How can I achieve a high band in IELTS writing?

Written by Mr. Richard Forrest -

Students questions and answers Part 1

Q1.  How can I achieve a high band in writing? Thanks

A: This is one of the most common questions that students ask me. It is argued that writing is the hardest of all the four IELTS skills to master. Whilst it is not necessarily more difficult than the other skills, students often find it hard because they do not receive quality feedback. 

There are three general reasons why students do not get their desired grade.


1.       Their “real” English level is not high enough.

English levels

The IELTS writing task is very challenging. Consequently, your “real” English level needs to be upper-intermediate to advanced if you wish to score a grade 6-7. In order to improve your skills, you must develop your vocabulary and grammar skills.

Here are some fantastic resources to help you to develop your academic vocabulary.

·         Dualingo has a new feature that allows you to create flashcards. It is a great way to help you build your vocab and you can even create your own lists.

·        -For those of you doing the IELTS test please take a look at the following link. It contains some great vocabulary for the most common topics.

·         MEMRISE also have a great vocab list for IELTS

· is a great website that lets you create flashcards. The website also has games to help you learn how to spell. You can also click the speaker button and the computer will read the words. This is useful for pronunciation.

To develop your grammar, I recommend Grammar in Use by Martin Hewings for advanced students. 

I also recommend getting a teacher to check your work and identify your most common grammar problems. Love to Learn English has a quality IELTS writing correction service. Check it out here.


2.     Students run out of time!


 It is a very common problem in IELTS writing task 2 that students simply run out of time! If you do not finish the assignment this can limit your grade in the task achievement to a grade.  This is because you will not write 250 words as specified in the question.

In order to finish on time, you will need to work with a time schedule. I have another blog post specifically related to this question. Check it out here.


3.  Their essay lack structure    


IELTS Writing structure

 I often get students whose “real” of English is very high but they cannot score higher than a grade 6. This is often because their writing lacks any real structure. If my Mum (a native British speaker) took the test tomorrow, she would likely not score a grade 9. This is not because she cannot speak English, but because that is not what the test is scoring. The IELTS test is a test of your use of language, not your ability. When I have students for my preparation classes I always start first with the structure of the writing task. You need to first understand what the examiner expects. I recommend taking a look at the band descriptions first.   

The structure of your response will affect your score in task achievement, coherence and cohesion, lexical resource, and grammatical range and accuracy. Simply, it is the fastest way to maximise your score with the English you already know.

There are a number of resources to help you with the structure of your essays. In my opinion, the best website is

I recommend using IELTS Advantage’s website to structure your answers. They have a sentence by sentence breakdown of each question and what you need to write. It is an excellent resource and I recommend it to all my students.

Finally, another key point to improving your structure is to use transition words or linking words.  Examiners will be looking for these and using them effectively will score you lots of points. However, whilst it is important to use them it is important not to overuse them. I recommend getting familiar with a wide selection and training yourself to use them in different contexts. This will ensure that during the exam you can use them effectively and efficiently.

I have another Blog post about transition words which can be found here.