In the IELTS writing exam, candidates often wonder about the level of personalization they can include in their essays and whether they should or should not give personal examples to prove their point. In this article, I will delve into the guidelines and considerations for incorporating personal examples and anecdotes in your IELTS essays.

Understanding IELTS Writing Requirements

The Purpose of IELTS Writing

IELTS, or the International English Language Testing System, evaluates a candidate’s English language proficiency across various aspects, including listening, reading, speaking, and writing. The writing section assesses the candidate’s ability to communicate effectively in written English and express ideas coherently, using subject-appropriate vocabulary and with a flow.

The examiners point marks on different set criteria. These include: 

1) Task response

2) Coherence and Cohesion

3) Lexical resources

4) Grammatical range and accuracy

You are marked on each of these criteria, then the marks are added to achieve a final band score. ‘Task response’ means whether you have addressed the question asked adequately. Now to answer the question and support your point of view and arguments, you can use different examples that can be personal or general, whichever is more appropriate for the given task. 

Task Types in IELTS Writing

The IELTS writing test has two tasks. 

Task 1 of the writing test involves interpreting and summarizing visual information, while Task 2 requires candidates to write an essay on a specific question or statement.

The Role of Personal Examples

Demonstrating Real-life Context

In IELTS essays, the primary focus should be to address the prompt and provide well-supported arguments. Incorporating personal examples can add a touch of authenticity by illustrating real-life situations related to the topic. This makes your essay more relatable and engaging for the reader. And if your personal example gives supporting evidence to the argument you are making then you get good marks. 

Supporting Your Ideas

Personal examples can serve as supporting evidence for your main arguments. They can help clarify your points and add depth to your essay. However, personal examples are more appropriate for some questions but aren’t so for others.

A few questions where personal examples would be suitable are:

“Some people think that parents should teach their children about the importance of recycling. Others believe recycling should be taught in schools. Discuss both views and give your opinion”. 

Young people today mostly learn by reading books or watching movies and TV shows, rather than personal experience. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Some people argue that thanks to the widespread accessibility of the internet, libraries are no longer necessary. Do you agree or disagree?

In questions such as the above, personal examples are appropriate. You can write about examples from your life to support your point of view. 

Guidelines for Using Personal Examples

Relevance to the Topic

While personal examples can enhance your essay, they should directly relate to the topic and contribute to the overall discussion. Irrelevant or tangential examples might divert the focus and weaken the coherence of your essay. Only use them if they help you in proving your point of view.

Maintaining Objectivity

Even when using personal examples, it’s crucial to maintain an objective tone. Present your personal experiences as anecdotal evidence rather than emotional testimonials. Explain how your personal experiences have helped you arrive at the views you are presenting.

Addressing Potential Concerns

Concern 1: Overuse of Personal Examples

While personal examples can be insightful, overusing them might make your essay sound self-indulgent. Remember, the goal is to provide a balanced and coherent argument that addresses the prompt effectively. One example to prove one point is enough.

Concern 2: Cultural Sensitivity

When using personal examples, be mindful of cultural sensitivity. What might be common in your culture could be unfamiliar or even inappropriate in an international context. You can write such an example but in a way that won’t offend anyone. Culturally limited examples would not be appropriate to address a very general question, for these sorts of questions, you need more generalisable examples. Remember the purpose of an example is to clarify a point or provide evidence for your statement and not just to reach the required word count. 


In conclusion, incorporating personal examples in IELTS writing can be a powerful tool if used judiciously. When done right, personal examples can lend authenticity, clarity, and depth to your essay, enhancing the overall quality of your response.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. Can I use fictional examples in IELTS writing? While drawing from real-life experiences is better, you can use fictional examples if they are relevant and contribute effectively to your essay. Remember: your examples do not have to be based on reality; they should be plausible, believable, make sense, and add substance to your written piece.  
  2. Should I include personal examples in both Task 1 and Task 2? In task 1, you only have to describe the given date. Do not give your own opinion or an example at all.

Task 2 asks your opinion, so give your viewpoint and reasoning and support them with relevant examples.

  1. How many personal examples should I include in my essay? One or two examples are enough. Remember you have limited time and must write an introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion of the essay. Do not spend too much time writing too many examples.
  2. Should personal examples be from my own life only? Personal examples can be from your own life, the lives of people you know, or even hypothetical scenarios, as long as they align with the essay’s theme.
  3. Can I use personal examples in formal letters or reports within IELTS writing? Avoid informal personal examples in formal letters and reports.
  4. Can I write examples in the introduction and conclusion?

Do not write any examples in the introduction and conclusion. Only write examples in your body paragraphs. One example per paragraph is enough.

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