How to correctly approach an IELTS essay

One of my students has recently been struggling with how to answer an essay question appropriately in IELTS Writing Task 2. He was not sure whether he needed to give his own opinion on a topic or to give both sides of an issue. The answer is simple: it depends on the task type.

Let’s take a look at this example:

Governments should spend money on railways rather than roads.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the statement?

~ Cambridge IELTS 11

This essay question requires that the candidate give their own opinion or view about the topic: Do you agree or do you not agree? Yes or No. You can argue one side of the topic. Of course, it is also good to show some maturity in your argument and give both views. In some cases, writers may decide to include a rebuttal to make their essay appear more objective and show some sensitivity to the issue being discussed. However, this is not necessary. You can choose to talk about one side of the topic if you want, but make sure that this is adequately developed with explanations and examples to drive in your point.

Here’s another example:

Some people say that the only reason for learning a foreign language is in order to travel to or work in a foreign country. Others say that these are not the only reasons why someone should learn a foreign language.

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

~ Cambridge IELTS 11

With a task like this, the candidate has NO choice but to argue BOTH sides of the topic: why some people are learning foreign languages to travel and work, and why this is not the case for others. If you choose to write only about one view, the one that supports your opinion, without acknowledging the other argument, you will not have responded fully to the task and will not get a high band score compared to a candidate who receives a Band 9 for:

“fully addressing all parts of the task • presenting a fully developed position in answer to the question with relevant, fully extended and well supported ideas”

I hope this helps.


Until next time!

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