC 0 or A, you would need to get 6.0. For NOC B occupations, the requirement for language ability is lower.

Skilled Worker And Express Entry Aligned Streams

Every Canadian province and territory (except Nunavut and Quebec) has its own Provincial Nominee Program.

Provincial Nominee Programs have different immigration streams and categories for different groups of immigrants. Most of these streams or programs cater to skilled workers.

Besides skilled worker streams, most PNPs have Express Entry aligned streams. These immigration streams allow the provincial governments to select eligible candidates from the Federal Express Entry pool.

The language requirement for these programs is also CLB 7, which is 6.0 in the IELTS exam.

Scoring The IELTS General Writing Test: Band Descriptors

Unlike the results of the reading and listening tests, that of the writing test is not marked based on a raw score. Instead, examiners base their marks on a set of standards. These standards are band descriptors and contain descriptions of responses along with scores.

The IELTS band descriptors function in almost the same way as the descriptors of the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB).

The examiners of the British Council, the International Development Programme, and Cambridge English Language Assessment use these band descriptors. A copy of this is available for the public as well as for those preparing to take the test.

Here are the band descriptors for task one:

Task two requires candidates to perform a different task from task one. It is an essay. Hence, task two has its own set of band descriptors.

Below is a table of task two’s band descriptors:

Why Being Aware Of The Band Descriptors Could Help You

There may be nothing wrong with going into the test unaware of the writing band descriptors. Be that as it may, being aware of the band descriptors could help you while you are preparing for the test.

To Have A Guide For What To Do

ielts general writing test band guide

First, the band descriptors could tell you what you need to do to get a certain score. For instance, if you want to get 6.0 in task one, you could look at the descriptions that would make your letter eligible for that score.

According to the descriptors earlier, to get 6.0, your letter should at least “present a purpose that is generally clear”.

This means that if you want to get 6.0, you may have to work on presenting the purpose of a letter. Knowing this can guide your preparation and how you take the test.

To Know Where You Could Afford To Make Mistakes

Knowing the band descriptors tells you what needs to be done right. On the other hand, another benefit could be knowing where you can afford to make mistakes.

Indeed, mistakes will occur. Even examiners recognize and accept this. The main thing to consider is whether or not the error will affect your score. To illustrate, if your goal score is 6.0, your letter needs to present a clear purpose.

However, the characteristics of 6.0 also include:

  • Inconsistencies in tone
  • Some errors in spelling and word choice
  • Some errors in grammar and punctuation

This could tell you a couple of things:

  • You could make some mistakes.
  • Getting 6.0 could still be possible despite these mistakes.

To Come Up With A Justification For A Higher Score

Probably, a lesser-known benefit of knowing the band descriptors is justifying a request for re-marking. Sometimes, candidates are not satisfied with the scores they have received from the British Council or IDP.

In these situations, candidates could request for re-marking within six weeks after receiving the results.

Getting your scores re-marked is not always guaranteed. Be that as it may, invoking the band descriptors could help with justifying your request for a higher score.

The IELTS site has the procedure on how to do this.

How To Get 6.0 (Or Higher) In Task One

Below are the task descriptors for getting 6.0 in task one:

Task AchievementCoherence And CohesionLexical ResourceGrammar Range And Accuracy
Addresses the requirements of the task   Presents a purpose that is generally clear; there may be inconsistencies in tone   Presents and adequately highlights bullet points but details may be irrelevant. Inappropriate or inaccurateArranges information and ideas coherently and there is a clear overall progression   Uses cohesive devices effectively, but cohesion within and/or between sentences may be faulty or mechanical   May not always use referencing clearly or appropriatelyUses an adequate range of vocabulary for the task   Attempts to use less common vocabulary but with some inaccuracy   Makes some errors in spelling and/or word formation, but they do not impede communicationUses a mix of simple and complex sentence forms   Makes some errors in grammar and punctuation, but they rarely reduce communication

To meet these, here are some tips:

Observe The Proper Tone

A resignation letter and a letter to your spouse are written in different “styles”. What makes the style different is the tone.

The tone of a letter may either be formal or informal. In some cases, a letter must be written in a semi-formal manner.

In a formal letter, the following are best avoided:

  • Greetings (e.g. hi, hello, what’s up)
  • Contractions (e.g. Can’t, won’t, shouldn’t)
  • Most idioms

Also, you may want to minimize ending relative clauses with prepositions. For example, instead of writing “the job which I am applying for”, you could make this more formal by writing “the job FOR WHICH I AM APPLYING”.

When it comes to informal letters, you could greet, use contractions (in fact, these are encouraged for these types of letters), and idioms or colloquialisms.

Present Your Purpose

A clearly presented purpose says why you are writing the letter. There are many ways to do this. A very simple way to do this is to use an infinitive.

An infinitive is a verb that is preceded by “to”. It does not function as a verb. It functions as an adjective (e.g. a book to read) and adverb of purpose (e.g. To read, I grabbed the book.).

It may also be used as a noun. In a letter, your purpose may be presented this way:

I am writing to apply for the vacant customer support position advertised on your website.

A purpose may also be presented as a reason. Hence, you may also do it this way for less formal letters:

I’m writing because I’m coming to visit you next month.

Or

I’m writing because I want to tell you I’m visiting next month.

Along with observing the right tone, doing this could help your task achievement score.

Address Each Bullet Point With Details

Usually, you will see three bullet points. These are instructions about what your letter must contain.

To score higher than 5.0, you may have to extend each bullet point by adding details.

To illustrate this, this task one sample will be used:

You experienced a problem while visiting a store in your neighbourhood.

Write a letter to the manager of the store. In your letter:

· Describe the problem

· Explain why this problem has upset you

· State what you want to happen as a result of your letter

Begin your letter as follows:

Dear Sir or Madam,

Here is an example of adding details to a bullet point. The example below will address the first one:

“Dear Sir or Madam,

My name is Ryan Benavidez, a resident of 13th Palm Street. I live adjacent to your fine establishment, and I am writing to inform you of a problem I encountered visiting your store. The incident involved an accident I had with your window. Last Friday, I was walking to your store when I failed to see one of your windows open. Unaware of the open window, I accidentally hit my head on one of its corners. “

In this example, the paragraph does not just “describe the problem”. It contained an introduction and details about the problem. Doing this could show an examiner the following:

  • Understanding of the tone required and situation (comprehension)
  • Vocabulary and grammar control due to length
  • The ability to establish connections between ideas and sentences based on the situation (for your coherence and cohesion score)

Practice Using Different Words And Sentence Structures

tips fors ielts general writing test for canada

We will use the same task one sample to illustrate. This time, the second bullet point will be addressed.

“The accident led to a bruise on my forehead. The accident also broke my nose. This causes a problem because Service Canada will take my photographs tomorrow. The results of the accident could invalidate my photographs. As a result, I may not get my PR card. “

It might seem that there is no problem with the paragraph. However, if you look closely:

  • All sentences including the clause that comes after “because” have the same sentence structure. The sentence structure is “Subject- Transitive Verb – Direct object”.
  • The word “accident” and photograph were repeated too close together.

You might still be able to get 6.0 despite these. Nevertheless, it could be safer to aim for a higher score to get more CRS points for language. Maximizing your chances to do this could benefit you. One of the ways is by displaying your lexical and grammar range.

Here is an example of what a better response might look like:

Leading to a bruise on my forehead, the accident also broke my nose. This is a problem because I will be photographed by Service Canada tomorrow. My picture could be invalidated because of the results of the incident. As a result, Service Canada may not issue me my PR card.”

This time, no words were repeated. Also, the paragraph contains different sentence structures. These characteristics could give you points for grammar range and lexical resource.

You may also want to put this into practice when you move on to task two.

Sign Off Appropriately

This tip is related to writing with the proper tone.

Some sign-offs are more formal than others.

According to Grammarly, examples of formal sign-off are:

  • Sincerely
  • Faithfully
  • Appreciatively
  • Respectfully
  • Best regards
  • Regards

On the other hand, here are some examples of closings for informal letters:

  • Love lots
  • With love
  • Love
  • Your friend
  • Your old pal

How To Get 6.0 (Or Above) For Task Two

Task two is an essay. In it, you need to write at least 250 words on a given topic. Task two accounts for about 60% of a candidate’s writing score, according to a source.

Here are some pointers that could help you write your task two essay:

Identify The Type Of Question

Not all task two questions are the same.

Some might ask for your opinion. Others may ask you to present two opposing opinions. There are some questions that will require you to present a cause, effect, and solution. In some cases, you need to answer two different questions about the same topic.

A typical IELTS essay question looks like this:

Some children find some school subjects difficult (for example maths or philosophy), so these subjects should be optional rather than compulsory.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?”

Identifying the type of question can guide how to respond. In the case of this question, the opinion of the test taker is required.

Learn To Paraphrase

There are many ways to write an introduction. You may cite background information. You could also begin with a relevant quote.

A quick way to start an introduction is to paraphrase the topic.

For instance:

Some children find some school subjects difficult (for example maths or philosophy), so these subjects should be optional rather than compulsory.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?”

This may be introduced by paraphrasing the topic (not the question):

Nowadays, some subjects like maths and philosophy are Waterloos for a number of children. For this reason, it is thought that these subjects should be electives.”

Right away, you could write the first few sentences of the introduction. This would help with managing time and showing your lexical range.

Respond To The Question Directly

We will use the same question as an example.

Some children find some school subjects difficult (for example maths or philosophy), so these subjects should be optional rather than compulsory.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?”

A direct response might look like this:

As for me, I completely disagree with this.”

In some cases, there is no question. This is the case for discussion-type questions. Discussion type questions are characterized by the following instructions:

  • “Discuss both sides and give your opinion”
  • “Discuss the advantages and disadvantages and give your opinion”

In this case, your response does not need to be present as early as the introduction.

Introduction = Topic + Your Direct Response + What Your Essay Will Be About

Again, there are several ways to write an introduction. Your introduction could simply be your restatement of the topic with your response.

Using the topic restatement and the direct response from earlier, an introduction might look like this:

Nowadays, some subjects like maths and philosophy are Waterloos for a number of children. For this reason, it is thought that these subjects should be electives. As for me, I completely disagree with this. In the following paragraphs, the reasons for my opinion will be presented.

One Main Idea = One Body Paragraph

When writing your body paragraphs, it might benefit your reader (the examiner) if you had only one idea per paragraph. This would put your ability to establish coherence on display.

A sequence you may be able to follow is the PREP technique. PREP stands for Point (main idea), Reason (for why the main idea is true), an Example, and the Point (main idea) again but rephrased.

Below is an example:

One of the reasons for my disagreement is that removing subjects could make children illiterate in certain areas. Children are at a formative stage where they need to learn as much as they can. This would allow them to apply their knowledge later on. If one subject is not present in the curriculum, children may grow up ill-equipped for certain tasks, milestones, and responsibilities. For example, when I was in grade school, we were not taught basic logic classes. As I grew older, I realized that this skill would have given me the ability to reason better. This would have made many situations easier for me. Hence, I believe that retaining certain subjects like maths and philosophy could prevent children from being ill-equipped for life later on.

The first sentence presents the main idea. The next three sentences aim to prove the main idea. What follows is an example and the last sentence restates the main idea.

Restate Everything In The Conclusion

The conclusion is where you could summarize everything you have just written. Often, you could summarize your essay by simply restating the following:

  • The topic
  • Your response
  • Your main ideas

Conclusion

To immigrate to Canada, you may have to meet the minimum language requirement of CLB 7. This is equal to a score of 6.0 in the IELTS exam. This is the minimum required score for all language skills including writing.

The IELTS Writing Test is the last written part of the IELTS exam. It takes roughly 60 minutes to complete and it consists of two parts. The first part requires you to write a letter. The second involves responding in writing to a certain topic.

Learn the IELTS band descriptors for writing could help you prepare. Also, the tips for both tasks in this article may help you get your desired score, whether it is 6.0 or above.

Good luck with your IELTS Writing Test!

Choose Canada Magazine

Each member of our team at Choose Canada Magazine has been in Canada for over five years, and has helped dozens of people worldwide find their life in Canada.

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