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This is an IELTS Writing Task 2 Sample Answer related to the conflict in schools between learning academic and practical knowledge.

That is, for example, the difference between learning about math and learning how to cook.

It is a question from the real exam.

If you want to read my other sample answers, you can find them here.

My writing task 1 sample answers are here.

Also my new online courses are now available here.

IELTS Writing Task 2 Sample Answer: Academic/Practical Knowledge

Students should be primarily taught academic subjects so that they can pass exams, and practical skills such as cooking should not be taught.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Real Past IELTS Tests

Many educators today feel pressure to teach to the test and emphasise academic subjects over more practical ones. In my opinion, this approach is overtly short-sighted and practical skills play an important role in a well-rounded education.

Those who support a singular focus on academics can point to its tangible outcome in higher test scores. A good example of this would be accelerating academic progress at inner city schools. There have been numerous reforms in the last several decades to help the poorest performing districts catch up. The results have been uneven at times but overall more students from impoverished or troubled backgrounds can now go to college, often being the first person in their family to do so. Passing exams has the very real benefit of giving them opportunities outside of menial work and, in the most extreme cases, crime.

Though there might be a case for overemphasis on academics in select districts, learning practical skills is an important part of becoming an all around person. Those who possess certain skills, such as a sharp memory and logical thinking, will perform better in academics like math and physics. This means that these skills are rewarded and may become over-developed at the expense of skills related to practical work such as spatial thinking and multi-tasking. Graduates who know how to please their teachers and get good grades in academic subjects will find themselves lacking in real world skills. Adding in practical skills goes a long way towards making this a reality.

In conclusion, the argument for academics only applies to niche segments of society and learning practical skills has tremendous benefits. Schools should find ways to balance both despite external pressure from the government and parents for the reductive measure of higher marks.

Word count: 293

Analysis

1. Many educators today feel pressure to teach to the test and emphasise academic subjects over more practical ones. 2. In my opinion, this approach is overtly short-sighted and practical skills play an important role in a well-rounded education.

  1. The first sentence restates the overall topic of the entire essay.
  2. My second sentence gives my opinion. Always state your opinion clearly, never sit in the middle!

1. Those who support a singular focus on academics can point to its tangible outcome in higher test scores. 2. A good example of this would be accelerating academic progress at inner city schools. 3. There have been numerous reforms in the last several decades to help the poorest performing districts catch up. 4. The results have been uneven at times but overall more students from impoverished or troubled backgrounds can now go to college, often being the first person in their family to do so. 5. Passing exams has the very real benefit of giving them opportunities outside of menial work and, in the most extreme cases, crime.

  1. This is a topic sentence that has my main idea for the whole paragraph.
  2. My second sentence begins my example – don’t waste any time – get right to your example as fast as possible!
  3. The third sentence develops the example. The whole paragraph will be developing this single example.
  4. My fourth sentence also develops the example with more specific detail.
  5. The fiffth sentence summarises my point and further develops the same example.

1. Though there might be a case for overemphasis on academics in select districts, learning practical skills is an important part of becoming an all around person. 2. Those who possess certain skills, such as a sharp memory and logical thinking, will perform better in academics like math and physics. 3. This means that these skills are rewarded and may become over-developed at the expense of skills related to practical work such as spatial thinking and multi-tasking. 4. Graduates who know how to please their teachers and get good grades in academic subjects will find themselves lacking in real world skills. 5. Adding in practical skills goes a long way towards making this a reality.

  1. The next paragraph also begins with a topic sentence with a new main idea: practical skills help people become more well rounded.
  2. My second sentence begins a specific, detailed example.
  3. The third sentence continues to develop this example – be as specific as you can!
  4. My fourth sentence adds more specific detail.
  5. The last sentence ties this back to the importance of practical skills.

1. In conclusion, the argument for academics only applies to niche segments of society and learning practical skills has tremendous benefits. 2. Schools should find ways to balance both despite external pressure from the government and parents for the reductive measure of higher marks.

  1. The first sentence of my conclusion repeats my opinion – be simple and clear!
  2. My final sentence adds an extra detail that many examiners will require for band 7+ for task achievement.

Vocabulary

Try to figure out what the words in bold mean. If you’re not sure, use the context of the sentence and paragraph to work it out!

Many educators today feel pressure to teach to the test and emphasise academic subjects over more practical ones. In my opinion, this approach is overtly short-sighted and practical skills play an important role in a well-rounded education.

Those who support a singular focus on academics can point to its tangible outcome in higher test scores. A good example of this would be accelerating academic progress at inner city schools. There have been numerous reforms in the last several decades to help the poorest performing districts catch up. The results have been uneven at times but overall more students from impoverished or troubled backgrounds can now go to college, often being the first person in their family to do so. Passing exams has the very real benefit of giving them opportunities outside of menial work and, in the most extreme cases, crime.

Though there might be a case for overemphasis on academics in select districts, learning practical skills is an important part of becoming an all around person. Those who possess certain skills, such as a sharp memory and logical thinking, will perform better in academics like math and physics. This means that these skills are rewarded and may become over-developed at the expense of skills related to practical work such as spatial thinking and multi-tasking. Graduates who know how to please their teachers and get good grades in academic subjects will find themselves lacking in real world skills. Adding in practical skills goes a long way towards making this a reality.

In conclusion, the argument for academics only applies to niche segments of society and learning practical skills has tremendous benefits. Schools should find ways to balance both despite external pressure from the government and parents for the reductive measure of higher marks.

Answers

educators teachers

teach to the test focus on exams

overtly short-sighted not a long-term vision

play an important role an important part in

well-rounded education wide range of knowledge

singular focus driven, with blinders on

point reference

tangible outcome clear result

accelerating getting faster

inner city schools poor, urban schools

reforms changes

poorest performing districts schools doing badly

catch up get up to date

uneven at times inconsistent

troubled backgrounds difficult history/home life

very real benefit clear positive

menial work physical work

most extreme cases outliers

overemphasis too much focus on

select districts some neighborhoods

all around everywhere

sharp memory never forgets

logical thinking rational thinking

perform better get better marks

rewarded receive something good

over-developed too much skill at

at the expense of negelecting

spatial thinking thinking about objects and physical space

multi-tasking doing multiple things at once

please make happy

lacking not having

adding in also having

goes a long way towards begins to remedy

making this a reality makes it true

niche segments outside the main

balance keep equal

external pressure pressure from outside

reductive measure overly simplifying action

Pronunciation

ˈɛdju(ː)keɪtəz 
tiːʧ tuː ðə tɛst 
ˈəʊvɜːtli ʃɔːt-ˈsaɪtɪd 
pleɪ ən ɪmˈpɔːtənt rəʊl 
wɛl-ˈraʊndɪd ˌɛdju(ː)ˈkeɪʃən
ˈsɪŋgjʊlə ˈfəʊkəs 
pɔɪnt 
ˈtænʤəbl ˈaʊtkʌm
əkˈsɛləreɪtɪŋ 
ˈɪnə ˈsɪti skuːlz
ˌriːˈfɔːmz 
ˈpʊərɪst pəˈfɔːmɪŋ ˈdɪstrɪkts 
kæʧ ʌp
ʌnˈiːvən æt taɪmz 
ˈtrʌbld ˈbækgraʊndz 
ˈvɛri rɪəl ˈbɛnɪfɪt 
ˈmiːniəl wɜːk 
məʊst ɪksˈtriːm ˈkeɪsɪz
ˌəʊvərˈɛmfəsɪs 
sɪˈlɛkt ˈdɪstrɪkts
ɔːl əˈraʊnd 
ʃɑːp ˈmɛməri 
ˈlɒʤɪkəl ˈθɪŋkɪŋ
pəˈfɔːm ˈbɛtə 
rɪˈwɔːdɪd 
ˈəʊvə-dɪˈvɛləpt 
æt ði ɪksˈpɛns ɒv 
ˈspeɪʃəl ˈθɪŋkɪŋ 
ˈmʌltɪ-ˈtɑːskɪŋ
pliːz 
ˈlækɪŋ 
ˈædɪŋ ɪn 
gəʊz ə lɒŋ weɪ təˈwɔːdz 
ˈmeɪkɪŋ ðɪs ə ri(ː)ˈælɪti
niːʃˈsɛgmənts 
ˈbæləns
ɛksˈtɜːnl ˈprɛʃə 
rɪˈdʌktɪv ˈmɛʒə 

Listen and repeat:

Vocabulary Practice

Remember and fill in the blanks:

Many ________________ today feel pressure to ________________ and emphasise academic subjects over more practical ones. In my opinion, this approach is ________________ and practical skills ________________ in a ________________.

Those who support a ________________ on academics can ________________ to its ________________ in higher test scores. A good example of this would be ________________ academic progress at ________________. There have been numerous ________________ in the last several decades to help the ________________. The results have been ________________ but overall more students from impoverished or ________________ can now go to college, often being the first person in their family to do so. Passing exams has the ________________ of giving them opportunities outside of ________________ and, in the ________________, crime.

Though there might be a case for ________________ on academics in ________________, learning practical skills is an important part of becoming an ________________ person. Those who possess certain skills, such as a ________________ and ________________, will ________________ in academics like math and physics. This means that these skills are ________________ and may become ________________ skills related to practical work such as ________________ and ________________. Graduates who know how to ________________ their teachers and get good grades in academic subjects will find themselves ________________ in real world skills. ________________ practical skills ________________ ________________.

In conclusion, the argument for academics only applies to ________________ of society and learning practical skills has tremendous benefits. Schools should find ways to ________________ both despite ________________ from the government and parents for the ________________ of higher marks.

Listen and check:

Listening Practice

Use the video below to practice your listening skills. Here are some ideas for how to practice.

Reading Practice

Here are some ideas for how to read the news and improve your IELTS reading score:

https://theirworld.org/news/secondary-schools-must-teach-relevant-job-skills-says-unicef-chief

Student Sample Answer (with Corrections)

Some argue that schoolchildren should study academic subjects at school to pass examinations and fundamental life skills should not be taught. From my perspective, I think that both academic subjects and life skills are equally essential.[G1] 

One the one hand, there are various reasons why academic subjects play a more crucial role. First, they equip students with the basic knowledge which is used in tertiary education. When students enter many colleges, they must pass mandatory subjects like macroeconomics, microeconomics and advanced math. If undergraduates learn math in high school, they will find it easier to study these subjects later and , be more likely to avoid failing final tests and wasting money to retake exams[G2] . Second, studying academic subjects well will enable high school students to get into any universities they desire. [G3] One specific example is that Vietnamese students will sit university entrance exams at 18. Those who have good grades in academic subjects such as literature, math, English, chemistry and physics will have a higher chance of being admitted to higher educational institutions. [G4] Therefore, mastering academic knowledge will continue to be vitally important to high school students.

Nevertheless, I disagree with the idea that practical skills should not be incorporated into the school curriculum for multiple reasons. [G5] The main benefit of teaching skills at school is that they can live independently when they live far away from their families. For instance, those who study in universities in other regions will have to prepare their own meals on a regular basis. Life skills such as cooking will be helpful for students to prepare healthy and affordable meals on their own in lieu of eating out at prohibitively expensive eateries[G6] .  Another advantage is that people can better secure a job after leaving high school. This is particularly true for some high school students, who do not have the ability to pass university exams [G7] or who do not have the financial means for higher education. They can land a job right away to support themselves and their families based on the skills that they are already taught in fields such as cosmetics and car maintenance. Moreover, attending skill-building classes at school is an effective way to unwind after many hours of studying academic subjects. Through a wide range of exhilarating activities, students are able to decompress and as a result perform better in exams.[G8] 

In conclusion, although studying academic subjects are critical to students’ success in exams, I believe that learning skills such as cooking, make-up and car maintenance is extremely useful to students[G9] .[G10] [G11] 

MARKING CRITERIAS FOR THE ABOVE ESSAY

Task achievement                               : 6[G12] 

Coherence and cohesion                     :  7[G13] 

Lexical resource                                  :  7[G14] 

Grammatical range and accuracy        :   7[G15] 

OVERAL SCORE              6.5               


 [G1]Yes, technically it is ok to sit in the middle in this way – but why do it? It is very risky and there are some examiners you will get a band 5 for this possibly! Just choose a side!

 [G2]Keep your claims weak!

 [G3]That’s clearly not true… Be careful making outrageous generalisations

 [G4]This is perfect – keep your claims weak and reasonable!

 [G5]Why still writing the multiple main ideas paragraphs? You are hurting your Task Achievement score for no reason at all…

 [G6]Very good sentence

 [G7]In the last paragraph you said these same students could get into any university they want…

 [G8]No need to keep tacking on main ideas…

 [G9]Extra sentence require for band 7+ for task achievement

 [G10]There is no opinion here – this is why it is a mistake to sit in the middle as you did in the introduction. The introduction was fine, technically. The conclusion is not and most examiners will lean band 5 or 6 for TA – definitely not band 7 despite all your support for your ideas.

 [G11]Word count is 422 words – way too long and unrealistic so it is very difficult to mark…

 [G12]1 main idea per paragraph + clear opinion!

 [G13]Better, clearer sentences, lots of good referencing and some ellipsis

 [G14]Great vocabulary throughout. Very very close to band 8 just needs a bit more nuance in meaning.

 [G15]Fewer mistakes and much better complex sentences. Very solid 7

Comment any questions that you have below!


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