IELTS Writing Task 2 Question
It is sometimes argued that too many students go to university, while others claim that a university education should be a universal right.
Discuss both sides of the argument and give your own opinion.
In some advanced countries, it is not unusual for more than 50% of young adults to attend college or university. Critics, however, claim that many university courses are worthless and young people would be better off gaining skills in the workplace. In this essay, I will examine both sides of this argument and try to reach a conclusion.
There are several reasons why university has become a popular choice for young people. First, growing prosperity in many parts of the world has increased the number of families with money to invest in their children’s future. At the same time, falling birthrates mean that one- or two-child families have become common, increasing the level of investment in each child. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that young people are willing to let their families support them until the age of 21 or 22. Furthermore, millions of new jobs have been created in knowledge industries, and these jobs are typically open only to university graduates.
However, it often appears that graduates end up in occupations unrelated to their university studies. It is not uncommon for an English literature major to end up working in sales, or an engineering graduate to retrain as a teacher, for example. Some critics have suggested that young people are just delaying their entry into the workplace, rather than developing professional skills. A more serious problem is that the high cost of a university education will mean that many families are reluctant to have more than one child, exacerbating the falling birthrates in certain countries.
In conclusion, while it can be argued that too much emphasis is placed on a university education, my own opinion is that the university years are a crucial time for personal development. If people enter the workplace aged 18, their future options may be severely restricted. Attending university allows them time to learn more about themselves and make a more appropriate choice of career.
(320 words. IELTS 9.0)
Why does this Task 2 answer get an IELTS Band 9 score?
Task response: The model answer fully answers the question by stating several arguments both for and against the expansion of higher education. The candidate’s position is clearly expressed in the conclusion. The style is appropriate to academic writing and the answer is at least 250 words in length.
Coherence and cohesion: The model answer has an introduction and conclusion. Each body paragraph deals with a different side of the argument and begins with a clear topic sentence. Arguments are developed with logical connectives such as therefore and furthermore.
Lexical resource: There is a good range of vocabulary suited to an argument essay, including reporting verbs like claim and suggest, and hedging verbs like can and appear. There is native-like collocation throughout, including growing prosperity, enter the workplace and severely restricted.
Grammatical range and accuracy: The model answer uses a wide range of grammatical devices appropriate to academic writing. These include conditionals (If…), participle clauses (…, increasing the…), concessive clauses (while it can…) and passive constructions (…it can be argued that…). There are no grammatical errors.
This IELTS Writing Task 2 question asks you to discuss an argument. It’s easy to confuse this with an opinion essay, since opinion and argument have similar meanings. However, in an argument essay like this one, you must write about both sides of the argument before giving an opinion, which can be difficult in just 40 minutes. Since time management can be problem when writing an argument essay, plan to write two body paragraphs only, each dealing with a different point of view. Finally, when you give your own opinion in the conclusion, try to make it follow from the strongest side of the argument, not the weakest!
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