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This is an IELTS writing task 2 sample answer essay on the topic of learning facts and practical skills at school from the real IELTS general training exam.

Please consider supporting me on Patreon.com/howtodoielts to receive my full, exclusive IELTS Ebooks – you can even sign up for private live lessons with me! My subscription online courses are also available here.

This essay is a bit different from all the other hundreds I have written.

This one includes a personal example – that is fine on IELTS though I wouldn’t recommend it to be on the safe side.

Dave

IELTS Essay: Learning Facts & Practical Skills at School

Some people say that at all levels of education, from primary school to university, too much time is spent on learning facts and not enough on learning practical skills.

Do you agree or disagree?

Many concerned parties believe that schools currently place too much emphasis on theory and do not properly cover practical skills. I am in agreement that schools should be focusing less on rote learning of facts.

Proponents of more traditional education limited to accumulating facts argue this forms the basis of shared knowledge in society. An illustrative example of this would be the teaching of national history. Although information such as dates and names is not necessarily important in itself, the fact that the majority of the population shares the same knowledge allows them to connect and communicate more easily. A person who makes a reference to a certain year, event, or figure can communicate instantly and deeply with anyone who recognizes the same information. This extends beyond national boundaries and can also unite disparate cultures.

However, it is more important for students to learn skills with practical import. This can include but does not have to be limited to learning skills like cooking and woodworking, which are not traditional academic subjects. The curriculum could also be broadened to critical thinking skills. For example, when I studied at Bard College, a liberal arts institution in upstate New York, I was initially surprised at the emphasis placed on learning the skill of thinking itself. My past courses in high school were more about memorizing information but my university teachers were wary of simple memorization, facts, and terminology. Instead they sought to break down key concepts related to thinking and instruct students on how to read text closely and think for themselves.

In conclusion, though teaching facts can be useful for social cohesiveness, I believe the value of more useful skills is greater. There must always be a degree of balance but schools should prioritize the latter methodology.

Analysis

1. Many concerned parties believe that schools currently place too much emphasis on theory and do not properly cover practical skills. 2. I am in agreement that schools should be focusing less on rote learning of facts.

  1. Paraphrase the overall essay topic.
  2. Write a clear opinion. Read more about introductions here.

1. Proponents of more traditional education limited to accumulating facts argue this forms the basis of shared knowledge in society. 2. An illustrative example of this would be the teaching of national history. 3. Although information such as dates and names is not necessarily important in itself, the fact that the majority of the population shares the same knowledge allows them to connect and communicate more easily. 4. A person who makes a reference to a certain year, event, or figure can communicate instantly and deeply with anyone who recognizes the same information. 5. This extends beyond national boundaries and can also unite disparate cultures.

  1. Write a topic sentence with a clear main idea at the end.
  2. Explain your main idea.
  3. Develop it with specific or hypothetical examples.
  4. Keep developing it fully.
  5. You can have a second main idea.

1. However, it is more important for students to learn skills with practical import. 2. This can include but does not have to be limited to learning skills like cooking and woodworking, which are not traditional academic subjects. 3. The curriculum could also be broadened to critical thinking skills. 4. For example, when I studied at Bard College, a liberal arts institution in upstate New York, I was initially surprised at the emphasis placed on learning the skill of thinking itself. 5. My past courses in high school were more about memorizing information but my university teachers were wary of simple memorization, facts, and terminology. 6. Instead they sought to break down key concepts related to thinking and instruct students on how to read text closely and think for themselves.

  1. Write a new topic sentence with a new main idea at the end.
  2. Explain your new main idea.
  3. Include specific details and examples.
  4. I don’t usually use personal examples, but I did in this essay.
  5. Develop the example fully.
  6. Finish with a strong statement.

1. In conclusion, though teaching facts can be useful for social cohesiveness, I believe the value of more useful skills is greater. 2. There must always be a degree of balance but schools should prioritize the latter methodology.

  1. Summarise your main ideas.
  2. Include a final thought. Read more about conclusions here.

Vocabulary

What do the words in bold below mean? Make some notes on paper to aid memory and then check below.

Many concerned parties believe that schools currently place too much emphasis on theory and do not properly cover practical skills. I am in agreement that schools should be focusing less on rote learning of facts.

Proponents of more traditional education limited to accumulating facts argue this forms the basis of shared knowledge in society. An illustrative example of this would be the teaching of national history. Although information such as dates and names is not necessarily important in itself, the fact that the majority of the population shares the same knowledge allows them to connect and communicate more easily. A person who makes a reference to a certain year, event, or figure can communicate instantly and deeply with anyone who recognizes the same information. This extends beyond national boundaries and can also unite disparate cultures.

However, it is more important for students to learn skills with practical import. This can include but does not have to be limited to learning skills like cooking and woodworking, which are not traditional academic subjects. The curriculum could also be broadened to critical thinking skills. For example, when I studied at Bard College, a liberal arts institution in upstate New York, I was initially surprised at the emphasis placed on learning the skill of thinking itself. My past courses in high school were more about memorizing information but my university teachers were wary of simple memorization, facts, and terminology. Instead they sought to break down key concepts related to thinking and instruct students on how to read text closely and think for themselves.

In conclusion, though teaching facts can be useful for social cohesiveness, I believe the value of more useful skills is greater. There must always be a degree of balance but schools should prioritize the latter methodology.

Answers

For extra practice, write an antonym (opposite word) on a piece of paper to help you remember the new vocabulary:

concerned parties people interested

currently place too much emphasis now focus too much on

theory ideas, concepts, facts

properly cover practical skills do a good job going over real world skills

focusing less not paying as much attention

rote learning memorizing

proponents supporters

traditional education schools, older ways of learning

accumulating facts learning names, dates, etc.

forms makes up

basis foundation

shared knowledge what everyone knows together

an illustrative example of this would be the best instance of this is

national history past of a country

necessarily important in itself

majority most of

connect make contact with

reference mention

event happening

figure person

instantly right away

deeply not superficially

recognizes knows about

extends beyond national boundaries internationally

unite disparate cultures bring together different people

practical import useful in life

include have

limited to just about

woodworking making things out of wood

traditional academic subjects science, math, literature, etc.

curriculum what is learned in school

broadened widened

critical thinking skills thinking logically, rationally, creatively

liberal arts institution schools where you study many subjects

upstate New York above New York City but still in the state of New York

initially surprised at first shocked

past courses what was studied before

memorizing information learning things

wary worried about

memorization remembering

terminology jargon, fancy words

sought looked for

break down key concepts learn about basic areas

instruct teach

read text closely deeply read books

useful practical

social cohesiveness brings people together in a society

a degree of balance some equality

prioritize make more important

latter methodology mentioned before way of teaching

Pronunciation

Practice saying the vocabulary below and use this tip about Google voice search:

kənˈsɜːnd ˈpɑːtiz 
ˈkʌrəntli pleɪs tuː mʌʧ ˈɛmfəsɪs 
ˈθɪəri 
ˈprɒpəli ˈkʌvə ˈpræktɪkəl skɪlz
ˈfəʊkəsɪŋ lɛs 
rəʊt ˈlɜːnɪŋ 
prəˈpəʊnənts 
trəˈdɪʃənl ˌɛdju(ː)ˈkeɪʃən 
əˈkjuːmjʊleɪtɪŋ fækts 
fɔːmz 
ˈbeɪsɪs 
ʃeəd ˈnɒlɪʤ 
ən ˈɪləstreɪtɪv ɪgˈzɑːmpl ɒv ðɪs wʊd biː 
ˈnæʃənl ˈhɪstəri
ˈnɛsɪsərɪli ɪmˈpɔːtənt ɪn ɪtˈsɛlf 
məˈʤɒrɪti 
kəˈnɛkt 
ˈrɛfrəns 
ɪˈvɛnt
ˈfɪgə 
ˈɪnstəntli 
ˈdiːpli 
ˈrɛkəgnaɪzɪz 
ɪksˈtɛndz bɪˈjɒnd ˈnæʃənl ˈbaʊndəriz 
juːˈnaɪt ˈdɪspərɪt ˈkʌlʧəz
ˈpræktɪkəl ˈɪmpɔːt
ɪnˈkluːd 
ˈlɪmɪtɪd tuː 
ˈwʊdwɜːkɪŋ
trəˈdɪʃənl ˌækəˈdɛmɪk ˈsʌbʤɪkts
kəˈrɪkjʊləm 
ˈbrɔːdnd 
ˈkrɪtɪkəl ˈθɪŋkɪŋ skɪlz
ˈlɪbərəl ɑːts ˌɪnstɪˈtjuːʃən 
ˌʌpˈsteɪt njuː jɔːk
ɪˈnɪʃəli səˈpraɪzd 
pɑːst ˈkɔːsɪz 
ˈmɛməraɪzeɪʃən 
ˈweəri 
ˈmɛməri ˌrɪəlaɪˈzeɪʃən
fækts,
ˌtɜːmɪˈnɒləʤi
sɔːt 
breɪk daʊn kiː ˈkɒnsɛpts 
ɪnˈstrʌkt 
riːd tɛkst ˈkləʊsli 
ˈjuːsfʊl 
ˈsəʊʃəl kəʊˈhiːsɪvnəs
ə dɪˈgriː ɒv ˈbæləns 
praɪˈɒrɪˌtaɪz 
ˈlætə ˌmɛθəˈdɒləʤi

Vocabulary Practice

I recommend getting a pencil and piece of paper because that aids memory. Then write down the missing vocabulary from my sample answer in your notebook:

Many c_____________________s believe that schools c_______________________________________s on t___________y and do not p____________________________s. I am in agreement that schools should be f_______________s on r________________g of facts.

P____________s of more t__________________n limited to a_____________________s argue this f______s the b______s of s____________________________e in society. A_____________________________________________e the teaching of n_________________y. Although information such as dates and names is not n_____________________________f, the fact that the m___________y of the population shares the same knowledge allows them to c__________t and communicate more easily. A person who makes a r__________e to a certain year, e______t, or f________e can communicate i__________y and d________y with anyone who r____________s the same information. This e_____________________________s and can also u___________________________s.

However, it is more important for students to learn skills with p__________________t. This can i_________e but does not have to be l______________o learning skills like cooking and w_____________g, which are not t____________________________s. The c__________m could also be b__________d to c_______________________s. For example, when I studied at Bard College, a l_____________________________n in u_____________________k, I was i____________________d at the emphasis placed on learning the skill of thinking itself. My p______________s in high school were more about m_______________________n but my university teachers were w____y of simple m_____________________n, f_______s, and t___________________y. Instead they s_________t to b_______________________________s related to thinking and i___________t students on how to r_____________________y and think for themselves.

In conclusion, though teaching facts can be u____________l for s____________________s, I believe the value of more useful skills is greater. There must always be a_____________________e but schools should p_____________e the l____________________y.

Listening Practice

Learn more about this topic by watching videos from The New York Times YouTube channel below and practice with these activities:

Reading Practice

Read more about this topic and use these ideas to practice:

Speaking Practice

Practice with the following speaking questions from the real IELTS speaking exam:

Studying

  1. Are you studying or working?
  2. Do you prefer to learn in the morning or in the evening?
  3. What subject do like to study best?

Writing Practice

Practice with the related IELTS essay topic below:

Some educational systems make students study specialised subjects from the age of fifteen while others require students to study a wide range.

Discuss both sides and give your own opinion.


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