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Improve your IELTS writing score: 14 tips for IMGs

Get a 7.0 in the IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 with these 14 strategies - an essential step to obtaining your GMC registration.

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International doctors sitting at desks focused on writing essays for the IELTS academic UKVI writing task in a classroom setting.

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The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a globally recognised English proficiency test. Among its four components—Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking—the Writing section often poses a significant challenge for many International Medical Graduates. This article provides an in-depth guide to enhance your IELTS Writing Task 2 performance so you can reach that coveted 7.0 needed for GMC registration.

1. Understand the Task

The first step towards a high score in IELTS Writing Task 2 is understanding the task. Whether you’re writing for the Academic or General Test, ensure you comprehend what the prompt is asking.

  • If it’s an opinion essay, identify both sides of the issue.
  • If it’s a discussion essay, make sure you understand the topic and the different views you need to discuss.

Understanding the task will help you plan your essay effectively. Spend a few minutes reading and re-reading the prompt to ensure you grasp its nuances.

Misinterpreting the task can lead to off-topic writing, which will lower your score significantly.

2. Plan Your Essay

Before you start writing, create an outline. An outline helps you stay focused, organise your ideas, and maintain a logical flow in your essay.

What are the main components of your essay? It should include a thesis statement, main points for each paragraph, and evidence to support each point. Remember, your thesis statement is the backbone of your essay, and every paragraph should relate back to and support it.

lanning might seem like a time-consuming step, but it saves time in the long run by providing a roadmap for your essay.

3. Write Clear and Cohesive Paragraphs

Each paragraph should present one main idea, supported by evidence. Here’s a 3-part structure to follow for each paragraph:

  1. Start with a topic sentence
  2. Follow it up with supporting details
  3. And finish with a concluding sentence that links back to your thesis statement.

This structure helps maintain clarity and cohesion in your writing. It’s essential to ensure that your paragraphs are not too long or too short. A well-structured paragraph with a clear focus will make your argument more persuasive and readable.

4. Use a Formal and Academic Tone

IELTS Writing Task 2 requires a formal and academic tone. Avoid using informal language, contractions, or colloquial expressions. Though you might use these in day to day conversations, the IELTS Academic is a formal test. So instead, use a variety of academic vocabulary and complex sentences to demonstrate your language proficiency.

If you’re thinking about using idioms and figures of speech, that is acceptable as long as you use it accurately and appropriately.

Remember, the IELTS is a test of your English language ability, not your ability to use complex, obscure words.

5. Address All Parts of the Task

Ensure your essay fully addresses all parts of the task.

  • If the task asks for your opinion, make sure you state it clearly and discuss it throughout the essay.
  • If the task asks you to discuss different views, ensure you present a balanced discussion and provide a clear conclusion.

Failing to fully address the task can lead to a lower score, so read the task carefully and make sure your essay answers every part of it.

6. Manage Your Time

Time management is crucial in IELTS Writing Task 2. You have 40 minutes to understand the task, plan your essay, write it, and proofread it. Practice writing essays within this time limit to build your speed and efficiency.

It’s a good idea to time yourself during practice sessions to get a feel for the time pressure and learn to pace yourself. As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to take the time to understand the task and plan it so make sure to practise doing this.

7. Use a Variety of Language

Showcase your language skills by using a variety of vocabulary and grammatical structures. However, avoid using words if you’re unsure about their meaning or context. Misused vocabulary can confuse the reader and lower your score. Try to learn synonyms for common words and use them accurately in your writing. Using a range of grammatical structures accurately will also boost your score.

Here are examples of different grammatical structures you might incorporate:

1. Simple Sentences

Simple sentences contain one independent clause. They are straightforward but essential for clarity.

  • Example: “The government launched a new policy.”

2. Compound Sentences

Compound sentences consist of two or more independent clauses joined by a conjunction or punctuation.

  • Example: “The government launched a new policy, and the public reacted positively.”

3. Complex Sentences

Complex sentences contain an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. They are great for showing relationships between ideas.

  • Example: “Although the government launched a new policy, the public reaction was mixed.”

4. Compound-Complex Sentences

Compound-complex sentences contain two or more independent clauses and at least one dependent clause, allowing for depth in expressing ideas.

  • Example: “Although the government launched a new policy, the public reaction was mixed, and experts remained cautiously optimistic.”

5. Passive Voice

The passive voice can be used to shift focus from the subject performing an action to the object receiving the action.

  • Example: “A new policy was launched by the government.”

6. Modal Verbs for Possibility and Obligation

Modal verbs like could, should, would, might, and must express possibility, ability, permission, or obligation.

  • Example: “The government must address these issues to ensure public safety.”

7. Relative Clauses

Relative clauses, which can be restrictive or non-restrictive, provide additional information about a noun.

  • Example: “The policy, which was introduced last year, aimed to reduce unemployment.”

8. Conditional Sentences

Conditional sentences express hypotheses about what could happen, what might have happened, and what we wish would happen.

  • Types:
    • Zero Conditional: “If you heat ice, it melts.”
    • First Conditional: “If the policy succeeds, the economy will improve.”
    • Second Conditional: “If the policy were introduced today, it would face opposition.”
    • Third Conditional: “If the policy had been introduced earlier, the outcome might have been different.”

9. Question Forms

Using different types of questions can engage the reader and introduce topics.

  • Example: “What impact will the new policy have on the economy?”

By varying your sentence structure and employing a range of grammatical forms, you demonstrate your language proficiency and ability to articulate complex ideas effectively. This variety is crucial for achieving a high score in the IELTS Writing Task 2.

8. Proofread Your Essay

Proofreading your essay is a crucial final step in the IELTS Writing Task 2 process. It serves as your last opportunity to catch and correct errors before submission.

But proofreading is not merely about spotting spelling or grammatical mistakes; it’s also about ensuring your arguments are presented coherently and logically. As you proofread, pay attention to the flow of your essay. Check that each paragraph transitions smoothly to the next and that your thesis statement aligns with the body and conclusion of your essay.

Proofreading also allows you to refine your vocabulary and sentence structure, this will enhance the overall quality of your writing. It’s easy to overlook errors or awkward phrasing in the heat of writing, so take these final moments to read your essay with fresh eyes.

Remember, a well-proofread essay can significantly boost your score by demonstrating your attention to detail and command over the language.

9. Practice Regularly

Regular practice is essential to mastering the IELTS Writing Task 2. By writing essays on a wide range of topics, you can familiarise yourself with different question types and develop a versatile writing style. Each practice session is an opportunity to experiment with various sentence structures, vocabulary, and arguments.

By writing regularly, you can identify recurring mistakes and areas of weakness in your writing. You can then improve these over time to improve the quality of your writing.

Consistent practice also enhances your ability to organise your thoughts quickly and express them clearly under time limits, an important skill for the IELTS exam.

10. Seek Feedback

Feedback is a critical component of your IELTS preparation, since we’re often blind to our own deficiencies.

But not all feedback is equal.

Ideally, this feedback should come from an IELTS tutor or someone knowledgeable about the exam’s criteria, ensuring that the advice you receive is relevant and constructive.

11. Stay Updated with Current Topics

The IELTS exam often explores themes related to society, the environment, technology, and culture, among others. By regularly reading news articles, listening to podcasts, and engaging with diverse media, you can accumulate a broad knowledge base to support your arguments. This not only aids in generating ideas during the planning phase but, also enables you to write with authority and insight about various topics.

In addition to providing content for your essays, familiarity with current topics can boost your confidence and reduce anxiety during the exam. When you encounter a familiar prompt, you’re more likely to feel prepared and capable of writing a coherent and compelling response. 

12. Learn to Paraphrase

Paraphrasing is a vital skill in the IELTS Writing Task 2, enabling you to restate the essay prompt in your introduction without repeating the same language.

To achieve effective paraphrasing, you need a strong vocabulary and a good understanding of sentence structure, allowing you to convey the same idea in different words. Practice this skill by taking sentences from various sources and rewriting them in multiple ways, focusing on maintaining the original meaning while altering the expression.

3. Develop Your Ideas Fully

Developing your ideas fully is crucial to constructing persuasive and coherent essays. Each paragraph should center around a single main idea, supported by detailed explanations, examples, and evidence. By thoroughly exploring each point, you create a logical progression of ideas that guides the reader through your argument. This clarity of thought and structure makes your essay easier to follow and more impactful. It also demonstrates your ability to analyse and discuss complex issues, a key skill assessed in the IELTS Writing Task 2.

14. Stay Calm and Confident

Maintaining calm and confidence during the IELTS exam is as important as your linguistic and analytical skills. Anxiety can prevent you from thinking clearly, organising your thoughts, and recalling vocabulary. All can negatively impact your performance. 

To combat this, incorporate stress management techniques into your preparation, such as deep breathing, meditation, or visualisations of success. These practices can help stabilise your emotions and sharpen your focus on exam day.

Confidence also plays an important role in your exam performance. This confidence is built on thorough preparation, including consistent practice, feedback incorporation, and familiarity with the exam format.

 Remember, every step of your preparation—from understanding the task requirements to practicing under time constraints—is designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed. Trust in the hard work you’ve put in and approach the exam with a mindset that you are well-prepared to face the challenge. Good luck!

Have any writing tips? Share your wisdom for other IMGs in the comments below!

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Looking for a step-by-step guide?

Subscribe to the Savvy IMG and grab your FREE 2-year roadmap to UK residency as an IMG.


Looking for a step-by-step guide?

Subscribe to the Savvy IMG and grab your FREE 2-year roadmap to UK residency as an IMG.


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Meet the Team

Hi, we’re Drs Nick & Kimberly Tan, the two IMGs behind The Savvy IMG. We write comprehensive guides, create courses, and provide one-to-one guidance to help other overseas qualified doctors on their journey to the UK.
We have scoured the official guidance to put these posts together, but we can make mistakes! If you spot anything that is incorrect, please get in touch and we’ll put it right.
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