What Tense to Use in IELTS Writing Task 1

It is essential to use the right tense in IELTS writing task 1, both academic and GT. This page will explain which tenses to use. The academic test will be explained first and lower down the page you will find grammar tips for GT letters.

Also find writing task 1 tips further down the page.

Academic Writing Task 1 Tenses to Use

For IELTS writing task 1, you may be given a map, a diagram, a bar chart, a line graph, a table or a pie chart in the academic test. The IELTS examiner will mark you on the following (each worth 25% of task 1)

  • Task Achievement: information, overview, accurate of data
  • Coherence & Cohesion: Paragraphing, Linking Words
  • Vocabulary: Collocations, Spelling and Accuracy
  • Grammar: Sentence structure, tenses, punctuation, grammar range and accuracy

So, you can see that using the right tense is important in IELTS writing task 1 because it falls into the marking criterion of Grammar.

Dates and Tenses

On your IELTS graph, chart, map, diagram or table, you might find dates. These will tell you what tense to use. See the list below:

  • No Dates = present tense
  • Dates in the Past = Past Tense
  • Dates in the Future = Future Forms
  • Dates spanning both Past and Future = both Past Tense and Future Forms

Using Passive Voice in IELTS Writing Task 1

There are students who seem to think they will get a high score if they use passive voice. This is not true. You can only use passive voice when it is appropriate and correct to do so. Most writing task 1 will not give you this opportunity. However, if you get a diagram, they are usually a combination of passive and active voice.

Mixing both Past Tense and Future Forms

Here is a sample sentence using both tenses:

In 2010, the number of sales stood at 2 million and is forecast to rise to a peak of 10 million by 2050.

You can see past simple “stood” and future forms of prediction “is forecast to”

IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 Tenses

The examiner will mark you using the same criteria as the AC test, but with one difference in Task Achievement. The IELTS examiner will mark you on the following (each worth 25% of task 1). See below:

    • Task Achievement: Purpose, tone and expanding points
    • Coherence & Cohesion: Paragraphing, Linking Words
    • Vocabulary: Collocations, Spelling and Accuracy
    • Grammar: Sentence structure, tenses, punctuation, grammar range and accuracy

For students taking the General Training test. You will use a range of tenses in your letter depending on the aims and purpose. Below are some sample sentences:

  • I am writing to …. (present continuous)
  • I visited your store … (past simple)
  • …the poor service I have received (present perfect)
  • I hope the problem will be resolved … (future form and future passive)
  • I had hoped that … (past perfect)

Tips for IELTS Writing Task 1

Academic writing task 1 tips, click below:

All Tips, Model Answers, Free Video Lessons & Practice for IELTS writing task 1

GT writing task 1 tips, click below:

Essential 10 tips

Differences between GT and Academic Writing Task 1

Main IELTS Pages

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How I Scored 9 in IELTS Reading

“How I got Band 9 in IELTS Reading.”
Manal got band score 9 in IELTS reading with band score 8.5 overall.  Learn how she did it …
Below are her tips for a high score in GT reading:
 Getting 9 in IELTS reading
Manal’s Story and Tips for Band 9 in Reading
Oh I couldn’t believe in my wildest dreams that I scored a 9.0 in Reading. Reading was one of my weakest areas. After I gave the test, I had a gut feeling telling me that probably I scored a 9.0 in Reading. I even got to check all my answers in Listening as well as Reading.
 I re-took the General test. The first time I attempted this test was in October – that time I scored an overall band score of 8.0 with L – 8.5, Reading – 7.0, W – 8.0, S – 9.0. I retook the test specifically to improve my Reading score so obviously I relentlessly practiced tests from the General section of Cambridge IELTS books. I was aiming for a minimum of 8.0 in reading.
 ————————————————–
Tips for Getting Band Score 9 in IELTS Reading
Here are some tips and strategies which you could post. Please feel free to make any editions necessary. I like to explain things in detail, otherwise I do not feel satisfied. You can make them more brief and concise.
Tip 1
Effective time management I can’t stress enough about it. One thing which I meticulously practiced when I did the reading tests was to enforce a strict time division for each section of Reading. Even though in the cambridge books, it states to keep a minimum of 20 minutes for each section. I’d suggest to keep 15 minutes OR less in Section 1 and 2 and to rely solely on skimming and scanning (I mastered to finish Section 1 and 2 in less than 15 minutes leaving me with ample time to solve Section 3 questions). Keep 30 minutes or more for Section 3- where you will need to do a little bit more than skimming and scanning. I usually managed to have 5-10 minutes for revision.
Tip 2
Do not bother reading the passages. It’s a waste of time.
 
 First, read the questions and circle the keywords and then try to look for those keywords or a synonym / paraphased text in the passage. For Section 1 and 2  – skimming and scanning will be your best friends. 
 I didn’t even waste time reading Section 3. I just read the text associated with the questions. 
 
Tip 3
One strategy that worked for me best was “not to overthink” when you are solving the reading questions and to go with your gut instincts – there is no time to think during the 60 minutes of tackling reading questions. Especially this applies to me, because I tend to overthink and over analyze a lot when I am stressed. I struggled a lot with the true false questions. But as I trained myself not to overthink, if the text is there either it will be the same meaning as the question or opposite. If text is not there – not given. 
Tip 4
For paragraph heading questions, only read the first and last sentence of each paragraph. A synonym or a related keyword in the heading title should be there. I also sometimes to be on the safe side for some questions read the second sentence as well.
Tip 5
Although, you will keep hearing from people practice and practice. I personally believe practice is inefficient if you do not learn from your incorrect answers. So it really helps to look at your mistakes and compare with the correct answers in the answer key and to reflect on where you made the mistake. I feel that way – you learn more efficiently.
Hope that helps.
Manal
Comments from IELTS Liz
Thanks so much for sharing your tips, Manal. I think many students will benefit from this and also be inspired to keep aiming for the higher scores 🙂
Anyone who would like to add more tips, please post them in the comments box below 🙂
Useful Links for IELTS Reading:

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Capital Letters in IELTS: Will it affect your score?

When to use capital letters in your IELTS listening and reading test. Will you get a lower score if you make a mistake with capital letters? Can you write your answers in all capital letters? What are the rules for capital letters in IELTS? Capital letters in IELTS 2017.

Using Capital Letters for Answers: IELTS Rules

Capital Letters in IELTS Listening and Reading

In IELTS listening and reading, you can write all your answers in capital letters if you want or not.

  • You can write your answers in small letters if you want.
  • You can mix both capitals and lower case if you want.
  • IELTS will NOT mark your capital letters in listening or reading.

Examples of capital letters in listening and reading:

  • Mr Brown = correct / mR bRown = correct / 9am = correct / 9Am = correct / monday = correct / MONDAY = correct
  • It doesn’t matter if you use capital letters, don’t use them or use them inappropriately – the answer will be correct. So don’t worry.

In IELTS listening, you will be given 10 mins extra to transfer your answers to your answer sheet. Capital letters are not important and punctuation is not marked. If your handwriting is poor, write in capital letters so it is easy to read.

In IELTS reading, you will not get 10 extra mins to transfer your answers. You must write your answers directly on your answer sheet. But it is completely your choice how to write your answers. The most important factor is not capital letters but clear writing – same as for listening.

Capital Letters in IELTS Writing

In IELTS Writing, you can choose to write your essay in capital letters. But I wouldn’t recommend it because:

  1. you have a strict time limit and it takes too long to write in capital letters
  2. you WILL be marked on punctuation so the use of capital letters and lower case is important to show. You must have a capital letter at the start of a sentence, for example.

So, write your essay in lower case and remember to use capital letters when appropriate. The examiner will mark you down if you use capital letters incorrectly. Here is a list of typical words that use capital letters:

When to use capital letters in English grammar

  • Days/ Months = Thursday / September
  • Names and Titles = Mrs J Blogs / Dr Author Jones
  • Countries / Cities = India / Vietnam / Paris / Hong Kong
  • Names of Places = University of London
  • Acronyms = BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)
  • Start of a Sentence = “The majority of people use cars to go to work these days. However, it would be better if they used healthier means of transport such as the bicycle.”

Biggest Mistake with Capital Letters

  • but / because / and
    • These linking words NEVER start with a capital letter because they should NEVER be used to start a sentence. See my page of linking words for writing task 2 to learn tips and get a useful list: IELTS Writing Task 2 Linking Words

What about speaking part 2? Well, the notes you make for your talk are not marked and only you see them. The examiner will not check them or mark them. So, don’t write sentences or bother with punctuation, just write words, ideas and tips to help you present a good talk.

More IELTS Tips

What about using a pen or pencil? Click on this link: IELTS Pen or Pencil

How are words counted in IELTS Listening? Click on this link: How Words are Counted in IELTS

Can I use “I” or “my” in writing task 2? Click on this link: How to express your opinion in IELTS WT2

Tips & Practice for Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking:

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kids or children/ teens or teenagers? Which is best to use in IELTS?

Should you use formal or informal vocabulary in your IELTS writing and speaking?

For example, in IELTS writing task 2 and speaking, should you use…

  • kids or children
  • teens or teenagers?

IELTS Writing Task 2

You should always use formal vocabulary in your IELTS essay. This means you can’t use “kids” or “teens”, you must use “children” or “teenagers”. If you use informal vocabulary, you will be marked down.

IELTS Speaking

Your IELTS speaking test is informal. All parts are informal. Part 1 is based on short answers questions, part 2 is a talk and part 3 is a discussion. It is all informal, friendly and chatty.

This means you use all kinds of language in your speaking test. You can use children and kids. You can use teens and teenagers.

Paraphrases

  • children = youngsters, minors
    • an infant or a toddler is not a strong paraphrase for child because it refers to only very young children
  • teenager = juvenile, adolescent, youth, minor

General Training Writing Task 1

In the General Training test, there are two main types of essays: formal and informal. In an informal letters, which means a letter to a friend or someone you know well (not a boss), you can use informal vocabulary, such as kids and teens. See this page for more tips about GT writing task 1

IELTS Writing Task 2 Tips & Model Essays

See this page for IELTS Writing Task 2 Main Page

IELTS Speaking Tips & Model Answers

See this page for IELTS Speaking Main Page

IELTS Vocabulary

See this page to learn useful IELTS vocabulary

IELTS Band Scores

Learn about IELTS band scores in listening, reading, writing and speaking

All IELTS Information & Tips

See the main pages below and click on the link you need:

Main IELTS Pages

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kids or children / teens or teenagers

A lot of students have a problem knowing what type of vocabulary to use in their IELTS test. Below are two examples:

Which words to use?

kids or children?

teens or teenagers?

Answer

You can find the answer to this here: Answer to Kids or Children

 

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January 2017 IELTS Speaking Topics

Below are reported IELTS speaking topics for January 2017. These topics will probably be used from January to April 2017 so it’s worth preparing ideas for them and practising them. You can also find useful tips and links further down this page.

Speaking Part 1  Topics for Jan 2017

Indoor Games

Hospitality / Visitors

Bags

Celebrities

Future Plans

Teachers

Holidays

Photography

Colour

Books

Shoes

 

Speaking Part 2 & 3 Topics for Jan 2017

A decision you disagreed with / Making Decisions

A place to live for a short time / Living and working in different places

A good service from a company / Business and services

A garden/ Growing food and the Environment

Best Holiday / Tourism and Travel

Starting a business / Business Success

A time you couldn’t use a mobile phone / Technology

An interesting advert / Advertisement

An appointment you forget / Time Management

Your favourite movie / Film Industry and Cinema

A tall building / Buildings and Town Planning

A person you met recently / Making friends and Socialising

A time you worked in a team / Team work & Leadership

Two people who were related to each other / Family

A foreign food / Food Industry, Culture and Foreign Products

Tips and Useful Links

Read these useful tips and follow the links provide to learn more:

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Going Off Topic in IELTS Speaking Part 2

Is it wrong to go off topic in IELTS speaking part 2? Will you get a lower band score if you go off topic? Do you get a higher band score if you stay with the topic and follow the prompts given in IELTS speaking part 2? See the tips below to learn how your IELTS speaking is marked.

  • Is it essential to follow the prompts on your cue card for speaking part 2?
    • No, it isn’t. The prompts on the cue card are guidelines and support to help you build your talk.
  • Will you get a lower score if you don’t complete the cue card prompts?
    • No, you won’t. You can choose which prompts you want to use. You can ignore some and use others. You don’t get a lower score if you don’t complete the cue card prompts.
  • Are there questions to answer on the cue card?
    • No. There are no questions on your cue card. There are only prompts which are suggestions that will help you give a full talk. It is your choice to use them or not.
  • Can you add information in speaking part 2 that isn’t on the cue card?
    • Yes, you can. It is recommended that you add information to expend your talk. You will not get a lower score if you go off the topic by adding extra information that is not on your card.
  • Is the examiner marking your ability to use the prompts on the cue card?
    • No. You are not marked on ideas at all. You are only marked on your use of English language.
  • I heard that going off topic will reduce your score. Is that true?
    • Not for IELTS speaking. It is true for IELTS writing. In IELTS writing, you are marked on your response, ideas and being on topic. This is not the case for IELTS speaking. You can learn how band scores are marked on the links below.
  • Should you follow the prompts on the card?
    • I recommend that you use the prompts and also add extra information. The prompts are useful and provide a structure to your talk which will help your score. Adding extra information is a useful way to showcase your English language for a higher score.

Learn about how your speaking and other skills are marked: IELTS Band Score Explained

Prepare ideas for Common IELTS Speaking Part 2 Topics

Learn more tips for IELTS Speaking on the Main IELTS Speaking Page of this website.

Learn How to Start your Part 2 Talk

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Is Cursive Writing Recommended for IELTS?

Many students have been asking me about cursive handwriting and the best style of handwriting to use in the IELTS test. So, I want to explain to you what the examiner is looking for in your essay and how your handwriting will affect your score.

Can you use cursive script in IELTS writing?

Yes, you can use any style of handwriting you want. It is completely your choice.

Is it better to use cursive writing?

It is neither better nor worse. It makes no difference to your score.

HOWEVER, if your writing is difficult to read, you might lose points. If the examiner can’t read it, he or she won’t be able to give you a high score. Your writing MUST be clear and easy to read at all times!!

More Hand Writing Tips:

See the following link for Tips on Using Pen or PencilIf you want to learn about practicing your hand writing on the answer sheet for IELTS writing, see this link: Official IELTS Writing Task 2 Paper & Tips

Should you indent your paragraphs? See this page to learn about indenting or leaving an empty line between paragraphs:

You can find more tips and model essays for writing task 2 on the Main Writing Task 2 Page. All other main pages for other parts of the IELTS test can be found below. For advanced writing task 2 lessons, see my online store: IELTS Liz Store

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