Capital Letters in IELTS: Will it affect your score?

When to use capital letters in your IELTS Listening, Reading and Writing test. Will you get a lower score if you make a mistake with capital letters? Can you write your answers in all capital letters? What are the rules for capital letters in IELTS? What about using capital letters in the computer based IELTS test? Read below to learn about this.

Using Capital Letters for IELTS Answers: Rules & Advice

Below you will find advice for using capital letters for writing your answers in IELTS Listening, Reading and Writing.

Capital Letters in IELTS Listening and Reading

In IELTS listening and reading, you can write all your answers in capital letters if you want. You can do this for the paper based test and the computer based test. It is completely up to you. There is no rule stating whether you should use capital or lower case.

  • You can write your answers in small letters if you want.
  • You can write in all capital letters.

Examples of capital letters in listening and reading:

  • HOSPITAL = correct / hospital = correct / 9am = correct / 9AM = correct 

Which is best? Capital letters or lower case?

I recommend writing your listening and reading answers in capital letters for the paper based test. This avoids any problems of markers struggling to read your handwriting. For the computer based test, it doesn’t matter. Both lower case and upper case will be easy to read. 

Transferring Answers in Listening & Reading

In IELTS listening, you will be given 10 mins extra to transfer your answers to your answer sheet in the paper based test. Check your answers and check your spelling – then write your answers on the answer sheet.  If your handwriting is poor, write using all capital letters so it is easy to read. For the computer based test, you do not need to transfer answers. You only need to check what you have already put into the computer. For this reason, you will be given only 2 mins to check your answers after the recording ends.

In IELTS reading, you will not get 10 extra mins to transfer your answers. You must write your answers directly on your answer sheet. But it is completely your choice how to write your answers. The most important factor is clear writing for the paper based test. Use all capital letters if your handwriting isn’t clear.

Capital Letters in IELTS Writing

In IELTS Writing, you can choose to write your essay in capital letters. But I would not recommend it because:

  1. you WILL be marked on punctuation so the use of capital letters and lower case is important to show. You must have a capital letter at the start of a sentence, for example.
  2. you have a strict time limit and it takes too long to write in capital letters

So, write your essay in lower case and remember to use capital letters when grammatically appropriate. The examiner will mark you down if you use capital letters incorrectly. Here is a list of typical words that use capital letters:

When to use capital letters in English grammar

  • Days/ Months = Thursday / September
  • Names and Titles = Mrs J Blogs / Dr Author Jones
  • Countries / Cities = India / Vietnam / Paris / Hong Kong
  • Names of Places = University of London
  • Acronyms = BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)
  • Start of a Sentence = “The majority of people use cars to go to work these days. However, it would be better if they used healthier means of transport such as the bicycle.”

Biggest Mistake with Capital Letters

  • but / because / and
    • These linking words should NEVER be used to start a sentence in formal writing. See my page of linking words for writing task 2 to learn tips and get a useful list: IELTS Writing Task 2 Linking Words

What about speaking part 2? Well, the notes you make for your talk are not marked and only you see them. The examiner will not check them or mark them. So, don’t write sentences or bother with punctuation, just write words, ideas and tips to help you present a good talk.

More IELTS Tips

What about using a pen or pencil? Click on this link: IELTS Pen or Pencil

How are words counted in IELTS Listening? Click on this link: How Words are Counted in IELTS

Can I use “I” or “my” in writing task 2? Click on this link: How to express your opinion in IELTS WT2

Tips & Practice for Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking:


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IELTS Line Graph Model (Band Score 9)

This model line graph for IELTS is estimated at band score 9. The model answer below is for IELTS writing task 1 academic paper. Use this sample writing as a template for structure, key features and language for any IELTS line graph. There are also some tips given below to guide you and help you understand how to describe this type of graph.

IELTS Line Graph Sample Task

The graph below shows the consumption of 3 spreads from 1981 to 2007.

consumption of spreads line graph

Source: Graph above not created by IELTS Liz. Source unknown.

IELTS Line Graph Answer

The line graph illustrates the amount of three kinds of spreads (margarine, low fat and reduced spreads and butter) which were consumed over 26 years from 1981 to 2007. Units are measured in grams.

Overall, the consumption of margarine and butter decreased over the period given, while for low fat and reduced spreads, it rose.  At the start of the period, butter was the most popular spread, which was replaced by margarine from 1991 to 2001, and following that low fat and reduced spreads became the most widely used spread in the final years.

With regards to the amount of butter used, it began at around 140 grams and then peaked at 160 grams in 1986 before falling dramatically to about 50 grams in the last year. Likewise, approximately 90 grams of margarine was eaten in the first year after which the figure fluctuated slightly and dropped to a low of 40 grams in 2007.

On the other hand, the consumption of low fats and reduced spreads only started in 1996 at about 10 grams. This figure, which reached a high of just over 80 grams 5 years later, fell slightly in the final years to approximately 70 grams in 2007.

Tips for Line Graphs

  1. Paraphrase the line graph information for your introduction.
  2. Put main trends and any other key features in an overall statement.
  3. Make sure each body paragraph sentence has numbers and dates to support it.
  4. Check the video lesson below to learn how to write a complex sentence for an IELTS line graph report.
  5. Practice!! Click here: Practice Line Graphs to get a selection of sample line graphs to practice writing for your writing task 1 preparation.

Recommended Tutorials



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IELTS Writing Answer Sheet: Video Tutorial

Practise using the official IELTS writing answer sheet before your test. Learn how the examiner uses the paper to record your band score and what extra information is contained on it. This lesson also explains how to fill in the answer sheet and how to use it effectively to estimated your word count. People taking the computer based IELTS test will see the word count on their screens.

Below is a link to download the answer sheet so you can practise writing on it before your test. Any student taking the IELTS test for the first time, should watch this lesson.

Click link to download: official ielts-writing-answersheet

If you are taking the computer based test, remember that the word count is given for you on the screen. This is really useful.

Recommended Lessons

Writing Task 2 Video Lesson: How to write an introduction


IELTS Table & Pie Charts Model 2019

The IELTS table and pie chart below was reported in May 2019 and also in September 2015. The topic is the imports of fish to the US from various countries and the value of these imports.

Note: The writing task 1 below is a reproduction of the original IELTS task 1 by an IELTS candidate. This means details will vary from the original. Even so, it gives a great chance to practise multiple tasks.

IELTS Writing Task 1: Table & Pie Charts 2019

IELTS writing task 1 (academic) reported 2019 and 2015.

IELTS Writing Task 1 Table 3 Pie Charts 2019

Model Answer: IELTS Table & 3 Pie Charts

Instructions: The following model answer has been divided into sentences (A-H). Put them in the correct order to find a band score 9 model writing task 1 report.

A) In terms of the source of fish importation, Canada supplied the overwhelming majority in 1988 (60%) compared to China and other countries which provided only 13% and 27% respectively.

B) Regarding the table, the value of imports started at $6.57 billion in the first year, increasing to $8.52 in 1992 and reaching $10.72 in the last year.

C) Overall, the value of imports rose by just under double over the period given.

D) Likewise, imports from China rose over the period to reach 30% in 2000.

E) At the start of the period, the US imported fish predominantly from Canada but, by the final year, other countries had become the main source.

F) Conversely, by 1992, other countries had replaced Canada as the main supplier and made up 46% of all imports in 1992 and 42% by 2000.

G) The table shows the value of fish that was imported to the US (measured in billions of dollars) in 1988, 1992 and 2000, while the three pie charts illustrate the amount of fish that the US brought in from China, Canada and other countries in the same three years.

H) The imports from Canada then proceeded to fall to 28% in the final year.

Answers for Model Answer 2019

Click here to reveal answers: Answers

Answer: G C E B A H F D

See the model answer below to check how the above information is organised into paragraphs.

IELTS Model Answer: Table & 3 Pie Charts

The table shows the value of fish that was imported to the US (measured in billions of dollars) in 1988, 1992 and 2000, while the three pie charts illustrate the amount of fish that the US brought in from China, Canada and other countries in the same three years.

Overall, the value of imports rose by just under double over the period given. At the start of the period, the US imported fish predominantly from Canada but, by 1992 other countries became the main source.

Regarding the table, the value of imports started at $6.57 billion in the first year, increasing to $8.52 in 1992 and reaching $10.72 in the last year.

In terms of the source of fish importation, Canada supplied the overwhelming majority in 1988 (60%) compared to China and other countries which provided only 13% and 27% respectively. The imports from Canada then proceeded to fall to 28% in the final year. Conversely, by 1992, other countries had replaced Canada as the main supplier and made up 46% of all imports in 1992 and 42% by 2000. Likewise, imports from China rose over the period to reach 30% in 2000.

Examiner Comment: Vocabulary is accurate and flexible. Paraphrase for the topic vocabulary =fish importation, provided, supplied, suppliers. Please note that the topic vocabulary provided by IELTS was also used and this is fine. Sentences are complex and accurate. The writer offers a good range of sentence structures and linking words (while, overall, regarding, in terms of, compared to, likewise, on the other hand). The overview statement is easy to find and contains the key features for both table and charts. Details are well organised into logical body paragraphs. It is fine that body paragraphs are not of equal length in report writing. This is estimated at band 9.


More IELTS Writing Task 1 Model Answers:

Click here to access more writing task 1 model answers and tips and free lessons: All IELTS Writing Task 1 Free Lessons etc

Note: GT candidates are not given such tasks. GT writing task 1 is a letter only. Click here: Essential Tips for IELTS GT Letter

IELTS General Training & Academic Writing Differences Explained

Learn about IELTS GT (General Training) exam content and writing tasks. Learn how the IELTS GT writing is different from the academic writing test.  Useful links are provided for GT students below.

Understanding GT IELTS

  • The GT listening test is the same as the academic test. Everyone takes the same listening test with the same scoring. You can use my free listening lessons and tips for your preparation.
  • The GT speaking test is the same for everyone. There is one speaking test only with the same scoring. You can use my free speaking lessons and tips for your preparation.
  • The GT reading test is slightly different. The question types are 100% the same as the academic test, but the passages have a different content and layout. You can use my free reading lessons and tips for your preparation, but make sure you do full authentic GT reading tests at home. See this page for more GT reading information:  GT Reading Tips
  • To understand GT writing (both task 1 and task 2), see all the tips below.

This page will explain both writing task 1 differences and writing task 2 differences.

IELTS GT Differences for Writing Task 1

General training students will need to write a letter for writing task 1 but academic students will need to write a report.

  • GT Writing Task 1 = Letters: Formal, informal and semi-formal
  • Academic Writing Task 1 = Report: table, pie chart, bar chart, line graph etc.

This means writing task 1 is completely different for GT candidates. GT candidates do NOT get charts, they are given letters only. See the information below:

General Training Writing Task 1 Letter

Use the following 10 tips and links to ensure you understand GT letters properly

  1. Candidates are required to write a letter which can be formal, semi-formal or informal.
  2. A list of points is given for the letter as well as the aim. It is your task to make sure your letter covers all points with a clear aim.
  3. Pay attention to opening lines, closing statements, paragraphs etc.
  4. You also need to pay attention to style and tone depending on whether the letter is formal or informal.
  5. Get to know the scoring for task 1 – see below. Remember, task 1 is worth only 33% of your writing marks.
  6. You must write over 150 words. But it is recommend not to write over 200 words.
  7. It is recommended to take no more than 20 minutes for this task. It is up to you to manage the one hour given for the whole writing test.
  8. GT students are NOT asked to write a report on a chart or graph.
  9. Sample Practice Letters for GT Students
  10. MUST READ: Essential Tips for IELTS GT Letters

Academic Task 1 Report

  • Students must analyse a chart, graph, table, map or diagram.
  • Students must highlight key features and present data or information.
  • Students must write over 150 words.
  • It is recommended to take no more than 20 minutes for this.
  • IELTS Sample Academic Charts

IELTS Writing Task 1 Scoring

There are four marking criteria for IELTS writing task 1.

Only one criterion is different for GT students.

  • Task Achievement General Training: This refers to using the appropriate tone and also purpose. It also relates to the word count.
  • Task Achievement Academic: This is about presenting key features, having an overview and accurate information. This also relates to the word count.
  • Coherence and Cohesion: This is the same for both GT and Academic. It is based on organisation of information, paragraphing and linking devices.
  • Lexical Resource (Vocabulary): This is marked using the same band scores for both GT and Academic. This is about using appropriate language, using collocations and the number of errors made.
  • Grammar: This is also marked using the same band scores for both GT and Academic. This is about using a range of grammar structures and tenses, punctuation and the number of errors made.

Each criterion is 25% of your total marks for writing task 1. See the task 1 band score descriptors published by IELTS which show the difference between GT and academic writing for Task Achievement.

IELTS GT Differences for Writing Task 2

There are only minimal differences between IELTS general training writing task 2 and the academic task 2. GT candidates can use all my free writing task 2 lessons to prepare.

Below is a list of the minor differences and similarities between the essays.

1. Essay Question Difficulty

One difference is that the essay question for the General Training writing task 2 is often easier. It is written in a way that makes the issues clearly and easier to understand. Here’s a sample of a GT essay question and an academic essay question.

GT Essay Question Sample

Some students travel abroad for one year before starting university.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing this?

Academic Essay Question Sample

Some people think that space exploration is a waste of money and the funds should be relocated to other more needed areas.

To what extent do you agree?

* Please note that it is still possible to get the education essay question in the academic test.

2. Topics for Essays

Another slight difference is that the topic giving for the IELTS general training essay question is a more common topic, such as family, society, TV, schools, communication etc. However, in the academic test, there is a wider range including space exploration. Even so, it is best for GT candidates to prepare all topics because the topic of space exploration could come in the speaking test.

3. Essay types for General Training

The types of essays are the same for both general training and academic IELTS papers. You could get an opinion essay, a discussion essay, an advantage disadvantage essay, a solution essay or a direct question essay. At the bottom of the 100 IELTS essay questions page, you will find some practice essays for each type. And on the writing task 2 page, you will find model essays for each type. All this is suitable for both GT and academic students.

4. Marking & Scoring

The marking criteria and band scores are the same for both GT and academic students in writing 2. Here is a link to learn about the band scores for writing task 2 from band 5 to 8. To see the band score descriptors published by IELTS, click here. You will see that there is only one scoring for all essays.

5. IELTS GT Essay Writing Techniques

Another similarity is the technique for essay writing. It is the same for both GT and academic essays. Students for both the GT test and academic test will study from the same methods, tips and advice for IELTS essay writing.

This means all writing task 2 lessons on this blog are suitable for both GT and academic IELTS students. See here: IELTS Writing Task 2 Tips, Model Essays and Free Video Lessons

6. Essay Length and Timing

The length of the GT essay is over 250 words which is the same as the academic essay. Likewise, 40 minutes is the recommended length of time for both types of essays.

Using the Official Writing Answer Sheet

Students taking the general training or academic writing test, must select the right box to tick on the official writing answer sheet in the test. Please watch this lesson about filling in the official IELTS writing answer sheet. It explains about selecting the right box for either general training or academic writing.

Recommended IELTS Tips

IELTS GT Writing Task 1 Letter: Essential Tips

IELTS Writing Task 2 Lessons, Tips & Model Essays


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IELTS Writing Task 1: Pie Chart Model Score 9

How to compare two pie charts in IELTS writing task 1. This sample answer illustrates the method of organising the report as well as useful language and sentence structures to get a band score 9.

IELTS Pie Charts

The pie charts below show the comparison of different kinds of energy production of France in two years.

ielts pie chart comparison

Source: Above pie charts not created by IELTS Liz.

Pie Chart Sample Answer

The two pie charts illustrate the proportion of five types of energy production in France in 1995 and 2005. 

Overall, in both years, the most significant sources of energy  were gas and coal, which together accounted for over half the production of energy, while nuclear and other kinds of energy sources generated the least amount of energy in France. In all types of energy production there was only minimal change over the 10 year period.

Energy produced by coal comprised of 29.80% in the first year and this showed only a very slight increase of about a mere 1 % to 30.9% in 2005. Likewise, in 1995, gas generated 29.63% which rose marginally to 30.1% 10 years later.

With regards to the remaining methods of producing energy, there was an approximate 5% growth in production from both nuclear power and other sources to 10.10% and 9.10% respectively. Petrol, on the other hand, was the only source of energy which decreased in production from 29.27% in 1995 to around a fifth (19.55%) in 2005.

Pie Chart Tips

  • Always highlight the largest and smallest proportions
  • If there are two pie charts in different time periods, then you must highlight the key changes / trends
  • Use pie chart language – accounts for / comprises of / represents
  • The phrase “Units are measured in …” should be used when the units have not been stated in the previous sentence.


IELTS Writing Task 1: Tips, Model Answers and Video Lessons

IELTS Model Bar Chart Band Score 9

The model answer below is for an IELTS bar chart in writing task 1 of the academic paper. This model answer comes from the video tutorial I made, see the following link: Free Video Tutorial:  How to Describe an IELTS bar chart

IELTS Bar Chart

Bar Chart Model

Source: Bar chart above from unknown source.

IELTS Bar Chart Sample Answer

The chart illustrates the amount of money spent on five consumer goods (cars, computers, books, perfume and cameras) in France and the UK in 2010. Units are measured in pounds sterling.

Overall, the UK spent more money on consumer goods than France in the period given. Both the British and the French spent most of their money on cars whereas the least amount of money was spent on perfume in the UK compared to cameras in France. Furthermore, the most significant difference in expenditure between the two countries was on cameras.

In terms of cars, people in the UK spent about £450,000 on this as opposed to the French at £400,000. Similarly, the British expenditure was higher on books than the French (around £400,000 and £300,000 respectively). In the UK, expenditure on cameras (just over £350,000) was over double that of France, which was only £150,000.

On the other hand, the amount of money paid out on the remaining goods was higher in France. Above £350,000 was spent by the French on computers which was slightly more than the British who spent exactly £350,000. Neither of the countries spent much on perfume which accounted for £200,000 of expenditure in France but under £150,000 in the UK.

Comments: The report has been organised into logical paragraphs with flexible use of linking. The overview is very clear with key features well highlighted. Accurate data is used to support sentences in the body paragraphs. There is a range of complex structures and vocabulary which is used flexibly. This is an estimated band score 9 writing task 1 report for the academic paper.


Main IELTS Pages

Develop your IELTS skills with tips, lessons, free videos and more.

IELTS Sand Dunes Diagram Writing Task 1

The diagram below is an IELTS writing task 1 diagram about sand dune formation. This appeared in the IELTS test in December, 2018 (academic paper).

This diagram was particularly challenging because of the similarity in the three diagrams and the lack of words given. People were concerned about paraphrasing and repeating vocabulary. There is a link to download this in pdf below the diagram.

IELTS Diagram: Sand Dune Formation 2018

The diagram has not been published by IELTS, it was recreated by an IELTS candidate and also confirmed by another. This means it might vary from the actual diagram in the test but the essentials will be the same and it will still provide much needed practice with such diagrams.

Sand Dune Diagram Model Answer

The diagrams illustrate the formation of a sand dune from sand particles. Overall, the three stages of formation show that sand particles are driven by the wind over dry ground to gather on wet ground where they collect and create sand dunes.

The first diagram shows how sand particles are blown by the wind over the dry sandy ground and two areas of wet ground. This is then followed by the second diagram in which it can be seen that as particles of sand continue to be carried by the wind along the ground, some of the particles start to adhere to the first patch of wet ground in separate piles.

The sand particles which have been transported by the wind, as illustrated in the final diagram, eventually gather en masse over the area of wet ground, piling one on top of the other until they form a sand dune. The accumulation of so many sand particles is so large that the dunes, once formed, can deflect the wind, forcing it up one side of the dune and down the other. As this happens, particles of sand start gathering and piling up in the next area of wet ground.


  1. Your overview must be clear and contain all key features. It is the most important statement in your whole task.
  2. The overview contains key features and summarises the whole diagram into one statement. Take the keywords and create on long statement which explains the diagram.
  3. The overview can be put together with the introduction in one paragraph, but it still forms a statement on its own. Do not split your overview. You cannot have an overview and another general statement in a different part of the report. You need to collect all summarising statements together and write them as one overview.
  4. If you only state that there are three stages, this would be considered a limited overview which is a features of band 6 Task Achievement. You need to add more than just a number of stages.
  5. You only paraphrase where possible. Some words cannot be paraphrased, such as sand, dune, wind etc. Words such as “blown by the wind” = “transported by the wind” & “carried by the wind”. Choose which words you will and won’t paraphrase.
  6. You should be using a mixture of active and passive voice to describe a diagram or process.
  7. Even though there are three diagrams, does not mean you need three body paragraphs. Be flexible.
  8. The word count of this writing is 199. You do not need to write that much, but do make sure you write over 150 words.
  9. Use linking and sequencing words: overall, followed by, as illustrated, eventually, as this happens

I hope you found it useful to see this diagram, model answer and tips 🙂

All the best



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