How is IELTS Writing marked? Examiners who evaluate your answers in the Writing section of the IELTS test use specific assessment criteria. Depending on how many of the descriptors in the criteria your answer has met, a score is assigned.
Basically, according to the IELTS Writing evaluation criteria, the band scores are based on four factors, each of which is judged separately and holds 25 percent of the total score of 9.0:
- Task achievement/ Task response: The actual content of your answer and whether you went off topic or not
- Coherence and cohesion: The development of ideas and the connection between those ideas
- Lexical resource: Use of wide range of vocabulary
- Grammatical range and accuracy: Use of correct grammar in a range of sentence structures
Let us see about each and every aspect of IELTS Writing marking scheme in detail.
IELTS Writing Score Calculator: Task 1 and Task 2
As you know, there are two questions in the Writing section of the IELTS test. The first question, which is referred to as Task 1, is an information transfer question, where you have to convert a visual representation of information into words. Practically speaking, you get an image (often statistical graphs) and you have to describe that image using at least 150 words in 20 minutes.
The second question, which is referred to as Task 2, is a discursive composition question. In other words, you are asked to write an argumentative essay of at least 250 words in 40 minutes.
Out of the total score of 9, Task 1 carries one third of total marks, while Task 2 carries two thirds. You can also say in simple terms that out of 9, Task 1 is worth 3 marks and Task 2 is worth 6 marks (although that is not how the actual score is calculated).
Your overall Writing score will be based on the following formula:
(Task 1 score + Task 2 score + Task 2 score) ÷ 3
For example, if you get 6.0 in Task 1 and 7.0 in Task 2, using the formula we get (6.0 + 7.0 + 7.0) ÷ 3, which is approximately equal to 6.67. This will be rounded off to 6.5.
Task achievement/ Task response
The first criterion of IELTS Writing evaluation is called ‘Task achievement’ for Task 1 and ‘Task response’ for Task 2, but essentially they mean the same thing: did you cover all parts of the question or not?
For Task 1, where you have to describe images, examiners will check the key features you have selected from the image to highlight. You get a high score if you have presented all the main aspects of the image, including key data, trends, and main stages, in clear language. A score of 7 or higher in this criterion is reserved for an answer which fulfills all these.
If all the main aspects are covered but some of the details are inaccurate or irrelevant, then only 6 is given. Moreover, an answer which has more inaccuracies or which misses some key features will get an even lower score.
A summary paragraph, where you mention the cursory details of the image, is absolutely essential for Task 1 questions.
For Task 2, where you write an essay, all parts of the question have to be addressed in a logical manner with ample evidence and relevant ideas to support your position. Answers which lack absolute focus on the topic and fail to provide concrete examples will receive a score lower than 7.
A score of 6 is assigned to an answer which responds to the question in a logical manner but fails to address some vital aspects, does not provide enough supporting evidence, or does not offer clarity in ideas and conclusion.
Coherence and cohesion
This IELTS Writing evaluation criterion covers unity and readability.
By unity, I mean a link between sentences, paragraphs and ideas by the help of cohesive devices. For example, the phrase “on the other hand” is a cohesive device which can be used in your answer to contradict one point from another, while another phrase “in the same manner” can be used to connect two similar points.
By readability, I mean whether the examiner can understand the overall meaning of your answer. The words and sentences you use may not make sense to someone else if you have written without discourse markers. Discourse markers are phrases like “first of all” and “in conclusion”, which tell the reader what to expect while reading.
You have to use cohesive devices and discourse markers in appropriate places with proper logic. Using them haphazardly or at wrong places might decrease your score.
Your logic behind a paragraph should also be proper. A single paragraph should stick to one central theme with clear of development of the central theme.
Finally, referencing devices like pronouns should also be used suitably throughout your answer so that words and phrases are not repetitive.
Examiners are looking for a wide range of technical words in your answer which convey precise meaning. This means you should select words very carefully to match the exact ideas you are trying to describe. While doing this, the more sophisticated words you use the better.
For an instance, let us look at this sentence:
The price of the factory has gone down because it is very old and dirty.
We can rewrite this in the following manner:
There has been depreciation in the value of the factory due to the ravages of time.
The second sentence uses the technical vocabulary for decrease in value of assets “depreciation”, as well as the phrase “ravages of time”, which is an idiomatic expression meaning “damage due to being old”.
An answer which uses the same words repetitively, uses certain words in wrong contexts, and makes spelling errors will see marks deducted drastically.
Grammatical range and accuracy
Here, your grammar not only has to be accurate but it also has to use a wide range of sentence structures.
That means, you should know how to form complex and compound sentence, instead of just simple sentences. While forming these sentences, grammatical aspects (like subject-verb agreement and consistency in tense) should be carefully considered.
IELTS Writing Assessment Criteria: Conclusion
You can download the complete IELTS Writing assessment criteria as a marking sheet. But this is only a tentative guide provided by IELTS and not the actual checklist used by examiners. Neither British Council nor IDP Education has ever revealed the original checklist that they use.
While using these band descriptors, assign scores to the answer of Task 1 in the four criteria separately and take an average of the four scores (add the four numbers and divide by 4). Do the same thing with Task 2. Then, use the formula above to get your Writing band score.
For instance, the table shows scores for different criteria of Task 1:
|Coherence and cohesion||7|
|Grammatical range and accuracy||7|
|Average of the four criteria (6+7+6+7) ÷ 4||6.5|
The table shows scores for different criteria of Task 2:
|Coherence and cohesion||6|
|Grammatical range and accuracy||6|
|Average of the four criteria (5+6+7+6) ÷ 4||6.0|
So, using our formula, (Task 1 score + Task 2 score + Task 2 score) ÷ 3 = (6.5+6.0+6.0) ÷ 3 = 6.16
The number 6.16 is rounded off to get the total Writing band score of 6.0.
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