The IELTS Writing test – How to avoid getting your essay penalized or disqualified

Did you know that in IELTS your marks are taken away for writing an essay, a letter or a report that is too short? The length of your essay dictates how many marks you may lose. Let me explain: if you have written 240 words (instead of the required 250 for an essay), you will lose fewer marks than if you have written only 200 words.

The lesson here is this: even if you don’t have enough time to write 250 words, try to write as much as you can, because then you will lose fewer marks. Obviously the best is to aim at 250-265 words to avoid penalty for underlength.

Did you know that if you write an essay/letter/report but not on the topic you were given, your work can be disqualified? Yes, that’s true and here is another sure way to lose all the marks for writing: memorizing. The examiners are not fools; they are trained professionals and can easily spot a memorized work.

The lesson here is this: don’t take any chances, write an essay on the topic you were given, even if you don’t have brilliant ideas on it. It doesn’t matter how original you are, as long as your writing makes sense and follows the rules of an IELTS essay.

Did you like this post? New ones are coming every day – subscribe and read future updates seconds after they’ve been published.

How to get ideas for an IELTS essay

You guys often ask me this question in the emails: “How do I get ideas for an IELTS essay, when I don’t understand the topic?”. And you’re right, it is extremely hard to write about something you don’t understand.

So here’s what you can do to solve this problem:

  • Work on your vocabulary and learn new words, to make sure you will be able to understand the topic or at least take a very good guess.
  • Read as many IELTS essays as you can. You can find many sample essays here. Reading other people’s essays helps with the ideas, if you don’t have any of your own – “borrow” from others.
  • Read as much IELTS essay topics, as possible. You can find essay topics in every post in the Recent exams category. Why should you do it? Simply because sometimes the topics repeat in the future exams 🙂
  • Important! Don’t try to memorize essays. IELTS examiners are trained to look for memorized essays and they will disqualify your work on the spot.



    • Top 25 IELTS Blogs Winner Award
    • Best Australian Blogs 2014 Competition - People's Choice Winner


    Online course

    Practice tests

    Site Search

    New Services

    Latest Posts: