In this post, we will look at the word count needed in the writing tasks. You should know that 250 words are the minimum for a writing task 2 essay and 150 words are minimal for writing task 1. If you write less than the word counts specified in the question, you will lose marks in task achievement, because you will not have completed one of the requirements for the task.
The examiner will count your words to check that you have the minimum word count. If you have not reached 250 and have, for example, 240 words they will mark your essay lower because of this. It is possible to write more than 250 words during the time allocated for the task 2 essay, however, you should be careful you do not run out of time and find that you cannot write a conclusion, or check over your work.
On the writing test paper, the instructions will look something like this below (Taken from the British Council IELTS) >
The highlighted sections show you that the instructions state clearly that at least 150 words are required for Task 1 and at least 250 words are required for Task 2.
The question examples below are taken from a free resource available on The British Council’s IELTS page. Take a look and download the free practice papers.
As you can see below, the highlighted section shows you that you have to write at least 150 words in Task 1.
In the Task 2 example, you can see that the word count has also been highlighted and that you are required to write at least 250 words.
Word Count Tips
TIP: Plan your work before you start to write, to make sure that all of the information you write in your essay is relevant. Do not write and write about anything and everything and go off-topic. It is more than possible to write a 250-word essay that is concise and to the point.
TIP: Check your word count during your IELTS essay preparation. Count the words (or if you are typing using the word count option) and see how many you are producing in 40 minutes for task 2 and 20 minutes for task 1.
TIP: Words that are hyphenated like in-depth or part-time will be counted as one word. prepositions like in, of, on and articles like the, a, at will all be counted. Punctuation, like commas, semi-colons and full stops (periods) will not be counted.
TIP: Practice writing your essay answers on the official writing answer sheet. This will allow you to practice counting your words to see how many you get in the time period allowed. You should aim to exceed the word count slightly so that you are sure you have met the minimum requirements.