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:
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 from Road to IELTS‘s 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?
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.
Now you’ve practised planning what to write, have a go at planning out your time. Take a look at the IELTS resources page and try using the Study Guides. After that, why not take a practice test with Road to IELTS. You can do exercises to understand the different question types, watch tutorials and use the other free resources on the page.