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IELTS Writing Task 2 Essay

Structures
TheeasiestwaytoscorewellontheIELTSTask2writingportionisto
structureyourwritinginasolidessayformat.Astrongargumentessay
structurecanbesplitupinto4paragraphs,eachcontaining4sentences
(excepttheconclusionparagraph,whichonlycontains3sentences).
Lookatthisessaystructure:
Introduction
Sentence1Backgroundstatement
Sentence2Detailedbackgroundstatement,alsoknownaskey
points
Sentence3Thesis
Sentence4Outlinestatement
Supporting Paragraph 1

Sentence1Topicsentence
Sentence2Example
Sentence3Discussion
Sentence4Conclusion

Supporting Paragraph 2

Sentence1Topicsentence
Sentence2Example
Sentence3Discussion
Sentence4Conclusion

Conclusion
Sentence1Summary
Sentence2Restatementofthesis
Sentence3Predictionorrecommendation

Thisessaystructurecontainsatotalof15sentencesandwillputyour
essayatroughly250275words.Eachsentenceshouldbeshort,written
clearlyandshouldlinktootherideaspresentedintheessayusingcohesive
phrases.WewilllearnabouthowtodothisinChapter2.

Structure of a Good
Introduction
If you use this structure you will not only score higher marks but you
will also save time in the exam. If you practice enough, introductions will
become easy and you will do them in just a few minutes. This will leave
you lots of time to focus on the main body paragraphs where you can
pick up lots of mark.
An IELTS writing task 2 opinion essay should have three sentences and
these three sentences should be:
Paraphrase question
Thesis statement
Outline statement

1.

Paraphrase Question

Paraphrasing means stating the question again, but with different


words so that it has the same meaning. We do this by using synonyms
and flipping the order of the sentences around.
Question: There is a good deal of evidence that
increasing car use is contributing to global warming
and having other undesirable effects on peoples
health and well-being.
Paraphrase: Rising global temperatures and human health and
fitness issues are often viewed as being caused by the expanding use of
automobiles.
The synonyms Ive used are:

Increasing- expanding
Car use- use of automobiles
Global warming- rising global temperatures
Peoples health and well-being- human health and fitness
As you can see, I then switched the order of the sentence around.
I have therefore demonstrated to the examiner that I can
paraphrase and have a wide range of vocabulary. These are two of the
things that the examiner is specifically looking for and you will gain
marks for including them.
You should practice this with past paper questions.

2.

Thesis Statement

This is the most important sentence in your essay. This is your main idea
and I often describe it to students as how you feel about the whole
issue in one sentence. It tells the examiner that you have understood
the question and will lead to a clear and coherent essay.
Lets look at the thesis sentence from the previous example:
Thesis statement: This essay agrees that increasing use of motor
vehicles is contributing to rising global temperatures and certain health
issues.
It is always just one sentence long so you will have to practice summing
up your opinion in one sentence. It should also address the microkeywords and not the topic in general.
You should start your thesis statement with:
This essay agrees that.. or this essay disagrees that.. (Opinion
essays)
The main cause(s) of this issue is.. (Causes and solutions)
The principal advantage(s) is (xxxxx) and the main disadvantage is
(xxxxxx). (Advantage and disadvantages).
For a discussion (of two points of view) essay you should state both
points of view clearly.

Lets look at another example:


Some aspects of celebrity culture have a bad
influence on young people.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with this
statement?
3
4

To keep things simple, we have two optionsAgree that some aspects of celebrity culture have a bad influence on
young people.
Disagree that some aspects of celebrity culture have a bad influence on
young people.
My essay will argue that celebrity culture does have a bad influence
and my thesis statement will there be:
This essay agrees that the some famous peoples lifestyles have a
detrimental effect on the youth of today.
I have stated my opinion in one sentence and used synonyms to make
sure I dont just repeat the question.
Thesis statements are very important but only in question that ask you
for your opinion. Some IELTS questions do not ask you for your opinion
and in these cases you can leave it out.

3. Outline

Statement

Now that you have paraphrased the question and told the examiner
what you think in your thesis sentence, you are now going to tell the
examiner what you will discuss in the main body paragraphs. In other
words, you will outline what the examiner will read in the rest of the
essay. This should be one sentence only.
Example:
Question: There is a good deal of evidence that
increasing car use is contributing to global warming

and having other undesirable effects on peoples


health and well-being.
Outline statement: Firstly, this essay will discuss the production
of greenhouse gases by vehicles and secondly, it will discuss other toxic
chemicals released by internal combustion engines.
So what I have done is just look at my main body paragraphs and wrote
about what they contain. You should have only one main idea per
paragraph. In this essay, I have only two main body paragraphs, so I only
need to say two things in the outline statement.
Main body paragraph 1- production of greenhouse gases by cars.
Main body paragraph 2- toxic chemical produced by car engines.
Again, your main body paragraphs should have only one main idea so it
should be easy to spot these and then write a sentence about them.
For advantages and disadvantages essays and problem and solution
essays you could write something like this:
Advantages and disadvantages: this essay will first discuss
the (main advantage(s)) followed by an analysis of the (main
disadvantage(s)).
Problem and Solution: This essay will analyse the principal
problem(s) and offer solutions to this issue.
Final Example
Question: Learning to manage money is one of the
key aspects to adult life. How in your view can
individuals best learn to manage their money?
Good answer: One of the keys to adulthood is appreciating how to
budget your finances. It is clear that the best way someone can learn
this, is by managing money during childhood. Firstly, the essay will
discuss the importance of parental involvement during childhood and

secondly, the essay will look at the importance of having a part time job
during childhood.
As you can see, the above introduction follows the structure I laid out
above.

Writing a Thesis
Statement
What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement is the most important sentence in your IELTS
writing task 2 answer. It is contained in the introduction and each
introduction should have one; along with a paraphrase of the
question and an outline statement.
A thesis statement is your main idea and I often describe it to
students as how you feel about the whole issue in one sentence. It
tells the examiner that you have understood the question and will
lead to a clearer; more coherent essay.
Lets look at an example of a thesis statement:
Question: There is a good deal of evidence that increasing car use
is contributing to global warming and having other undesirable
effects on peoples health and well-being.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
Thesis statement: This essay agrees that increasing use of
motor vehicles is contributing to rising global temperatures and
certain health issues.
As you can see, this sentence makes it absolutely clear to the
examiner how you feel about the question. The rest of your essay
should support this statement.
How do I know what to write?
The first thing we need to do is to identify which type of question it
is and look at the action words. For example, in the question below
the action words are do you agree or disagree?
Question: There is a good deal of evidence that increasing car use
is contributing to global warming and having other undesirable
effects on peoples health and well-being.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?


We therefore need to tell the examiner clearly whether we agree or
disagree and this will influence our thesis statement.
Lets look at other examples:
Computers are being used more and more in education.
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages and give your own
opinion.
Computers are being used more and more in education.
Some people say that this is a positive trend, while others
argue that it is leading to negative consequences.
Discuss both sides of this argument and then give your own
opinion.
Students are becoming more and more reliant on computers.
What are some of the problems associated with reliance on
computers, and what are some of the possible solutions?
In each of the three questions above the main keywords are more
or less the same- education and computers. However, if we look at
the action words we can see that we are required to answer the
three questions in very different ways and this will affect our thesis
statement.
The action words are:
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages and give your own
opinion.
Discuss both sides of this argument and then give your own
opinion.
What are some of the problems and what are some of the
possible solutions?
It is therefore important to take some time to analyze the question
and establish what the question is actually asking us to do.

How do I write a thesis statement for each question?


Once we have established what the question wants us to do, we can
now think about our thesis statement. Below we will look at how to
write a thesis statement for four different kinds of question:
Opinion Question (Do you agree or Disagree)
Discussion Question (Discuss both points of view)
Advantages and Disadvantage
Problem and Solution.
You should remember that although IELTS writing part 2 questions
normally follow a standard format as above, they sometimes change
and you should be prepared for that.
Opinion Question
Some aspects of celebrity culture have a bad influence on
young people.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with this
statement?
We have three choices with this kind of question:
1. I agree
2. I disagree
3. I both agree and disagree
I tell my students to only choose options one or two. Choosing
option three will often lead to a confused and/or very long essay. If
you have just one opinion and you stick to this, it will lead to a clear
and well argued essay.
You therefore have two choices.
1. I agree that some aspects of celebrity culture have a bad
influence on young people.
2. I disagree that some aspects of celebrity culture have a bad
influence on young people.
All of your thesis statements for this kind of question should
start with:

This essay agrees that..


or
This essay disagrees that..
We should try to avoid using personal pronouns like I and we
therefore use This essay. instead.
Also remember that we should not copy the question as this is not
allowed in the IELTS writing test and instead we should paraphrase.
For example, This essay agrees that the some famous peoples
lifestyles have a detrimental effect on the youth of today.
Second Example Opinion Question
Increasing the price of petrol is the best way to solve
growing traffic and pollution problems.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
Thesis Statement: This essay disagrees that the best way to
resolve increasing pollution and congestion problems is to raise the
cost of fuel.
Discussion Question
Computers are being used more and more in education.
Some people say that this is a positive trend, while others
argue that it is leading to negative consequences.
Discuss both sides of this argument and then give your
own opinion.
For this kind of question, we need to clearly state both sides of the
argument and state our own opinion.
We do this by simply paraphrasing the question; thus stating both
sides, and then giving our own opinion. Our own opinion will be
just one side of the argument.
Even if you favor both sides of the argument, just state one. Again,
this leads to a clearer answer.

Thesis statement: Some argue that schools and universities


increasing use of computers is a beneficial trend, while others are
opposed to this view. This essay agrees that growing use of
technology by educators is a positive development.
As you can see, this student has clearly stated both sides of the
argument and stated which side of the argument she prefers.
Second Example Discussion Question
Some people think that parents should teach children how
to be good members of society. Others, however, believe
that school is the best place to learn this.
Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.
Thesis statement: Some argue that teachers should teach
youngsters how to be upstanding members of the community,
whereas others feel this is the role of the mother and father. This
essay agrees that this duty should be filled primarily by parents.
Advantage and Disadvantages Question
Computers are being used more and more in education.
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages and give your
own opinion.
In this kind of question we need to clearly state what we think the
main advantage is and what the main disadvantage is.
Thesis Statement: The principal advantage is the amount of
information instantly available to students and the main
disadvantage is the lack of discipline and motivation provided by
computers.
Second Advantage and Disadvantages Question
Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin
learning a foreign language at primary school rather than
secondary school.
Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?

Thesis statement: The principal advantage is that exposing


children to languages as early as possible leads to higher levels of
proficiency later in life and this outweighs the main disadvantage of
young children being overwhelmed by too many subjects.
Problem and Solution Question
Students are becoming more and more reliant on
computers.
What are some of the problems associated with reliance
on computers, and what are some of the possible
solutions?
Our thesis statement will need to state one main problem and one
main solution. Some teachers will advise you to state more than
problem and solution. There is nothing wrong with this, but I like
my students to choose two good ideas and develop these fully.
Thesis statement: The principal problem is students allowing
machines to do all the work for them without thinking for
themselves and a possible solution is to have stricter supervision
from teachers and parents.
Cause and Solution Question
In some countries the average weight of people is
increasing and their levels of health and fitness are
decreasing.
What do you think are the causes of these problems and
what measures could be taken to solve them?
Thesis statement: The principal cause of this problem is peoples
sedentary lifestyles and a possible solution is to educate society
about the dangers of not keeping fit.

Linking Words for IELTS


Writing
The linking words list below is essential for IELTS writing task 2 for
high score. The examiner needs to see a range of linking words in
your essay to award you a high score for the criterion of Coherence
and Cohesion which is 25% of your marks. You will be checked on
your range, accuracy and your flexibility of linking words in IELTS
writing task 2. These connecting words are suitable for all types of
essay writing as well as GT IELTS writing task 2
Listing & Order
Firstly
Secondly
Thirdly
Fourthly
lastly /last but not
least / finally

Results
Consequences

as a result
consequently
therefore
thus
hence
so
for this reason

Adding
Information
in addition
additionally
furthermore
moreover
also
not only but also
as well as
and
& Highlighting
&
Stressing

particularly
in particular
specifically
especially
obviously
of course
clearly

Giving Example
for example
one clear example is
for instance
such as
namely
to illustrate
in other words
Concessions
Contrasts

&

admittedly
however
nevertheless
even though
although
but
despite
in spite of
still
on the other hand
by contrast
in comparison
alternatively
another option could

be

Reasons & Causes Giving


because
Opinion
owing to
due to
since
as

your Concluding
Linkers

in my opinion
in conclusion
I think
to conclude
I believe
to sum up
I admit
in my view
I concur / agree
I disagree / I cannot
accept

Sequencing the
first idea

Adding
supporting ideas

Adding a
contrasting
idea

Making general
statements

The main reason is


The most important
consideration is
First of all,
In the first place,

Another reason
is
Furthermore,
Moreover,
In the same vein,

On the other
hand,
However,
Nevertheless,
Although,

As a general rule,
Generally,
In most cases,

Giving examples

Giving an
explanation

Clarifying an
opinion

Drawing a
conclusion

For example,
For instance,
In particular,
A clear example of
this is

The reason for this


is
This is because
This is due to

To be more
precise
More
specifically
By this I mean
In other words,

As a consequence,
Therefore,
As a result,

Stating your
opinion

Partially correct
statements

Other people's
opinions

Making a
concession

From my
perspective,
From my point of
view,
In my opinion

somewhat
agree/disagree
to a certain degree,

From a political
point of view,
From the point of
view of the
economy,
Some people
believe

It is sometimes
argued that
Admittedly,
However,

To give
advantages

To give
disadvantages

To express
cause

to express
effect

A major advantage of
this is
Another important
merit is
The final benefit
is

One major
drawback is
Another
disadvantage is
The final limitation
is that

Owing to
Due to the fact
that
For the reason
that

Therefore,
As a consequence,
As a result

to some extent,

Essay Structures

1. Opinion Questions (Agree or Disagree)


In this post we will look at:
1. Structure
2. Deciding Opinion
3. Idea Generation
4. Writing an Effective Introduction
5. Writing Supporting Paragraphs
6. Writing a Conclusion

Typical Question Words


What is your opinion?
Do you agree or disagree?
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
Direct question.

Example Question
Some people believe that unpaid community service should be a
compulsory part of high school programs (for example working for
a charity, improving the neighborhood or teaching sports to
younger children).
To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Structure
Paragraph 1 - Introduction

Sentence 1- Paraphrase Question


Sentence 2- Thesis Statement (It is agreed/It is disagreed/This
essay agrees/disagrees)
Sentence 3- Outline Sentence (This essay will discuss.)

Paragraph 2 - Main Body Paragraph 1


Sentence 1- Topic Sentence
Sentence 2- Explain Topic Sentence
Sentence 3- Example

Paragraph 3 - Main Body Paragraph 2


Sentence 1- Topic Sentence
Sentence 2- Explain Topic Sentence

Sentence 3- Example

Paragraph 4 - Conclusion
Sentence 1- Summary and opinion

Deciding Opinion
In this essay IELTS examiners want you to give a clear opinion, so
its really important for you to make a decision when you read the
question. You will also need to do this in order to write an effective
thesis statement.
Lets look at an example:
In some countries an increasing number of people are
suffering from health problems as a result of eating too
much fast food. It is therefore necessary for governments
to impose a higher tax on this kind of food.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
With this type of essay we have two choices:
We agree with the statement or;
We disagree with the statement
Some teachers advise that you can partly agree and disagree but this
often leads to an essay with no clear focus and a confusing
structure.
So for this essay you can say either:
This essay agrees that governments should tax fast food or;
This essay disagrees that governments should tax fast food
I think I will have more ideas for A, so Im choosing this one. Always
choose the one that you feel comfortable writing about even if you
dont personally feel that way. There are no points for writing about
how you feel, you just want to impress the examiner.

Idea Generation

Now we have to think of ideas for why governments should tax fast
food.

Here are some:


Cigarettes and alcohol are taxed in the same way
The money raised could be used to treat people with health
problems
Fast food companies should be punished for selling unhealthy
food to people
Making the food more expensive would stop people eating it
The money raised could be used to educate people about
healthy eating
We dont need to use all of these, just two for our supporting
paragraphs. Im going to pick the first and the fourth ones because I
know a little about these two and feel confident I can expand on
them with explanations and examples. Remember the examiner
wants you to fully support your arguments, not just list a lot of
ideas.
Now we have two supporting ideas we can move on to our
introduction.

Introduction

As previously stated, we will use the following structure:


Paragraph 1- Introduction
Sentence 1- Paraphrase Question
Sentence 2- Thesis Statement
Sentence 3- Outline Statement
For a more detailed explanation please see our post on writing an
effective introduction.
In order to paraphrase the question we simply restate it with a
different meaning using synonyms. I will also reorder the question.
Here is the question again:
In some countries an increasing number of people are
suffering from health problems as a result of eating too

much fast food. It is therefore necessary for governments


to impose a higher tax on this kind of food.
Paraphrased: It is argued that governments should levy a
tariff on junk food because the number of health risks
associated with consuming this kind of food is on the rise.
This is our first sentence.
We now need to write our thesis statement. This is our opinion in
one sentence. This essay will agree with the above statement and
will therefore look like this:
This essay agrees that a higher rate of tax should be paid
by fast food companies.
This is our second sentence.
We now need to write our third and final sentence, which is the
outline sentence. This sentence outlines what you will write
about in the main body paragraphs.
Firstly, this essay will discuss the fact that alcohol and
tobacco companies already pay higher taxes and secondly,
discuss how higher taxes could raise prices and lower
consumption.
So our full introduction will look like this:
It is argued that governments should levy a tariff on junk
food because the number of health risks associated with
consuming this kind of food is on the rise. This essay
agrees that a higher rate of tax should be paid by fast food
companies. Firstly, this essay will discuss the fact that
alcohol and tobacco companies already pay higher taxes
and secondly, discuss how higher taxes would raise prices
and lower consumption.
3 sentences, 77 words.
We now need to write our supporting paragraphs

Supporting Paragraph 1
This paragraph should include:
Topic Sentence
Explanation
Example
A topic sentence tells the examiner what the rest of the paragraph is
about. In other words, it is a summary of your first idea. It should
look something like this:
Higher excise on liqueur and cigarettes has proven to be
successful at curbing the harm caused by these
substances.
We now need to expand on this point a little. A good way of doing
this is to assume that the examiner has no knowledge of this subject
and you have to explain clearly what you mean. Here is what this
could look like:
This revenue has been used to treat health problems
associated with these products and has proven useful in
advertising campaigns warning people about the dangers
of alcohol and tobacco abuse. Tax from fast food could be
used in the same way.
We should now think of an example to support our point. Think
about any recent news stories, studies or adverts. If you cant think
of one, make one up. The examiner wont check if it is real or not.
The United Kingdom is a prime example, where money
from smokers is used to treat lung cancer and heart
disease, while at the same time, pumped into health
campaigns in schools to warn children about the dangers
of smoking.
Thats it. Four sentences. The full paragraph should look like this:
Higher excise on liqueur and cigarettes has proven to be
successful at curbing the harm caused by these

substances. This revenue has been used to treat health


problems associated with these products and has proven
useful in advertising campaigns warning people about the
dangers of alcohol and tobacco abuse. Tax from fast food
could be used in the same way. The United Kingdom is a
prime example, where money from smokers is used to
treat lung cancer and heart disease.

Supporting Paragraph 2

We now repeat the same formula with our second supporting pointhigher taxes will increase prices and reduce consumption.
Our topic sentence:
Increasing taxes
consumption.

would

raise

prices

and

lower

Explaining this further:


Fast food companies would pass on these taxes to
consumers in the form of higher prices and this would
lead to people not being able to afford junk food because it
is too expensive. Junk food would soon become a luxury
item and it would only be consumed occasionally, which
would be less harmful to the general publics health.
We now support our point with an example:
For instance, the cost of organic food has proven
prohibitively expensive for most people and that is why
only a small percentage of the population buy it regularly.
The full paragraph would look like this:
Increasing taxes would raise prices and lower
consumption. Fast food companies would pass on these
taxes to consumers in the form of higher prices and this
would lead to people not being able to afford junk food
because it is too expensive. Junk food would soon become
a luxury item and it would only be consumed occasionally,

which would be less harmful to the general publics


health. For instance, the cost of organic food has proven
prohibitively expensive for most people and that is why
only a small percentage of the population buy it regularly.
Four sentences.

Conclusion
As stated before a good conclusion should include:
Sentence 1- Summary of main points
Sentence 2- Your opinion
Dont write any new ideas in this paragraph.
A good conclusion should just restate your thesis statement and
your main supporting points.
In conclusion, junk food should be taxed at a higher rate
because of the good precedent set by alcohol and tobacco
and the fact that the increased cost should reduce the
amount of fast food people buy.

Agree or Disagree Sample Essay

It is argued that governments should levy a tariff on junk food


because the number of health risks associated with consuming this
kind of food is on the rise. This essay agrees that a higher rate of tax
should be paid by fast food companies. Firstly, this essay will
discuss the fact that alcohol and tobacco companies already pay
higher taxes and secondly, discuss how higher taxes would raise
prices and lower consumption.
Higher excise on liqueur and cigarettes has proven to be successful
at curbing the harm caused by these substances. This revenue has
been used to treat health problems associated with these products
and has proven useful in advertising campaigns warning people
about the dangers of alcohol and tobacco abuse. Tax from fast food
could be used in the same way. The United Kingdom is a prime
example, where money from smokers is used to treat lung cancer

and heart disease.


Increasing taxes would raise prices and lower consumption. Fast
food companies would pass on these taxes to consumers in the form
of higher prices and this would lead to people not being able to
afford junk food because it is too expensive. Junk food would soon
become a luxury item and it would only be consumed occasionally,
which would be less harmful to the general publics health. For
instance, the cost of organic food has proven prohibitively expensive
for most people and that is why only a small percentage of the
population buy it regularly.
In conclusion, junk food should be taxed at a higher rate because of
the good precedent set by alcohol and tobacco and the fact that the
increased cost should reduce the amount of fast food people buy.
290 words (band score 9)

2. Advantages and Disadvantages


Questions
Typical Question Words
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages.
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages and give your own
opinion.

Example Question
Computers are being used more and more in education.
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages and give your own
opinion.

Structure
Introduction
Sentence 1- Paraphrase Question
Sentence 2- Outline Sentence

Main Body Paragraph 1


Sentence 1- State One Advantage
Sentence 2- Expand/Explain Advantage

Sentence 3- Example
Sentence 4- Result

Main Body Paragraph 2


Sentence 1- State One Disadvantage
Sentence 2- Expand/Explain Disadvantage
Sentence 3- Example
Sentence 4- Result

Conclusion
Sentence 1- Summary
Sentence 2- Opinion

Sample Answer

It is argued that technology is playing an every increasing role in


schools and universities. This essay will firstly, discuss student
freedom as one of the main advantages of this and secondly, outline
decreasing levels of face to face contact as one of the main
disadvantages.
One of the principle advantages of an increase in the use electronic
devices in education is the autonomy it provides students. Students
have the freedom to focus on whatever topic or subject they want
and study it in depth through the internet. A prime example of this
is the amount of online university courses available to students,
covering a myriad of subjects, that up until recently were
unavailable to most learners. This has resulted in more people
studying third level degrees than ever before, at a pace and schedule
that suits them.
The main disadvantage associated with increasing use of technology
in education is the decrease in face to face interaction between
students. Students spend more time looking at computer screens by
themselves than interacting with each other. For instance, the
recent explosion in smart phone use has been at the expense of
genuine human interaction. This results in soft skills, such as verbal
communication and empathy, being effected.
In conclusion, the benefits technology brings to education, such as

student autonomy, must be weighed against the drawbacks, such as


negative effects on human interaction. Overall, the educational
benefits outweigh the disadvantages because human beings will
always want human contact and most people will not solely use IT
for education.

3. Discuss Both Views Question


(Discussion Essay)
Typical Question Words
Discuss both points of view and give your opinion.
These kinds of questions normally give you a statement and ask you
to comment on the advantages and disadvantages of that statement.
The problem is that there are 3 different types of advantage and
disadvantage question and they each require a different approach. If
you answer them in a different way then you risk losing lots of easy
marks.
This lesson will look at each of the three question types and suggest
a standard sentence-by-sentence structure for each of them. There
will also be samples answers for each of the three questions to help
you compare and understand the three approaches.

Question 1
In some countries young people are encouraged to work or travel
for a year between finishing high school and starting university
studies.
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages for young people who
decided to do this.

Question 2
Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin learning a
foreign language at primary schools rather than secondary school.
Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?

Question 3
Computers are becoming an essential part of school lessons.
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages and give your own
opinion.
Question 1 simply asks us to discuss the advantages and
disadvantages. It does not ask for our opinion or say which side is
better or worse, so we should not include this information in our
answer.
This requires a simple structure in which the student will look at the
advantages in one paragraph and the disadvantages in the other.
Question 2 is different because we have to say if the advantages
are stronger than the disadvantages. Notice I didnt say if there are
more advantages than disadvantages. The question is not asking
you to talk about numbers, but comment on the overall weight of
the advantages or disadvantages. For example, there are a huge
number of advantages to travelling by private jet, but there is one
huge disadvantage (the cost) that stops most people from flying that
way and therefore the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.
In this example we will have to decide which side (advantages or
disadvantages) is stronger and this will affect our structure. If you
choose advantages then you will have to say why these are much
stronger than the advantages and why the disadvantages dont hold
much weight. You would also have to make this clear in your thesis
statement.
Question 3 is different again because it is more like an opinion
essay and a discussion essay at the same time. Your structure will
reflect this by having a paragraph for advantages and
disadvantages, but also having a clear position on the statement.

Example Question
Computers are being used more and more in education. Some
people say that this is a positive trend, while others argue that it is
leading to negative consequences.
Discuss both sides of this argument and then give your own

opinion.

Structure
Introduction
Sentence 1- Paraphrase Question and/or state both view points.
Sentence 2- Thesis Statement
Sentence 3- Outline Sentence

Main Body Paragraph 1


Sentence 1- State first viewpoint
Sentence 2- Discuss first viewpoint
Sentence 3- Reason why you agree or disagree with viewpoint
Sentence 4- Example to support your view

Main Body Paragraph 2


Sentence 1- State second viewpoint
Sentence 2- Discuss second viewpoint
Sentence 3- Reason why you agree or disagree with viewpoint
Sentence 4- Example to support your view

Conclusion
Sentence 1- Summary
Sentence 2- State which one is better or more important

Question 1
In some countries young people are encouraged to work
or travel for a year between finishing high school and
starting university studies.
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages for young
people who decided to do this.
Before embarking on college many young people are advised that a
year working or travelling may be a good option. This essay will
suggest that saving money is the biggest advantage of this and a
reduced motivation to study is the primary disadvantage.
Third level education is very expensive and lots of students decide

to work for 12 months and save up money before they begin their
studies. This allows them to pay for their living costs, tuition fees
and accommodation and focus on their studies, rather than struggle
financially or have to get a part time job on top of their academic
work. The Times recently reported that the average student at a UK
university requires over $12,000 per annum just to survive and
many drop out because they cannot afford to stay.
Despite these advantages, many students often get used to working
or travelling and dont want to return to a life of study after a year
off. This short term view can cause some to bypass university
altogether and go straight into a job that is beneath their
capabilities or may not offer the same prospects their future career
might have done. For instance, a recent survey by the British
Government found that 26% of students who take a gap-year never
enter tertiary education.
In conclusion, taking a break from studies can be advantageous if it
allows people to gather up savings, however, they should also be
careful that it does not lead to disillusionment with education
altogether.
(252 words)

Question 2 Sample Answer


Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin
learning a foreign language at primary schools rather than
secondary school.
Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?
Some authorities think that it is more favorable for pupils to begin
studying languages at primary school instead of secondary school.
This essay will argue that the advantages of this outweigh the
drawbacks. The essay will first demonstrate that the earlier
someone learns an additional language the more likely they are to
master it and that it brings added cognitive benefits, followed by an
analysis of how the primary disadvantage, namely confusion with
their native tongue, is not valid.
The main reason to start kids off with foreign languages early is that

this increases the likelihood they will achieve fluency in adulthood.


That is to say that they will have far more years to perfect their skills
and it will seem perfectly normal to speak bilingually. For example,
in countries such as Holland and Norway where English is taught
from a very young age, more than 95% of adults speak it at an
advanced level. Learning a second language also helps to improve
overall cognitive abilities. In other words it benefits the overall
development of a childs brain. A recent survey by Cambridge
University found that children who studied a new language before
the age of 5 were significantly more likely to score higher in
Mathematics and Science.
Those opposed to this say that it causes the child to become
confused between their mother tongue and the other language.
However, there is actually no evidence to support this view and
children from bilingual families do just as well in both languages.
My own son was brought up speaking both Vietnamese and English
and outperforms most of his classmates in both.
On balance the fact that early foreign language learning leads to
higher fluency and improved brain function clearly outweighs the
flawed argument that it impairs uptake of native languages.
(299 words)

Question 3 Sample Answer


Computers are becoming an essential part of education.
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages and give your
own opinion.
Information technology is becoming a ubiquitous part of learning.
This essay will show that this is a welcome development and can
enhance educational practice. It will first suggest that the instant
availability of huge amounts of information is the primary
advantage, followed by a discussion of how it can sometimes lead to
plagiarism.
The main benefit computers bring to learners is easy access to vast
amounts resources. Learners were once limited to the books they
had and the knowledge of their teacher, now they can learn about
anything they choose at the touch of a button. Google is a prime

example, because it allows people to easily search for whatever they


are looking for quickly and accurately.
One possible drawback is that using the internet to complete
academic work can sometimes lead to pupils copying articles from
the internet. As a result, students do not have to think about their
tasks and learn very little. The Sunday Times recently reported that
72% of college graduates in the UK admitted to copying and pasting
Wikipedia articles at least once.
Overall, it is a very positive development because most students will
take advantage of the power of the information superhighway to
enhance their studies, rather than using it to cheat. For example, in
2005 Cambridge University found that students who regularly used
a computer were 26% more likely to get a first-class degree than
those who did not.
In conclusion, the web has provided a gateway to knowledge unlike
anything seen before and although it can sometimes lead to a few
taking the easy route and plagiarising, it is a very positive step in the
evolution of education.
(278 words)

Sample Answer

There is an ever increasing use of technology, such as tablets and


laptops, in the classroom. It is often argued that this is a positive
development, whilst others disagree and think it will lead to adverse
ramifications. This essay agrees that an increase in technology is
beneficial to students and teachers. This essay will discuss both
points of view.
It is clear that the internet has provided students with access to
more information than ever before. Moreover, learners have the
ability to research and learn about any subject at the touch of a
button. It is therefore agreed that technology is a very worthwhile
tool for education. Wikipedia is a prime example, where students
can simply type in any keyword and gain access to in-depth
knowledge quickly and easily.
However, many disagree and feel that technology deprives people of

real human interaction. Human interaction teaches people valuable


skills such as discourse, debate and empathy. Despite this, human
interaction is still possible through the internet and this essay
disagrees technology should be dismissed for this reason. For
instance, Skype and Facebook make it possible for people to interact
in ways that were never before possible.
While the benefits of technology, particularly the internet, allow
students to tap in to limitless sources of information, some still feel
that people should be wary of this new phenomena and not allow it
to curb face to face interaction. However, as long as we are careful
to keep in mind the importance of human interaction in education,
the educational benefits are clearly positive.

4. Problem and Solution Questions


Introduction
This lesson will help you answer IELTS writing task 2 discussion (or
discuss both views) questions.
These particular questions require a different approach to opinion
essays because you have to discuss both sides rather than just argue
in favour of one side.
This post will look at:
Identifying the question
Example Questions
Structure
Sample Answer
Task Achievement
Coherence and Cohesion
Lexical Resource
Many students fail to do well in these kinds of questions because
they do not do what the question asks them to do and they do not
use an appropriate structure. This post will help you overcome these
problems and give you a sample answer.
We will also look at lexical resource and coherence and cohesion;
two of the marking criteria IELTS examiners use when marking

your essays. Understand the marking scheme will help you to get
inside the head of an IELTS examiner and give then exactly what
they want.

Identifying the Question

Look at the three questions below and choose one you think is a
discussion question.
1.Computers are being used more and more in education and so
there will soon be no role for the teacher in education.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
2. Computers are being used more and more in education.
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages and give your own
opinion.
3. Computers are being used more and more in education. Some
people say that this is a positive trend, while others argue that it
is leading to negative consequences.
Discuss both sides of this argument and then give your own
opinion.
The first question is an opinion question and we can tell this from
the instructions To what extent do you agree or disagree?.
The second question is obviously an advantages and disadvantages
question.
The third question is the discussion question. We can tell this from
the typical instructions in the question Discuss both sides of the
argument and then give your opinion.
You may also be asked to Discuss both views and give you opinion
or Discuss both sides of the argument and give your opinion.
Each of these questions is asking us to do different things and we
therefore need a different structure for each question.

Example Questions

Here are a few other typical discussion questions:


1. A growing number of people feel that animals should not be
exploited by people and that they should have the same rights as
humans, while others argue that humans must employ animals to
satisfy their various needs, including uses for food and research.
Discuss both views and give your opinion.
2. Blood sports have become a hot topic for debate in recent years.
As society develops it is increasingly seen as an uncivilized
activity and cruel to the helpless animals that are killed. All blood
sports should be banned.
Discuss the main arguments for this statement and give your own
opinion.
3. Some people think that the best way to reduce crime is to give
longer prison sentences. Others, however, believe there are better
alternative ways of reducing crime.
Discuss both views and give your opinion.
As you can see, they typically state two opinions and then ask you to
discuss both and give your opinion. Make sure you do these things
in the essay. If you only discuss both views and fail to give your
opinion you will lose marks.

Structure
For discussion questions, I suggest you use the following four
paragraph structure.
Introduction
Sentence 1- Paraphrase Question
Sentence 2- State Both Points of View
Sentence 2- Thesis Statement
Sentence 3- Outline Sentence
Main Body Paragraph 1
Sentence 1- State first viewpoint
Sentence 2- Discuss first viewpoint

Sentence 3- Reason why you agree or disagree with viewpoint


Sentence 4- Example to support your view
Main Body Paragraph 2
Sentence 1- State second viewpoint
Sentence 2- Discuss second viewpoint
Sentence 3- Reason why you agree or disagree with viewpoint
Sentence 4- Example to support your view
Conclusion
Sentence 1- Summary
Sentence 2- State which one is better or more important

Practice
Here is a sample answer but I have mixed up the sentences. Can you
match the sentences below to the structure above?
This exercise will help you understand the structure.
In conclusion, while the benefits of technology, particularly the
internet, allow students to tap in to limitless sources of information,
some still feel that people should be wary of this new phenomenon
and not allow it to curb face to face interaction.
There is an ever increasing use of technology, such as tablets and
laptops, in the classroom.
It is clear that the internet has provided students with access to
more information than ever before.
Moreover, learners have the ability to research and learn about any
subject at the touch of a button. It is therefore agreed that
technology is a very worthwhile tool for education.
However, many disagree and feel that technology deprives people of
real human interaction.
Human interaction teaches people valuable skills such as discourse,
debate and empathy.
Despite this, human interaction is still possible through the internet
and this essay disagrees technology should be dismissed for this

reason.
This essay agrees that an increase in technology is beneficial to
students and teachers. This essay will discuss both points of view.
For instance, Skype and Facebook make it possible for people to
interact in ways that were never before possible.
Wikipedia is a prime example, where students can simply type in
any keyword and gain access to in-depth knowledge quickly and
easily.
However, as long as we are careful to keep in mind the importance
of human interaction in education, the educational benefits are
clearly positive.
It is often argued that this is a positive development, whilst others
disagree and think it will lead to adverse ramifications.

Example Answer
Computers are being used more and more in education.
Some people say that this is a positive trend, while others
argue that it is leading to negative consequences.
Discuss both sides of this argument and then give your
own opinion.
There is an ever increasing use of technology, such as tablets and
laptops, in the classroom. It is often argued that this is a positive
development, whilst others disagree and think it will lead to adverse
ramifications. This essay agrees that an increase in technology is
beneficial to students and teachers. This essay will discuss both
points of view.
It is clear that the internet has provided students with access to
more information than ever before. Moreover, learners have the
ability to research and learn about any subject at the touch of a
button. It is therefore agreed that technology is a very worthwhile
tool for education. Wikipedia is a prime example, where students
can simply type in any keyword and gain access to in-depth
knowledge quickly and easily.

However, many disagree and feel that technology deprives people of


real human interaction. Human interaction teaches people valuable
skills such as discourse, debate and empathy. Despite this, human
interaction is still possible through the internet and this essay
disagrees technology should be dismissed for this reason. For
instance, Skype and Facebook make it possible for people to interact
in ways that were never before possible.
In conclusion, while the benefits of technology, particularly the
internet, allow students to tap in to limitless sources of information,
some still feel that people should be wary of this new phenomenon
and not allow it to curb face to face interaction. However, as long as
we are careful to keep in mind the importance of human interaction
in education, the educational benefits are clearly positive.
(266 words)

Task Achievement
This is one of the four areas you will be assessed on in the IELTS
writing test.
Task achievement refers to your ability to address all parts of the
question and present a fully developed answer. By following the
structure above, we have fully discussed both sides of the argument
and given our opinion. This is exactly what the question asked us to
do, no more, no less.

Coherence and Cohesion

Discourse markers (words like however, despite this and In


conclusion) are also referred to as linking words and linking
phrases, or sentence connectors. They are quite formal and are
used more in academic writing than informal speech.
You gain marks for using these under the coherence and cohesion
section of the marking scheme. These words stick the other words
together and lend continuity to sentences and paragraphs.
If you do not include discourse markers in your IELTS writing, your
answer will appear illogical and it is more difficult to understand.

However, this does not mean that you should try to insert as many
of these words in to your writing as possible. This is a common
mistake in IELTS writing. Using too many of them, or using them
inappropriately, can make your writing sound too heavy and
unnatural. They are important, but must only be used at the
appropriate time.

Practice
Try to identify any discourse markers in the essay above? Dont
look at the essay below yet. How many can you find?

Sample Answer with Discourse Markers


Here is the sample answer again with the discourse markers in
bold.
There is an ever increasing use of technology, such as tablets and
laptops, in the classroom. It is often argued that this is a positive
development, whilst others disagree and think it will lead
to adverse ramifications. This essay agrees that an increase in
technology is beneficial to students and teachers. This essay will
discuss both points of view.
It is clear that the internet has provided students with access to
more information than ever before. Moreover, learners have the
ability to research and learn about any subject at the touch of a
button. It is therefore agreed that technology is a very
worthwhile tool for education. Wikipedia is a prime example,
where students can simply type in any keyword and gain access to
in-depth knowledge quickly and easily.
However, many disagree and feel that technology deprives people
of real human interaction. Human interaction teaches people
valuable skills such as discourse, debate and empathy. Despite
this, human interaction is still possible through the internet and
this essay disagrees technology should be dismissed for this reason.
For instance, Skype and Facebook make it possible for people to
interact in ways that were never before possible.
In conclusion, while the benefits of technology, particularly the
internet, allow students to tap in to limitless sources of information,

some still feel that people should be wary of this new phenomenon
and not allow it to curb face to face interaction. However, as long
as we are careful to keep in mind the importance of human
interaction in education, the educational benefits are clearly
positive.

Lexical Resource

This is also one of the four criteria you will be marked on and it
refers to your ability to use a wide range of accurate vocabulary.
A common mistake is to repeat the same words over and over again.
You will lose marks if you do this. A solution to this problem is to
use synonyms. You can either think of synonyms as you are writing
or leave time at the end to add them in.

Practice

Can you identify any synonyms in the essay above?


Here are some examples:
Computers- technology
Computers- the internet
Education- in the classroom
Education- students and teachers
Positive trend- positive development
Negative Consequences- adverse ramifications
By varying your vocabulary in this way you are demonstrating that
you have a wide vocabulary and this will boost your band score.
However, like discourse markers be careful not to use
inappropriate/inaccurate words. Only use words you are confident
about. Mistakes will lead to fewer marks.

Typical Question Words


Problem and solution.
Cause and solution.

Example Question
Students are becoming more and more reliant on computers.
What are some of the problems associated with reliance on
computers, and what are some of the possible solutions?

Structure

Introduction
Sentence 1- Paraphrase Question
Sentence 2- Outline Sentence

Main Body Paragraph 1


Sentence 1- State Problem
Sentence 2- Explain problem
Sentence 3- Result
Sentence 4- Example

Main Body Paragraph 2


Sentence 1- State Solution
Sentence 2- Explain Solution
Sentence 3- Example

Conclusion
Sentence 1- Summary
Sentence 2- Recommendation or Prediction

Sample Answer

Learners are becoming ever more dependent on technology, such as


the internet and mobile devices. This essay will discuss one of the
main problems associated with dependence on computers and
suggest a viable solution.
The principal problem with over reliance on technology, such as
tablets and computers, is plagiarism. Students often use search
engines to answer a question and simply copy the text from a
website, rather than thinking about the question. This practice is
not only prohibited in schools and universities, but also stunts a
students intellectual development. For example, many teachers
complain that students copy web pages straight from Wikipedia
word for word rather than giving a reasoned answer to their
questions.
A solution to this worrying problem is asking students to email their
answers to teachers and teachers using anti-plagiarism software to

detect copying. Moreover, students would be made aware of this


practice and this would inspire them to answer questions using
their own words, rather than someone elses. For instance, many
universities already use this kind software to scan course work for
plagiarism and it could be extended to include all homework, by
learners in both secondary and tertiary education.
In summary, one of the main problems with over-use of technology
in education is plagiarism and this can be solved through the use of
plagiarism detection software. It is predicted that more and more
students will email their work to their teacher and this work will be
scrutinized for plagiarism.