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Planning is very important, but there are definitely good and bad ways to do it.

In this article I will show you how to plan efficiently, focussing only on what you need for your IELTS Task 2 essay.

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Why does planning improve your Task 2 writing?

If you plan effectively, writing your Task 2 essay will be easier and quicker because you know what you are going to to write.

So it actually saves you time later and makes your writing clearer so you will get a much higher score.

If you spend a few minutes to come up with your overall ‘position’, your main ideas and supporting ideas then after that you’ll be free to worry about your grammar, punctuation, vocabulary and spelling.

The idea is that by planning carefully you won’t have to worry much about your ideas and structure while you’re writing, which will help you feel more relaxed.

And the more relaxed you are, the easier it will be to think of good language to use to express your ideas and how best to link them together.



Four steps to reduce your planning time

Some IELTS students seem to take a long time to write their plan.

Other students seem to be able to get writing almost straight away – they hardly plan at all!

And yet they can still produce essays that achieve a high band score.

Here are four steps to planning efficiently and just focusing on the ideas you need.


1. Relevant but personal ideas – focus on the question but use your experience.

2. Simple main ideas – that you can easily support with explanation and examples.

3. Focus on your essay structure – think of the order and linking of ideas.

4. Do lots and lots of practice – so you see patterns and get quicker.

Now let’s look at each of these in more detail.



1. Focus on the question but make it personal

Your main ideas must be relevant (clearly answer the question) otherwise your Task Achievement score will be no higher than a 5.

However my IELTS students often complain that when they read the question they can’t think of any ideas and this might be because IELTS Task 2 questions are often written in a formal, academic way.

So one way of helping you to come up with ideas is to rephrase the question into more normal language that you might use with your friends or family.

Governments should spend money on railways rather than roads.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

So for the question above, imagine you read in the news that your government is going to spend more money on transport in your local area.

Would you prefer them to spend money on new roads or new trains? Would this make you happy? Why?




2. Simple is best

There are no extra marks for interesting or complicated ideas, or for ideas that follow your real opinions.

The best main ideas are ONLY those you can easily explain and support, ideally with a clear example.

Keep it simple and make it easy for yourself.

The most simple, obvious ideas that are often the first ones that pop into your head.

Your basic IELTS Task 2 essay has only two body paragraphs and I always recommend one main idea per body paragraph so you can fully support them.

If you have more main ideas than you need, quickly try to explain them and think of examples (on paper or in your head) and choose the main ideas that are the easiest to explain fully.




3. Focus on your structure 

Now look at your chosen main ideas and add more supporting ideas if needed. I suggest using a mind map for this.

At this point it’s a good idea to put the supporting ideas into a logical order and quickly make a note (on paper on in your head) of which linkers would be suitable (these can change later).

Don’t be afraid to reject, change or reorder your supporting ideas at this point.

So now you have your main ideas, supporting ideas and your structure, so you’re absolutely ready to start writing a kick-ass Task 2 essay!



4. Practice is the key

The more you practise with different topics the more you will be able to generate good, simple main ideas in seconds.

Likewise, generating and organising supporting ideas will get easier and easier, as you practise developing your main ideas in relatively similar ways each time.

Eventually this will become an almost automatic process and by the time exam day arrives you’ll be an idea generating machine.

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

Governments should spend money on railways rather than roads.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

For the above question, use our 4 step method to come up with some main and supporting ideas. Put your best ones in the comments.

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