A lot of my IELTS students struggle with how many ideas they need and how to structure their essay.

This article will explain clearly what you need to do and why.

It may also help your to read some sample essays from the real test to get a better sense for these types of questions.

Let’s look at an example:

Some people think that governments should spend money on railways. Others believe that there should be more investment into new roads.

Discuss both sides and give your opinion.

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Clear Position

The first thing to remember is that you need to discuss both sides.

But you must also clearly state whether your opinion is agree or disagree.  This is very important for your Task Achievement score.

If you don’t have a clear opinion, you will lose marks. Therefore you must choose a side.

If you don’t clearly choose a side you won’t score above a 5 for task achievement  – no matter how good the rest of your writing is.


Clear Structure

I always recommend to my students that they give their opinion in the introduction as well as the conclusion (for all IELTS Task 2 questions).

Technically, it’s OK to write a very general introduction and leave your opinion to the end.

But I strongly suggest that you don’t do this because it’s not as clear.

Also, you might run out of time before you’ve got to your conclusion, so overall it’s a risky strategy.  

Therefore my suggested Task 2 essay structure is four paragraphs – an introduction, two main (or body) paragraphs and a conclusion.

The opinion is presented in the introduction and re-stated in the conclusion.

Ideally each body paragraph should discuss one main idea.

Example Essay Structure

Now let’s look at the essay structure in more detail.

Discuss both sides – You think one side is important but overall the other side is more important.

You need one good reason for each side.

In the example below you feel the reason for supporting rail is more important than the reason supporting roads.

Paragraph 1 (intro)

Paraphrase the question and state your overall opinion

(you feel roads are important but rail is more important)

Paragraph 2 (body 1)

Explain and support your reason why one side is important.

Paragraph 3 (body 2)

Explain and support your reason why the other side is important.

Paragraph 4 (conclusion)

Re-state your overall opinion (you feel roads are important but rail is more important) and  summarise your main reasons.

Notice that this essay has a clear structure and the opinion is clear throughout the essay.

A clear position and clear structure mean your essay is easier to mark which should mean a higher score.

Other similar types of questions than you can answer in the same way include:

– Discuss both sides and give your opinion.

– Discuss the advantages and disadvantages.

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

Look at the question below then compare your ideas with this sample answer (written by an ex-examiner).

Check out our expert sample answer with line by line analysis and key vocabulary

Some are of the opinion that people are naturally born as good leaders while others feel that leadership skills can be learned.

Discuss both views and give your own opinion.

Brainstorm some main ideas:

  • Can you think of some examples of leadership skills?

  • What kind of a person makes a good leader?

  • Why do some people think great leaders are born that way?

  • Can you think of any famous leaders that appear to have natural talent?

  • Do you know anyone who became a better leader through taking a leadership course?

  • Do you think people can become a great leader through hard work, study and experience?

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