How many words for IELTS writing? Rules & Advice

How long should your IELTS writing task 1 &  task 2 be? Learn how the examiner counts your words and the recommended length of your IELTS essay. This page contains information about:

  • IELTS Writing Word Count Rules
  • Recommended Essay Length
  • Word Count Warning
  • How Words are Counted in IELTS writing

IELTS Writing: Word Count Rules

  1. IELTS have set a task of writing OVER 150 words for IELTS writing task 1 and 250 for writing task 2.
  2. However, there is no upper word limit.
  3. While the under word count penalty has been removed, writing an essay that is too short will lower your score. Click here: penalty removal and short essays

Recommended Length of an IELTS Essay

  1. Always write over the word count as this is the best way to approach your IELTS writing.
  2. Aim for around 170 – 190 for writing task 1 and about 270 – 290 for writing task 2. This will mean you have developed your writing sufficiently for the higher scores in terms of words, but you must still ensure that each sentence is relevant and focused.
  3. Don’t write too much. Aim for quality rather than quantity. This means focus on writing excellent English and organising your information rather than writing a long essay in task 2. The also applies to your report in task 1 academic or your letter in task 1 GT.

Watch this video to learn more about how long your IELTS essay should be:

Will you get a higher score for a longer essay in IELTS?

The answer is very simple = no. IELTS is look for a highly relevant, focused essay. If you try to add information that is not 100% relevant to your task, you will get a lower score.

Don’t try to add a hook to your introduction to make it interesting. You don’t get more points for interest. You get more points for being focused and concise.

You do not get a higher score for a longer essay.

Warning for IELTS Writing Word Count

  1. If you copy the information given by IELTS for your introduction, the examiner will not count those words. This means you might be under the word count. So, always paraphrase your introductions. This lesson shows you how to write an introduction for IELTS writing task 2 by paraphrasing.
  2. How to check how many words you have written – you don’t have time to count each word you have written, so you should count the lines instead. Knowing the length of your handwriting on the official writing answer sheet will help. Watch this video lesson to learn about practicing with the official writing answer sheet.

More IELTS Writing Tips & Lessons

10 Sentences to Avoid in IELTS Writing Task 2

How many Paragraphs for an IELTS Essay

How to use the Official Answer Sheet for IELTS Writing

All IELTS Writing Task 2 Lessons, Model Answers, Tips & Free Videos

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  1. Dominic says

    hi Liz
    I’m teaching IELTS in a Bangkok high school
    I was thrown in at the deep end about a year ago and still struggling to keep ahead of the students.
    Your ongoing lessons have been a godsend. THANK YOU
    To date I’ve been under the impression that at least 150 & 250 words are required for the Tasks 1 & 2
    However, some posts are now stating that word count is not part of the marking system anymore.
    Yours words of wisdom would be very much appreciated!
    Assumption College

    • The penalty for being under the word count used to be an immediate band 5 in Task Response. This penalty has now been scraped. However, a good score in writing task 2 still states that main points are all sufficiently develop which means that writing too little will still be problematic. So, while they won’t get an immediate band 5 in that criterion, they might struggle to get a high score. For task 1, candidates are sometimes given a task which doesn’t have a great deal of information in it and in that situation, not having a lower word count penalty is great. If they write only 140 and cover all main details, present a clear overview etc, they could still do well. So, you see, we now have room for a degree of flexibility without instant penalties, but it doesn’t mean that writing too little is a good thing. I hope that answers your question.

  2. deepika says

    Hii Liz,
    your website is really very helpful. can you tell me? what should i need to pratice for improving grammar skills??

  3. Mandeep says

    Hlo Liz ,
    Are there any seats limitations during the ielts writing test.

    • All test centers are different sizes. You must ask your local test center this question.

  4. Ashwani says

    Hey Liz, i just received my results and you have no idea how grateful I am of you!! I have only referred your website and guidance and SCORED 7.5!!!! (Listening – 8.0, Speaking/ Writing/ reading – 7)
    Really Really thank you, you’ve been a saviour to me and many! I wish you have a long and joyful life ahead!!
    Thanks a lot!

  5. Muhammad Nadeem says


    I am so glad to see your replies in year 2021.
    Your last video on YouTube was about 6 years ago and someone told me that you were not well!

    Great to see,even the text from you in recent years!

    You are probably the best English teacher on Youtube,best that I know of, and this is a true statement!

    This is the first time ever that I have left a comment in a website using my E-mail. Just to say everything said above!

    I wish you a happy and healthy life!

    Even though I have never met you or seen you, I would still feel honour if you consider me as one of your student!

    • I’m really touched by your comment. Thank you so much for your concern about my health. It certainly has been a long time since I made a video. Since then I’ve been fighting to get my strength back. Each year I make progress and each year hits me with something that knocks me back. I’ve learn so much patience and to work within my abilities. It’s lovely knowing there are people who care. Thanks. Wishing you all the very best for 2022 !!

  6. Ismayil says

    Good day, I wrote 386 words for task 2. If all information is relevant, will it influence my score? I mean does writing this amount of words will decrease my score? Thanks for your answer in advance.

    • There are no rules stating you can’t write a long essay. However, you aim is to write a highly focused, relevant essay with as few errors as possible. The longer the essay, the more likely you might struggle in one of those areas which could reduce your score. Also IELTS essays are designed in nature and by the time limit, not to be so long. So, in essence, there is no fixed penalty for a long essay, but it can open you up to more problems. Hopefully, you’ll still do well 🙂

  7. Are articles, prepositions are counted?

  8. Ashutosh Gautam says

    Hii mam hopefully ur fine . mam i have a question do we have to leave one line after another in essay or do we have to constantly write one after another line unless part of essay ( introduction , overview , body paragraph 1 and body paragraph 2 ) get complete .

  9. Hi Liz,
    Regarding word count… what about computer based IELTS or IELTS indicator? Will I have the opportunity to count the words in any way? Thanks!

    • The words are counted for you on the screen in the computer based test. For the indicator test, I am not sure. Never count all words, word by word. Just count lines and then multiply by the average number of words on a line – it’s a quick estimate. You do not need to write the word count at the bottom of your essay.

  10. Priya says

    In task 1, are the words ‘dear sir/ madam, ‘counted?

  11. Ameer says

    Hey Liz,
    Any update on the grammar e-book? The last update i read from the comments was it will be up for release by March 2020.

    • It is having the final proofread now. After the proofread, it needs final conversions. Both of these things will take one month. I hope to have this e-book available by late April or first week of May. As soon as the final conversion starts, I will have a precise release date and will let you all know 🙂 I really love this Grammar E-book. I tried to make sure it was very easy to follow so people could learn complex grammar at home without the support of a teacher.

  12. Nissi Sharon J says

    Hey Liz, Do they count even the repeated words in the essay or will it be considered as one word?

    • They do not count how many “the” words are used and “a” words and “in” words and “at” words etc. They count each word as they read it – one after another until the end of the essay. Just the same as word count in a word doc.


    Hi Liz,
    I gave my writing test yesterday but I have written 250 words for task 1 and about 500 words for task 2. Will that affect my score?

    • For task 1, you are marked on your ability to present focused data without getting lost in too much detail. For that reason, writing so much might be a problem. Also for the essay, every single sentence needs to be highly focused and completely relevant without padding or extra unnecessary detail. Writing 500 words for task 2 means your essay is likely to lack focus, include unnecessary padding and also possibly include more language errors. You should be aiming for avoiding errors and writing quality – not quantity. But wait for your score to see what impact it has had overall.

  14. jayesh kulkarni says

    Hello Liz,

    I read in your one of the post about providing grammar book especially for IELTS writing section. What is status of that book? Could you provide path for this book?

    • Unfortunately, due to more health problems, I had to postpone this e-book. It is 90% written, but I will not complete writing it until December. After that it will take a few months for editing. So, I hope to have it ready by about March next year.

  15. Oladapo Tomiwa Emmanuel says

    I am new to this programme. I was told of it by a friend. I have glanced through and found it all good. I will be writing soon. May God help me.

  16. Nonu Agnihotri says

    Hi liz mam

    I need some help about sentence structure
    My ielts trainer always ask me improve your sentence structure, but how I improve it , can you plz tell me liz mam
    And Thnku so much for sharing helpful video about ielts 😇

    • If you are paying your trainer, you should ask this to your trainer. Any trainer who tells you to improve your sentence structure, but doesn’t explain how, is not worth the money. You should ask specially which structures need work and which tenses to work on. Your trainer should provide clear examples to help you. I will soon be publishing a grammar book for essay writing which contains all examples required – I’ll post a notice when it’s ready – hopefully in a few months 🙂

      • Umar Farooq says

        Hello mam,

        Do the cutting of words in writing kills the band score?

        • You can delete any words you want. But make sure your new words are written clearly. If the examiner has difficulty read what you have written, it will negatively impact your score.

  17. Hi Liz,
    many thanks for sharing with us such an awesome information.

    I just wonder in task one , if the question says “write a summary of the main features given in the chart” is it acceptable to write an introduction and then in second paragraph write sentences numbered 1-5 summarizing the main features?!!!

    thanks again:)

    • No. You must not write like that. Sentences must be in paragraph form and connected properly using linking devices. They cannot be written as bullet points.

      • Ch As says

        Hello Liz,
        During my writing test, for Task 2, I presented my essay in a proper manner, however, I could not complete the concluding paragraph to write my opinion only. My word count would be approximately 300 words. How many marks will the examiner cut in this situation?

        • As long as you started your conclusion that is the main thing. There are no fixed rules about scoring for an incomplete essay. You’ll have to wait for your results.

  18. Hi Liz

    Can you please clarify my doubt for counting the words in the IELTS writing test, that is, do we count each and every word including is, are am, the etc. or just the major words?

    Also, can you please clarify that if we finish reading section earlier, is it possible that we utilize that time for the writing section or it is separate 1 hour each only and i ll have to wait even if i do it earlier.

    Waiting for your response.

  19. Hi Liz,
    I have taken IELTS today and committed a mistake in Writing. The question was “online opinions and reviews trending. Do you u agree or disagree” But I wrote my essay comparing in shop person with online reviews. How far would this impact my band score?

    • You have not written the essay question correctly. For this reason, it is not possible for me to comment on your ideas. Ideas are marked as part of your score for Task Response which is 25% of your writing task 2 marks.

  20. Seerat Dhingra says

    Dear Liz
    Would you please guide whether the usage of active or passive verbs be used in our writing,esp task 2.
    Have learnt enormously from your videos .


    • You use passive or active voice depending on the context and what you want to say. This is about English grammar, not IELTS rules. If you don’t know when to use passive or active voice, you must get a grammar book and learn. IELTS is a language test – you need to learn all aspects of English grammar. My website doesn’t cover this. My website is an IELTS exam technique website.

      • Seerat Dhingra says

        Thank you greatly for your quick response.I don’t have problems with my grammar but an IELTS trainer suggested to me to write in the active voice rather than passive.Therefore, I was checking with you as I have learnt that it is considered more academic to write in this manner.
        Thanks again.

        • No that isn’t true. It is correct to use passive voice when passive voice is appropriate. Some people try to include it once in an IELTS essay – but there is nor rule that you must include it. You can still get band 9 without it.

  21. Manu says

    Hi Liz

    Does the examiner actually count the words in essay or they take a rough idea ? Do they guess if the count should be done e with their experience or they count it for every essay even though it’s evident the count is was over 250.

    Looking forward to hear from you.

    • Examiners are very experienced in knowing when an essay might be under the word count. This those cases, they count each word.

  22. Hello Ma’am

    Greetings of the day!

    I’ve been told that in writing module, the examiner does not count articles, prepositions and repetitive words. Is that true? If it is true, then I believe that the total word count (including articles, prepositions etc) would exceed 280 words (as suggested by you).

    Please advice.


    • Do you really think the examiner will spend time counting how many times each word is used (which would take a very long time)and then do mathematical calculations? Did you try to do this and check how long it takes? Of course the examiner does not do it. Try to be logical in your thinking. Go to the main writing task 2 page and review the link about counting words. I really don’t know what to say – who gave you such ridiculous information??? Was it someone who has completed the IELTS examiner training? Obviously not. Again, be logical and sensible. IELTS is not a trick test.

  23. thank you so much

  24. Hey Liz!
    Hope that your are fine. My query is that, I write almost 220 words in my writing task one and about 360 words in my writing task 2. Will I get a lower band score if I write consume so many words? However, my points are relevant to the topic I am writing.

    Tips will be helpful.

    • It means your writing will be less focused and might contain more errors – that will lower your score.

  25. can we add examples to our opinion based essay ?

  26. Hi Liz,

    Words in few of my writing task 1 reach about 210, is it bad for scoring ??


    • It is not good to include too much detail. You are being marked on your ability to select data. Try to be more selective and also group information together.

  27. Noureldin says

    Dear Liz,
    How are you? hope you are fine. I wanted to ask you about the maximum words to be written in the IELTS writing test tasks 1 & 2, as I have informed from one of my friends who has taken an IELTS training courses, that if the number of works exceeds 180 for Task 1 and 280 for task 2, I will lose points. Please advise.

    • This is not true. There is no upper word limit. However, if your task 1 or task 2 is long and contains unnecessary information, that will lower your score. Both task 1 and task 2 require focus, relevancy and selected ideas / information. So, giving too much will be a problem.

  28. Dear Liz,
    I have some trouble with managing my essay length. I tend to write about 350-400 words for task 2. One of the examiner told me that when the essay was above 300 words, it would lower my band score. I am quite terrified because most of my practice essays are too long. What can I do to tackle this? My test is coming this week and I am quite confused. Thank you.

    • You choose two or three main points – never more. Each main point is in one body paragraph. Each main point has three or four sentences to support it – never more. Keep your ideas focused and plan your supporting points. This means each sentence is planned before you start writing.

  29. teoble says

    Hi Liz,

    Are erasures acceptable?


    • Yes, you can erase answers and write new ones. But make sure the new answers are clear and easy to read.

  30. Jomal Sonny says

    Hello Liz,
    What can I use instead of “This essay will discuss both sides and give an opinion at the end”

    Jomal Sonny

  31. Dear Liz,

    I have question, is writing up to 350 words in Academic writing task two is a posssible reason for low bands score? I think, it could also be a reason for my lower score in the recent ielts test, which dropped to 5.5 from 7. So, should I restrict my writing up to only around 300 words?

    Thank you so much. Your advice means a lot to me.
    Lots of love and respect.

    • Liz says

      You should aim for accuracy, not length. You should aim to write between 260 and 280 words in task 2 and spend at least 3 mins proof reading it to delete errors.

  32. Hi Liz,
    I gave LRW test yesterday. I have a query.. I write 290-300 words in writing task 2 , in 6,7 small paragraphs , instead of writing in 4, 5 paragraphs. Is it wrong,? Will I lose marks?

    Secondly, in my speaking test examiner asked in que card section question about history event , as I am not good in history I told him this and asked him can I tell any of my own history event? He noded his head in yes . I again confirmed him it could be my event he noded head in yes. Then I told him about my marriage how did it took place who people were involved how whole event was arranged. Liz you tell me was this answer wrong ? And would I loose marks? When the recording/test was over , I heard him saying , “I was asking you about history event”. Why he noded his head in yes when. I was confirming him about question.? At least i gave answer I didn’t remain quiet.
    How do you see this thing? Liz

    Much thanks

    • Writing 290 to 300 words isn’t wrong but it does mean you might have written a less focused essay. Having 6 to 7 small paragraphs will lower your score for Coherence and Cohesion which is 25% of your marks. It is not possible to estimate a score. In speaking, you are not marked for focus, ideas or being on topic. So, directing the talk as you want is fine and the right strategy for speaking.

      • Yes that’s what I have learned from your lectures how to divert your answer if you dont know about topic. I hope I won’t loose marks for this . Thank you Liz for so much help for all students.

  33. ABHISHEK A says

    Hello Liz,
    Do we need to write number of words in the brackets at the end of the essay,like (170 words)

    • No. Definitely not. You don’t have time to count your words. Just count the lines and calculate your words for your own sake – don’t write the number down.

  34. Hi can u tell me if i write more than 150 words in task one .so it will be good or bad effect on my band..

  35. ATIQUR RAHMAN says

    Hi Liz, I have taken my exam in today evening but in writing task2 I didn’t count word numbers due to lack of time management, but iguess I wrote over 250. will it reduce my score if its not 250 or almost 250?

    • If you think you wrote around 250 words, hopefully you will be fine.

      • ATIQUR RAHMAN says

        Thanks for your reply, one another thing I would like to share with you mam that in my speaking exam, the examiner was tatlkative and she just interrupted me while I was talking in section 3, therefore my response was not satisfactory but I did well in part 1& 2, what makes the difference in this perspective? does it reduce my score? Thanks again mam.

        • She did not interrupt because your answer was wrong but may be because she wanted to take the discussion in a new direction. There are no right or wrong answers in IELTS speaking. You can marked on your language, not your ideas.

          • ATIQUR RAHMAN says

            Thanks for your reply mam.

            • ATIQUR RAHMAN says

              But one thing I heard that I was the last candidate that’s why she wanted to take the test in hurry as she took much test. So is there any impact if that actully happened?

              • It should not have an effect. However, examiners are just normal people and they can get tired. You have the option of getting a remark if you feel your speaking results are not right.

  36. did my best in both the task… both the grammar and coherence was kept good the only thing that makes me feel down is the word limit… i only wrote 200 words in task 2.. people that if we write less we automatically get 5 or 5.5 and not more than 6 is it true?

  37. Dear Liz,

    Really, you lighted my IELTS exam road. Your log is very helpful.
    I have a question in Writing section. Could you tell me please, when I write a new paragraph should I leave space in the first line then start writing or that not important?

    My best regards

  38. Hi,Liz

    Thank you very much for your useful video and content.I have one question to you.I would like to know for IELTS the word “On the other hand” is one word or four word.
    Thank you 🙂

  39. Thomraj kc says

    Hi Ma’m,
    In task 1 as well as in task 2, the same article/preposition/conjunction if repeated more than once. Then that particular article/preposition/conjunction counted separately or only assigned as one word?

    • Each word, small or big, is counted. All words. Even if they are the same words used again. Use the word count on word documents and you will see it is the same.

  40. prasuna says

    Hi Liz,
    I would like to thank you so much for all your lessons.They were so helping and i scored Band 7 in academic module in my 1st attempt…speaking-7, Reading-7.5, listening-7 ,writting-6.5. Unfortunately i need 7 in all modules so i need to take the exam again. During my exam session i was so much confused with writting task 1 and wasted lot of time to analyse the question . can u give me some times for writting task 1 so that i can do it well in the next attempt.


    • My tips and models for task 1 are currently on my writing task 1 page of this blog. Later, I will make detailed in-depth lessons for my online training course for task 1 but that will take time to make.
      All the best

  41. Hi Liz.
    I am not sure if this has been asked before, but i would like to know how many sentences should there be in the introduction and overview for Writing Task 1.
    I am looking forward to hear from you soon. Thanks.

    • One sentence for the introduction. For the overview, it is usually one or two – it depends how many key features there are.

      • That was really helpful. Thanks Liz.
        And by the way, i am bit confused on how to write an overview. I mean the key features that i should include in my overview, if it has to be the largest proportion in a certain graph or the trend(if any). Can you help me out please? Thank you.

        • That really is a long lesson to give. I can only suggest that you look at each model writing task 1 and make a note of what information I have put in the overview. You will see that it is slightly different for each type of task.
          All the best

          • Thank you Liz for helping out. I surely will check the model essays for writing task 1.
            And hopefully I would figure out what features are necessary for an overview in a particular graph. 🙂

  42. Joyal says

    Hello Mam !!

    Can i use proverb and idioms in writing task-2 ?

    Life without education is like a bird without wings
    Prevention is better than care

  43. Javid says

    actually,in last paragraph “practice” must be “practise” ( the firsr sentence) 🙂

  44. Hi Liz,

    I answered one of the practice writing tasks provided on your website.

    It’s a great website and really helpful.

    The task is as follow

    You have just spent a week with a friend on holiday. When you got home you relaised you forgot your wallet there

    Write a letter to your friend. In your letter include

    thank you friend for the holiday
    explain that you left the wallet in their house
    give them instruction on how to send it back to you.

    Dear Jane,

    Hope this email finds you in the best of spirits and health.

    First of all, I would like to thank you for the memorable and relaxing time I had at your house. It was home away from home. Please convey my thanks to your mother for all the lovely feasts she prepared for me. It had been a long time since I had a full meal. Wish I could have spent more time there.

    I have reached safely and am feeling very nostalgic. While unpacking I realized that I have left my wallet at your house. If I remember it correctly, it must be in the right side table drawer. It tool me a while to realize it as I have a habit of packing it in my suitcase and carry small change and important documents in my purse for peace of mind. I would really appreciate if you could look for it and inform me to subside my anxiety.

    My brother is traveling to Auckland for a business meeting tomorrow. You could hand it over to him, if its not much trouble. He will be staying at JW Marriott and would be available at 00626603036. I will also pass on your contact details to him for ease.

    Thanking you in advance for the help. Take care and write back soon.


  45. Hi Liz, please have more English video.

    • I hope to upload more over time. I hope to have one video ready quite soon with useful information to talk about body language communication.
      All the best

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