IELTS Writing Task 2 Writing Techniques

IELTS Writing Task 2: How to Organise Your Answer

Use the following guide to plan, organise and paragraph an essay in IELTS Writing Task 2. This applies to both General Training and Academic IELTS 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 in IELTS Writing Task 2. 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.

Body paragraphs

Key technique: Make a paragraph plan

In IELTS Writing Task 2, you will need to write between two and four body paragraphs. Each paragraph should express one main idea in relation to the thesis statement (see above) and how you order these paragraphs is also important for the overall coherence of the essay.

In an opinion essay, if you express a strong opinion (I firmly believe…), then all body paragraphs should support it. However, if your opinion is weak (I agree to some extent…), consider writing one paragraph against followed by two paragraphs in favour (see hint below).

In an argument essay, it is best to give equal space to both sides of the argument, which means writing either two or four body paragraphs. If you write three body paragraphs, i.e. there is clearly a bias towards one side of the argument, make sure your final opinion is in favour of that side!

In a problem/solution essay, make sure you give equal treatment to all parts of the question. Two problems and two solutions are enough. It is best not to write about problems you can’t offer solutions to. There are many ways to organise such an essay. You can write about a problem and its solution in one paragraph or you can deal with all the problems first and the solutions later.

Once you have decided on a paragraph plan, make sure each paragraph is organised as follows:

  • Link to the previous paragraph: First, Furthermore, On the other hand, etc.
  • Topic sentence: Describe the main idea of the paragraph in general terms.
  • Supporting sentences: Use examples or further explanation to support the claim made in the topic sentence.
  • Qualifying sentence: Sometimes it is clear that an idea isn’t perfect or there may be exceptions. You can point this out as long as you don’t destroy your main idea completely.
  • Summarising sentence: If you have included a qualifying sentence, or if you have written several supporting sentences, consider returning to your main point by paraphrasing your topic sentence at the end.

Hint: If one of your body paragraphs goes against your main idea, put this paragraph first so that the remaining body paragraphs flow logically to your conclusion. The same is true in an argument essay. Discuss the side you don’t agree with first, so that the opinion expressed in your conclusion follows naturally from what has come before.

Final paragraph: Conclusion

Key technique: Give your reader something to consider.

One habit of IELTS test-takers is to end with a simple summary of their opinion and main ideas. This is absolutely fine and can add essential extra coherence, but try also adding some kind of concluding comment. This will leave the examiner with a powerful final impression of your essay when he or she comes to score it. A full conclusion should contain:

  • Concluding signal: In conclusion, In summary, Overall, etc.
  • (Re)state opinion: In an opinion essay, you can simply paraphrase your original thesis statement. In an argument essay, this is where you state your opinion, often using a phrase such as Having considered both sides of the argument, I believe…
  • Summary: Paraphrase the main idea of each body paragraph in very brief terms. Never include examples or explanations. These go in the body of the essay.
  • Concluding comment: Give the reader something to think about. Highlight the importance of the issue you have just discussed. Ask the reader to consider the future consequences if the issue is not resolved. Recommend a course of action that the reader or society should follow.

Hint: Don’t include anything in the introduction that is completely new or requires detailed explanation. This is also true for the concluding comment. Keep it obvious. Don’t write an idea that you then need to explain.

IELTS Writing Task 1 Writing Techniques

IELTS Writing Task 1: How to Organise Your Answer

This is a quick guide on how to organise an IELTS Writing Task 1 answer into paragraphs. This applies only to the Academic module in which Task 1 involves describing a diagram or set of data. Note that the organisation of the answer may change depending on the question type.

First paragraph: Introduction

Key technique: Be direct.

When writing an introduction to IELTS Writing Task 1, get straight to the point as you only have 20 minutes to write your answer. One or two sentences are often sufficient. Two things you should try to include in the introduction are:

  • Paraphrase of the question: What does the diagram show? (Don’t describe the results yet!)
  • General description: Are the differences great or small, many or few? Is there one very obvious trend or feature that stands out?

Hint: Many people make the mistake of continuing with all the details. Stop here and begin your first body paragraph.

Body paragraphs

Key technique: Divide the body into two or three paragraphs.

Use a logical way to divide the body of your report into two or three paragraphs. Are there two or more sets of data? Great, then write a paragraph about each one. Is there only one set of data? Count the variables and divide them into two or three groups. You can divide by natural similarity (e.g. some academic subjects are sciences; others are arts.) Or you can divide by similarity of results (e.g. some exam scores went up; others went down.) Or you can divide a process, a time period or age range into two or three stages (e.g. the 20th Century can be divided into the early, mid, and late 20th Century.)

Now that you have a paragraphing system, make sure each paragraph is organised as follows:

  • Link to the previous paragraph: By contrast, turning to, finally, etc.
  • Topic sentence: Describe the main point, change or comparison in general terms without giving specific information.
  • Supporting sentence(s): Quote a figure or other evidence that supports the claim made in the topic sentence.

Hint: If you find yourself writing more than two consecutive supporting sentences, include a general sentence (e.g. There were also significant differences in…) to guide the reader, or consider starting a new paragraph.

Final paragraph: Conclusion

Key technique: Add overall coherence.

Due to lack of time, many people will omit the conclusion from IELTS Writing Task 1. However, there are several reasons you should write a conclusion. One is that writing a summarising sentence takes very little time and may push you past the 150-word limit. Another is that a good summary can add coherence to your answer, which could rescue your score if you have drifted a lot. Finally, since the purpose of Task 1 is usually to compare, the conclusion allows you to make direct comparisons of the different sets of data, which is especially important if you have described them in separate body paragraphs. Here are some things that can go in the conclusion to Task 1:

  • Concluding signal: In conclusion, in summary, overall, etc.
  • Summary: Paraphrase the overall trend or the two or three main points made in the body. Never include statistics or other evidence in the conclusion.
  • Direct comparison: If there are several sets of data, here is your chance to make a connection between them. Don’t go into too much detail.
  • Prediction: If the data includes a timeframe, you could make a prediction about what is likely to happen next.
  • Concluding comment: If you really need some extra words, you could add a comment on the data. Is it surprisingly, alarming, expected? Comments such as these are not required by the question but are better than incurring a penalty for not meeting the word requirement.

Hint: You don’t need to include all of the above in your conclusion. Two sentences are generally enough.