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This is an IELTS writing task 2 sample answer essay on the topic of learning from history from the real IELTS exam.

It is a simple question, but very hard to develop and think of examples for.

Read below to see what I did with it!

Dave

Before reading, you can also listen to the audio file for extra practice:

IELTS Writing Task 2 Sample Answer Essay: Learning from History (Real Past IELTS Exam/Test)

Some believe that history has little to teach us about today while others think that the study of the past helps us to understand the present.

Discuss both views and give your own opinion.

Recent Past IELTS Exam/Test

Many feel that the study of the past does little to inform the present while others believe it can help aid understanding. In my opinion, history certainly holds insights but they are so deeply woven into a specific context so as to be as misleading as enlightening.

Those who argue in favour of learning from history can point to the importance of understanding a culture. A frequently cited example of this is the war between Vietnam and the United States in the mid 1960s to early 1970s. Both before and during the war, the United States President and his advisors understood little about the history of Vietnam with its successive invasions from foreign nations including China and Japan. A deeper understanding of the unity and resilience of Vietnam might have led them to make different decisions regarding splitting the country in half and the escalation of ground troops. Mistakes born of ignorance take place all the time in international relations and even domestic politics.

Regardless, history only holds lessons for the keenest observors. Every historical moment passes through a complex set of circumstances, many of which are hidden from history books, and cannot be reduced to simple lessons. For example, the Vietnam war is often summed up with the platitude that it is impossible to invade and occupy a foreign nation. This ignores the myriad reasons that led to defeat and supposes that other conflicts are identical. After the invasion of Iraq proved to be a quagmire, many relished the historical lessons of Vietnam without considering the very diverse set of circumstances that led to failure in each country. There are certainly insights to be gained from studying past conflicts, but they will rarely result in fixed, black and white rules applicable to every new situation.

In conclusion, history is not a simple road map for the future. Those who are too avid to accept seemingly apparent lessons are doomed to lead themselves astray and make new mistakes.

Analysis

1. Many feel that the study of the past does little to inform the present while others believe it can help aid understanding. 2. In my opinion, history certainly holds insights but they are so deeply woven into a specific context so as to be as misleading as enlightening.

  1. Paraphrase what the whole essay is about.
  2. Write a clear opinion. You don’t have to include your main ideas like I did but it will help your cohesion and coherence score.

1. Those who argue in favour of learning from history can point to the importance of understanding a culture. 2. A frequently cited example of this is the war between Vietnam and the United States in the mid 1960s to early 1970s. 3. Both before and during the war, the United States President and his advisors understood little about the history of Vietnam with its successive invasions from foreign nations including China and Japan. 4. A deeper understanding of the unity and resilience of Vietnam might have led them to make different decisions regarding splitting the country in half and the escalation of ground troops. 5. Mistakes born of ignorance take place all the time in international relations and even domestic politics.

  1. Write a clear topic sentence with your main idea for the whole paragraph at the end.
  2. Develop it with a specific example.
  3. Continue using the example to develop your main idea.
  4. Don’t switch to a new main idea or example, if possible.
  5. Conclude by related your main idea back to the overall essay topic.

1. Regardless, history only holds lessons for the keenest observors. 2. Every historical moment passes through a complex set of circumstances, many of which are hidden from history books, and cannot be reduced to simple lessons. 3. For example, the Vietnam war is often summed up with the platitude that it is impossible to invade and occupy a foreign nation. 4. This ignores the myriad reasons that led to defeat and supposes that other conflicts are identical. 5. After the invasion of Iraq proved to be a quagmire, many relished the historical lessons of Vietnam without considering the very diverse set of circumstances that led to failure in each country. 6. There are certainly insights to be gained from studying past conflicts, but they will rarely result in fixed, black and white rules applicable to every new situation.

  1. Another topic sentence with a clear main idea.
  2. Explain your main idea if you need to.
  3. Being another example.
  4. Explain why your example proves your main idea.
  5. Continue with the same example.
  6. Draw conclusions from your example.

1. In conclusion, history is not a simple road map for the future. 2. Those who are too avid to accept seemingly apparent lessons are doomed to lead themselves astray and make new mistakes.

  1. Repeat your opinion.
  2. Add in an extra detail or final thought for full points for task achievement from the examiner.

Vocabulary

What do the words in bold below mean?

Many feel that the study of the past does little to inform the present while others believe it can help aid understanding. In my opinion, history certainly holds insights but they are so deeply woven into a specific context so as to be as misleading as enlightening.

Those who argue in favour of learning from history can point to the importance of understanding a culture. A frequently cited example of this is the war between Vietnam and the United States in the mid 1960s to early 1970s. Both before and during the war, the United States President and his advisors understood little about the history of Vietnam with its successive invasions from foreign nations including China and Japan. A deeper understanding of the unity and resilience of Vietnam might have led them to make different decisions regarding splitting the country in half and the escalation of ground troops. Mistakes born of ignorance take place all the time in international relations and even domestic politics.

Regardless, history only holds lessons for the keenest observors. Every historical moment passes through a complex set of circumstances, many of which are hidden from history books, and cannot be reduced to simple lessons. For example, the Vietnam war is often summed up with the platitude that it is impossible to invade and occupy a foreign nation. This ignores the myriad reasons that led to defeat and supposes that other conflicts are identical. After the invasion of Iraq proved to be a quagmire, many relished the historical lessons of Vietnam without considering the very diverse set of circumstances that led to failure in each country. There are certainly insights to be gained from studying past conflicts, but they will rarely result in fixed, black and white rules applicable to every new situation.

In conclusion, history is not a simple road map for the future. Those who are too avid to accept seemingly apparent lessons are doomed to lead themselves astray and make new mistakes.

Answers

does little almost no impact

inform add to/enlighten

holds insights has important information

so deeply woven into a specific context so as to be as misleading as enlightening wrapped up in the situation so much that it gives bad information

point to argue

frequently cited example of this is well-known instance

mid 1960s to early 1970s around 1965 – 1974

advisors cabinet/confidants

successive invasions attacks one after another

deeper understanding to know something very well

unity together

resilience determination

regarding splitting in connection with dividing

escalation of ground troops sending in more soldiers

mistakes born of ignorance take place errors from lack of understanding happen

international relations relationships between countries

domestic politics politics inside a country

regardless nonetheless

holds lessons has lessons/things to learn from

keenest observors sharpest interpreters

historical moment passes through event goes through

complex complicated

reduced to simple lessons easily distilled

summed up with summarised by

platitude cliche

invade attack

occupy remain in

myriad various

supposes assumes

identical the same

proved to be turned out

quagmire very difficult/tricky situation

relished took joy in

without considering not thinking of

diverse set of circumstances many factors to consider

black and white clearcut

applicable can be applied

road map clear outline

avid excited, enthusiastic

seemingly apparent lessons ostensibly obvious take-aways

doomed inevitable

lead themselves astray get lost

Pronunciation

dʌz ˈlɪtl 
ɪnˈfɔːm 
həʊldz ˈɪnsaɪts 
səʊ ˈdiːpli ˈwəʊvən ˈɪntuː ə spɪˈsɪfɪk ˈkɒntɛkst səʊ æz tuː biː æz mɪsˈliːdɪŋ æz ɪnˈlaɪtnɪŋ
pɔɪnt tuː 
ˈfriːkwəntli ˈsaɪtɪd ɪgˈzɑːmpl ɒv ðɪs ɪz 
mɪd 1960ɛs tuː ˈɜːli 1970ɛs
ədˈvaɪzəz 
səkˈsɛsɪv ɪnˈveɪʒənz 
ˈdiːpər ˌʌndəˈstændɪŋ 
ˈjuːnɪti 
rɪˈzɪlɪəns 
rɪˈgɑːdɪŋ ˈsplɪtɪŋ 
ˌɛskəˈleɪʃən ɒv graʊnd truːps
mɪsˈteɪks bɔːn ɒv ˈɪgnərəns teɪk pleɪs 
ˌɪntə(ː)ˈnæʃənl rɪˈleɪʃənz 
dəʊˈmɛstɪk ˈpɒlɪtɪks
rɪˈgɑːdlɪs
həʊldz ˈlɛsnz 
ˈkiːnɪst əbˈzɜːvəz
hɪsˈtɒrɪkəl ˈməʊmənt ˈpɑːsɪz θruː 
ˈkɒmplɛks 
rɪˈdjuːst tuː ˈsɪmpl ˈlɛsnz
sʌmd ʌp wɪð 
ˈplætɪtjuːd 
ɪnˈveɪd 
ˈɒkjʊpaɪ 
ˈmɪrɪəd 
səˈpəʊzɪz 
aɪˈdɛntɪkəl
pruːvd tuː biː 
ˈkwægmaɪə
ˈrɛlɪʃt 
wɪˈðaʊt kənˈsɪdərɪŋ 
daɪˈvɜːs sɛt ɒv ˈsɜːkəmstənsɪz 
blæk ænd waɪt 
ˈæplɪkəbl 
rəʊd mæp
ˈævɪd 
ˈsiːmɪŋli əˈpærənt ˈlɛsnz 
duːmd 
liːd ðəmˈsɛlvz əsˈtreɪ 

Listen and repeat:

Vocabulary Practice

Many feel that the study of the past d_____________________m the present while others believe it can help aid understanding. In my opinion, history certainly h________________s but they are s_______________________________________________________________________g.

Those who argue in favour of learning from history can p___________o the importance of understanding a culture. A f_____________________________________________s the war between Vietnam and the United States in the m__________________________s. Both before and during the war, the United States President and his a____________s understood little about the history of Vietnam with its s_____________________s from foreign nations including China and Japan. A d_____________________g of the u______y and r___________e of Vietnam might have led them to make different decisions r_____________________g the country in half and the e________________________________s. M____________________________________e all the time in i_____________________________________s and even d________________________s.

R________________s, history only h_____________________s for the k_________________________s. Every h_________________________________h a c_____________x set of circumstances, many of which are hidden from history books, and cannot be r_______________________________s. For example, the Vietnam war is often s________________________h the p_____________e that it is impossible to i_____________e and o_____________y a foreign nation. This ignores the m___________d reasons that led to defeat and s____________s that other conflicts are i_______________l. After the invasion of Iraq p_____________e a q________________e, many r___________d the historical lessons of Vietnam w_______________________g the very d_______________________________s that led to failure in each country. There are certainly insights to be gained from studying past conflicts, but they will rarely result in fixed, b__________________e rules a__________________e to every new situation.

In conclusion, history is not a simple r____________p for the future. Those who are too a_______d to accept s_________________________s are d____________d to l___________________________y and make new mistakes.

Listen and check:

Listening Practice

Watch my opinion of history here:

Learn an historical warning about flus here:

Reading Practice

Read an interesting article from The Atlantic on this topic here:

https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2018/03/learning-from-history-a-goal-a-delusion-a-trap/556496/

Speaking Practice

Practice this topic from the real IELTS speaking test. You should talk for 1-2 minutes:

Talk about a special date in your country’s history. Include

When it is

Why it is important

If people celebrate it

Writing Practice

Write about the question below then check with my sample answer:

Some people say history is one the most important school subjects. Other people think that, in today’s world, subjects like science and technology are more important than history.

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

Real Past IELTS Exam/Test

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