Prior to 2018, the IELTS exam had strict word limit criteria for the writing section. Candidates had to write more than 150 words for Writing Task 1 and more than 250 words for Writing Task 2. Candidates who failed to do so were heavily penalized. These penalties however were removed in 2018, leaving candidates a bit confused as to how much they have to write for each module.
How Many Words Is Enough
The instructions for both writing tasks still remain the same, write no more than 150 words for Writing Task 1 and no more than 250 words for Writing Task 2. However, you will not be penalized for your word limit. This does not mean if you write less then it will not affect your score.
Students who fail to produce these amounts of words are guaranteed to not score above 7.0 for the task achievement score. You might not also have written enough for the examiner to thoroughly check whether you can produce a wide range of complex and accurate grammatical structures.
Similarly, if you have a very short answer, there might just not be enough data to accurately assess your lexical resource. So you have to produce enough of a substantial answer in order to give the examiner a good idea about your upper limits in terms of lexical resource and grammatical range and accuracy.
On the other hand, if you write too much, you might run out of time before you ever get to write your essay conclusion. In this case, this will affect your task achievement and coherence and cohesion scores, since your paragraphs remain incomplete, and you haven’t solidly put forward your position at the end of your essay.
Another drawback of writing too much is that there is a greater chance of making errors. The more sentences you write the more chances there are you will make grammatical errors, which will negatively affect your grammatical range and accuracy score.
What Is The Ideal Amount To Write
As you can see from the above information, writing too much or too little can cost you either way. A balance needs to be struck between writing enough to provide the examiner with enough data to assess you and not writing so much that you run out of time during the test and don’t have enough time to recheck your work.
In my opinion, an essay of around 280 - 300 is ideal. For reports or letters, this should be around 180 – 200 words.
This will give you enough leeway to fully develop your ideas into well-constructed paragraphs, as well as give you enough time to recheck your work.
Of course it is important to remember that it is always quality over quality. Every word that you use in your responses should serve a purpose. Avoid padding just to meet the minimum amount of words, as this may result in your answer sounding incoherent and without structure.