Simons Ielts Essays Task

It is a bit of a myth that there is a ‘one size fits all’ structure for IELTS Writing task 2 essays. Whilst the exam task criteria is the same each time, ie. you must write a minimum 250 words in approximately 40 minutes, there are actually 5 different types of Task 2 essays and each has a slightly different structure.

Many IELTS websites will suggest that you organise your essay in a specific way. It will probably look something like this:

  • Introduction
  • Paragraph 1
    • Main idea
    • Supporting ideas
  • Paragraph 2
    • Main idea
    • Supporting ideas
  • Possible Paragraph 3
    • Main idea
    • Supporting ideas
  • Conclusion

If you are aiming for a Band Score of around 5 or 6, then this kind of generic structure will probably be enough in each case. However, if you are aiming for a higher score, it is crucial that you familiarise yourself both with the different variations of essay types you might be given and the most effective way to organise your response.

The 5 most common types of Task 2 essays are:

  • Opinion (often Agree or Disagree)
  • Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Problem and Solution
  • Discussion (Discuss both views)
  • Two-part Question

Opinion essays:

In an Opinion essay, you need to clearly express what you personally feel about the given topic. If you are asked direct questions like in the task below, then it is up to you how balanced or one-sided you choose to answer. You can address both parts of the question equally or focus mainly on one side, depending on your point of view.

Have newspapers become a thing of the past or do they still have an important role to play in people’s lives today?

In a task like the one below, where you are asked to what extent you agree or disagree, it is very important that you state this explicitly at the beginning and then again at the end of your essay. Do you agree fully, mainly, partly or not at all?

Computers have made it possible for people to work from home  instead of working in offices every day.This should be encouraged as it good for both workers and employers. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Remember: this is also considered an ‘argument’ essay and you should try to convince the reader that your opinion is right. In this case, I suggest that your essay structure should look something like this:

  • Introduction
    • Paraphrase the question (your own words)
    • Thesis statement (state your agreement or disagreement)
    • Essay overview (optional)
  • Paragraph 1 and 2
    • Topic sentence (state a position)
    • Explain this further (maybe give a reason)
    • Give an example
    • Summarise paragraph
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise main ideas
    • Reiterate your opinion

Simon at www.ielts-simon.com, a former IELTS examiner, explainshere how to structure an opinion essay depending on the extent to which you agree.

Advantages and Disadvantages essays:

In an Advantages and Disadvantages essay such as the one below, you need to discuss the positive and negative perspectives equally and to clearly explain why you think something is an advantage or a disadvantage.  It is common to start Paragraph 1 with the advantages, however this is optional.

Nowadays many students have the opportunity to study some or all of their course in a foreign country. What are the advantages and disadvantages of studying abroad?

A possible structure for this type of question is:

  • Introduction
    • Paraphrase the question
    • Outline your main ideas
    • State your opinion (if the question asks)
  • Paragraph 1
    • State one advantage
    • Explain the benefits of this advantage
    • Give an example or a result
  • Paragraph 2
    • State one disadvantage
    • Explain the negative aspect of this disadvantage
    • Give an example or a result
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise your main ideas
    • Give your opinion (if asked)

Problem and Solution essays:

In a Problem and Solution essay, such as the one below, you need to think carefully about how to respond to the questions posed. It is also important that you address all parts of the task. The first question will refer to the problem or cause and the second question will refer to the solution. Try to limit yourself to answering these questions only and don’t introduce any further questions/points of your own otherwise you might stray off task.

Overpopulation is a major problem in many urban centres around the world. What problems does this cause? How can we solve the issue of overpopulation?

Try this structure to organise your essay:

  • Introduction
    • Paraphrase the question
    • Outline your main ideas
  • Paragraph 1
    • State the problem
    • Explain the problem
    • Explain the consequence (result) of this problem
    • Give an example
  • Paragraph 2
    • State the solution
    • Explain the solution
    • Give an example
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise your main ideas

Discussion essays:

In a Discussion essay, such as the one below, you will be presented with two sides of an issue and you will need to examine both perspectives equally before giving your own conclusion.

In today’s competitive world, many families find it necessary for both parents to go out to work. While some say the children in these families benefit from the additional income, others feel they lack support because of their parents’ absence. Discuss both sides and give your opinion.

In this case, your essay structure could look like this:

  • Introduction
    • Paraphrase the question AND/OR state both points of view
    • Give your thesis statement (which view you prefer)
  • Paragraph 1
    • State first point of view
    • Discuss this perspective
    • Give a reason why you agree or disagree with this viewpoint
    • Give an example to support your view
  • Paragraph 2
    • State second point of view
    • Discuss this perspective
    • Give a reason why you agree or disagree with this viewpoint
    • Give an example to support your view
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise your main ideas
    • Restate your opinion

Two-part esssays:

In a Two-part question essay, such as the example below, you will get two questions. You must answer both questions fully otherwise you risk getting a low score for Task Achievement.

In today’s society, success is often measured in terms of wealth and possessions. Do you think these are the best measure of success? What makes a successful person?

So, in this case, I suggest organising your ideas in the following way:

  • Introduction
    • Paraphrase the question
    • Briefly answer both questions
  • Paragraph 1
    • Answer the first question directly
    • Explain your reason(s)
    • Expand your argument (evidence, examples, personal experience)
  • Paragraph 2
    • Answer the second question directly
    • Explain your reason(s)
    • Expand your argument (evidence, examples, personal experience)
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise your main ideas

Please bear in mind that these structures are my suggestions; they are not fixed in stone and you can adapt them to fit what you want to say. However, I highly recommend using these templates to practise organising your ideas into paragraphs then developing them into an essay, in preparation for the writing exam. Having a clear idea of these essay structures will help you stay on task in the exam, manage your time more efficiently and express your ideas clearly.

Remember too to use linking words and phrases to connect your sentences and paragraphs together to improve your scores in Coherence and Cohesion. Stay tuned for a blog post on this topic very soon!

We will soon be launching IELTS Write, where you can supercharge your writing score! Sign up to IELTS Write to access a variety of exclusive IELTS Writing tasks. Our experienced IELTS tutors will give you quick, detailed feedback on your writing. Sign uphere and you’ll be the first to know when we launch!

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Filed Under: Writing Task 2

1. opinion
2. discussion

Hi Simon,

If I write the answer of number 2 question to number 1 in the writing task 2, would i lose many marks?

Thanks in advance.
Emily

Posted by: Emily | Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at 12:27

can anyone help me please
which sentence is grammatical correct
the number of female participants was / were b/c i read so many times was with plural ????
can't understand Dilemma ??????

Posted by: rv | Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at 15:11

1. Opinion - focus on the word 'or'
2. Discuss + Opinion - Discuss both point of views and then opine which one outweighs the other

Posted by: Ben Nise | Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at 16:01

Hi Simon,
Thank you very much for raising my question on your blog. It's been clarfied now for me particularly with the post that Rio addressed.
Kind regards
Mana


Thanks Rio

Posted by: Mana | Thursday, January 12, 2017 at 01:37

Dear rv,

I think the sentence should be "the number of female participants was..." because the number needs a single verb-was.

Best,

Posted by: binh | Thursday, January 12, 2017 at 02:30

FROM SIMON:

You all seem to have the right idea:

1. The question is asking for your OPINION. You could give a strong answer (i.e. argue that the development is EITHER positive OR negative), or you could give a balanced opinion answer (i.e. you believe that there are both positive and negative aspects of the development).

2. This is also asking for your opinion. However, the implication is that there are both advantages and disadvantages. So, I would answer this by mentioning both, and by clearly stating which side OUTWEIGHS the other. In other words, this is like a "DISCUSSION + OPINION" question.

Finally, well done Rio for finding a previous lesson that I wrote about this:

http://ielts-simon.com/ielts-help-and-english-pr/2013/05/ielts-writing-task-2-when-to-give-your-opinion.html

Posted by: Simon | Thursday, January 12, 2017 at 13:36

Dear IELTS ninja, I forgot to write disadvantages body pharagraph in my essay. Instead, I wrote 2 advatanges body pharagraph. However, my structure of essay is well-built. All things considered, how would be my writing score effected?

Posted by: Mehmet turgut | Thursday, January 12, 2017 at 19:40

Dear simon, I forgot to write disadvantages body pharagraph. Instead, I wrote 2 advatanges body pharagraph. But my structure of essay is well-built. All things considered, how would be my writing score effected?

Posted by: Mehmet turgut | Thursday, January 12, 2017 at 19:40

Hello guys and simon! i'm kind of new here and i found ur lessons in writing helpful. I'm actually Planning to take the ielts academic this feb. and still not confident to get a band 7, any suggestions on how to ace the writing part? I'v taken the ielts last year and got 5.5 in writing :( .

One more thing, may I know what type of question this is?

You should spend about 40 minutes on this task. Write about the following topic: There are many different types of music in the world today. Why do we need music? Is the traditional music of a country more important than the International music that is heard everywhere nowadays? Write at least 250 words.

I'm trying to make an essay regarding it but still not sure how to write in the introduction. Thank tou so much for ur help! :)

Posted by: Karen | Saturday, January 14, 2017 at 03:25

Dear Simon,

I have ever read the criteria of band 9 writing task 2 (for public) stating that we have to use cohesion attracting no attention.
Meanwhile, when writing task 2, I usually use question in the first sentence of the introductory paragraph. Is it good for achieving band 9?

Warm regards,
Royan

Posted by: Royan | Friday, January 20, 2017 at 04:39

Hi Simon,

For questions only ask "what is the advantages and disadvantages?" without asking for your opinion, do we still add a statement like expressing opinions in the end? or say nothing at all?

Thanks

Shuai

Posted by: Shuai YUAN | Thursday, May 11, 2017 at 14:30

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