This is a very simple exercise to help you to improve the quality of your IELTS essays. It is particularly useful if you are just starting out on IELTS or if you find you are not making progress. The idea is that you learn how to check your essays as an examiner would by looking at the specific band score criteria. To help you do this, there is an IELTS essays checklist to download of the most important points an IELTS examiner looks for in your essays. Using this checklist every time you finish your essay can help you

  • not to make “silly” mistakes that seriously affect your band score
  • learn the correct essay writing process

The IELTS essays checklist

IELTS essay checklist
Check IELTS essays

Essay writing checklist (54540)

Be specific when you use the checklist

The main idea of the checklist is that you are very specific what you check for and when you use the checklist you should try to underline or mark in some way something in your essay. Don’t do the lazy thing and just tick yes. So if, for example, you are looking at the question: “Do my sentences link together?”, you might do this:

The first point to make is that politicians have a responsibility to spend public money on projects that bring a benefit to the general public. This has not been the case with space research as most developments have been limited to helping astronauts in space or have been very specialised. For example, it is not of great value to the general public that we now have pens and biros that can write upside down. This does not merit the huge amount of money spent.

You now know that your writing is coherent. If, however, you cannot underline something in the essay, you now know what your problem is  and you should mark it in the “my mistakes” table.

How often to use the checklist

You need to use the checklist on a very regular basis to make this work best. If you fill it out every time you write an essay, then two things happen:

  1. checking your writing becomes an automatic process
  2. you learn what makes a good IELTS essay

It may look boring, but you need to trust me here that this time boring is good. Two of the main reasons why candidates do badly are failing to find the time to check and not knowing what to check for. You should also find that after you have done this 4/5 times, you become much more efficient when you check.

What the checklist includes

The band score criteria

You will note that the checklist is organised according to the IELTS writing band score criteria. The main point to note here is that each of these is equally important and all need to be checked. It is not enough just to write an essay without “grammar” mistakes.

If you’re new to IELTS writing, then you really do need to become familiar with the rules of the IELTS game and learn how essays are marked. YOu’ll find lots of help from the pages linked to here:

IELTS writing band scores

If you’re confused by the 15 – 25 words per sentence idea the I suggest you check out this lesson. It’s important that you use a range of different sentences:

Simple and complex sentences in IELTS essays

The writing process

The section headed writing process asks you to note down how long you spent planning, writing and checking the essay. It is a good idea to keep a note of this because:

  1. if you write down the time of the planning and checking phases, you will actually plan and check your essays – the chances are that if your essays score badly it is because you didn’t spend enough time planning and checking
  2. you learn how long you need for each stage in the exam when you are under time pressure
  3. you can check your progress on how long it takes you to write an IELTS essay. I certainly don’t suggest you start by trying to write one in 40 minutes

Again, if you’re not sure why I ask you to think about how long you spend planning, this lesson should help:

Planning an IELTS essay – the 10 minute solution

Your mistakes

The “your mistakes” section is vital. We all use language in our own way and we all make our own mistakes. The idea is that you keep a record of the types of mistake you make so that you can check for those mistakes in the checking phase. If you don’t have a teacher, you can always try typing one of your essays into Microsoft Word and using the grammar check feature: it isn’t perfect but it can help.

The checklist is too simple?

If you think that the checklist is too simple for your needs. I would suggest that you take a look at my sample essays and experiment by analysing them with this checklist – you should find that it works for them!

But the smart learner is the one who adopts and adapts: so feel free to amend it to your needs.

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