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This is an IELTS writing task 2 sample answer essay on the topic of whether it is better to read about the past through film or written documents.

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Dave

IELTS Writing Task 2 Sample Answer Essay: Learning Through Film or Written Documents

It is better to learn the way people lived in the past through films and video records than written documents.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Real Past IELTS Writing Exam/Test

Some believe that learning about the past is best done through written documents, while others feel video is a more accurate medium. In my opinion, recent films in particular can be useful but most information about the past is contained in documents.

Those who argue in favour of video recordings can point to their accuracy. Images transform every observation into a firsthand account. For example, there are documentaries and home videos starting in the 1960s that show how people lived. By watching these films, a social anthropologist can spot more than the surface content. They can see how people talked to each other in real life, what products they used, get a sense for the fashion and the way people spoke. In order to better understand their subject, historians would give anything for an opportunity to have similar film of the Ancient Greeks or Romans.

However, video is limited, especially in terms of its access to important persons and events of the past. It might reveal how everyday people behaved but the facts of what was going on behind the scenes is contained in firsthand notes, memos, letters, and official documents. A good example of this would be the exhaustive four volume biography of Lyndon Johnson written by Robert Caro. A famously meticulous writer, he has poured over thousands of documents ranging from private diaries and correspondences to the laws and orders issued at the time. Slowly, a good observor of the past is able to piece together disparate pieces of information into a narrative that approaches truth. There simply does not exist the same repository of video evidence from any period to yet allow for such a complete understanding of individuals or historic periods.

In conclusion, the value of film may increase in the future but documents still offer the greatest insights into the past. It is important to be mindful that all history is speculation but the best history sticks closely to the facts.

Anaylsis

1. Some believe that learning about the past is best done through written documents, while others feel video is a more accurate medium. 2. In my opinion, recent films in particular can be useful but most information about the past is contained in documents.

  1. Paraphrase the overall essay topic.
  2. Include your opinion. Read more here about introductions.

1. Those who argue in favour of video recordings can point to their accuracy. 2. Images transform every observation into a firsthand account. 3. For example, there are documentaries and home videos starting in the 1960s that show how people lived. 4. By watching these films, a social anthropologist can spot more than the surface content. 5. They can see how people talked to each other in real life, what products they used, get a sense for the fashion and the way people spoke. 6. In order to better understand their subject, historians would give anything for an opportunity to have similar film of the Ancient Greeks or Romans.

  1. Write a topic sentence with a clear main idea at the end.
  2. Explain your main idea.
  3. Give a specific example.
  4. Develop the example.
  5. Continue to develop it – don’t switch to a new idea or example.
  6. State the final results of the example.

1. However, video is limited, especially in terms of its access to important persons and events of the past. 2. It might reveal how everyday people behaved but the facts of what was going on behind the scenes is contained in firsthand notes, memos, letters, and official documents. 3. A good example of this would be the exhaustive four volume biography of Lyndon Johnson written by Robert Caro. 4. A famously meticulous writer, he has poured over thousands of documents ranging from private diaries and correspondences to the laws and orders issued at the time. 5. Slowly, a good observor of the past is able to piece together disparate pieces of information into a narrative that approaches truth. 6. There simply does not exist the same repository of video evidence from any period to yet allow for such a complete understanding of individuals or historic periods.

  1. Write another topic sentence with a new main idea at the end.
  2. Explain your main idea.
  3. Write another real example.
  4. Develop the example.
  5. Keep developing it.
  6. Conclude the paragraph with a strong statement.

1. In conclusion, the value of film may increase in the future but documents still offer the greatest insights into the past. 2. It is important to be mindful that all history is speculation but the best history sticks closely to the facts.

  1. Repeat your opinion and summarise your main ideas.
  2. Add a final thought/detail.

Vocabulary

What do the words in bold below mean?

Some believe that learning about the past is best done through written documents, while others feel video is a more accurate medium. In my opinion, recent films in particular can be useful but most information about the past is contained in documents.

Those who argue in favour of video recordings can point to their accuracy. Images transform every observation into a firsthand account. For example, there are documentaries and home videos starting in the 1960s that show how people lived. By watching these films, a social anthropologist can spot more than the surface content. They can see how people talked to each other in real life, what products they used, get a sense for the fashion and the way people spoke. In order to better understand their subject, historians would give anything for an opportunity to have similar film of the Ancient Greeks or Romans.

However, video is limited, especially in terms of its access to important persons and events of the past. It might reveal how everyday people behaved but the facts of what was going on behind the scenes is contained in firsthand notes, memos, letters, and official documents. A good example of this would be the exhaustive four volume biography of Lyndon Johnson written by Robert Caro. A famously meticulous writer, he has poured over thousands of documents ranging from private diaries and correspondences to the laws and orders issued at the time. Slowly, a good observor of the past is able to piece together disparate pieces of information into a narrative that approaches truth. There simply does not exist the same repository of video evidence from any period to yet allow for such a complete understanding of individuals or historic periods.

In conclusion, the value of film may increase in the future but documents still offer the greatest insights into the past. It is important to be mindful that all history is speculation but the best history sticks closely to the facts.

Answers

best done better approach

written documents books, notes, diaries, etc.

accurate medium best way

in particular especially

argue in favour of believe that

transform change into

observation watching

firsthand account live account in person, not secondhand

home videos films made at home

spot find/see

surface content what is immediately apparent

get a sense for have some understanding of

subject what they are studying

would give anything willing to sacrifice anything

opportunity chance

in terms of when it comes to

access can get to

reveal uncover

behind the scenes what is happening where people can’t see

firsthand notes what people wrote themselves

memos notes

official documents orders, receipts, reports, etc.

exhaustive comprehensive

volume book

famously meticulous writer well-known for doing good research

poured over read closely

ranging from including

private diaries journals

correspondences letters

orders demands

observor someone watching

piece together disparate pieces of information combine facts

narrative story

approaches truth gets close to being accurate

repository collection

complete understanding fully know about

historic periods times in the past

greatest insights biggest takeaways

mindful aware of

speculation guesses

sticks closely to the facts not speculate

Pronunciation

bɛst dʌn 
ˈrɪtn ˈdɒkjʊmənts
ˈækjʊrɪt ˈmiːdiəm
ɪn pəˈtɪkjʊlə 
ˈɑːgjuː ɪn ˈfeɪvər ɒv 
trænsˈfɔːm 
ˌɒbzə(ː)ˈveɪʃən 
ˈfɜːstˈhænd əˈkaʊnt
həʊm ˈvɪdɪəʊz 
spɒt 
ˈsɜːfɪs ˈkɒntɛnt
gɛt ə sɛns fɔː 
ˈsʌbʤɪkt
wʊd gɪv ˈɛnɪθɪŋ 
ˌɒpəˈtjuːnɪti 
ɪn tɜːmz ɒv 
ˈæksɛs 
rɪˈviːl 
bɪˈhaɪnd ðə siːnz 
ˈfɜːstˈhænd nəʊts
ˈmiːməʊz
əˈfɪʃəl ˈdɒkjʊmənts
ɪgˈzɔːstɪv 
ˈvɒljʊm 
ˈfeɪməsli mɪˈtɪkjʊləs ˈraɪtə
pɔːd ˈəʊvə 
ˈreɪnʤɪŋ frɒm 
ˈpraɪvɪt ˈdaɪəriz 
ˌkɒrɪsˈpɒndənsɪz 
ˈɔːdəz 
əbˈzɜːvə 
piːs təˈgɛðə ˈdɪspərɪt ˈpiːsɪz ɒv ˌɪnfəˈmeɪʃən 
ˈnærətɪv 
əˈprəʊʧɪz truːθ
rɪˈpɒzɪtəri 
kəmˈpliːt ˌʌndəˈstændɪŋ 
hɪsˈtɒrɪk ˈpɪərɪədz
ˈgreɪtɪst ˈɪnsaɪts 
ˈmaɪndfʊl 
ˌspɛkjʊˈleɪʃən 
stɪks ˈkləʊsli tuː ðə fækts

Vocabulary Practice

Remember and fill in the blank:

Some believe that learning about the past is b__________e through w________________________s, while others feel video is a more a_______________________m. In my opinion, recent films i__________________r can be useful but most information about the past is contained in documents.

Those who a_______________________f video recordings can point to their accuracy. Images t_________________m every o_______________n into a f_________________________t. For example, there are documentaries and h_____________________s starting in the 1960s that show how people lived. By watching these films, a social anthropologist can s______t more than the s___________________t. They can see how people talked to each other in real life, what products they used, g__________________r the fashion and the way people spoke. In order to better understand their s_________t, historians w______________________g for an o_________________y to have similar film of the Ancient Greeks or Romans.

However, video is limited, especially i___________f its a__________s to important persons and events of the past. It might r_________l how everyday people behaved but the facts of what was going on b________________s is contained in f_________________s, m________s, letters, and o__________________________s. A good example of this would be the e_______________e four v__________e biography of Lyndon Johnson written by Robert Caro. A f______________________________________r, he has p__________________r thousands of documents r_________________m p___________________s and c__________________________s to the laws and o__________s issued at the time. Slowly, a good o____________r of the past is able to p___________________________________________________n into a n____________e that a___________________h. There simply does not exist the same r______________y of video evidence from any period to yet allow for such a c___________________________g of individuals or h_____________________s.

In conclusion, the value of film may increase in the future but documents still offer the g__________________s into the past. It is important to be m______________l that all history is s_______________n but the best history s_______________________________s.

Listening Practice

Watch some history videos from the playlist below:

Reading Practice

Read about a scandal from history below:

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/roger-stone/614068/

Speaking Practice

Answer the following questions from the real IELTS speaking exam:

History

Do you like reading books about history?

Which country’s history is most interesting to you?

Which historical event or period do you find most interesting?

Why is it important to read about history?

IELTS Speaking Exam

Writing Practice

Write about the following topic then check with my sample answer:

Some believe that history has little to teach us about today while others think that the study of the past helps us to understand the present.

Discuss both views and give your own opinion.

Real Past IELTS Writing Exam

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