Penalized or not? IELTS Writing Task 2

Will you be penalized for writing too many words in IELTS Writing Task 2? Is it true that you must you British spelling, otherwise your score will be lowered? How about switching spelling? Let’s discuss the most common confusions about the IELTS essay to find out what you should care about.

Everything you need to know about IELTS

IELS Writing

Ideas in IELTS Writing Task 2

❌ “Having common ideas will lower your score.”

One client from Malaysia told me in a Consultation Call that she had attended a demo class with another trainer and during that demo class, the trainer said she should have less-common ideas in her IELTS essay to avoid being penalized. 

This is NOT true! Having common ideas DOES NOT lower your score. IELTS Writing Task 2 is an English exam to test your level of the English language. It’s not an exam to test your social knowledge. Your score is given based on how well you present and support your ideas, not how common/uncommon your ideas are.

In fact, common ideas are easier to elaborate and, hence may give you a better score while uncommon ideas are normally too complicated for an English exam like IELTS.

Two types of people who often “fail” IELTS

✅ Copying the exact sentences from others’ writing may lower your score

This is true! It may or may not happen, depending on how “popular” those sentences are. If others are also copying them and if the examiners know about those sentences, you will be in a big trouble.

Ideas can be the same but the way you present the ideas must be yours, using your own knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. Copying others’ sentences will risk being flagged as a “memorized answer”, hence a lowered score, or worse, being disqualified.

This logic applies to IELTS Writing Task 2 templates as well. Don’t ever use templates unless you are willing to risk it.

The number of words in IELTS essays

❌ If you write more than 350/400/etc. words, you will be penalized.

Absolutely NOT true! After you have passed 250 words, you can write as many words as you want. There’s no requirement for the maximum number of words. So, if you want and can write 400 or 500 words, feel free to do so.

✅ The longer doesn’t mean the better

Even though there is no penalty if you exceed 250 words, the longer doesn’t always mean the better. In fact, in most cases, writing a too-long essay may take a lot more time, causing you stress, which in turn, causes pressure on your choices of words and grammar.

“Can I use American spelling in IELTS Writing Task 2?”

❌ You can’t use American spelling.

Did you know that “I” in IELTS stands for “international”? You can use either British or American spelling in your Writing. Just because IELTS is co-manage of the British Council, IDP, and Cambridge Assessment, it doesn’t mean IELTS is for British English. You will NOT penalized for using American spelling.

✅ You should stick to one spelling style.

This means you should follow through with one spelling style either for a word or for the entire writing from the beginning to the end of your writing. For example, if you write “practice” at the beginning of the essay, you shouldn’t change it to “practise” later. And once you’ve decided to use the British spelling style, it’s better that you stick to it throughout your essay.

Recent IELTS Writing Task 2 Actual Tests 2024

I think now you may be feeling a little better with your practice. Clearing confusion is extremely important, especially when you are preparing for an exam.

That’s why at Practice9 IELTS, we strive to give you fear-monger-free client-centered services at affordable fees. Self-studying with the trainer’s unlimited support helped our clients achieve their target band scores.

Contact us.

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Huyen Nguyen

Founder of Practice9, creator of IELTS with Huyen. Huyen has 10 years of experience with IELTS, overall 8.5.

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