IELTS Speaking Topics
This section of the IELTS Writing Examination allows you to demonstrate your proficiency in writing when prompted by a verbal, textual, or visual cue.
This page contains lessons, tips, and ideas on how to successfully prepare for IELTS General and Academic Writing Task 1. We have included a number of important details that you need to remember to achieve your best possible score.
In writing task 1, you will receive an evaluation and grade equally based upon your performance in the following areas:
- Achieving the assigned task
- Coherent and cohesive writing
- Vocabulary use
- Correct grammar
You also need to remain aware of IELTS examination guidelines and suggestions that can help you better understand how to take the test. These include:
- While you may take as long as you wish, try to budget no more than 20 minutes for this section. Take between three and five minutes to compose an outline to organise your thoughts.
- Plan to write more than 150 words. Between 160 and 180 is considered optimal.
- Writing Task 1 equals 33 percent, or one third, of your final grade on this exam.
- IELTS academic writing task 1 asks you to compose a report based on analysing a chart or a graph.
- The General Training writing task focuses on writing a personal or a business letter.
- All words will be counted towards the total.
- All numbers only count as one word.
Evaluation criteria for writing task 1 focus on the mastery of clear expression in the English language. The test respondent should practice the writing techniques described below. Using these helps to demonstrate proficiency in English expression and will lead to higher scores:
- Describe all key features of the chart assigned for the task.
- Highlight the most important key features in a preliminary overview.
- Use statistics, dates, and other data to provide supporting points and evidence.
- Make sure that any information included has a factual basis.
- Do not express personal opinion on any part of the topic.
- Conform writing to coverage of facts that can be demonstrated by the materials assigned.
- Composition needs to meet or exceed 150 words.
Using the right words correctly and giving an explanation of the provided materials will only go so far to produce your best possible score.
Your essay response must also follow general English rules of understandability. The writing must be organised in such a way as to be well understood by most English readers.
Practice the following to boost your score on coherence and cohesion.
- Use an outline to plan how to present the information in your writing
- Prioritise the most important information first and least necessary at the end.
- Your essay needs to have four complete body paragraphs.
- Use a variety of different linking devices to improve writing “flow.”
- Stay away from linking word errors.
- Correctly words that indicate reference, such as “this” or “it”.
Using advanced levels of vocabulary will help to increase your score. We, however, suggest that you stick to words that you have already mastered. Misuse of advanced syntax can lower your score. The following tips should help you perform better to meet IELTS criteria:
- Use the widest possible range of vocabulary without affecting cohesion and comprehensibility
- Use precise vocabulary for presenting data and evidence.
- Understand proper and conventional ways of matching verbs and nouns.
- Spelling counts
- Avoid misuse of words, informal language, slang, or “texting language.”
Proper grammar represents one of the most important benchmarks in measuring your ability to express yourself effectively in the English language. To score better in grammar, we suggest focusing on the following:
- Use different types of sentence structure.
- Make sure that you write in the proper tense, which is the same one presented in the materials. Stay consistent with the verb tense especially.
- Follow language conventions in word order, such as placing the adjective before the noun or the verb prior to the adverb.
- Avoid ending sentences with prepositions.
- Use proper and appropriate punctuation.
Obtain a list of the six main charts and graphs used in IELTS writing task 1. Study them and become familiar with how to both use and describe the information presented. Pick out and then examine the key points from each chart.
Get a list of vocabulary terms commonly used with each type of chart or graph. Become comfortable using and applying these terms in explanations or discussions. Remember to be sure of any word that you use in both spelling and meaning. Mistakes will reduce your grade in this section.
Scoring well in grammar does not only mean abiding by the rules. To get the best possible score, you must demonstrate proficiency in using different types of complex sentence structures to create a more natural and less staccato flow. Correct usage of different types of linking words to express complex ideas and situations is a key indicator of grammar mastery.
Structure your essay in the following manner. Divide your essay into four main paragraphs, although sometimes a short fifth introductory paragraph is appropriate. Following the introduction comes the overview, important because it lays the foundation for the main points to come. Forgetting or downplaying the importance of the overview paragraph will cost you points.
Next come the two body paragraphs, which you will use to explain your points. A conclusion should take only one sentence, two at the most, to wrap up the topic and your own conclusions.
Some writers have found that the overview is more effective as an ending paragraph. If your essay flows well and explains the main points effectively, moving the overview to the end will not adversely affect the score. That said, do not forget to incorporate the overview and utilise this paragraph for its intended purpose.
The General Training, or GT test, requires that the respondent compose a letter. This assignment comes with instructions, including three points to include in your letter.
Below, we have included general tips on how to compose the letter to achieve the best possible score:
- Budget 20 minutes of your allotted time to write the letter. Outlining and organising should take between three to five minutes.
- You must write over 150 words. The optimal range lies between 160 and 180 words.
- Your letter is worth 33 percent, or one third, of your final grade.
- Do not include an address on the letter.
- Make sure that your tone and language are appropriate for the person to whom you address the letter, as well as the overall purpose of it.
- Include all three required points in natural language and expression.
- You may use your imagination to fill in details and other plot points.
- Begin the letter with an appropriate opening statement and end with the proper closing structure.
The IELTS will provide a choice of letter types for you to consider. They are personal, semi-formal, and formal. Each style of letter requires its own tone and level of personal familiarity. You will need to be familiar with which topics best match the types of letters offered.
For example, you would write a personal letter to invite a friend to an informal get together. A semi-formal letter may be addressed to a friend or acquaintance, yet have a professional purpose such as requesting a job with their company. Formal letters request a service or favour from a person or an institution with whom you have little or no personal connection.
Here are some other tips on what to consider for each form.
- Open with “Hello John.”
- Close with “Best Wishes,” “Take Care,” or another friendly closing
- Contractions, informal language and slang are appropriate.
- Widespread use of first and second person.
- Open with “Dear John,”
- Close with “Sincerely.”
- Do not use contractions, informal language, slang, or obscenities.
- Limit use of first and second person if possible.
- Open with “Dear Mr. Smith.”
- Close with “Sincerely.”
- Do not use contractions, informal language, slang, or obscenities.
- Use first or second person as sparingly as possible.
You will be assigned a purpose for your letter. The purpose must properly match up to the level of formality expressed in the letter. For example, a letter of complaint to a local restaurant whose owner is a stranger to you should take a formal tone.
The form of the letter will always be determined first by the type of relationship that the writer has with the recipient, combined with the letter’s purpose. This is not a hard and fast rule so much as a guideline. In real life, each situation will be unique and may require a different approach than that suggested.
Below are listed suggested letter types for possible purposes:
- Complaints are almost always formal
- Most invitations are either personal or semi-formal
- Job applications (cover letters) or written resignations usually adopt a formal tone
- Letters of request are general enough that they could take any form
- Arrangements are usually requested or described in a formal letter
- Letters of explanation can take any form, but are most often personal or semi-formal
- Apologies can take any style
Just as in the academic writing task, the test respondent must demonstrate proficiency in forming paragraphs, including proper introductory statements and transitions.
Make sure that when you craft your outline for the letter that you follow the proper fundamentals in paragraph format and letter style, including:
- Opening statement that provides the reason for the letter
- First body paragraph, addressing the first assigned point
- Second body paragraph, addressing the second assigned point
- Third body paragraph addressing the third assigned point
- Closing statement
- Sign off, then your signature
You should spend between three and five minutes outlining and planning your letter. The structure of the letter, including proper paragraph form, will account for half of your grade on this section of the test. Planning the letter correctly will help to ensure that your letter follows a cohesive and coherent organisational structure.
Keep the following points in mind while planning the letter.
- Read directions thoroughly
- Figure out which style of letter to compose
- Consider the number of paragraphs you will include and which ones will address the assigned points.
- Think about what information you will use to elaborate on each point, whether real or imagined
- Consider how best to open the letter, keeping in mind appropriate style.
- Give the letter an appropriate closing
- Plan and outline each paragraph
- Commence writing