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A lot of my IELTS students struggle with how many ideas they need and how to structure their essay.

This article with explain clearly what you need to do and why.

Let’s look at an example of this kind of question:

The price of rail travel in some countries increases annually while average incomes remain relatively stable. This causes a problem for many people who rely on trains for travelling to work.

What do you think are the causes of this problem and what measures could be taken to solve them?

How many causes and solutions?

You are being asked to discuss causes and solutions (measures) but in fact it’s better if you can think of just one or a maximum of two main causes and solutions.

This means you will be able to spend more time developing those ideas which will then improve your Task Achievement score.

Possible Essay structures

1. Separately – you discuss the main cause first then discuss the main solution.

You need one or two main causes and one or two main solutions.

Paragraph 1 (intro)

Paraphrase both questions and state the main cause and solution.

Paragraph 2 (body 1)

Explain the main cause(s). Support your ideas.

Paragraph 3 (body 2)

Explain the possible solution(s) . Give reasons to support your ideas.

Paragraph 4 (conclusion)

Re-state the problem and  summarise your main ideas.

2. Together – you discuss the causes one at a time together with its solution.

Again, you need at two main causes and two main solutions.

Paragraph 1 (intro)

Paraphrase both questions and state you will discuss some causes and solutions.

Paragraph 2 (body 1)

Explain the first main cause and suggest a suitable solution. Give reasons to support your idea..

Paragraph 3 (body 2)

Explain the second main cause and suggest a suitable solution. Give reasons to support your idea..

Paragraph 4 (conclusion)

Re-state the problem and  summarise your main ideas.

Do not write an opinion essay

A lot of IELTS students are very good at writing agree or disagree essays, so they misunderstand problem/solution questions.

Instead of discussing causes and solutions, they discuss the benefits and drawbacks of  expensive tickets.

This would mean a 4 for Task Achievement.

Make sure you read and understand the question carefully.

Other similar types of questions than you can answer in the same way include:

– What do you think are the causes? / What are the solutions?

– Explain some possible reasons for this problem and suggest some solutions.

Now it’s your turn! Put your answers in the comments.

Is travelling by train in your country more expensive than in the past? Why?

How could train companies save money?

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