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IELTS Task 2 Marking Criteria Explained

In order to get the score you want in IELTS it is vital that you know exactly what the examiner is looking for. Many students take the test without ever looking at the marking criteria. In this blog I will analyse the 4 aspects of the marking criteria and look at the differences between bands 6,7 and 8.

The marking criteria is in 4 separate sections and these are:

  • Task Achievement 25%

  • Cohesion & Coherence 25%

  • Lexical Resource 25%

  • Grammatical Range & Accuracy 25%

As you can see, each one is worth exactly the same. Many students become obsessed with grammar but this is worth only the same as the other 3 parts.


Task achievement is:

  • The ability to answer the question properly.

  • To score well for task achievement, a candidate must:

  • Answer the actual question asked (i.e. don’t just write generally about the topic).

  • Answer all parts of the question.

  • Present relevant ideas which are fully explained.

  • Support ideas with relevant examples.

We will take a look at an example question.

Some people think that newspapers are the best way to learn news. However, others believe that they can learn news better through other media.

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

In order to gain a good mark in Task Achievement students:

  • Required to write about the two opposing views on the best way to learn news. Do not write about news in general.

  • Must answer all parts of the question, that is, they must write about both views and also give their own opinion. If they don’t fully cover all these elements, their mark could drop to as low as a Band 5.

  • Own opinion on the best way to learn news must be clearly stated and supported with relevant ideas and/or explanations.

Failure to do any of these things will result in a lower score for Task Achievement.

Cohesion and Coherence

Cohesion and Coherence are the ability to organise and present ideas so that your essay is easy to read and understand. To score well for Cohesion and Coherence, you must do 4 things:

  • Write an essay with clear ideas that are easy to understand.

  • Organise ideas and information logically.

  • Progress clearly from one idea to another.

  • Use cohesive devices to link ideas, sentences and paragraphs.

Grammar mistakes to how well the examiner can understand what you write. Several things can affect this, such as:

  • Grammar mistakes

  • Use of inappropriate words and phrases

  • Illogical ordering of sentences and ideas

  • If the examiner can’t easily read your essay and follow your ideas, you will get a low mark for coherence.

  • Poor paragraph structure, with ideas set out seemingly randomly, is a common and serious mistake made by many students.

Coherence is:

  • Cohesion refers to the ability to link ideas, sentences and paragraphs using cohesive devices.

  • In a poor answer, there is practically no use of cohesive devices but they are used well in a good answer.

A mistake that many students make in their IELTS writing exam is to overuse cohesive devices, thinking that using them in every sentence will gain them marks. This is wrong. It leads to them being used inappropriately which results in a loss of coherence. This is as serious a problem as underusing them.

Lexical Resource

Lexical Resource means vocabulary so refers to the words and phrases you use in your essay.

To score well for Lexical Resource you must:

  • Use a wide range of vocabulary.

  • Use it correctly and appropriately.

  • Use topic specific vocabulary.

To score well in Lexical Resource you need to:

  • Use a wide range of vocabulary

  • Use it appropriately

  • Use synonyms to vary your vocabulary

  • Use topic related words

  • Know correct collocations

Grammatical Range and Accuracy

Grammar refers to the ability to use a range of grammatical structures and to use them accurately. To score well for Grammar candidates must:

  • Use complex sentences

  • Produce error-free sentences

  • Use a good variety of appropriate sentence structures

The key to scoring well for grammar in IELTS writing exam is the ability to produce complex sentences. ‘Complex’ does not mean ‘complicated’, as many students mistakenly think, and it has nothing to do with the verb tenses used. A complex sentence is just a sentence that contains more than one clause, often multiple clauses. It includes more than one piece of information.

As you can see, you have all the information about what the examiner is looking for given to you. It is vital that you know what they want if you are to achieve the score you want.

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