IELTS Writing Task 2: How many paragraphs should I write for an IELTS essay?

Here is a very common question. As a matter of fact, it is so common, we can comfortably tell you that almost 90% of our students have asked us this: How many paragraphs should I write during my IELTS Written Exam?

How many paragraphs?

The recommended number of paragraphs for an IELTS essay is 4 or 5. You must have an introduction and you must have a conclusion. You can have either two or three body paragraphs. From our perspective, having two body paragraphs is sufficient, unless you are really specific about a particular point during each paragraph.

Do I need to divide my essay body into paragraphs?

Yes, definitely. You are being assessed on your ability to separate ideas into different body paragraphs. to get band score 7 in coherence and cohesion (25% of your marks), you must have a central idea in each body paragraph without repetition.

Can I have 4 or 5 body paragraphs?

This certainly is not advisable. To achieve a high band in IELTS writing task 2, you must develop and extend your main points. This means that each body paragraph must contain enough supporting points. So, having 4 or 5 body paragraphs will limit your ability to develop your ideas (are you sure you are able to write that many concrete points anyway?).

Is it better to have 2 or 3 body paragraphs?

Both are fine. Either 2 or 3 body paragraphs is enough to develop ideas and show your ability to organise paragraphs. Your choice should depend on the essay question and on your main points. Take a look at my model essays (link below) to see how I use my paragraphs.

Happy writing 🙂

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IELTS Writing Task 2: Top 20 Topics

Below is a list of the 20 most common IELTS essay topics that appear in writing task 2 with subtopics.  Although the essay questions change, the subject of the essays often remains the same. Each topic is divided into subtopics which you should prepare.

You should practice developing ideas for all common essay topics used by IELTS so that you can write your essay within the given time limit.

For a comprehensive list of IELTS Writing Task 2 topics, please click here

Common IELTS Task 2 Exam Topics with Subtopics

  • Art
    • censorship of art and artists
    • creativity
    • art at school
    • the benefits of art for individuals and society
    • funding
  • Business & Money
    • small vs large business
    • international business
    • family run business
    • management and leadership
    • success in business
    • business and technology
    • skills vs knowledge for business
    • materialism and consumerism
  • Communication & Personality
    • technology and communication
    • family and communication
    • face to face vs long distance communication
    • types of communication
    • the develop of character and personality
    • innate or developed personalities
    • female / male characters
  • Crime & Punishment
    • prisons vs rehabilitation
    • capital punishment vs other types of punishment
    • criminals – what makes a criminal
    • major vs minor crime
    • crime and technology
    • teenagers and crime
    • role of policemen
    • men and women in lay enforcement
  • Economics 
    • cash vs credit cards
    • saving vs spending
    • globalisation and economy
    • world economic issues
    • economic progress and success
  • Education
    • children and education
    • relevant subjects
    • education and technology
    • role of teachers
    • discipline and rules in school
    • single-sex schools
    • uniforms
    • funding
    • educational aid to poorer countries
  • Environment
    • animals
    • protection of endangered species
    • zoos
    • environmental problems
    • saving the environment & solving problems
    • government vs individual roles
  • Family & Children
    • family roles
    • family size
    • the generation gap
    • discipline
    • role models
    • family and education
  • Food
    • health diets
    • education of diet
    • traditional vs modern diets
    • fast food
    • children and diet
  • Health
    • prevention vs cure
    • funding
    • health and education
    • poor countries and rich countries
    • health aid
    • dealing with global epidemics
    • hospitals and treatment
    • obesity
    • exercise and health
  • Language
    • having only one language in the world
    • methods of language learning
    • travel and language
    • the disappearance of languages
    • language and culture
  • Media & Advertising
    • censorship, control and freedom of speech
    • advertising methods
    • children and advertising
    • media and technology
    • news & reporting
  • Other Common Essay Topics
    • Space Exploration
    • Water and Oceans
    • Change or Moving vs Stability and Constancy
  • Reading
    • paper books vs ebooks
    • children and reading
    • books in education
    • libraries
    • reading and leisure
  • Technology
    • controlling the internet
    • socialising online
    • children and technology (safety)
    • the change in society
    • letter vs email
    • storing data
    • safety of personal information
    • hacking
  • Transport
    • development of infrastructre
    • comparing forms of transport
    • problems with modern forms of transport
    • environmental issues
  • Travel
    • culture and travel
    • understanding people and travel
    • living in a global world
  • Society
    • overpopulation
    • poverty
    • homeless people
    • crime on the streets
    • modern life styles
    • budget spending
    • public services
  • Sport
    • professionals vs amatuers
    • salary
    • equipment
    • sport and learning
    • sport as a school subject
    •  men vs women in sport
    • types of sport
  • Work
    • shift work
    • women in work
    • types of jobs (blue collar / white collar)
    • children and expliotation
    • part time work
    • work and technology
    • employment
    • salary
    • equality

IELTS Writing Task 1: Key preparation advises

Below are the essential preparation tips to learn how to prepare for your IELTS writing task 1 test. These top 12 tips are for the IELTS academic writing paper.

1. Understanding Task 1

  • write an academic report on a chart of graph (see below for all types of task 1)
  • write over 150 words (the examiner will count your words and there will be a penalty for being under the word count)
  • write your report in 20 mins (don’t take more time because task 2 is worth double the marks)

2. Do plenty of practice tests

Unfortunately, just like pretty much everything else in life, there is no easy way success. The best way to learn (and to get a band >7) is to do as much practice as possible. So keep up churning out those writing practices 🙂

If you would like an experienced IELTS tutor to review & provide you beneficial feedback around your where & how to actually improve your existing writing, feel free to visit here for more information.

3. Task 1 Band Scores and Marking Criteria

Understand the band scores for each criterion in writing task 1. The IELTS examiner will mark you on:

  • Task Achievement (25%)
  • Coherence and Cohesion (25%)
  • Vocabulary (25%)
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy (25%)

You should thoroughly understand the requirements for each criterion for the band score you are aiming for. Here’s a link to the IELTS writing task 1 public band score descriptors which are published by the IELTS organisation. The examiner will give you a band score for each individual criterion above and then your final score for writing task 1 is the average of the 4.

4. Types of Task 1

Learn the 6 main types of charts that can be given in writing task 1 (maps, diagrams, bar charts, tables, line graphs and pie charts). You should practice writing reports for all types of task 1 by using sample IELTS charts. It is also possible to get a combination of two types, for example a bar chart with a pie chart.

5. Introduction Paragraph

Practice writing the introduction statement.

Here are two examples, which one do you think it best?

  1. Here we can see that the graph represented information regarding the number of sales of two companies in two years
  2. The chart illustrates the number of sales of two companies (Marks Ltd and Bumper Store) in 2000 and 2010.

Answers: The second introduction statement is best. The first example contains non-academic language (Here we can see…) and also does not contain enough information about the companies or which years.

The introduction is usually very quick to write and quite formulaic (standard) in content.

6. Overviews for Writing Task 1

Practice identifying key features for all kinds of charts. The key features make up the content of the overview which is the most essential paragraph in your task 1 report. The key features for most charts are the highest and lowest categories as well as the most significant differences between categories. However, for diagrams the key stages can be harder to identify. Many students get confused whether to have a conclusion or an overview. make sure you get it right.

7. Vocabulary

Get a list of useful vocabulary for each type of writing task. This is particularly important for line graphs, maps and pie charts. The line graph is the type of writing task 1 which has the biggest range of possible vocabulary that can be used.

To get a good score in writing task 1, it is important to use a range of words which means  you need to paraphrase when possible. However, as mistakes can cause you to lose points, it is important not to take chances with your vocabulary. Spelling is also checked so make sure you don’t make mistakes with your spelling.

8. Grammar

To get a good score, you will also need to work on complex sentence structures. For students aiming for band score 6 and above, this is essential. Luckily sentence structures for task 1 can be learnt and then adapted to fit each individual task  (to some extent). Along with grammar is accuracy. The more mistakes you make the lower your score will be so getting rid of common errors is important. If you have frequent errors, you may get band score 5 for grammar.

9. Structure for Writing Task 1

You need to make sure you structure your report correctly as the examiner will pay attention to the organisation of information and paragraphing. Make sure you follow this as it is easy to get a good score for organisation. Structure and linking devices are part of the criterion of Coherence and Cohesion which makes up 25% of your marks.

10. Linking Devices/phrases

Linking is also very important (very, very very important). You will need to show the examiner a range of linking devices that connect information together and compare information in a coherent way. Again, linking is very easy to learn so make sure you pay attention to this. Different charts use different linkers so make sure you review each type of task to see the best linking devices to use.

11. Model Answers for IELTS Writing Task 1

Follow safe models. There are a lot of sample answers for you to follow on the internet, but following a safe model which fulfills the requirement set by IELTS is essential.

12. Practice using the Answer Sheet

Before your test, make sure you practice writing on the official IELTS answer sheet for writing task 1. Here is a link to download the answer sheet.

IELTS Speaking: Can I ask Examiner Questions?

Can I ask the examiner questions during the exam?

This page explains to your questions you should and shouldn’t ask examiners in each part of the IELTS speaking test. Take a moment to go through 🙂

Asking Questions in Speaking Part 1

Of course, you can ask the examiner to repeat the question in IELTS speaking part 1 (Could you repeat that, please?) but that’s about all you can ask. You can’t ask other questions. The examiner is limited to asking questions only in speaking part 1 and can’t help you or explain. The examiner can’t explain questions and can’t explain words.

Asking Questions in Speaking Part 2

You can’t ask any questions in part 2. And you definitely won’t be able to ask the examiner to change the topic. You must use the topic that has been given to you and try your best to talk about something related to your cue card. If you don’t understand a word on your cue card, the examiner can’t help you. You need to follow the topic on your card and follow the prompts you understand. You can add any other information you want to your talk to make it longer which relates to the topic. Remember to use plenty of LINKING PHRASES!!
The examiner will tell you when to start talking and when to stop. You don’t need to ask.

Asking Questions in Speaking Part 3

You can ask the examiner to explain words and to explain the question in IELTS speaking part 3.  This is useful because the examiner will rephrase the question using different words and make it easier to understand. You can also ask the examiner to repeat the question, the same as part 1.

Here is the list of questions you can ask in speaking part 3:

  • Could you explain that, please? (the examiner will rephrase the question)
  • What do you mean exactly? (the examiner will rephrase the question)
  • Could you explain what X means, please? (for a specific word)
  • What does X mean? (for a specific word)

Don’t ask the examiner the following questions:

  • Have you been there?
  • What do you think?
  • Where do you come from?
  • Do you agree with me?
  • Can you change the question?
  • Can you give me an example?
  • Can you give me a different topic?
  • What are your opinions?

Thinking Time

Sometimes you need to time to think about the question and think of your answer. One way to do that is to ask the examiner to repeat the question. It is a useful way to gain time to think. Alternatively, you can say “It’s an interesting question. I’ve never really thought about it before. I suppose” You could use that method for difficult questions in part 3.

Will I lose marks if I ask the examiner to repeat the question?

No, it won’t affect your score. Your score is calculated on fluency, vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. There is no score for understanding or comprehension. So, it is fine to ask the examiner to repeat one to two questions in part 1 or to explain a question in part 3.

Your Ultimate IELTS Study Site

Welcome to the First English IELTS study site!

At First English, we have created this comprehensive, free IELTS study & resource website to help you achieve success in IELTS. Students will find many free IELTS tips, lessons and information to help them acquire band scores 6, 7, 8 & 9 in their IELTS test. So make yourself at home and let us embark on your IELTS journey together!

First English is one of the largest and prominent of Australia’s quality English language providers offering English language tuition and teacher training to domestic and international students around the world. First English operates across major Australian, Singapore & Chinese cities. We employ more than 1,000 dedicated staff and delivers programs to than 25,000 students and clients each year.