IELTS Writing Task 1 - General

Why is my IELTS writing grade not improving?

If your IELTS General Writing grade is between 5.5 and 6.5 and you cannot improve it, the following comments might give you some ideas about what the examiner is looking for and what you need to do. The following comments refer to General Writing Task 1:


Candidates who get 5.5 or 6.0 often do not answer the question fully. Usually, candidates have to focus on three points and if you are getting a lower grade, it may be because you do not include enough information about one or more of these points. The question does not give you all the information you need and it is necessary to use your imagination to add extra details.

Some candidates write information which is not relevant to the purpose of the question. If you have to write a job application but you include information which a possible employer would not consider important, this will affect your grade.

Candidates with lower grades often struggle to write in the right style. Letters are either formal, semi-formal or informal and if your language does not reflect this, your grade will be low. For example, if you have to write a letter of complaint, it needs to be very formal. You might write ‘I was extremely disappointed at the quality of service offered by your company’. You shouldn’t write: ‘Man! That was rubbish!’


Candidates who get a lower grade often do not write logically. The points they make are not clearly connected to each other. The letter does not move from one point to the next related point until it has achieved its purpose. It doesn’t feel like a ‘whole’ Candidates with lower grades often fail to use ‘signposts’ to help their reader to understand how new information connects to information in a previous sentence. ‘Signposts’ include phrases like ‘As well as that’, ‘Unfortunately’ and ‘Therefore’. Candidates with lower grades often do not use pronouns and other words and phrases which connect parts of the text together. Words like ‘this’, ‘that’ and ‘one’ are often not used.


Candidates with grades under 6.0 sometimes write quite accurately, with few mistakes when they use basic language. However, they either don’t use complex vocabulary or they use it wrongly. At higher levels, candidates use words with very specific meanings. For example, a candidate at level 5.5 might write ‘I am really worried about losing my job’ whereas a candidate at band 7.0 would write ‘I am somewhat apprehensive about the prospect of being made redundant’. Candidates at higher levels use collocations like ‘to play a fundamental role’, ‘to feel guilty’ or ‘a heavy workload’. They also use more set phrases like ‘as far as I’m concerned’. This makes their writing seem similar to that of a native-speaker.

Candidates at lower levels repeat words and phrases quite often and sometimes copy language from the question.


Candidates who get lower grades often make a lot of mistakes. They sometimes write simple sentences accurately but it is very unusual to see a complex sentence without at least one significant error. Many mistakes are connected to tenses and verb structures but candidates also make a lot of errors with articles (‘a’ and ‘the’), with issues connected to countable and uncountable nouns, with preposition choice and with pronouns. As well as this, candidates who score grade 6.0 or lower don’t usually manage to use complex grammar. They struggle with different tenses and more complex sentence structures. They also struggle to use grammar appropriately. For example, in a formal letter they often fail to use passive forms when passives would be appropriate and fail to use conditional forms for polite requests.