IELTS Writing Task 2

Why is my writing grade not improving?

If your IELTS 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 Writing Task 2:


Candidates who get lower grades sometimes misunderstand the question or fail to answer it. They may use arguments which are not relevant. They may have relevant arguments but not include support, such as examples or explanation. Candidates with lower grades may fail to write a clear introduction. Many good introductions introduce the topic, re-phrase the question and make it clear to the reader how the question will be answered.

Candidates with lower grades often fail to write a strong conclusion. Although a concluding paragraph isn’t always necessary, it is usually a good idea. Strong conclusions usually re-state the writer’s position and may include a hope for the future connected to the question.

Candidates who get lower grades sometimes write an illogical essay. In the introduction, they include a statement about their opinion or the way they intend to answer the question. However, the information in the main body of the essay does not reflect this. For example, a candidate might indicate complete support for an idea in the introduction and then include paragraphs in the main body which explain why this idea is wrong. This makes no sense and will affect the grade.

Some candidates write in an inappropriate style. Although it is not necessary to write in a very formal style, using a very informal style is not a good idea.


Candidates who get a grade of 6.0 or lower often do not have well-structured paragraphs. It is generally a good idea for a main paragraph to start with a linking phrase (which shows how it connects to the previous paragraph or the overall question). Then, the main point or idea of the paragraph should be included in the first sentence. The other two, three or possibly four sentences of the paragraph should support this main idea with explanation or examples. It is true that there are other ways to write paragraphs, but following this structure is safe.

Candidates with lower grades often fail to connect language and ideas together. They may not use signposts like ‘On the other hand’, or they may use these phrases wrongly. They often fail to use pronouns like ‘this’ and ‘which’.


Candidates with a grade of 6.0 or lower probably haven’t used much complex language. For example, they may have written ‘to get a job’. A more complex alternative would be ‘to find employment’ or ‘to join the workforce’. Similarly, candidates may have used a lot of basic words like ‘good’, ‘nice’, ‘big’ and ‘happy’. In order to get a grade above 6.0, candidates usually need to show some complex vocabulary, especially if this is related to the topic of the question. For a question on health and food, candidates who write about ‘the obesity crisis’, ‘those addicted to food lacking basic nutrition’ or ‘famine and starvation’ are likely to get a higher grade.

Weaker candidates often use the same words and phrases more than once. Sometimes, they take language directly from the question. This just shows the examiner that the candidate does not know many words.

Using set phrases and collocations also makes a candidate’s writing seem more like that of a native-speaker. In an essay on poverty and wealth, candidates who write about poorer people ‘having to tighten their belts’ or ‘the widening gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”’ will get a high grade.


Candidates with lower grades often make lots of errors connected with tenses, verb forms, articles, prepositions, comparative forms, pronouns and punctuation. They quite often use the wrong type of word (a noun instead of a verb, for example) and this means that very few of their sentences are error-free.

Candidates who get a grade of 6.0 or lower generally do not use much complex grammar. This means that they generally do not write sentences with more than one clause and they probably only use a few verb forms. They do not use more complex noun phrases, comparative forms etc. Verbs are a particular problem and candidates with lower grades probably fail to use perfect forms, conditional forms, passives and modals.