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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:

Nowadays governments are investing more in public transport such as buses and trains rather than in building new roads.

What are the reasons for this?

Is this a positive or negative development?

Clear position

For this kind of task you need to discuss both questions.

For the first question, you are given a situation and asked to explain why.

The second question requires a clear opinion so you must choose a side.

This is very important for your task response score.

If you don’t choose a side and support that ‘position’ clearly, you will lose marks for your task response. You will get a maximum of a 5 for task achievement if you do not choose a side.

It’s not important which side you choose as long as you choose one.

Here are the options for the second question:

1) Agree. You think it’s a positive development that governments are spending more money on public transport. You support r this opinion.

2) Disagree. You think it’s a negative development that governments are spending more money on public transport. You support this opinion.

Clear essay structure

I always recommend to my students that they give their opinion in the introduction as well as the conclusion (for all IELTS Task 2 questions).

Technically, it’s OK to write a very general introduction and leave your opinion to the end.

But I strongly suggest that you don’t do this because it’s not as clear.

Also, you might run out of time before you’ve got to your conclusion, so overall it’s a risky strategy.  If you don’t choose a side and support that ‘position’ clearly, you will lose marks for your task response.

Therefore my suggested IELTS Task 2 essay structure is four paragraphs – an introduction, two main (or body) paragraphs and a conclusion.

The opinion is presented in the introduction and re-stated in the conclusion.

Ideally each body paragraph should discuss one main idea.

Now let’s look at the options in more detail.

Possible Essay structures

1) Agree – you feel it’s a positive development that governments are spending more money on public transport.

You need at least one good reason why it’s happening and one good reason why it’s a positive development.

Paragraph 1

(intro)

Paraphrase both questions and state your overall opinion (you feel it’s a positive development)

Paragraph 2

(body 1)

Explain and support your reason why governments are spending more money on public transport.

Paragraph 3

(body 2)

Explain and support your reason why this is a positive development.

Paragraph 4 (conclusion)

Re-state your overall opinion (you feel it’s a positive development) and  summarise your main reasons.

2) Disagree – you feel it’s a negative development that governments are spending more money on public transport.

You need at least one good reason why it’s happening and one good reason why it’s a negative development.

Only the parts highlighted below are different from the first essay

Paragraph 1 (intro)

Paraphrase both questions and state your overall opinion

(you feel it’s a negative development)

Paragraph 2 (body 1)

Explain and support your reason why governments are spending more money on public transport.

Paragraph 3 (body 2)

Explain and support your reason why this is a negative development.

Paragraph 4 (conclusion)

Re-state your overall opinion (you feel it’s a negative development) and  summarise your main reasons.

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

Look at the question below then compare your ideas with this sample answer (written by an ex-examiner).

Check out our expert sample answer with line by line analysis and key vocabulary.

Living in large cities today poses many problems for people.

What are these problems? Should governments encourage more people to live in smaller towns?

Brainstorm some main ideas:

  • What are the biggest problems for people living in a big city?

  • What causes these problems? What are the effects on people’s lives?

  • Do think think the government should help people to move out of big cities to live in smaller towns?

  • Is this a good or bad idea? Why?

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