3 Types Of Ielts Essays

IELTS Essay Structures

Knowing how to structure your IELTS Writing Task 2 essay is an essential skill that can make the difference between the getting and not getting the band score you deserve. With that in mind, we have outlined the most common IELTS Writing Task 2 structures below.

Nearly all of my Task 2 essay follow this basic structure:

The sentences you put in each paragraph will depend on what type of question you get.

The five most common IELTS Writing Task 2 questions are:

  1. Opinion (Agree or Disagree)
  2. Advantages and Disadvantages
  3. Problem and Solution
  4. Discussion (Discuss both view)
  5. Two-part Question

Below I will outline examples and a structure approved by experienced IELTS teachers and examiners for each type of question. This will help you write a clear, coherent answer and hopefully boost your IELTS band score. I also include an example answer for each type of question so you can see what the structure looks like in a real essay.

Please note that these are general structures and they may vary slightly depending on the particular question.

Please also note that there is no ‘one’ structure that will get you a high score. There are many types of structures that can get you a high score. These are just the ones I think are most effective and easiest to learn.

For more detailed guidance on each type of question please visit the lessons below. I have provided a link at the end of each section.

Opinion Questions (Agree or Disagree) 

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 programmes (for example working for a charity, improving the neighborhood or teaching sports to younger children).

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Structure 

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….)

Main Body Paragraph 1 

Sentence 1- Topic Sentence

Sentence 2- Explain Topic Sentence

Sentence 3- Example

Main Body Paragraph 2

Sentence 1- Topic Sentence

Sentence 2- Explain Topic Sentence

Sentence 3- Example

Conclusion 

Sentence 1- Summary and opinion

Sample Answer

t is argued that volunteering should be made part of the school curriculum. This essay agrees with that suggestion completely because of the benefits it brings to pupils. The essay will first look at how voluntary work can help students develop soft skills and then discuss how these extracurricular activities are valued by universities and employers.

Education should not be limited to strictly academic pursuits and those in education should also develop life skills, such as teamwork, empathy and self-discipline, and one of the best ways to hone these aptitudes is through community service. Serving those less fortunate than ourselves teaches us many lessons including how to work with people from other backgrounds and the value of hard work. For example, I personally volunteered to spend 6 weeks in Africa teaching disadvantaged children and this led to a much higher work ethic when I returned to my studies.

Many colleges and companies are also increasingly looking for this type of experience. Most school leavers have the same grades and charitable works can help set you apart from the herd. For example, Cambridge and Oxford receive thousands of applications from straight-A students every year and can only accept a small percentage of applicants. What you have done outside the classroom is often the thing that differentiates you from everyone else and gets you that coveted spot.

In conclusion, teenagers should be made to partake in unpaid work as part of their schooling because it will help them learn things they wouldn’t ordinarily learn from their teachers and it will also boost their chances of getting into third level education.

For more detail on how to answer agree or disagree questions please visit our opinion essay lesson. 

Need help writing essays like this? Check out our ESSAY CORRECTION SERVICE.

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 smartphone use has been at the expense of genuine human interaction. This results in soft skills, such as verbal communication and empathy, being affected.

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.

For more detail on how to answer advantage and disadvantage questions please visit our advantage and disadvantage lesson. 

Discuss Both Views Question (Discussion Essay)  

Typical Question Words 

Discuss both points of view and give your opinion.

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 viewpoints.

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

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 into 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.

For more detail on how to answer discussion questions please visit our discussion essay lesson. 

Problem and Solution Questions

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 student’s 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 else’s. 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 scrutinised for plagiarism.

For more detail on how to answer problem and solution questions please visit our problem and solution lesson. 

Two-Part Questions

Typical Question Words 

There will normally be a statement and they will then ask you to answer to separate questions.

Example Question

As most people spend a major part of their adult life at work, job satisfaction is an important element of individual wellbeing.

What factors contribute to job satisfaction?

How realistic is the expectation of job satisfaction for all workers?

Structure

Introduction 

Sentence 1- Paraphrase Question

Sentence 2- Outline Sentence (mention both questions)

Main Body Paragraph 1

Sentence 1- Answer first question directly

Sentence 2- Explain why

Sentence 3- Further explain

Sentence 4- Example

Main Body Paragraph 2

Sentence 1- Answer second question directly

Sentence 2- Explain why

Sentence 3- Further explain

Sentence 4- Example

Conclusion 

Sentence 1- Summary

Sample Answer

As the majority of adults spend most of their time at work, being content with your career is a crucial part of a person’s health and happiness. This essay will first discuss which elements lead to job satisfaction and it will then address the question of how likely it is that everyone can be happy with their job.

The two most important things that lead to someone being satisfied at work are being treated with respect by managers and being compensated fairly. If those more senior than you respect you as a person and the job you are doing then you feel like you are valued. A fair salary and benefits are also important considerations because if you feel you are being underpaid you will either resent your bosses or look for another job. There two factors came top of a recent job satisfaction survey conducted by Monster.com, that found that 72% of people were pleased with their current role if their superiors regularly told them they were appreciated.

With regards to the question of happiness for all workers, I think this is and always will be highly unlikely. The vast majority of people fail to reach their goals and end up working in a post they don’t really care about in return for a salary. This money is just enough to pay their living expenses which often means they are trapped in a cycle of disenchantment. For example, The Times recently reported that 89% of office workers would leave their jobs if they did not need the money.

In conclusion, being satisfied with your trade or profession is an important part of one’s well-being and respect from one’s colleagues and fair pay can improve your level of happiness, however, job satisfaction of all workers is an unrealistic prospect.

Can I get a band 8 or 9 following these structures? 

Nobody can give you a structure that guarantees you a high score. You score is dependent on how good your grammar and vocabulary is and how well you answer the question. A good structure will help you answer the question to some extent and boost your score for coherence and cohesion, but you must use relevant ideas and use these ideas well to answer the question.

Next Steps 

Looking for some sample questions? Here are over 100 sample questions from past exam papers.

I hope you found this article useful. Now that you know the structures you should check out our task 2 sample answers to see how they have been used in practice.

Would you like me to check your essay and tell you how to improve? Check out our essay correction service.

The best way to keep up to date with more great posts like this and to access loads of practice exercises is to like us on Facebook.

For more help with IELTS please check out IELTS Preparation– The Ultimate Guide.

The first rule of IELTS essays is to answer the question. One problem in doing that is there are different types of IELTS essay questions each of which poses its own problems. In this post, I talk you through the three main types of essay questions and show you how to identify them and what problems they pose.

I strongly suggest that you practise writing essays on each type of question before you get to the exam. You will find  a selection of essay questions organised by question type on my sample essay question page.

1. The discussion

Here you are given a social issue or problem and asked directly to discuss it and very often asked to suggest a solution for it.

Two examples

In this type of question you are given the problem (here in red) and then told how to discuss it/your task (in blue).

In many countries schools have severe problems with student behaviour. What do you think are the causes of this? What solutions can you suggest?

and

Many universities charge higher fees for foreign students.Why do they do this? Do you believe that it is fair?

Typical task words

  • “Why do they think that?”
  • “What solutions can you suggest?”

Typical problems

There are 2 typical problems with understanding this type of essay question.

  1. You are being asked for your personal opinion: it is not enough to talk generally about the topic. You must give your personal view.
  2. Very often you given two tasks: for example, to discuss the causes and the solution. If you discuss only one of these, you will be penalised on Task Achievement.
  3. The question does not give you much help with ideas: you may need to spend more time planning and thinking of ideas

2. The proposal

Here you are given an opinion about some social issue to discuss. Typically, you are asked whether or to what extent you agree with it.

Two examples

In this type of question you are given an opinion (in red) and then told how to discuss it/your task (in blue). Sometimes the question is longer and you are given some background information (in green), then the opinion and then the task.

Fatherhood ought to be emphasized as much as motherhood. The idea that women are solely responsible for deciding whether or not to have babies leads on to the idea that they are also responsible for bringing the children up. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

and

Currently there is a trend towards the use of alternative forms of medicine. However, at best these methods are ineffective, and at worst they may be dangerous. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Typical task words

  • “What is you opinion?”
  • “Do you agree that…”
  • “To what extent do you agree?”
  • Discuss

Typical problems

There are three typical problems with understanding this type of essay question:

  1. The questions are simply longer to read and sometimes harder to understand. Spend plenty of time reading the question and underlining the key words and making sure you understand what words like “this” and “these” refer to.
  2. It can be easy to confuse the background information from the opinion. You must discuss the opinion (the bit in red). If you only discuss the topic (the bit in green), you will be penalised on Task Achievement.
  3. You need to discuss the opinion in the question. You cannot only give your opinion.

3. The argument

Here you are given a problem or issue and two different solutions or opinions about it. Typically, you are then asked to decide which solution/opinion is the better.

Two examples

The argument type essay question has two main types. In the first type, you get two different situations or opinions (red) and then your task (in blue) is to decide between them.

In some countries people pay different rates of tax depending on their salary, in other countries everyone pays the same rate. Which do you believe is the best system?

In the second type, you get a solution (in red) to a situation (in green) and you then your task (in blue) is to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of that solution.

Unemployment is one of the most serious problems facing developed nations today. What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of reducing the working week to thirty five hours?

Typical task words

“What are the advantages and disadvantages of this”

Typical problems

There are two typical problems here:

  1. The essay discusses the problem generally and doesn’t talk about advantages or disadvantages or make a choice between the two options. Again this will be penalised under Task Achievement.
  2. The essay only looks at the advantages or the disadvantages. It needs to look at both sides of the question.

Other question types

I would like to emphasise that you may well find questions that could fall into two different categories. That is not so important. What really  matters is learning to look at each question and deciding what precisely it is asking you to do and what possible problems it poses.

A checklist

This is my very simple checklist to help you decide which type of question you are looking at:

1. Does it ask me what my own opinion is about a topic? → Discussion question → Use my own opinions

2. Does it ask me to discuss a particular proposal? → Proposal question → Discuss that proposal

3. Does it ask me to decide between two different opinions or look at the advantages and disadvantages of a topic → Argument question→ Discuss both sides and come to a decision

An exercise

Look at these reported recent IELTS questions and decide which type of essay you need to write:

  1. Many people have an unhealthy diet and do not take enough exercise. What do you think are the reasons for this and what can be done to encourage people to lead a more healthy lifestyle?
  2. Although countries with long average working hours are economically successful, this often has some negative social consequences. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  3. Some people think that paying taxes is enough to contribute to society. Others argue that being a citizen involves more responsibilities. Discuss.
  4. Many people argue that children should stay in school until the age of eighteen. What are the advantages and disadvantages of making school compulsory until the age of 18?
  5. Many people nowadays leave their county to work abroad and take their family with them. What are the advantages and disadvantages in terms of family development?

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