IELTS Writing Task 2: Essay Planning Tips

IELTS essay planning tips. Learn how to plan your IELTS essay successfully. Learn how to use your time to plan ideas and paragraphs as well as other essential aspects of your IELTS essay.

Should I spend time planning my essay?

Yes, you should. 50% of your marks as based on your ability to answer the essay question directly, present relevant ideas, have clear supporting points to extend the main ideas, to organise your ideas and have logical paragraphing. So, spending time planning is essential for any student aiming for band score 6, 7, 8 or 9.

When you get to writing task 2, you will be tired. You will already have done the listening test, reading test and writing task 1. This means your concentration and energy levels will be low. It is easy to make a mistake with the essay question, lose focus in your writing and present disorganised ideas. This is another reason why planning is so important. It helps you focus and create a clear strategy with clear ideas. This will make writing your essay easier and help you write a strong essay.

How much time should I spend planning?

Some teachers will tell you to plan for at least 10 minutes. This is good advice but I know what most students are too nervous to spend so much time planning. Other teachers advise students to spend about 3 minutes. This is enough to plan main ideas but not to plan supporting points and to organise ideas.

I advise you to spend at least 5 minutes planning. You must practice planning your essay and calculate how long it really takes you to create a strong plan for your essay. Whatever you decide, know that planning is critical. Lack of planning is the common downfall of most students.

What should I plan before I start writing?

You should have a clear outline of the following before you start your essay:

  • identifying the issues in the essay question
  • brainstorming main points
  • choosing the best main points
  • planning supporting points
  • organising paragraphs

Should I practice planning my essays at home before my test?

Yes, definitely. There is a skill to good logical essay planning which you need to practice. On this blog, I have over 100 essay questions for IELTS writing task 2. While it might be difficult to practice writing over 100, you should certainly spend time planning a lot of them even if you don’t have time to write the full essay. The better you are at planning, the better your essay will be. See the link below for essay questions.

Where can I write my plan?

You can write your plan on the question paper. There is plenty of room to write on the question paper and the examiner will not see it. The examiner only sees the answer sheet. So, use the question paper to plan your essay.


I have seen many high level students with very good English fail to get band score 7, not because of their English, but because of their poor essay planning. Don’t let that happen to you! Plan your essay thoroughly before you start writing your essay.


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  1. Kashif Aujla ACA says:

    Thanks Liz… your tips and lectures were amazing…. i jut prepared for two days from your blog and did very well in today’s exams… but not sure about speaking..

    • I’m glad to hear it went well for you. I’ll keep my fingers crossed you get a good score in speaking 🙂

  2. hello mam, while writing in task 1 and task 2 should I underline with pencil the main points???????

  3. Basil george says:

    Good afternoon liz

    When we get an opinion type of essay, after brainstorming ideas and the selection of relevant ideas how can we for the explanation ? Do you have any method to explain our ponits / arguments?

    • Each body paragraph states one reason why you have your opinion. Each body paragraph presents one main point with explanation and detail to support or explain your view.

  4. Kazi Musa says:

    great articles indeed

  5. Hello Liz,
    Thank you for your website.. it’s very useful and helped me a lot in all the the 4 parts.. i was wondering if you will be giving any discount for advanced Ielts in the near future.


    • Hopefully next month 🙂

      • JASVIR RANDHAWA says:

        HELLO LIZ,




        • Uncommon vocabulary is fine to use when it is appropriate but it will not give you a higher score when you use is inappropriately. In normal essay writing for IELTS, we do not write “acquiesce”, however we do use “agree”. Be appropriate at all times – any use of inappropriate vocabulary will lower your score. The passive voice is used when it is appropriate, for example “it is thought that” instead of “people think that”.

  6. Saeed Mollaee says:

    Thanks for your useful website
    in Writing task2,what should we do if we would not know the meaning of the keyword.for example,if the topic asks us to explain our opinion about Anorixia(one of my friend`s topic)
    would you please guide me?

    • This is a difficult situation. In writing task 2, you are being marked on your ability to address all the issues in the essay question. If you don’t understand the words, you won’t get a high score. There is nothing you can do except try to guess the meaning and write your essay as closely to the topic as you can. Each exam is a gamble in some way as you can’t predict the topics which is why some students take more than one test.

  7. harpreet says:

    Hi mam
    My ielts exam date 4 August 2016
    Please send me some information writing task 2 questions

  8. Hello liz.. I want to know about the singular and plural answers in listening.. if I could just catch the word and not the tense.. for example waiter and waiters.. what should I do. Can I write the answer using a slash for example.. waiter/waiters or a bracket like waiter(s)… to be on a safer side….

  9. Sreelatha rajesh says:

    Hi mam,
    I have an advise for everyone, please read the question at least three time .Then only you will understand the question clearly.

    • Good advice. Not only read it three times but underline key words in the question to ensure your essay addresses all parts of the task.

  10. Hi mam can u please give me an example about how actually u prepare ur plan brainstorming for eassy give me some example so that i can practise a bit please?

  11. Dear Liz
    Is it right if I have my topic sentence in the middle or at the end of a paragraph? I mean “starting the paragraph with explanation or supporting ideas, then putting the topic sentence if it is possible to logically and grammatically add it”.
    Will it increase my overall band score?
    I’m looking forward to hearing you at your earliest convenience. Thanks in advance

  12. hi😊 good day., i am practicing myself on the writing area where i only got a 5.5 score on my first ielts exam., i will retake ielts on saturday ( jan. 23) please help me do better to get a band score of at least 6 here is a writing on what i have done in a full 40 mins… >>there seems to be an increasing number of serious crimes committed each year. while some think the best way is to use the death penalty as a deterrant , many people believe that other measures will be needed. discuss both sides. it seems taht there is a growing number of serius crimes committed each year cycle. a number of people believe that the most effective method as a deterrent is to use the death penalty, on the other hand , people think that there are other measures that will be needed. death penalty have been implemented in some countries like china, uae and malaysia. by this punishment, people in their country are afraid to commit a crime. they are afraid to be caught and be put into death. though, there are still some who have committed crimes. before the day of their scheduled death penalty, their family members were the ones who were trying to convince the government to give them another chance and forgive the culprit. but having mercy with the relatives will not hinder the official to push through the punishment & abide to their law. another were the tourists. they have commited a crime because they are unaware of the law and their practices that such death penalty is being used in their country. though they are unaware, they are still unexcused to acquire the said penalty. as tonwhat the law states ” ignorance of the law excuses no one ” . many have witnessed death penalty is really implemented and no one is exempted because they are just following the law. thus, many people believe that death penalyty is the best method to reduce the number of crimes annually. however , other believe that other measures will be needed to control the increasing number of crimes. such measures are putting the culprit into jail,and also having the person person pay the damages he has done. this punishment will give the suspect a little chance to put right what he has done wrong. by this methods, the person will realize that it is not easy to be in prisonned and to pay a big amount of money. he is internalizing that he will not commit a crime agaiin because he is now suffering inside the cell and in paying a big amount of money, it is a big lost for the person. by this methods, folks will be aware that if you will commit a crime there is a certain punishment that would be given to you. this will be a factor to decrease the crimes that is happening in a year. 😊please have time to read it and please give comments on my weaknesses . thank you 😄

  13. Angad saggu says:

    Mam I am confused about writing the main paragraphs of the essay , please help me on that

  14. Hi Liz.

    I have two questions

    1. Even though I use a pencil, I keep missing words or phrases in the middle of sentences, which I notice later. What I always do is use the following arrow sign to add the info – ” ^ ” on top. But is it forbidden to use this technique in the IELTS exam?

    2. Does neatness matter?

    I am looking forward to your reply. And I really wanted to thank you for helping all of us prepare for this exam.

  15. Hi Liz,

    I bought 3 of your videos and I watched discussion essay video today. I have a query writing one sided discussion essays. As per video tutorial, in BP1, you have given your opinion along with others’ view and in BP2, opinions of people for other side . But is it not required to mention why we are not choosing the second opinion?

    I am practising sample discussion essay questions now. Your video helped me a lot.

    Thanks and Regards,

    • If the question was “To what extent do you agree” you should certainly explain why you don’t agree with the other side because your whole essay is about giving your opinion in lots of detail. However, this is a discussion essay with an opinion. That means the opinion takes up only 30% of the whole essay. You don’t have enough words to explain why you support one side and also why you don’t support the other side. For this reason, the structures I have suggested work best.
      All the best

  16. Hello Liz,

    My question is , is there any word limit for writing example in writing task 2. How many examples we can write in writing task 2.

  17. Dear Liz,

    Thanks for the wonderful information. I have a question, what tense shall I choose in writings task 2? Can I choose more than one tense? What about passive and active voices? And what shall I use?


  18. Dr. Syed Iqtidar Ali Raza says:

    Dear Liz
    Thanks for the reply in which you recommended me your video lesson on task conclusion /overview. But my problem is that I can’t open any of your video lessons. Don’t know how to get it open. If u could kindly help or if I can find these lessons in written form
    Thanks and regards

  19. Dr. Syed Iqtidar Ali Raza says:

    Dear Liz
    Do we have to write conclusion in task 1?????
    Waiting for your valuable reply

  20. Hello,
    I found in some Ielts task 2 questions of writing this sort of sentence : “Do you have any reservations?” or similar.
    Can you please explain me what this means

    • There is no IELTS writing task 2 question like that. You should only be using IELTS Cambridge test papers to practice writing.
      All the best

  21. Dear teacher,
    Should we use these terms:
    1. However, we should not turn a blind eye to the unexpected outcomes, one of which is the…
    2. This is not to say that… / Those who harbor the view that…would argue that…

    • Certainly don’t use the first one. You can’t memorise a whole sentence or 17 words together and pretend that they are your own. The examiner will know that you have memorised that language and will not count it. For the other examples, they are shorter and more flexible so are fine.
      All the best

      • Thanks a lot for your advice 🙂
        I also find this kind of question confusing: ‘Do you think this is a positive or negative development?’ do I discuss both sides along with giving my opinion? or should I focus on my chosen view?

        • I don’t know how to explain it more clearly. It does not ask for both, it does not say “and”. It says “or” which means you choose. Your opinion is your choice and is the only task given to you. The whole essay is your answer. You chose one and explain it.
          All the best

  22. Hi Liz,

    Thank you so much for your fantastic website.
    For the essays that ask for the reasons of a specific problem as well as the solutions, can we include the solution at the end of each paragraph that starts with the topic of the reasons of the problem? If not, how can we arrange the paragraphs if we want to offer more than one solution? What I usually do is: introduction, 1st reason or main point in the 1st paragraph, 2nd reason in the other paragraph, and one solution that is included in conclusion. Is that okay? Also, I usually, write my thesis as: “This essay will explore the reasons of this issue as well as the solutions.” In this way, I try to attract the reader’s attention to follow the essay for my reasons and solutions, Is that okay or do I need to mention the specific reasons and solutions in my thesis? I’m a bit confused, would you please advise?

    Thank you in advance

    • Always keep your paragraphing clear and logical. One body paragraph – reason(s) and one body paragraph for the solution(s).
      All the best

  23. Dear mam,
    I have just found your website and it’s very important every ielts test takers as I. So I first thank for you.
    I had five times ielts general module exam and unfortunately, every time I have received 5.5 for reading and listening how can I improve my score up to 7 for both .

  24. Bobby Jacob says:

    Respected Madame,
    Greetings to you.I got my UKVI IELTS Academic results just today.Unfortunate enough,I scored only 6.5 in writing module where I was requiring and expecting band 7.Additionally,I scored 7 in speaking and 8 in both reading and listening.I need to achieve band 7 in each module and overall for my NMC registration in U.K..
    Albeit,I am contemplating on re-evaluation but am dithering about it for the fact that it takes 7 weeks for the outcome.Therefore,I request your valuable opinion regarding re-evaluation and the chances of getting band 7 from 6.5 when evaluated by a senior British examiner.
    In anticipation.
    Your faithfully,
    P.S.: kindly oblige me by evaluating my leter.

    • You could consider a remark for writing if you can answer “yes” to the following questions:
      Task 1
      1. did you write a clear overview in task 1? Did your overview contain ALL key features?
      2. Did you avoid the conclusion? It isn’t needed.
      3. Did you support your body paragraph with facts, dates and numbers, if you had a chart, table or graph?
      4. Did you write over 150 words? If you didn’t don’t bother with a remark.
      Task 2
      5. Did you write a clear answer to the essay question in your introduction? If you were asked for an opinion, did you put it in the introduction?
      6. Did you write over 250 words? If you didn’t, don’t bother with a remark.
      7. Did each body paragraph have a clear central topic?
      8. Did you use a range of linking devices? If you use a reasonable range, it’s ok.
      9. Did you finish your essay? Did you write a conclusion? If you didn’t don’t bother with a remark.
      10. Did you over paraphrase? Did you try to change words too much which produces too many errors?

      Hopefully that will help you make the right decision. It is possible to get an increase of 0.5 in one skill. But it does depend on your performance relating to the above points.
      All the best

  25. Kaushal says:

    Hi Liz,

    I need your suggestion as I’m unable to figure out where I am losing the score.

    S-6.5, R-7.5, L-7.5, W-7.0 (1st attempt, 13 Jun)
    S-8.0, R-8.0, L-8.0, W-6.0 (2nd attempt, 27 Jun)

    As I needed at least a 7 in each section, I knew it after 1st attempt that I’d messed it up in Speaking and immediately booked the next available date.

    However, in next one as you can see, my score has dropped by an entire band (7.0 to 6.0) in Writing, though, the score went up in all the other sections.

    As far as Writing goes, I think I’ve lost marks in task achievement section.

    It was a double essay question and I did follow your paraphrasing techniques in the introduction as well as conclusion.

    Also, made sure that I’ve directly answered both the questions.

    But was not confident after exam in task achievement criteria.

    Moreover, I’ve booked next exam in 2 weeks and need your suggestion on the things that I should concentrate on to get at least a 7 in Writing.

    • The problem with writing could lie in either task 1, task 2 or both. You mention Task Achievement but this is for task 1 not task 2. Task Response is for task 2. You need to learn more about how your writing is assessed and what the examiner is looking for. See my band score pages in the writing sections.

      Also ask yourself these questions:
      Task 1
      1. Did you write an overview?
      2. Did the overview contain ALL key features?
      3. Did you avoid the conclusion?
      4. Did you use the right grammar, the right vocabulary and the right linking devices for the type of task?
      5. Did you have two body paragraphs?
      6. Did you avoiding giving too much detail?
      7. Did you write over the word count?

      If you answer “yes” to all the above questions, the problem might be writing task 2. You will need to review all lessons. It is a shame to book your next test in only two weeks when you don’t know where your problem lies. However, hopefully you will be successful and work on your weaknesses.
      All the best

      • Hi Liz,

        After you’ve pointed out, it indeed sounds silly that I’ve booked anothe exam before understanding my weaknesses.

        Thanks for sharing this valuable advice.

  26. Hello Mam,
    I got to know about your website through youtube i am thankful for that, i have gone through some of the topics which are very helpful especially for international students,the information you are sharing here is practical and easy to understand i am practising it daily. Firstly i wanted to ask you about brainstorming.What is the minimum or maximum number of ideas we should brainstorm, and secondly while Paraphrasing we sometime get confused while replacing the words. Is there any list of paraphrasing words used frequently? or Is there any technique to develop that skill ? looking for your reply.
    Thanking You

    • For your first question about brainstorming. You should brainstorm as many ideas as you can but not all of them will need to be used. If you have a body paragraph about advantages, you might need just one, two or three advantages. The key is how well you explain your ideas not the number. In terms of paraphrasing, the key is not making mistakes and not over-paraphrasing. A word such as “work” (noun), could also be “job” or “career” but they can only be used in particular situations because “job” and “career” do not have exactly the same meaning. Yes, you should change the words but you certainly shouldn’t paraphrase when it is not possible or when the meaning changes. Good paraphrasing is about learning the exact meaning of a word and how to use it and when to use it. Watch this video for some simple tips:

  27. Hi ,this is sharmin from Bangladesh. I am in a problem with the introduction of an easy topic “in some countries the average weight of people is increasing and their levels of health and fitness are decreasing. ”

    I tried but could not able to paraphrasing this topic . So I badly need your help. Would you please write a good introduction of this which will be really helpful.

    Thanks .

    • I will give you the background statement not the full introduction. “A growing number of people around the world have weight problems and their general health is deteriorating.”
      All the best

  28. Lisa Hecht says:

    Tomorrow is my IELTS test and therefore the first “IELTS-Liz free day”. 🙂
    You helped me to improve my English knowledge which is now definitely on a better level then before.

    thank you so much for providing all these lessons and being such a great help!

    I couldn’t be more thankful!

  29. Hi Liz
    In writing part of IELTS Task 2 . essay writing . Is the writing pattern same for AT and GT

    • The essay structure is the same for both GT and academic tests. All lessons on this site are for both the GT and academic essay.

  30. excellent teacher.

  31. I am not able to open soundcloud

    • That’s a shame. I will eventually change my audio system but it will take quite a lot of time unfortunately.

  32. I can not hear ur audio

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