See below for an easy-to-follow guide to planning, organising and paragraphing an essay in IELTS Writing Task 2. This advice applies to both General Training and Academic Writing modules, but there are different ways of organising an answer depending on the question type.
First paragraph: Introduction
Key technique: Don’t begin with your thesis statement.
Never begin an essay with I believe, I agree, or In my opinion. These indicate your thesis statement and should go at the END of your introduction, after you have introduced the topic and problem to be discussed. As a rule, start generally and take several sentences to build to your main idea. Note that the style of thesis statement will vary depending on the question type. Study the question carefully first to determine if you should give your opinion in the introduction or in the conclusion.
- Introductory sentence: What topic is to be discussed? Recently, there have been…
- Narrow the focus: What issue concerning the topic is to be resolved? However, some people argue that…
- Thesis statement (opinion essay): What is your opinion on this issue? This essay will argue that…
- Thesis statement (argument essay): What will happen in this essay? This essay will look at both sides of the argument before stating my own opinion.
- Thesis statement (problem/solution essay): What are you going to write about? The main problems are X and Y and I will propose solutions to both in this essay.
Hint: You can choose either to write in the first person (I believe...) or third person (This essay will…). The third person sounds more objective and academic.
Hint: Don’t include your main reasons or arguments in the introduction, these should go in each of the body paragraphs.
Task 2 Question
The internet has transformed the way information is shared and consumed, but it has also created problems that did not exist before.
What are the most serious problems associated with the internet and what solutions can you suggest?
There is no doubt that the internet has revolutionised communication and information-sharing in the same way that the telegraph and the television did before it. However, societies have had to cope with unanticipated new problems, including crimes which traditional laws are powerless to prevent. This essay will address some of the illegal acts enabled by the internet and propose solutions.
To begin with, the global scale of the internet means that national laws are no longer adequate to control what happens online. Take restrictions on legal reporting, for example. In some countries, the media is prohibited from revealing details of a defendant’s past in case this prejudices a fair trial. However, such restrictions are no longer enforceable now that information may be freely published in other countries and accessed by all. The only solution here, it seems, is to adopt global standards. Since the internet traverses national borders, the flow of information can only be controlled if all nations agree on what can and cannot be shared.
Another problem concerns anonymity, as internet users can easily conceal their identity and even impersonate others. Many crimes such as identity theft and child abuse result from the ease with which criminals can operate anonymously online. Some have proposed a system of online identification, similar to a passport, which would allow all internet users to be verified and traced. I believe this idea should be explored further, though there are clearly concerns about the security of those who use the internet to protest against oppressive regimes.
In conclusion, the only long-term solution to the problem of internet crime is greater international cooperation. Since the problem is global is scale, the solution must also be global. A new agency of the United Nations should be created to tackle the problems described here.
(298 words, IELTS 8.5)
Why does this Task 2 answer get an IELTS Band 8 score?
Task response: The model answer fully answers the question by stating two distinct problems caused by the internet together with relevant solutions to each problem. The serious nature of each problem is illustrated with examples. The style is appropriate to academic writing and the answer is at least 250 words in length.
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.
The informal words below are best avoided in Academic IELTS. The neutral words are ‘fine’ for the Speaking module, but you really should learn the formal equivalents if you want to score highly in the Academic Writing module.
|Informal (Avoid)||Neutral (Spoken)||Formal (Written)|
|Kids (younger)||Babies, Children||Infants, Offspring|
|Kids (older)||Teenagers||Adolescents, Youths|
|Old people||Elderly people||Senior citizens, Retirees|
|-||Boss, Manager||Supervisor, Superior|
|OK, Alright||Fine||Acceptable, Satisfactory|
|Great, Awesome||Good||Preferable, Desirable|
|Rubbish, Useless||Bad, Poor||Unsatisfactory, Unacceptable|
|-||Nice, Polite||Considerate, Agreeable|
|-||Kind, Friendly||Sociable, Neighbourly|
|Nasty, Cheeky (person)||Rude, Impolite||Abusive, Disagreeable|
|Stupid, Crazy, Dumb (idea)||-||Misguided, Questionable|
|Stupid, Crazy, Dumb (person)||-||Misguided, Mistaken|
|-||Happy (person)||Satisfied, Delighted|
|-||Happy (situation)||Satisfying, Delightful|
|-||Sad (person)||Regretful, Distressed|
|-||Sad (situation)||Regrettable, Distressing|
|Sick of, Fed up with||Tired of||Dissatisfied with|
|-||Poor (country)||Developing, Poverty-stricken|
|-||Poor (person)||In poverty, Underprivileged|
|-||Rich (country)||Wealthy, Developed|
|-||Rich (person)||Wealthy, Privileged|
Contractions such as don’t are fine in IELTS Speaking but it is better to use do not in the Academic Writing module. Casual forms such as gonna and dunno should only ever be used in the Speaking test and NEVER in Writing.
Task 2 Question
Space exploration is much too expensive and the money should be spent on more important things.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
There is an argument that exploring space is a waste of money and that there are more urgent needs to be addressed on earth, such as reducing poverty and preventing environmental destruction. However, I completely disagree with this opinion for two reasons.
First of all, many of the technologies we take for granted today were originated thanks to space research. Take satellite technology, for example, which we depend on for broadcasting and weather forecasting. Without satellites, we would not be able to follow global events as they happen, nor give populations any warning of approaching storms. Space research has also led to the development of new lightweight materials that offer us heat protection and enable food preservation. Therefore, the challenge of sending human beings into space has often driven the development of new technologies that benefit our everyday lives.
Second, we cannot foresee the distant future, so we ought to develop the capability to escape from the earth. Gradually, we are learning how humans can survive for long periods in space and even travel to other planets in the future. If space exploration is halted, this valuable knowledge will never be acquired. It is true that environmental destruction is also a serious issue, but it is also true that we remain dependent on our environment if we never accept the challenge of exploring other worlds.
In conclusion, while we undoubtedly face serious problems on our own planet, it is imperative that we continue to explore space. This will promote further technological advances as well as provide a possible means of escape should earth become uninhabitable in future. Ideally, all nations should cooperate in the advancement of space research.
(278 words, IELTS 8.5)
Why does this Task 2 answer get an IELTS Band 8 score?
Task response: The introduction effectively paraphrases the question and presents a clear opinion. The writer’s opinion is supported in the body of the essay. Concrete examples are given. The conclusion restates the writer’s opinion and ends with a recommendation.
Memorising set phrases for use in the IELTS test is a highly effective way of achieving a higher score. Try learning the following signposting language which will make you sound more confident and sophisticated when writing an opinion or argument essay in Task 2. As with our Task 1 useful language yesterday, for each function the language is graded approximately for level, from regular use (Bands 5-6) to higher-level use (Bands 7-9).
Introducing the topic
- Some people argue that…
- Have you ever considered… ?
- The question raises the issue of…
Stating an opinion (thesis statement)
- I believe that…
- It is my belief that…
- This essay will argue that…