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IELTS Writing: Failing to plan is planning to fail!

IELTS Writing: Failing to plan is planning to fail!

One reason the IELTS Writing test has been described as the most difficult paper is because of the time constraints. You only have one hour to do two writing tasks. On top of that, you need to go through all the stages of planning and checking your work. This means that using your time efficiently is vital. In this post, we’ll look at strategies to plan your IELTS Writing tasks efficiently and effectively.

The importance of planning

On test day, it’s easy to look at the question and just start writing immediately – after all, it seems like the best use of time. What you’ll quickly find out, though, is that writing without a plan actually wastes more time than it saves. To avoid this, you can watch this video to learn the POWER formula for planning your IELTS Writing. POWER stands for:

  • Planning
  • Organising
  • Writing
  • Evaluating
  • Revising

The video explains each of these stages in detail. Here we will focus on the first stage: Planning.

Using yes/no questions

In order to write a good plan, you need to clearly understand what the question is asking. Every time you look at a question, try these two things:

  • Consider what the topics are.
    This makes sure you are focusing on the right thing and not writing about one aspect of the question that jumps out at you.
  • Then rephrase the task into smaller yes/no questions.
    Yes/no questions provide a clear structure for you to respond with. Answer each yes/no question you come up with and elaborate on your points in your final answer.

For example, look at this question:

We are all citizens of the world. People should be allowed to move freely, and to live and work in the country of their choice without restrictions.

What is the topic here?

  • Being a world citizen, and free immigration between countries

Can this task be rephrased as yes/no questions?

  • Are we ‘citizens of the world’?
  • Should we be allowed to move freely between countries?
  • Should we be allowed to live and work wherever we want?

By answering these questions, you are making the writing itself easier because you have a clearer idea of what you will write, and also when and how to write it. You might think that there is no time to plan in the IELTS Writing test, but it only takes a few minutes at the start of the test and it means you can use the rest of your time more effectively.

Writing the wrong essay

There’s another reason why planning is so important. It’s very easy to look at the IELTS Writing essay question, focus on one or two words, and then write an essay that doesn’t answer the question. If you do this, you’ll get no marks at all. Exams are stressful and most of us have fallen into this trap. (I know I have!) Take the time to practise this technique and this will be one fewer thing you need to worry about stepping into your IELTS Writing exam.



  1. Bibin Ealoor says:

    When it comes to the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 (20 minutes), I use the first 2 to 3 minutes to read the question and plan my answer. Next 10 to 12 minutes for writing and the last 3 minutes for proofreading. For Task 2, we can multiply the time allocation by a factor of two as the Task duration is 40 minutes. This is the method that I follow. Please suggest any improvements needed.

  2. Daniel says:

    Hi, great article!

    I have a question about the writing part 2.

    Can you disagree with the question?

    For example, I saw a part 2 question which stated crime is increasing among young people around the world.

    Can I argue that, in fact, crime is not increasing among people and lay out the evidence why this is not true while still getting a good grade? Or should I just answer the question?


    • Thanks Daniel!
      This depends on the question. If you are asked to ‘discuss whether you agree or disagree’ or ‘discuss both of these views’, you are expected to be critical of the material. If you are asked to suggest reasons and/or solutions to a problem, arguing that the problem does not exist would, to us, seem missing the point entirely and will likely resulted in a poor mark.

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