Hey! A lot of students tell me that they have problems with time management in the IELTS writing test. If you don’t finish both Task 1 and Task 2 in 60 minutes, you are going to find it very hard to achieve a high score (even if your writing is great!). So, in this week’s blog, I want to show you two steps that will help you to analyse your writing to find out where exactly your IELTS time management problems lie.
Step 1: Find out which task is causing you problems with time
You have 60 minutes to complete Task 1 and Task 2. However, as Task 1 is worth 1/3 of your total score, and Task 2 is worth 2/3, you should spend roughly 20 minutes on Task 1 and 40 minutes on Task 2.
Most students practice the tasks independently i.e they write only an essay or only a report / letter. It is essential, however, that you practice doing both in one hour. Even if you can finish both separately in the required time, it is very different being able to do them one after the other in 60 minutes.
Think about it – just switching your brain from one task to the other takes time, and if you are writing by hand, there is a lot more stress on those poor fingers (I genuinely don’t know if I can write for an hour by hand anymore!)
So, the first thing you need to do is sit down and complete a full IELTS writing test i.e. Task 1 and Task 2.
Don’t try to stick to 60 minutes – just time how long each part takes. This should help you to identify which part you are struggling to finish in time. Is it Task 1, or Task 2? Don’t panic if it is both – at least we now know what we have to focus on!
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Step 2: Time the individual stages to identify your weak area
Once you know which task (or tasks!) is causing you problems with time, you then have to identify exactly which part of the writing process is slowing you down. Guess how we are going to do that? Yep, we are going to time ourselves again!
But now we are going to time the individual steps of the writing process.
Yes, we are going to break down the essay / report / letter into smaller parts to find out which ones you can do quickly and which are taking too much time. Look at the following guides – they will help you understand how much time you SHOULD be taking on each part.
IELTS Time Management: Essays
Plan: 5 mins
Write Introduction: 5 mins
Write Body Paragraph 1: 10 mins
Write Body Paragraph 2: 10 mins
Write Conclusion: 5 mins
Error Check: 5 mins
Which part of your IELTS essay is taking too long?
The solutions to your time management problem will depend on where you are currently taking too long:
- Planning? Then you need to focus on generating good ideas more quickly
- Introduction / Conclusion? If you are taking too long there, then you simply need to learn more about how to approach the start and end of each type of essay. Every IELTS essay has a different style of introduction / conclusion, but once you know them, they should take you very little time. (There are lessons on how to write introductions and conclusions for every type of essay in my writing course)
- Body Paragraphs? These are the most complex to diagnose. You need to dig deeper to locate the exact problem. Do you find topic sentences hard to write? Do you know how to build arguments? Are you struggling to find a good example? Try your hardest to pinpoint the exact reason. Writing good paragraphs involves a number of skills – which one are you lacking? Also, is it your language that is the problem? If you are spending too long thinking about complex sentence structures of relevant lexis, you have to focus on upping your general language skills before continuing your preparation.
By the way, I have a really useful blog post about what to do if you run out of time while writing your essay in the real exam. Hopefully, if you follow the instructions here, this won’t happen to you, but it is always good to know what to do in an emergency! Click here to read!
IELTS Time Management: Academic Report
Find Key Features and Plan: 3 mins
Write Overview: 5 mins
Write Specific Details Paragraphs: 10 mins
Error Check: 2 mins
Which part of your IELTS report is taking too long?
- Planning? Well, you have probably not been taught how to quickly organise reports. Try to group similar items in the chart i.e. items that have big increases, or small increases
- The overview? IELTS uses the same key features again and again, so finding them shouldn’t take you too long if you have trained properly. If you struggle writing the overview, then you either need more practice or more training. (There are lessons on how to find key features for every type of chart in my Academic Task 1 course)
- Specific details paragraphs?Writing the specific details paragraphs should be the easiest part of the writing exam. They are purely descriptive and use the same language in every test. If you are finding this hard, you need to sit down and learn vocabulary and sentence structures for change charts / compare charts / processes / maps. Once you have this language in your tool box, these sentences should be very easy to write.
IELTS Time Management: Letter
Plan letter: 3 mins
Write Opener: 2 mins
Write Body of letter: 12 mins
Write Closer: 1 min
Error Check: 2 mins
Which part of your IELTS letter is taking too long?
- Planning? This would surprise me! All IELTS letters are organised in the same way!!! Click here to watch my free lesson on organising letters.
- Openers and Closers? Again, these should take almost no time to write as they are predictable. Yes, you have to learn how to correctly open and close different types of letter (and this is a place where people go wrong all the time in terms of tone) but once you know these set phrases, it should take just a few seconds to use them.
- The body? Well, again, if you have problems with the body, you probably have problems with language. Improving your lexis and grammar takes time, but it can be quicker in the long run to take some general English lessons and then come back to IELTS. Also, make sure that you address all of the bullets in the body of your letter- if you don’t, you will get a 5.0 for Task Achievement!
I hope you found this useful! IELTS time management is a big feature of the exam, so it is important that you take the time to get it right (!). Remember that I cover every aspect of all three writing tasks in my video courses, so if you are struggling with writing, I can help. Plus, the first three lessons in every course are free, so you can start learning today! 🚀