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

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Dave

IELTS Essay: Learning Literature

Some people think that it is a waste of time for high school students to study literature, such as novels and poems.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Many today claim that learning about literature should no longer be a key component of the high school curriculum. In my opinion, there are practical reasons for this sentiment but literature still serves a purpose.

Proponents of this reform argue other subjects deserve prioritisation. There is little doubt that in the 21st century, the most important subjects for students’ future careers relate to the sciences, such as engineering and computer science, or the practical humanities, like business. The earlier that students begin specialising, the more likely they are to have a head start on the competition and secure a well-paying job immediately after graduating high school or university. In contrast, the novels and poems that students read in high school are usually completely forgotten within a few years and do not teach any tangible skills that will help them advance in the real world.

Nonetheless, literature contains many of the most important and fundamental truths about the human condition. Life is about more than a career and great authors tackle the most fundamental philosophical and psychological questions. For example, the masters of 19th century Russian literature, including Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, are primarily concerned with human psychology and how this fits into a larger context of man’s search for meaning. Their exploration of these issues is relevant to everyone and cannot be replaced with a steady career. Moreover, the way in which great writers develop their themes, the aesthetic quality of their writing itself, imparts to careful readers the importance of artistic expression and may help them see outside the narrow modern confines of accumulating the most material wealth.

In conclusion, the utilitarian benefits of studying practical subjects do not outweigh the deeper values of literature. It is therefore advisable that literature be emphasised in high school classrooms.

Analysis

1. Many today claim that learning about literature should no longer be a key component of the high school curriculum. 2. In my opinion, there are practical reasons for this sentiment but literature still serves a purpose.

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

1. Proponents of this reform argue other subjects deserve prioritisation. 2. There is little doubt that in the 21st century, the most important subjects for students’ future careers relate to the sciences, such as engineering and computer science, or the practical humanities, like business. 3. The earlier that students begin specialising, the more likely they are to have a head start on the competition and secure a well-paying job immediately after graduating high school or university. 4. In contrast, the novels and poems that students read in high school are usually completely forgotten within a few years and do not teach any tangible skills that will help them advance in the real world.

  1. Write a topic sentence with a main idea at the end.
  2. Explain your main idea.
  3. Develop it specifically.
  4. Use a counter-example to fully develop your main idea.

1. Nonetheless, literature contains many of the most important and fundamental truths about the human condition. 2. Life is about more than a career and great authors tackle the most fundamental philosophical and psychological questions. 3. For example, the masters of 19th century Russian literature, including Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, are primarily concerned with human psychology and how this fits into a larger context of man’s search for meaning. 4. Their exploration of these issues is relevant to everyone and cannot be replaced with a steady career. 5. Moreover, the way in which great writers develop their themes, the aesthetic quality of their writing itself, imparts to careful readers the importance of artistic expression and may help them see outside the narrow modern confines of accumulating the most material wealth.

  1. Write a new topic sentence with a new main idea at the end.
  2. Explain your main idea.
  3. Start a specific example.
  4. Develop the example.
  5. Develop it fully to finish the paragraph.

1. In conclusion, the utilitarian benefits of studying practical subjects do not outweigh the deeper values of literature. 2. It is therefore advisable that literature be emphasised in high school classrooms.

  1. Repeat your opinion and summarise your main ideas.
  2. Add a final thought. Read more about conclusions here.

Vocabulary

What do the words in bold below mean?

Many today claim that learning about literature should no longer be a key component of the high school curriculum. In my opinion, there are practical reasons for this sentiment but literature still serves a purpose.

Proponents of this reform argue other subjects deserve prioritisation. There is little doubt that in the 21st century, the most important subjects for students’ future careers relate to the sciences, such as engineering and computer science, or the practical humanities, like business. The earlier that students begin specialising, the more likely they are to have a head start on the competition and secure a well-paying job immediately after graduating high school or university. In contrast, the novels and poems that students read in high school are usually completely forgotten within a few years and do not teach any tangible skills that will help them advance in the real world.

Nonetheless, literature contains many of the most important and fundamental truths about the human condition. Life is about more than a career and great authors tackle the most fundamental philosophical and psychological questions. For example, the masters of 19th century Russian literature, including Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, are primarily concerned with human psychology and how this fits into a larger context of man’s search for meaning. Their exploration of these issues is relevant to everyone and cannot be replaced with a steady career. Moreover, the way in which great writers develop their themes, the aesthetic quality of their writing itself, imparts to careful readers the importance of artistic expression and may help them see outside the narrow modern confines of accumulating the most material wealth.

In conclusion, the utilitarian benefits of studying practical subjects do not outweigh the deeper values of literature. It is therefore advisable that literature be emphasised in high school classrooms.

Answers

claim argue

no longer not anymore

key component crucial part

curriculum what you’re learning at school

practical reasons real justifications

sentiment feeling

serves a purpose has a reason

proponents supporters

reform change

deserve prioritisation warrants valuing highly

there is little doubt that it is clear that

21st century 2000 – 2100

relate to has to do with

sciences chemistry, math, biology, physics, etc.

engineering figuring out how things work

computer science learning about computers

practical humanities business and economics

business learning about money, economics

specialising focusing on one area

head start getting ahead

competition fighting

secure safe

well-paying making good money

immediately after right following that

in contrast however

completely forgotten not remembered

tangible skills concrete abilities

advance getting ahead

real world reality

fundamental truths important facts about life

human condition people living in the world

tackle deal with

fundamental philosophical basic relating to life and death

psychological questions issues about the human mind

masters the best at something

19th century Russian literature books from Russia in the 1900s

Tolstoy Leo Tolstoy, writer of War and Peace

Dostoevsky Fyodor Dostoevsky, writer of The Brothers Karamazov

primarily concerned mainly to do with

human psychology how people think

fits into relates to

larger context what it concerns

man’s search for meaning finding a purpose in life

exploration finding out about

relevant related to

replaced instead of

steady career good job

moreover also

the way in which how it is done

develop their themes explore their concerns

aesthetic quality beauty, art

imparts gives

careful readers conscientious

artistic expression self-expression

see outside the narrow modern confines expand their worldview

accumulating the most material wealth getting richer

utilitarian benefits get something real from it

outweigh more important than

deeper values very important

advisable should be done

emphasised focused on

Pronunciation

kleɪm 
nəʊ ˈlɒŋgə 
kiː kəmˈpəʊnənt 
kəˈrɪkjʊləm
ˈpræktɪkəl ˈriːznz 
ˈsɛntɪmənt 
sɜːvz ə ˈpɜːpəs
prəˈpəʊnənts 
ˌriːˈfɔːm 
dɪˈzɜːv praɪˈɒrɪˌtaɪzaɪˈzeɪʃən
ðeər ɪz ˈlɪtl daʊt ðæt 
ˈtwɛnti fɜːst ˈsɛnʧʊri
rɪˈleɪt tuː 
ˈsaɪənsɪz
ˌɛnʤɪˈnɪərɪŋ 
kəmˈpjuːtə ˈsaɪəns
ˈpræktɪkəl hju(ː)ˈmænɪtiz
ˈbɪznɪs
ˈspɛʃ(ə)laɪzɪŋ
hɛd stɑːt 
ˌkɒmpɪˈtɪʃən 
sɪˈkjʊə 
wɛl-ˈpeɪɪŋ 
ɪˈmiːdiətli ˈɑːftə 
ɪn ˈkɒntrɑːst
kəmˈpliːtli fəˈgɒtn 
ˈtænʤəbl skɪlz 
ədˈvɑːns 
rɪəl wɜːld
ˌfʌndəˈmɛntl truːðz 
ˈhjuːmən kənˈdɪʃən
ˈtækl 
ˌfʌndəˈmɛntl ˌfɪləˈsɒfɪkəl 
ˌsaɪkəˈlɒʤɪkəl ˈkwɛsʧənz
ˈmɑːstəz 
ˈnaɪnˈtiːŋθ ˈsɛnʧʊri ˈrʌʃ(ə)n ˈlɪtərɪʧə
ˈtɒlstɔɪ 
ˌdɒstɔɪˈɛfski
ˈpraɪmərɪli kənˈsɜːnd 
ˈhjuːmən saɪˈkɒləʤi 
fɪts ˈɪntuː 
ˈlɑːʤə ˈkɒntɛkst 
mænz sɜːʧ fɔː ˈmiːnɪŋ
ˌɛksplɔːˈreɪʃən 
ˈrɛlɪvənt 
rɪˈpleɪst 
ˈstɛdi kəˈrɪə
mɔːˈrəʊvə
ðə weɪ ɪn wɪʧ 
dɪˈvɛləp ðeə θiːmz
iːsˈθɛtɪk ˈkwɒlɪti 
ɪmˈpɑːts 
ˈkeəfʊl ˈriːdəz 
ɑːˈtɪstɪk ɪksˈprɛʃən 
siː ˌaʊtˈsaɪd ðə ˈnærəʊ ˈmɒdən ˈkɒnfaɪnz 
əˈkjuːmjʊleɪtɪŋ ðə məʊst məˈtɪərɪəl wɛlθ
ˌjuːtɪlɪˈteərɪən ˈbɛnɪfɪts 
aʊtˈweɪ 
ˈdiːpə ˈvæljuːz 
ədˈvaɪzəbl 
ˈɛmfəsaɪzd 

Vocabulary Practice

Remember and fill in the blanks:

Many today c_____m that learning about literature should n__________r be a k______________t of the high school c______________m. In my opinion, there are p_______________s for this s_____________t but literature still s_________________e.

P_______________s of this r_________m argue other subjects d_________________________n. T_____________________________t in the 2______________________y, the most important subjects for students’ future careers r___________o the s_________s, such as e______________g and c__________________e, or the p______________________s, like b_____________s. The earlier that students begin s_____________g, the more likely they are to have a h____________t on the c______________n and s__________e a w_____________g job i________________________r graduating high school or university. I__________________t, the novels and poems that students read in high school are usually c__________________n within a few years and do not teach any t_______________s that will help them a____________e in the r____________d.

Nonetheless, literature contains many of the most important and f________________s about the h________________n. Life is about more than a career and great authors t_________e the most f___________________________l and p__________________________s. For example, the m___________s of 1_________________________________e, including T___________y and D_____________y, are p____________________d with h__________________y and how this f__________o a l______________t of m__________________________g. Their e____________n of these issues is r_____________t to everyone and cannot be r_________d with a s_______________r. M__________r, t_____________________h great writers d__________________s, the a______________________y of their writing itself, i___________s to c_________________s the importance of a_________________n and may help them s________________________________s of a_________________________________________h.

In conclusion, the u_____________________s of studying practical subjects do not o_____________h the d______________s of literature. It is therefore a_____________e that literature be e_______________d in high school classrooms.

Listening Practice

Listen with the video below and use the following activities:

Reading Practice

Read more about this topic and practice with these ideas:

Speaking Practice

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

Books

  1. Do you like reading books?
  2. What kind of books do you like most?
  3. What sort of books did you read as a child?
  4. Is it important to read?

Writing Practice

Write about the related topic below, then check with my sample answer:

Some people say that school children should be mainly taught about the literature (e.g fiction and poetry) of their own country because it is more important than that of other countries.

To what extent do you agree?


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