Task 2 Essays

by Michelle

An essay in Task 2 is a piece of formal writing which discusses a particular issue, situation or problem. There are three main types of discursive essays in IELTS tests:

  1. For and against essays
  2. Opinion essays
  3. Essays suggesting solutions to problems

A model essays should consist of:

  • a) an introductory paragraph in which you clearly state the topic to be discussed;
  • b) a main body, in which points are clearly stated in separate paragraphs and exemplified or justified; and
  • c) a closing paragraph summarizing the main points of the essay, in which you state/restate your opinion, and/or give a balanced consideration of the topic.

No matter what type of essay you are writing, you must provide some facts, evidence and information. When you explain the problem - evaluate it; say when/where/who for it is especially difficult. If you present an idea of solution - discuss it; say what its good and bad sides are. Add examples from your own experience to support what you're saying. In any essay the logical sequence of information is very important. Jumping from one idea to another is very bad for you score, all ideas must be connected logically. Another important thing is "smart" words - try to use them as much as you can, because this also affects your score. Punctuation is important too.

Important points:

  • Present each point in a separate paragraph. A well-developed paragraph contains a clear topic sentence, which summarizes the contents of the paragraph, as well as a clear justification, explanation or example in support of the point presented.
  • Before you begin writing, you should always make a list of the points you will present (make a draft)
  • Do not use informal style (e.g. contracted forms, colloquial language...) or very strong language such as, I know, I am sure...
  • Use appropriate linking words/phrases to show the links between paragraphs, as well as to link sentences with paragraph.
  • Well-known quotations, rhetorical questions or thought-provoking statements could be used to make your essay more interesting.

Typical structure

To begin with, let's quickly review the meanings of the words 'sentence', 'paragraph' and 'essay'. In very basic terms, a sentence is a group of words, a paragraph is a group of sentences and an essay is a group of paragraphs. IELTS essays typically employ 4 paragraphs (5 (sometimes, 6) paragraphs are better) and each of these paragraphs typically employs 4 sentences each. So right away, we know that our essay response is going to have 15 or 16 sentences in it, each sentence performing its own job with the collective goal of supporting the central argument of the essay. Let's take a quick look at an effective essay structure and the various sentence types that make it up:

Introductory paragraph

  • A sentence providing some general background information on the essay topic.
  • A detailed background information sentence narrowing the essay topic towards the thesis.
  • The 'thesis', which acts as the writer's statement of argument.
  • An outline sentence that presents 2 broad points in support of the thesis.

These points are to be discussed in the coming 2 paragraphs.

Main body

  • Supporting paragraph 1
    • A topic sentence illustrating the first point given in support of the thesis.
    • An example that shows the topic in action.
    • A discussion sentence that shows how the example links to the topic of this paragraph.
    • A conclusion sentence that shows how this whole paragraph links back to the author's thesis.
  • Supporting paragraph 2
    • A topic sentence illustrating the first point given in support of the thesis.
    • An example that shows the topic in action.
    • A discussion sentence that shows how the example links to the topic of this paragraph.
    • A conclusion sentence that shows how this whole paragraph links back to the author's thesis.
  • Concluding paragraph
    • A sentence that summarizes the 2 points discussed in the supporting paragraphs.
    • A sentence that restates the thesis in different words.
    • A final sentence that present either a prediction or a recommendation based on the topic of the essay.

The above structure is effective for a number of reasons. For one, it presents the writer's argument early on and follows this with an outline sentence, which provides a 'road map' of sorts for the rest of the essay. In doing this, the reader can very clearly see the direction the essay is going even before the first supporting point is made. A second reason this structure proves effective is that it consistently refers itself back to its thesis (please see the final sentence in each of the supporting paragraphs) and this helps ensure that all points given by the student are working in support of the essay's overall goal. Finally, the essay finishes with a concluding paragraph that mirrors the introduction, giving the essay a sense of continuity throughout.

By following a structure like this, a student of even moderate grammatical capabilities can compose a written piece where all sentences work cohesively together, giving the entire work a sense of unity. This unity goes a long way to help convince the reader to agree with the argument presented in the thesis and this means a much better chance of scoring well on the IELTS examination.

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