Home » IELTS Writing: Failing to plan is planning to fail!

IELTS Writing: Failing to plan is planning to fail!

IELTS Writing: Failing to plan is planning to fail!

One reason the IELTS Writing test is challenging is because of the time constraints. You only have one hour to do two tasks. This means that using your time efficiently is vital. Before you do anything at all, make sure you understand exactly how this time should be divided. Use the free Study Guides you can download in this IELTS resources page (scroll down till you find the Study Guides).

It is very important to plan what you will write before you start writing. This might seem an obvious idea but many candidates, perhaps consumed with test-day nerves, see the test question and immediately start on their answer.

The importance of planning

Watch this video to learn the POWER formula for planning your IELTS Writing. POWER stands for Planning, Organising, Writing, Evaluating and Revising. The video explains each of these stages in detail. Here we will focus on the first stage: Planning.

Using yes/no questions

You need to plan what you will write based on a clear understanding of the IELTS Writing question. Every time you look at a question, consider what the topics are, then rephrase the task into smaller yes/no questions.

For example, look at this question from Road to IELTS‘s IELTS General Training Writing section:

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?

Yes/no questions provide a clear structure for you to respond with. Elaborate on your yes/no answer by writing a few ideas in answer to the first question, then a few ideas for the second, and so on.

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

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, which means you get no marks at all. Exams are stressful and most of us have fallen into this trap. (I know I have!) Read another post about this danger here. Planning makes you focus on every word of the question and helps keep you relevant and on topic.

Read more…

In this post, Kishore talks about how important it is to keep on topic. Now read about how Task Achievement is the first thing that the examiner is looking for.


  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.

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