This is a common experience for students the first time they read an IELTS Writing Task 2 question and also, for some, on the day of the exam itself. In the first instance, it may be because you are not familiar with this kind of essay task, whereas in the second case, it may be due to nerves. In either case, don’t panic! There is nothing to worry about. 250 words is actually not very much, even if you don’t know much about the topic, as long as you take a practical approach. Remember, there is a common format you can follow to help you write your IELTS essay – an introduction, 2 main body paragraphs and a conclusion.
Although there are 5 types of IELTS Writing Task 2 questions (and you need to approach each of them slightly differently if you want to score Band 7 or higher), they do not differ substantially in terms of the ideas/views/opinions you will want to express. In most cases, you will want or need to look at both sides of the argument, the advantages and disadvantages or a problem and a solution. This means that whatever the topic and however unfamiliar with it you may be, it should not be too difficult to think of just two main ideas around which to base your essay. Another thing to bear in mind is that IELTS topics are meant to be current and relevant, regardless of your level of education or your culture. The purpose of the exam is to show the examiner how well you can write in English so for that reason, the topics are carefully chosen to stimulate your ideas.
Let’s start with the introduction. This is only around 3 sentences long and simply paraphrases the original question and states your own opinion or view (a thesis statement). This shouldn’t take long at all. Paraphrasing the question really helps you focus on it and at this stage your mind will be generating ideas so that by the time you get to your thesis statement, you will be sure of your view and what you want to write about.
Next, your first main body paragraph should take your first main idea, which will probably be an advantage, a reason or a problem. You should state what this idea is then expand further by describing or explaining it and you could also give an example of it. You should do the same for the second paragraph, regardless of whether you are giving an additional idea, a contrasting idea or a solution to a problem.
That, then, is the main body of your essay finished!
After that, you only need to write your conclusion; the shortest paragraph of the entire essay at only 2 sentences long. All you have to do here is summarise what you have already said and restate your view. Remember, the functions of the introduction and conclusion are only to start and end your essay, not to discuss ideas.
It really is that straightforward! Two main ideas is all you need!
The following tips will help you prepare for this part of your exam.
- Prepare well beforehand.
- Familiarise yourself with common themes and topics using internet searches.
- Think about these topics and what your views are about them.
- Increase your knowledge of topic-related vocabulary.
- Make sure you are familiar with the different types of essay questions. Make sure you know the format for structuring your essay response. Read this blog post for more advice on how to do this.
- Practice writing introductions and conclusions. See here and here for tips on this.
- Practice paraphrasing. Read this blog post to find out more.
- Learn some linking phrases that you can use to transition between your two main paragraphs.