The official IELTS by IDP app is here! Download it today.


IELTS Writing test: a comprehensive guide to achieving a Band 9


The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a premier assessment tool for individuals planning to engage academically, professionally, or personally in English-speaking countries. Among its varied components, the Writing test is particularly significant. It not only gauges your aptitude in conveying thoughts and arguments in written form, but also acts as a testament to your grasp of the English language.

Aspiring to score a band 9 in the IELTS Writing test means you’ll have to commit to mastering the English language at an advanced level. If you’ve set your sights on this linguistic achievement, this guide will serve as a valuable resource.

Overview of the IELTS Writing test

IELTS is a comprehensive exam designed to measure your English language proficiency across four primary skills: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Each of these components plays an integral role in determining your overall ability to communicate effectively in English.

Among these, the Writing test stands out as an especially critical component, where you have to demonstrate your written command of the English language. While each section contributes equally to the overall band score, with 25% weightage apiece, the Writing test requires careful preparation.

It is not merely about demonstrating linguistic proficiency but also about showcasing the ability to convey ideas, arguments, and information coherently and convincingly in written form. From structuring thoughts clearly to employing a diverse range of vocabulary and grammar accurately, it tests your capacity to navigate the complexities of written English.

Spanning a total of 60 minutes, the IELTS Writing test is divided into two tasks, each catering to diverse objectives:

Writing Task 1

Often presenting candidates with a graph, chart, or diagram, this task requires you to summarise, explain, or interpret the information given in your own words. It’s a test of your ability to identify significant details, draw comparisons, and synthesise information. While the nature of Writing Task 1 for the IELTS Academic revolves around these visual representations, Writing Task 1 for the IELTS General Training requires candidates to write a letter based on a given situation, adding a real-world dimension to the assessment.

Writing Task 2

Writing Task 2 dives deeper into your analytical and argumentative abilities. Here, you will be presented with a viewpoint, argument, or issue, and you’ll need to write a discursive essay. The emphasis is on the logical structuring of arguments, presenting ideas coherently, and providing relevant examples or evidence to substantiate your viewpoints.

Both tasks demand different writing styles, and the varied themes ensure that you’ll need to be adept at adapting your writing to various contexts and purposes. This requires versatile writing skills on your part – you can consider your writing quite well-rounded if you get past this.

Scoring criteria

To excel in the IELTS Writing test, you should be well-acquainted with the scoring criteria, which provide a clear roadmap to the standards expected from test-takers. It’s also important to note that IELTS Writing Task 1 and IELTS Writing Task 2 are each scored differently. In Task 1, "Task Achievement" evaluates how well you address the prompt. For Task 2, it's "Task Response," assessing your position on the topic. IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic have distinct Task 1 criteria: General Training focuses on letter-writing, while Academic involves describing visual data.

Understanding each of these criteria in-depth and how the IELTS score is calculated can significantly enhance your preparation and approach, potentially elevating your band score. Here's a detailed breakdown:



How to score band 9 in IELTS writing

Task Achievement (TA)

How comprehensively you have addressed all parts of the task.

You must ensure that you comprehensively address every part of the task set before you.  

You may be marked down for lapses or missing out on content.

Whether your response is relevant to the questions.

It is essential that responses remain directly relevant to the questions posed. Avoid unnecessary digression.

The depth and detail of your answers.

Answers should be in-depth and detailed, offering ample explanations and illustrations for every point made.

Coherence and Cohesion (CC)

The clarity and logic of your writing.

Written content flows in such a manner that readers can follow the message effortlessly.

You should be vigilant to ensure that any lapses in coherence or cohesion are minimal.

The structure of your paragraphs.

A well-structured paragraph will have clear topic sentences complemented by supporting details, contributing harmoniously to the overall flow of the message.

Your use of cohesive devices, such as linking words, pronouns, and conjunctions.

Cohesive devices are used to help bind sentences and ideas together seamlessly. The use of cohesive devices should be so seamless and subtle that they rarely draw attention to themselves.

Lexical Resource (LR)

The range of words you use.

A band 9 score hinges on your ability to showcase a full and diverse range of vocabulary. 

The accuracy with which you employ these words.

Vocabulary must be used with both flexibility and precision, fitting appropriately within the context of the task. Misused words can lead to ambiguity or misunderstandings.

Your ability to use idiomatic and colloquial language appropriately.

A deep understanding of English is often reflected in the appropriate use of idiomatic and colloquial language. You should exhibit a very natural and sophisticated control of lexical features.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy (GRA)

The range of sentence structures you use, from simple to complex.

Achieving band 9 in this criterion is a testament to your mastery over a variety of sentence structures. Within the scope of the given task, there should be a demonstration of flexibility and control in structuring sentences.

The precision with which you apply grammatical rules.

Punctuation, an often-overlooked aspect, should be applied judiciously and consistently throughout the response. Mastery over grammatical rules should be evident, with the rules being applied with precision.

The number of errors versus error-free sentences, with fewer mistakes indicating higher proficiency.

Even though minor grammatical errors can creep in, they should be exceptionally rare. To be band 9 worthy, these errors should never act as barriers to clear communication.

Effective preparation strategies

Achieving a commendable score in the IELTS Writing test is a combination of thorough preparation and inherent English proficiency. While a natural aptitude in the language is beneficial, understanding how to score a band 9 requires strategic and diligent preparation. Here are some pivotal strategies that can guide your preparation journey.

Understanding question types

The IELTS Writing test, with its varied question types, requires candidates to have a multifaceted understanding of how to respond effectively. Each type of question in the IELTS Writing test demands a specific approach, making it essential for you to familiarise yourself with these different formats. This will enable you to recognise and tackle them with precision.

  • Discussion essays: Engage with multiple perspectives on a given issue, showcasing a balanced view.

  • Problem-solution essays: Identify specific issues and propose relevant solutions.

  • Data Interpretation (Writing Task 1): Extract and communicate key data insights, often from graphs, charts, or diagrams.

  • Regular review: Examine sample questions and answers to discern examiners' expectations and to structure responses adeptly.

Practising writing

Writing, like any other craft, demands persistent effort to master. Regular writing practice not only hones your skills but also acclimatises you to the demands of the test format.

  • Consistent practice: Dedicate time to write on both Task 1 and Task 2 topics regularly.

  • Seek feedback: Solicit critiques from teachers, peers, or language specialists. Constructive criticism can offer insights into areas for improvement and highlight strengths you can capitalise on.

  • Timed sessions: This not only simulates actual IELTS test conditions but also hones your time management skills, ensuring you allocate appropriate time for brainstorming, writing, and revising.

Improving vocabulary and grammar

How would you rate your command of vocabulary and grammar? This is foundational for conveying complex ideas with clarity and coherence. An expansive vocabulary allows you to express ideas more clearly and compellingly.

  • Daily vocabulary expansion: Introduce and use new words every day. Diverse reading sources like newspapers, journals, and quality literature can be invaluable. Creating mind maps of vocabulary related to specific topics can help you memorise better.

  • Contextual usage: Understand the context in which words are used. It's not just about accumulating vocabulary, but applying words appropriately.

  • Grammar refinement: Allocate time to focus on common grammatical challenges such as subject-verb agreement, tenses, and articles. Use grammar workbooks and digital resources for structured learning.

  • Productive and receptive skills: While productive skills involve direct engagement with the language through speaking or writing exercises, receptive skills, like listening to English songs or watching English films, can also boost linguistic comprehension. Integrating both strategies provides a holistic approach to language mastery.

By following these structured strategies and insights, you can tackle the IELTS Writing test with greater assurance and skill. If you seek additional help, delve into our step-by-step guide to sharpening your English abilities.

Tips for success on test day

The day you've been diligently preparing for is finally here. While the knowledge and skills you've acquired over time are crucial, how you manage the IELTS test day itself can make a significant difference in your performance. Here are some pivotal strategies to ensure you make the most of those crucial 60 minutes.

  • Time management: Allocate time judiciously. It's paramount to stick to the suggested time frames – 20 minutes for Task 1 and 40 minutes for Task 2. Remember, Task 2 carries more weight in terms of marks, so it demands a more extended focus. Always factor in a few minutes at the end to review and proofread your answers.

  • Read instructions carefully: Before diving into writing, ensure you've thoroughly understood the question and the specific requirements. Misinterpreting a prompt can cost valuable marks.

  • Plan before you write: Use the first few minutes to brainstorm and outline your answer, especially for Task 2. This will not only give your essay a clear structure but also ensure that you address all aspects of the question.

  • Stay hydrated and well-rested: A well-rested mind can think clearer and faster. Ensure you get a good night's sleep before the test day and drink adequate water to stay hydrated.

The test day will inevitably come with its own set of challenges. However, with a systematic approach, a calm mindset, and these tips in your arsenal, you're well-equipped to navigate through it successfully. Approach the test with a positive attitude. Remember, you've prepared well. Visualise your success before starting, and trust in your ability.

Maximise your potential with IDP's comprehensive support

Settling for mediocrity isn't your style, is it? If you're laser-focused on attaining that elusive band 9, then it's essential to align yourself with the right partners on your journey. As a co-owner of the IELTS, IDP isn’t just about administering the IELTS test; it’s about ensuring every aspiring test-taker has the tools and resources to reach their peak potential.

Why choose IDP?

  • Official resources: As co-owner of the IELTS test, IDP offers exhaustive study materials like mock tests that mirror the actual exam, with an array of resources designed to bolster your preparation.

  • Preparation courses to fit your needs: Whether you're a first-timer, retaking the exam, or someone with advanced English skills seeking a test overview, IDP offers effective preparation courses. These courses are structured to address specific challenges and build your confidence, regardless of how familiar you are with

  • Expert guidance: Benefit from our Online Workshop conducted by seasoned IELTS experts who offer insights, tips, and strategies that are gold.

  • User-friendly tech solutions: Leverage innovative tools like the IELTS by IDP app to practise on the go, ensuring that your preparation seamlessly fits into your busy lifestyle.

So, why wait? If band 9 is your target, IDP is your ally. Learn why you should take the IELTS test with IDP and embark on a journey tailored to ensure you shine. Aim high, prepare smart, and with unwavering determination, your desired band score is within reach.

Book your IELTS test today!