IELTS Academic Writing

Write IELTS! Your Guide to Academic Writing

Academic writing is the style of English that we must produce in the IELTS Writing Academic module in order to get a score of Band 6 or above. It’s no use writing in an eighth-grade homework style when the purpose of IELTS Academic is to gain entry to a university or profession.

So, what is academic writing and how can we reproduce that writing style under severe time pressure in IELTS? Read the following features of academic writing style and try to use them in your next IELTS Writing practice test.

Academic writing is linear

Academic writing in English is usually a way for a writer to establish and defend a position. That means the writer’s position should be clear from the beginning, and the points that follow should support that position. When opposing ideas are introduced, they should be refuted. The conclusion follows logically from the body of the essay.

This essay will give two reasons for the lack of progress.

The first reason for the lack of progress is the lack of a political consensus.

The second reason for the lack of progress is the poor state of the economy.

For these two reasons, almost no progress has been made in strengthening workers’ rights.

Academic writing is complex

The assessment criteria of IELTS Writing reward candidates who write in both simple and complex sentences. As a rule, try to make at least 50% of your sentences complex. Use participles (V+ing, V+ed) or relative pronouns (‘which’, ‘that’) to add subordinate clauses, or include special punctuation like the colon (:) or semi-colon (;).

Global temperatures are expected to rise further, threatening the livelihood of millions of people worldwide.

The rise in global temperatures, which began at the start of the industrial revolution, shows no signs of slowing down.

Many reasons have been cited for the rise in global temperatures; however, most climate scientists agree that human activity is the main cause.

Academic writing is clear

Wait a minute: didn’t I just say that academic writing is complex? Now it should be clear? Well, here’s the difference: make your grammar complex but your points clear. State your opinion clearly using recognisable phrases such as ‘I am against’ or ‘It is my view that’. Then link your ideas with discourse markers such as ‘on the other hand’ and ‘furthermore’.

At first glance, the data reveals a clear pattern.

This essay will give three reasons for the long-term decline in violent crime.

In conclusion, I am in favour of stricter punishments for hate speech.

Academic writing gives evidence

Task 1 in IELTS Academic Writing requires you to describe a set of data or a diagram. For every claim you make in your answer, be sure to support it with evidence from the question. The evidence may be in the form of precise numbers, or you could use ‘round numbers’ to make it easier for your reader to understand. Both are fine in IELTS.

According to the diagram, there were fewer than 100 murders committed nationwide last year.

From the data we can also see that the overall rate of crime has almost doubled.

The chart shows that violent crime has decreased significantly as a proportion of all crimes committed, from 18% in 1980 to just 7% in 2015.

Academic writing uses ‘hedging’ where it can’t give evidence

Task 2 in IELTS Academic Writing requires you to state an opinion or discuss an issue, but there is no opportunity to conduct research or gather evidence. Some statements like ‘English is spoken in the United Kingdom’ require no evidence. But when you make claims that others might dispute, use hedging strategies like the ones below.

The majority of the world’s people would like to speak a second language.

English is highly likely to remain the world’s global language.

Chinese could be described as a much more difficult language to learn.

Academic writing is impersonal

While it’s not a mistake to use ‘I’ in academic writing, try not to overuse this precious little word. Your writing should contain some objective arguments and not be simply a description of your personal beliefs. Try using the ‘This Essay’ method to add a more impersonal style to your academic writing.

This essay will examine the issue of identity theft and propose solutions.

The issue of censorship is too broad to be covered in this essay.

The purpose of this essay is to examine both sides of the argument.

Academic writing is formal

Formal writing means that we avoid contractions (‘can’t’), phrasal verbs (‘put up with’), casual words (‘kids’, ‘cops’), exclamation marks (‘!’), question tags (‘isn’t it?’, ‘don’t you think?’), and vague expressions (‘sort of’, ‘a lot of’).

Teachers have to put up with lots of bad kids.

Teachers have to endure many cases of bad behaviour.

Cops can’t catch all robbers!

Police cannot solve all the crimes that are committed.

So racists should be punished more, shouldn’t they?

In conclusion, I am in favour of stricter punishments for hate speech.

There’s more about formal and informal vocabulary here. To have your academic writing checked by an IELTS professional, see our online IELTS Writing Practice Test with Feedback.

IELTS Writing Practice Test

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