Passing the IELTS Writing Task can be tough! Here you’ll find some useful IELTS writing topics plus a consistent essay formula that will help structure your essay and paragraphs.
IELTS Writing Task 2: An overview
The essay writing task is included in both the general and academic IELTS. You will have 40 minutes to write a 250-word response to an essay question. Your essay should include four paragraphs (an introduction, two body paragraphs and a conclusion).
Although there is a consistent essay formula that will help you to structure your essay and paragraphs, you need to be aware of the different types of essay questions there are. The way you use the formula will differ according to the type of question.
IELTS Essay Structure
A typical essay structure looks like this:
You can use this to answer any essay question type, but your essay must be tailor made for the question type.
IELTS Writing Question Types
Below is a list of six of the most common essay question types:
The agree/disagree essay question gives you a topic and asks if you agree or disagree with an idea related to that topic. For example:
Less and less parents these days are smacking their children. Some people think that this is leading to a generation of misbehaved children. Do you agree or disagree with this view?
This question is related to the topic of smacking children. The idea that not smacking is actually a bad thing. The question is asking if you agree with that idea. Your essay will have to answer that question by giving your opinion and then explaining why with supporting ideas and examples.
The advantage/disadvantage essay question gives you a topic, and then asks you to discuss the advantages and disadvantages. A sample advantage/disadvantage essay question looks like this:
Some graduates prefer to travel for a year between graduation and gaining full-time employment. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this.
Here you will need to present both sides of the argument (one per paragraph) with supporting ideas and examples for each.
Discuss both views
The discuss both views question gives you two views or opinions related to a topic and asks you to discuss both. For example:
Some people think it’s the government’s responsibility to tackle environmental issues. Others believe it is up to each individual to be environmentally responsible. Discuss both sides.
Here you need to spend one body paragraph on each opinion, giving explanations and examples for why people may hold each view.
Discuss both views and give your opinion
The discuss both views and give your opinion question is very similar, but instead of just asking you to discuss two views, it also asks you to state which one you agree with. For example:
Some people think it’s better to educate boys and girls in separate schools. However, others believe that boys and girls benefit more from attending the same school. Discuss both views and give your own opinion.
In response to this essay question, you’d need to discuss both opinions (one in each paragraph) and give explanations and examples to support each one. You’d also have to say which one you agree with. You can do that within the body paragraph.
The problem/solution essay question presents you with an issue which you need to discuss and then provide possible solutions for. For example:
The overpopulation of urban areas has led to numerous problems. Identify one or two serious ones and suggest ways that governments can tackle these problems.
Here you would talk about the problems caused by overpopulation in the first body paragraph, and suggest some government-led solutions in the second body paragraph.
In the double question essay, you’re actually asked two questions, and you need to make sure you answer both. For example:
Today more people are travelling than ever before. Why is this the case? What are the benefits of travelling for the traveller?
Here you have two questions to answer. 1. Why are people travelling more than before. 2. What are the benefits of travelling. You should spend one paragraph on answering each question.
IELTS Writing Topics
There are common themes in IELTS writing topics, though the specifics of each question vary. Common themes include:
The best way to be ready to write about these topics is to be familiar with them. You will need to generate ideas during the test and come up with examples from your own knowledge and experience.
This is why you should read about general topics to broaden your general knowledge. This will have the double effect of widening your vocabulary and reading skills as well as giving you knowledge that you can then use to generate ideas for your essay.
So, read a blog or social media article or watch a Ted talk and documentary per day on the IELTS writing topics listed above.
For more formal test preparation, professional IELTS coaching from experts will help you apply the essay formula to different essay questions. Feedback is another important aspect of preparing for the IELTS writing task.
Learning IELTS online with E2language will provide you with effective methods, practice essays and expert feedback to feel confident and prepared to write your IELTS essay.
Be sure to watch the E2 IELTS YouTube channel for videos on IELTS Writing Task 2:
To boost your preparation for IELTS, register and attend the E2Language IELTS General and Academic Live Classes . And check out E2Language’s Blog to practice IELTS activities !
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How to structure an essay
This guide is for anyone looking to vastly improve their essay writing skills through better knowledge what is meant by good ‘essay structure’.
Essay writing is a key component to academic success at every level. It is, essentially, the way in which people within the academic community communicate with each other. Thus, there are fundamental ways in which academics structure their work and formal ways of communicating what they have to say. Writing essays is not simply a hoop for students to jump through. The vast majority of instructors and professors also write essays at a professional level, and they do not ask of their students anything less than the standard that is asked of them.
Where too many students go wrong in writing their essays is in either failing to plan ahead (not giving sufficient, care, thought, or time to the process) or in not understanding the expectations of essay writing. Of these expectations, appropriate and effective essay structure is critical. Students often lose valuable marks by failing to structure their essays clearly and concisely to make the best of their ideas.
So how do you structure academic writing? What is the best essay structure format?
First, consider what an essay is . What is it supposed to do? At its core an essay is simply an argument . Now, by argument we don’t mean a slanging match between two angry people. Rather, we are talking about a formal argument. An idea or a claim, which is supported by logic and/or evidence.
Imagine the following scenario: you feel the time has come to approach your boss about getting a raise at work. Imagine yourself walking into your supervisor’s office and requesting that raise. Almost automatically, your mind formulates a rhetorical structure. There are effective and ineffective ways of asking of making such a request. The effective strategy will have a logic and an order. You will firstly claim that you deserve a raise. And you will give evidence to support why you deserve that raise. For example: you are a hard worker, you are never late, you have the admiration and respect of your colleagues, you have been offered another position elsewhere and you want the pay matched. And so on. And you would probably wrap up your discussion with an overview of of why giving you more money is important.
And that is fundamentally an essay. Every good essay has three basic parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
This simple guide will show you how to perfect your essay structure by clearly introducing and concluding your argument, and laying out your paragraphs coherently in between. Your essay writing can be dramatically improved overnight simply by using the correct essay structure, as explained below.
Where the essay starts
When you are writing an essay , every sentence and every paragraph is important. But there is something extra important about introductions. Just like going out on a date for the first time, you want the introduction to be just right, almost perfect. You want to put your best self forward and create a great first impression.
You should already know this, but most professors and instructors will start grading your work in their head as soon as they begin reading it. They will be sorting your essay, maybe not in terms of a grade, but most definitely in terms of strong/weak, interesting/dull, or effective/ineffective. And most will have some notion of where your essay falls on that scale before they even finish the introduction. It will be the rarest of markers who withholds judgement until the end. The introduction is something you absolutely must start strong.
Always develop an introduction that clearly sets out the aims of what you are about to write and, if applicable, refers to the subject under investigation. State what the essay will try to achieve and briefly mention some of the main points you will consider. The idea is to give the marker an overview of your argument, to show that your thought process is logical and coherent and that you have carefully thought the question through. Don’t try to go into any of your key points in depth in your introduction – they will each be covered by a full paragraph later on. If the question is an ‘either or’ or a ‘how far do you agree’ question, it is useful to set out both sides of the argument briefly in the introduction in preparation for exploring the two sides later in the essay.
Think of your introduction as a thumbnail picture of the whole essay. Anyone, but especially the marker, should know the essay subject and how you intend to prove or disprove it, just from having read just the introduction.
Take the following example:
You have been given this assignment: The main purpose of Gothic fiction is to break normal moral and social codes. Discuss.
A strong introduction should read something like this:
It is certainly true that many works of Gothic fiction manifest the transgression of normal moral and social codes as their major theme. Their emphasis on female sexuality, their breaking of the boundaries between life and death and their shocking displays of immoral religious characters would all suggest that this is indeed the case. However, it is also important to consider other major aspects of the genre that might be considered equally important in purpose, such as its fascination with the supernatural, its portrayal of artificial humanity and its satirical social attacks. This essay will explore these conflicting purposes with reference to several different Gothic texts to discover what might be best described as the ‘main’ purpose of the genre.
Reread that paragraph. Does it tell you what the topic of the essay is? What the point is? What the essay plans to do? Now, without reading think about just the size of that paragraph. If a marker were to see an introduction that were any less than that they would automatically know, without even reading a word, that the topic was not going to be well introduced. That is not to suggest you simply fill up the paragraph, but that a certain amount of information in the introduction is expected.
It is worth pointing out that in a much longer essay an introduction does not need to be limited to a single paragraph. Generally, however, it will be.
The body of your essay
The second part of the essay is the body. This is the longest part of the essay. In general, a short essay will have at least three full paragraphs; a long essay considerably more.
Each paragraph is a point that you want to make that relates to the topic. So, going back to the ‘give me more money’ example from earlier, each reason you have for deserving a raise should be a separate paragraph, and that paragraph is an elaboration on that claim.
Paragraphs, like the essay overall, also have an expected structure. You should start a new paragraph for each major new idea within your essay, to clearly show the examiner the structure of your argument. Each paragraph should begin with a signpost sentence that sets out the main point you are going to explore in that section. It is sometimes helpful to refer back to the title of the essay in the signpost sentence, to remind the examiner of the relevance of your point. Essay writing becomes much easier for you too this way, as you remind yourself exactly what you are focusing on each step of the way.
Here’s a signpost sentence example: One important way in which Gothic fiction transgresses normal moral and social codes is in its portrayal of the female heroine.
Further sentences in this paragraph would then go on to expand and back up your point in greater detail and with relevant examples. The paragraph should not contain any sentences that are not directly related to the issue set out in the signpost sentence. So you are writing an essay that clearly separates its ideas into structured sections. Going back to the wage-raise example: in the middle of talking about how punctual you are, would you start talking about how you are a good colleague, then about that client you impressed, and then talk about your punctuality again? Of course not. The same rules apply: each paragraph deals with one idea, one subject.
The end of your essay
The last section of your essay is the conclusion. In general, this will also be a single paragraph in shorter essays, but can go on to two or three for slightly longer discussions.
Every well-structured essay ends with a conclusion . Its purpose is to summarise the main points of your argument and, if appropriate, to draw a final decision or judgement about the issues you have been discussing. Sometimes, conclusions attempt to connect the essay to broader issues or areas of further study.
It is important not to introduce any new ideas in the conclusion – it is simply a reminder of what your essay has already covered. It may be useful again to refer back to the title in the conclusion to make it very clear to the examiner that you have thoroughly answered the question at hand. Make sure you remind them of your argument by very concisely touching on each key point.
Here an example of an essay conclusion:
Overall, whilst it is certainly true that the characters, plots and settings of Gothic fiction seem firmly intended to break normal moral and social codes, the great incidence within the genre of the depiction of the supernatural, and in particular its insistent reference to social injustice and hypocrisy might suggest that in fact its main purpose was the criticism and reform of society.
But where do I start???
Now you should have a solid grasp of a typical essay structure, but might not know how to actually begin structuring your essay. Everyone works differently. Some people have no trouble thinking everything out in their head, or putting together an outline, and starting with the introduction and finishing with the conclusion.
If you are not confident, however, we suggest writing from the inside out and doing the body paragraphs first. Since each body paragraph is a main idea, then once you know what your main ideas are, these should come fairly easily. Then the introduction and conclusion after that.
If you’re really struggling – or just curious – you can also look into the Essay Writing Service from ourselves here at Oxbridge Essays. We can put together a comprehensive essay plan for you, which maps out your essay and outlines the key points in advance, and in turn makes the writing process much easier.
One final thought to remember: good essays are not written, they are rewritten. Always go over your first draft and look for ways to improve it before handing it in.
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Writing an academic essay means fashioning a coherent set of ideas into an argument. Because essays are essentially linear—they offer one idea at a time—they must present their ideas in the order that makes most sense to a reader. Successfully structuring an essay means attending to a reader’s logic.
The focus of such an essay predicts its structure. It dictates the information readers need to know and the order in which they need to receive it. Thus your essay’s structure is necessarily unique to the main claim you’re making. Although there are guidelines for constructing certain classic essay types (e.g., comparative analysis), there are no set formula.
Answering Questions: The Parts of an Essay
A typical essay contains many different kinds of information, often located in specialized parts or sections. Even short essays perform several different operations: introducing the argument, analyzing data, raising counterarguments, concluding. Introductions and conclusions have fixed places, but other parts don’t. Counterargument, for example, may appear within a paragraph, as a free-standing section, as part of the beginning, or before the ending. Background material (historical context or biographical information, a summary of relevant theory or criticism, the definition of a key term) often appears at the beginning of the essay, between the introduction and the first analytical section, but might also appear near the beginning of the specific section to which it’s relevant.
It’s helpful to think of the different essay sections as answering a series of questions your reader might ask when encountering your thesis. (Readers should have questions. If they don’t, your thesis is most likely simply an observation of fact, not an arguable claim.)
“What?” The first question to anticipate from a reader is “what”: What evidence shows that the phenomenon described by your thesis is true? To answer the question you must examine your evidence, thus demonstrating the truth of your claim. This “what” or “demonstration” section comes early in the essay, often directly after the introduction. Since you’re essentially reporting what you’ve observed, this is the part you might have most to say about when you first start writing. But be forewarned: it shouldn’t take up much more than a third (often much less) of your finished essay. If it does, the essay will lack balance and may read as mere summary or description.
“How?” A reader will also want to know whether the claims of the thesis are true in all cases. The corresponding question is “how”: How does the thesis stand up to the challenge of a counterargument? How does the introduction of new material—a new way of looking at the evidence, another set of sources—affect the claims you’re making? Typically, an essay will include at least one “how” section. (Call it “complication” since you’re responding to a reader’s complicating questions.) This section usually comes after the “what,” but keep in mind that an essay may complicate its argument several times depending on its length, and that counterargument alone may appear just about anywhere in an essay.
“Why?” Your reader will also want to know what’s at stake in your claim: Why does your interpretation of a phenomenon matter to anyone beside you? This question addresses the larger implications of your thesis. It allows your readers to understand your essay within a larger context. In answering “why”, your essay explains its own significance. Although you might gesture at this question in your introduction, the fullest answer to it properly belongs at your essay’s end. If you leave it out, your readers will experience your essay as unfinished—or, worse, as pointless or insular.
Mapping an Essay
Structuring your essay according to a reader’s logic means examining your thesis and anticipating what a reader needs to know, and in what sequence, in order to grasp and be convinced by your argument as it unfolds. The easiest way to do this is to map the essay’s ideas via a written narrative. Such an account will give you a preliminary record of your ideas, and will allow you to remind yourself at every turn of the reader’s needs in understanding your idea.
Essay maps ask you to predict where your reader will expect background information, counterargument, close analysis of a primary source, or a turn to secondary source material. Essay maps are not concerned with paragraphs so much as with sections of an essay. They anticipate the major argumentative moves you expect your essay to make. Try making your map like this:
- State your thesis in a sentence or two, then write another sentence saying why it’s important to make that claim. Indicate, in other words, what a reader might learn by exploring the claim with you. Here you’re anticipating your answer to the “why” question that you’ll eventually flesh out in your conclusion.
- Begin your next sentence like this: “To be convinced by my claim, the first thing a reader needs to know is . . .” Then say why that’s the first thing a reader needs to know, and name one or two items of evidence you think will make the case. This will start you off on answering the “what” question. (Alternately, you may find that the first thing your reader needs to know is some background information.)
- Begin each of the following sentences like this: “The next thing my reader needs to know is . . .” Once again, say why, and name some evidence. Continue until you’ve mapped out your essay.
Your map should naturally take you through some preliminary answers to the basic questions of what, how, and why. It is not a contract, though—the order in which the ideas appear is not a rigid one. Essay maps are flexible; they evolve with your ideas.
Signs of Trouble
A common structural flaw in college essays is the “walk-through” (also labeled “summary” or “description”). Walk-through essays follow the structure of their sources rather than establishing their own. Such essays generally have a descriptive thesis rather than an argumentative one. Be wary of paragraph openers that lead off with “time” words (“first,” “next,” “after,” “then”) or “listing” words (“also,” “another,” “in addition”). Although they don’t always signal trouble, these paragraph openers often indicate that an essay’s thesis and structure need work: they suggest that the essay simply reproduces the chronology of the source text (in the case of time words: first this happens, then that, and afterwards another thing . . . ) or simply lists example after example (“In addition, the use of color indicates another way that the painting differentiates between good and evil”).
Copyright 2000, Elizabeth Abrams, for the Writing Center at Harvard University