In this tutorial, we are going to look at the different types of essay structures for your IELTS writing task 2 test. Getting a higher score in the IELTS test does not only depend on your writing skills or how many paragraphs you write – it is equally important to express your own opinion and familiarize yourself with the various essay types and structures, in order to write the best answer possible.
The five types of essay questions commonly seen in IELTS writing task 2
– To what extent do you agree or disagree? (note to what extent… – do not forget, it is a discussion essay, you are not expected to make definitive statements)
– Discuss the advantages and disadvantages? (disadvantages questions)
– Discuss the problems and possible solutions OR discuss the causes and what problems it causes?
– Two questions, for example: Why is this happening? Is this a positive or negative development? The latter are also called direct questions.
Regardless of the question type, it is important to read the question carefully before you start writing the opinion essay. You must demonstrate that you understood the question correctly.
Read sample answers as part of your IELTS preparation for generating more ideas – you are expected to express your own opinion and ideas in this task, whether you agree or disagree with the statement should not matter as long as you express a clear position throughout.
250 words myth?
Although the official criteria from IELTS.org mentions nothing about 250 words, on official exam papers the 250 words instruction can be seen.
Either way, for a band 7 a word count of around 350 words is expected.
A 350-word essay allows you to fully develop your ideas and argue your position, with multiple reasons, facts and examples.
Because you are writing more you have more chances to improve your lexical resource (vocabulary) score. However, the quality of your writing is just as important as quantity – one of the common mistakes many students make is to write as much as possible without structuring the essay. Your ideas, examples you include, complex sentences you use and above all, using the correct essay structure is as important as the final word count. Also, do not forget to use the correct linking words in your essay, and to express a clear position.
In all the examples below we are allowing a paragraph for the introduction and a paragraph for the conclusion. The basic structure is the same, regardless of the essay question you get.
Four paragraph model
We teach this model because:
Often there are just two sides to the argument or two parts to the question, therefore a body paragraph for each part of the question works well. Do not forget to start each paragraph with a topic sentence if you can.
Most of the points in Task 2 are picked up in the body paragraphs, not in the introduction or conclusion.
Therefore spending time and energy on two well constructed, fully developed cohesive paragraphs makes complete sense. This allows you to clearly express your position and why you agree or disagree with the statement in the question. For example, if you are writing about why the advantages of mobile devices outweigh the negative effects, you could mention some disadvantages in the first main body paragraphs and write about the advantages in the second main body paragraph. This way, you express your personal opinion while appearing objective by listing pros and cons.
Also, you can go deeper into the reasons why your argument is correct, the five-paragraph model could mean your arguments are too shallow. It is important to include more detail in your answer.
The vast majority of the students are aiming for a Band 7, and a four-paragraph model can do this, assuming all the other criteria are met.
Click here to learn how to plan and start a four-paragraph IELTS essay.
Five paragraph model
In our online course, we strongly advise against this structure because the time limit of 40 minutes would mean short paragraphs for most writers.
Short paragraphs make it difficult to develop your idea and argue your position. Ideally, one paragraph should express one position.
It could get complicated quickly as to which paragraphs hold which position.
However, if you feel extremely confident and can write very quickly a five-paragraph model could work. In any case, do not write more than five paragraphs in total, including the introduction and conclusion. Four to five paragraphs should be enough to answer the question, express your opinion and whether you agree or disagree with the statement in the question.
Band 5 students who have difficulty developing ideas, may find this model to work because they can limit each paragraph to one single idea.
How do you decide which essay structure to follow?
Depending on your target band score will influence your decision.
Also, try answering the same example question twice, first with a four-paragraph essay, second with a five-paragraph essay, to see which IELTS essay structure allows you to express your main ideas better while demonstrating a clear progression throughout.
Most band 7 students find the four-paragraph model is easier, but only you can decide if this model has more advantages for you personally. Also, do not forget that the marking criterion for writing includes grammatical range, lexical resource and task achievement – while expressing your opinion is important, try to use correct grammar, a wide range of vocabulary, and typical wording expected for the writing test (such as linking words). These, as well as choosing the correct essay structure, will help improve your writing score.
It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the marking criteria used by IELTS examiners and to read sample questions and answers in order to get a high score for your IELTS writing – there are many free resources available for this, for example from the British Council website. IDP Education Australia also has a website that can help with generating ideas. You can also try our recent tutorial all about idea generation.
If you are still a little lost or frustrated then don’t worry, lots of students find preparing for IELTS incredibly frustrating.
One solution is to invest in yourself and get help to improve.
The fastest way to improve is with feedback from expert IELTS essay correctors.
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Tutorials and Tips to Prepare for Task 2
- How to Get Ideas for Task 2
- Band 9 Sample Essay
- Extremely Useful Sentences for Task 2
- Five Powerful Sentence Structures to use in your IELTS Writing test
- How to use comparisons in Task 2
- Concession Paragraphs for “do I agree/disagree essays”
- How to write an IELTS Essay Conclusion
- IELTS Cohesion and Coherence
- 3 ways to paraphrase for your Task 2 introduction
- Marking Criteria for IELTS Writing
- Topics Sentences for Your Essays
- 7 Ways to Improve your Sentences in Your IELTS Essays
- Grammar for IELTS Writing
- Academic Collocations for Task 2