How Can I Get Band 9 In IELTS Writing?

As well as having native level English, you also need to understand the IELTS band requirements if you want a band 9. Many native speakers would not get a band 9 in writing because they do not know how to write IELTS style essays. Here I’m going to run through nine things you need to do to get a band 9.

IELTS Band 9 Essay Writing Guide

To get a band 9 in IELTS writing Task 2 you need to do the following things:

1. Answer each part of the question

This means that you have to be particularly careful when reading the question. If it says ‘discuss both sides’ then you need to do just that, don’t just discuss one side. Similarly, if it says give your own opinion then you need to do that too. If you don’t do this then you can’t get into the band 9 category.

Another costly mistake to make is to not plan your answer first. The danger is that you see what the topic is, global warming for example, and then you rush off and start writing about the topic without actually considering whether or not your ideas are actually answering the question or not.

I see students do this all of the time and it is usually because they are worried about running out of time so they start writing straight away but if you just spend two or three minutes at the beginning thinking through and planning out your essay with a series of bullet points then you avoid this mistake, and you won’t forget your ideas as you are writing.

2. Fully develop your answer

Support and extend your relevant ideas with explanation and examples. Paragraphs should begin with a clear topic sentence stating a main point and then subsequent sentences should expand on that idea, typically by giving relevant examples and offering clear explanations of the idea.

Examples can be from your own personal experience, or you can simply make them up, there is nothing to stop you doing this as the IELTS examiners are not going to spend time checking the factual content of your work, but do, at least, make them sound realistic.

Aside from examples, another way to develop your paragraph is to speculate on what might happen in the future. So, for example, you might use the first conditional to explain what will happen in the future e.g. If the world does not act quickly to reduce climate change then in the near future several major cities will become permanently flooded. 

Or, you may choose the third conditional to speculate about what might have happened in the past should certain events have not taken place, e.g. If we had not invented the car then carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would have been significantly reduced and we would not be facing such extreme weather on a regular basis.

Speculating is particularly useful as a means to develop your paragraphs as it means you are using a different grammatical structure which can help to encourage the examiner to give you a higher band score so long as you have done so accurately.

3. Write cohesively

This means that you should use a variety of linking words accurately and that the words you choose should fit naturally with the surrounding text. These are the types of linking words that would be appropriate in an essay with an academic tone: however, furthermore, as a consequence, therefore, as a result. You could use the words ‘but’ and ‘also’ with these, but they don’t have quite the same tone and perhaps, therefore, would not sound quite as natural and cohesive.

Cohesive writing reads naturally, freely and flows effortlessly. It leads you from one idea to the next almost without you noticing that it is happening. Take a look at the example Band 9 paragraph below related to education:

Furthermore, countries need educated populations in order to develop, organise themselves and grow. Therefore, governments need to make sure students are encouraged to study for higher qualifications and paying higher salaries to these individuals when they finally graduate is one way of ensuring this.

The specific cohesive devices used are: furthermore, in order to, therefore, and when they. All of these words fit perfectly and sound natural. Now, read the paragraph below:

Added to the above, countries need educated populations because it means that they can develop, organise themselves and grow. Because of this, governments need to make sure students are encouraged to study for higher qualifications in addition paying higher salaries to these individuals when they finally graduate is one way of ensuring this.

The specific cohesive devices used this time are: Added to the above, because it means that, Because of this, and, in addition. Now, none of these words are grammatically wrong, but they do not make the paragraph as smooth as the first paragraph.

In fact the phrases ‘Added to the above’, and ‘Because of this’ just sound a bit off and are not how a native speaker would word an essay. This would, of course, lead to a lower band score for coherence and cohesion.

4. Skillfully manage paragraphs

Paragraphs help to sequence ideas and information logically. Essays should contain a clearly defined introduction, body paragraph and conclusion. The order that arguments are presented in the paragraphs can be important and is covered in depth in my Task 2 guide here.

5. Use a wide range of vocabulary

You need to show natural and sophisticated control of your vocabulary. This means choosing words that fit together naturally and that convey the precise tone that you are looking for. It is particularly hard for a non native speaker to master this band 9 skill. 

In a way this is similar to the cohesive devices paragraphs above. You can use vocabulary that is not wrong but that is simply not the way a native speaker would phrase it. For example, take a look at these two sentences below. Which one would score higher?

Secondly, the fact that people are indoors more often than not indicates that less time is spent socialising with others face to face. This can lead to mental health problems but also to a decline in the development of ‘real world’ social skills which help to make people employable.

Secondly, the fact that people are indoors more means that they talk to people less. This can cause mental illness but also stop people skills from improving which help you get a job easier.

As you can see, both of the paragraphs essentially mean exactly the same thing but the choice of words is greatly different and makes the paragraph read much less smoothly and naturally. It is this higher level choice of words and phrases that examiners are looking for in band 9 answers. 

You might want to check out our sample band 9 IELTS essays to get an idea of the types of vocabulary and grammar required.

6. Use a wide range of grammatical structures

Error free sentences and complex structures will appear regularly in a band 9 essay. The write, however, will not be deliberately thinking to themselves ‘now I need to use the third conditional to show off’.

Instead they will simply be expressing themselves clearly in their sentences and this will naturally lead to a range of grammatical structures being used. If you can’t do this then you are simply not a band 9 writer yet.

7. Check your work

Even the best writers need to check their work. Whilst you are, even as a band 9 candidate, allowed to make ‘rare minor errors‘ , correcting spellings and other minor mistakes can be important when targeting a band 9 in writing.

One thing that you cannot easily correct though is the structure and development of your essay. This is another reason why I recommend that you plan your answers first before writing them. Realising at the last minute that you have gone off topic or not quite answered the question is too late.

8. Read high level material

To get a feel for the level you need to be writing at read high level band 9 answers, such as those featured on our band 9 sample essay page but also read a lot in general. Doing these helps you to see how different combinations of words fit together and in turn helps you to write more naturally and sophisticatedly.

Reading news websites is also very helpful as not only does it expose you to higher level vocabulary and phrases it should also give you more ideas that you might need to call upon and write about in your essays.

In fact, in the months leading up to your IELTS test I recommend that you ‘like’ numerous news sites on your Facebook account so that each day news articles appear on your feed and you can spend a few minutes reading through them, every little helps!

9. Follow a process

IELTS is a high stakes test and can be quite a pressurized situation for some people, especially if they are attempting to get a band 9. For this reason, I recommend that you have a set process for writing your essays. If you don’t follow a step by step system then you risk running out of time, writing your essay with the wrong structure and going off topic, all mistakes that will kill your answer. 

Consider investing in one of the official Cambridge guides or joining my course so you have a step by step system to follow. Whilst some people can get the score they need first time, especially if it is only a band 6, or 6.5 needed, anyone who needs a higher score should probably invest the 20$ in a decent IELTS book or course to avoid having to pay the $200 ish fee more than once!

How Do You Write A Band 9 Essay?

To write an IELTS band 9 essay you need to first analyse the question and understand exactly what it is asking. Secondly, you need to plan your essay structure with ideas for each paragraph. Thirdly, you need to write an error free essay developing your ideas and displaying band 9 level vocabulary and grammar.

Of course, this is easier said than done which is why I have fully explained each step of the process from how to analyse a question, how to structure essays for each question type and even what linking words and phrases to use in my main IELTS writing task 2 guide located here.

How can I write an example in IELTS essays?

To write an example in an IELTS essay you need to first state clearly what your main point is, usually in your paragraph topic sentence. Next, write one of these to start a new sentence giving your example: ‘For example, For Instance, An example of this is, This can be seen when.

Importantly, be aware that IELTS examiners are not going to check whether your examples are true, or false. This means that you can make up examples in order to help you develop your paragraphs more fully. This is an important consideration when trying to score highly for the ‘Task Response’ band marking criteria.

Has Anyone Scored 9 In IELTS?

People who regularly score a 9 in IELTS tests are often native speakers, or near native speakers who for some reason are required to prove their level of English. For example, to emigrate to Australia a British person may still do an IELTS test as part of the visa process. 

Whilst it is very difficult for non native speakers to score a band 9 in any section of the IELTS test it is not impossible. People who normally manage to do so are those who have worked, or studied abroad in an English speaking country for a significant amount of time, or those people who have worked extensively with native English speakers for an extended period of time. 

That said, anyone wishing to score a band 9 in IELTS is going to need to do at least some prior preparation. The IELTS test is not perfect and unfortunately is not only a test of your level of English but also it tests whether you can follow instructions, concentrate for a long period of time, and most importantly, learn the correct exam techniques to allow you to answer questions quickly and correctly. 

Recommended IELTS Study Tools

Thank you for reading this article. I always get lots of questions about how else to get a better band score quickly. So, this is what I recommend:

Complete IELTS Course: Of course, my full course ‘INCREASE YOUR IELTS‘ covers everything you need to need to know to pass IELTS, including practice questions, model answers, grammar work, strategies for every possible reading, writing and listening question type, as well as a complete speaking course too, check it out here.

IELTS Essay and Speaking Feedback: To complete full mock tests and get feedback from IELTS examiners on your IELTS essays or speaking tasks then visit: IELTS Feedback and Mock Tests, here.

Improve your grammar fast by using the Grammarly suggestions to improve your writing. Every IELTS students should have this free grammar improving tool.

Improve all-round English skill with If you have failed IELTS more than once then you probably need to improve your general level of English. Use the free online lessons and vocabulary building tools here and start improving today! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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