How writing task 2 is assessed – Task Response

If you want to improve your IELTS writing test score, then it is very important to understand how your answer is assessed.  If you already know your IELTS writing test score, and you are hoping to increase that score, then the assessment criteria for your current band will help to show you where you are going wrong and the assessment criteria for the band you would like to be will tell you what to need to improve and work on.

Since most people who contact me are currently stuck at Band 6 or 6.5 in writing and would like to score band 7 or 7.5, let’s look closely at the assessment criteria for those two scores.  In this post, I will look at Task Response, this means that way that you choose to answer the question you are given.

This is what the criteria for Task Response says:


1) The first bullet point refers to the essay question itself. This bullet point is the reason I always tell you that you must stop thinking that there are different approaches for a ‘discussion essay’ or ‘an opinion essay’.  As this bullet point makes very clear, if you do not address every part of the essay question, you will not score band 7.  This is particularly important when you are given a question that asks ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree?’  I see too many people who are taught that they should only mention the part that they agree with.  Doing that will guarantee a lower band score for you because you will not ‘address all parts of the task.’  

2) According to the second bullet point, band 6 candidates may ‘reach a conclusion’ but then repeat that conclusion within their essay.  Again, this is one of the main reasons I say that you should not write what some call a ‘thesis statement’ in your introduction.  I believe this is typical in American essay writing, but it isn’t necessary to do that in IELTS.  If you do, you must be very, very careful not to sound too repetitive in your essay.  Often, band 6 students have one or two main ideas about a topic that they introduce, mention again in their body paragraph, and then repeat in their conclusion.  Look carefully at your own essays to see if you are making this mistake.  Notice that a band 7 candidate, ‘presents a clear position throughout’.  So, if you want to score band 7, you must do the same. 

3)  The third bullet shows that  you must fully develop all of your ideas. This means, you should not simply make a statement as though it is a fact. Instead, you need to present your ideas and then explain why you think this by offering support or an example.  

In the example below, I have presented my idea in pink and then given my support in green:  

Travelling can be very educational, particularly for young people traveling independently.  As children, our main experiences are with our family doing familiar things, but when we travel alone, we are forced to meet new people and experience the new and the unfamiliar.

A band 6 candidate would simply write: ‘Travelling is educational for young people.’ and then move on, without offering any explanation or support. 

Recent Comments

  • Hossein
    3rd August 2020 - 3:26 am ·

    Dear Pauling, I am aiming for band 9. However, I still have many questions regarding “Task Response” in task 2. Unfortunately, there aren’t any perfect and clear references. I would really appreciate if you could put me in the right direction.

  • Mina
    11th January 2020 - 1:52 pm ·

    Hi dear,
    Today I appeared for writing test and I was asked an essay about positive or negative development but I wrote pros and cons …so my task response was wrong. What will be its impact on my band score?

    • Pauline
      11th January 2020 - 1:59 pm ·

      That depends on whether you concluded that ‘overall, this is a positive / negative development.’ Any discussion of a development needs to assess its impact (I/e/ whether there are more pros or more cons) so this in itself is not a problem.

    • Pauline
      7th January 2020 - 12:50 pm ·

      What do you mean by ‘the example part’? Why do you think you cannot use personal pronouns in task 2? I’d suggest you read or re-read the grammar chapter of The Key to IELTS Success and the section on examples in chapter 7.

  • Delta
    20th May 2019 - 10:35 pm ·

    Hi, I had my ielts yesterday and I had the cause and negative effects type of writing task 2. I did paraphrase in my introduction and discussed the causes in paragraph 1 then negative effects in paragraph 2 but unfortunately I forgot to write the conclusion. I just realised now that I did not made a conclusion, maybe I was too anxious and I already reached the bottom of the page without noticing that I forgot the conclusion. How will it affect my score? I’m so worried now. Will it be possible to get 7 or at least 6.5 in writing?

    • Pauline
      21st May 2019 - 8:08 am ·

      It’s really impossible to say what impact this would have on your overall writing score – it is possible that you have made your position very clear throughout, and your plan and organisation sound good. Fingers crossed for you!

  • Sagar
    25th March 2019 - 3:14 am ·

    Hi Pauline,

    I just has my IELTS test yesterday and the topic was about the problems caused by pollution and waste and what individuals can do about it.

    My question is what does waste mean here? Does it mean garbage produced? I perceived it as industrial waste and as part of solution added points like they must be treated before they are let go in our oceans and so on. With regards to pollution, I gave examples on how pollution can cause several health issues and provided solutions like use of cleaner fuels like natural gas and use of electric cars. Now it is implied that this needs to be done by individuals though I have not specifically used the word individuals.

    Do you think I am missing something here and if I will loose any points for task response?

    • Pauline
      25th March 2019 - 8:13 am ·

      Hi Saga, I do not share writing tasks that people have remembered from their test, so I have edited and summarised the question you mentioned. From my edit, can you now see the problem? The question does not expect you to be an expert in industrial waste and solutions to industrial problems, it does ask what individuals – people just like yourself and all of the other candidates – think about the problems related to pollution and what ordinary people can do about this. When you decided that the question was about industrial waste, you were adding to or changing the meaning. This means you may not have talked enough about what ordinary people can do about the problems. Your mention of using cleaner fuels in cars certainly relates to what individuals can do, so do not worry about that, but your focus on industrial waste may be off-topic here.

      • Sagar
        25th March 2019 - 1:28 pm ·

        Thanks Pauline for your prompt response. I know it is very hard to comment on individual essays but still let me ask you something very frankly. If my task response is partial or incomplete but I do really well on lexical resource, cohesion, vocabulary and grammar as well as Task 1, is there a chance to still score band 7 in Writing? Let me know what you think. Appreciate your feedback regarding this.

  • Truc
    1st December 2018 - 2:10 pm ·

    Hi Pauline, I want to ask about the essay “Discuss both views and give your opinion”. Is it necessary that we should state our position from the introduction paragraph and then present clearly through out the response? I mean could we take neutral position, discuss both views and eventually speak our mind in the conclusion?

  • Zakir Sajib
    19th October 2017 - 7:04 am ·

    I divided into 4 parts to address writing task 2 especially for advantage and disadvantage type question.

    For example: if the question comes like this:

    University students are increasingly study abroad as part of their studies. Do the advantages of studying abroad outweigh the disadvantages?

    I usually make into 4 parts:

    Paragraph #1
    Paragraph #2

    Sentence 1: Rewrite ‘general statement’
    Sentence 2: Mention main advantage and disadvantage
    Sentence 3: Give your opinion

    Paragraph #1
    Sentence 1: Outline main advantage
    Sentence 2: Give reason(s)
    Sentence 3: Give example(s)
    Sentence 4: Restate main advantage

    Paragraph #1
    Sentence 1: Outline main disadvantage
    Sentence 2: Give reason(s)
    Sentence 3: Give example(s)
    Sentence 4: Restate main disadvantage

    Sentence 1: Rewrite ‘general statement’
    Sentence 2: Mention main advantage and disadvantage
    Sentence 3: Give your opinion

    Rewrite ‘general statement’ means rephrase the ‘University students are increasingly study abroad as part of their studies.’ in your own words keeping the meaning of the sentence.

  • sangay
    1st May 2017 - 9:09 am ·

    helo there
    recently i did take my ielts exam…i’m bit nervous because i didnt state the clear position in my thesis of task 2 essay ‘ questionis about to what extend do you agree or disagree?’
    will it affect my rating …….please somebody …tell me

    • Pauline
      3rd May 2017 - 12:31 pm ·

      Hi Sangay, it isn’t really possible to say whether this will affect your score a lot – perhaps you did make your position clear throughout the essay – when you say ‘in the thesis’ what do you mean? If you mean that you didn’t state your opinion in the very beginning of your essay, that is not problem. Read through my examples and posts to see why.

  • Yusufboy
    17th February 2017 - 6:48 am ·

    Thanks Madam for a great article. This is a clear instruction for not only students but also language teachers. Please keeping publishing such useful articles.

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IELTS Author Pauline Cullen

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