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Tips to Write a Good IELTS Writing Task 2 Essay – Video Lesson

by Gina Mares on 19 October, 2018 , Comments Off on Tips to Write a Good IELTS Writing Task 2 Essay – Video Lesson

In this lesson, you can learn how to write an IELTS task two essay.

Task two in the IELTS writing exam is the biggest challenge in IELTS for many students. You have 40 minutes to write an essay, which could be on almost any topic.

In this lesson, you’ll see a model question and a possible answer to it. You’ll learn how to write your own IELTS essay, and we’ll share useful tips to help you improve your IELTS writing score.

You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.

Write about the following topic:

Some people believe that everyone should be free to make their own lifestyle choices, even if those choices are unhealthy. Other people think that the government should intervene to influence people’s choices, for example by putting high taxes on unhealthy products.

Discuss both of these views and give your own opinion.

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

Write at least 250 words.

Are you free to destroy your own health? If I want to smoke 60 cigarettes a day, eat fast food for every meal, or drink a litre of vodka daily, am I free to do so? In this essay, I will show that while you cannot stop people from making bad choices, the government can and should play an active role in encouraging people to live more healthily.

People frequently make self-destructive choices, and to a certain extent they should be free to do so. Choosing what to eat or drink, how much exercise to do, how many hours to sleep, and whether to smoke or not are personal matters and very basic freedoms. For example, consider a man who does no exercise and regularly eats large amounts of processed junk food. His habits are clearly unhealthy, but equally clearly they are his decisions to make. It is hard even to imagine a world in which people are forced to exercise regularly, or prevented from eating what they wanted; the idea is manifestly ridiculous.

On the other hand, unhealthy choices do not only impact the individual who makes them. Society at large must pay for people’s bad habits, either directly, through health care costs, or indirectly, through lost productivity. This is why the government should not be totally laissez-faire about these matters.

The government should not force people to make better choices, because this is counterproductive, but it should nudge people towards healthier lifestyles. For example, while nobody should be forced to exercise, the government could encourage people to be more active through public health campaigns, or by subsidising gym memberships, possibly through tax breaks.

Both of the views expressed in the question are correct. People are, and should be, free to make unhealthy lifestyle choices if they want to. However, because of the wider impact of such choices, the government also has a responsibility to encourage healthier lifestyles and disincentivise unhealthy habits.

Let’s start with our sample question:

You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.

Write about the following topic:

Some people believe that everyone should be free to make their own lifestyle choices, even if those choices are unhealthy. Other people think that the government should intervene to influence people’s choices, for example by putting high taxes on unhealthy products.

Discuss both of these views and give your own opinion.

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

Write at least 250 words.

So, where do you start?

1. Analyse the Task

You’re under time pressure in the IELTS writing exam.

This means that many IELTS candidates read the task quickly and start writing as fast as possible.

It’s understandable, but it’s also a mistake. To write a good answer, you need to understand the task well, and you need to have a plan for what you’re going to write.

It’s easy to misunderstand the question, or to misunderstand a key word in the question. This will hurt your score.

So, you need to analyse the task. How can you do this?

First, read the question and try to explain what it’s asking in your own words.

Could you rephrase this question in your own words? Try to make it as simple as you can. Think about it.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Should people be free to make their own lifestyle choices, even if they’re very unhealthy?
  • Should the government try to make people live healthier lives, even if it means that people lose some personal freedom?

Tips to Write a Good IELTS Writing Task 2 Essay - healthy woman image

Of course, there are other possibilities.

This is an important step; if you don’t have any ideas here, it suggests you haven’t understood the question fully. That means you need to go back and read it again, and think about it more.

What’s next?

Secondly, you need to identify how many things the task is asking you to do.

Not all IELTS questions are the same. Some questions ask you to do one or two things. Other questions ask you to do three or four things.

What about here? How many things is this question asking you to do?

You have to ‘discuss both of these views’. That means you need to discuss the idea that everyone should be free to make their own lifestyle choices, and you also need to discuss the idea that the government should intervene to influence people’s choices.

You need to give your own opinion, so you need to reach a conclusion about which viewpoint you agree with.

Finally, you need to give reasons for your answer and include relevant examples.

So, you need to do four things here. When you read the question in your IELTS exam, add numbers to the task, like this.

Some people believe that everyone should be free to make their own lifestyle choices, even if those choices are unhealthy. (1) Other people think that the government should intervene to influence people’s choices, for example by putting high taxes on unhealthy products. (2)
Discuss both of these views and give your own opinion. (3)
Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience. (4)

This way, you can check when you’re planning or writing, and make sure you aren’t leaving anything out.

Let’s review: when you analyse the task, you should try to rephrase the question in your own words, and then work out how many things you need to do.

What comes next?

2. Planning Your Paragraphs

Tips to Write a Good IELTS Writing Task 2 Essay - writing

This is a super-important step, even if you feel that you don’t have time.

If you don’t plan, it’s hard to write a clear, well-organised essay. This makes it difficult to get higher scores.

When planning, you need to:

One: decide what your conclusion is going to be.
Two: decide how many body paragraphs you’re going to have, and the main topic of each one.

Let’s think about these steps for our sample question.

There are three basic conclusions you can reach here.

You could say that people are free to make whatever unhealthy choices they want, and the government should not get involved.

You could say that the government should intervene to influence people’s decisions, and that people are not free to make absolutely any bad choices they want.

Or, you could go for a balanced conclusion, where your position is a compromise between both sides.

What do you think? If you were writing this essay, what would your conclusion be?

Remember that one conclusion isn’t better than another. You can say whatever you want. However, you should know what your conclusion is before you go any further. Otherwise, it’s impossible to make a coherent plan.

Next, you need to plan your body paragraphs.

An important point: each body paragraph should have one main point, and only one main point. Don’t put many different ideas in one paragraph.

You also need to make sure your body paragraphs are consistent with your conclusion. If your conclusion is that people are free to make unhealthy choices, then you can’t include a body paragraph talking about the negative effects of unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Let’s look at three sample plans:

  • Body paragraph 1: people are free to decide what to do with their own bodies
  • Body paragraph 2: it’s not the government’s job to be a parent to people
  • Conclusion: people are free to make whatever unhealthy choices they want

Here’s another possibility:

  • Body paragraph 1: people’s unhealthy choices have a negative effect on other people and society as a whole
  • Body paragraph 2: the government should make unhealthy lifestyle choices expensive, difficult or illegal
  • Conclusion: people are not free to make any unhealthy choices they want, and the government has a duty to intervene

Finally, here’s a third possible plan:

  • Body paragraph 1: people are free to decide what to do with their own bodies
  • Body paragraph 2: people’s unhealthy choices have a negative effect on other people and society as a whole
  • Body paragraph 3: the government should encourage healthier choices, and discourage less healthy ones
  • Conclusion: people are free to make whatever unhealthy choices they want, but the government should also push people towards making healthier choices

Which plan is better?

They’re all good plans. One isn’t better than another. And, of course, there are many other possibilities! It depends on the ideas you have.

For this lesson, we’re going to use the third plan to write a model IELTS essay.

Let’s review quickly: your plan needs to do two things.

One: your plan needs to be consistent with your conclusion, so that all your ideas support your final point.

Two: you need to have one (and only one) main idea in each body paragraph.

At this point, you’re ready for the next step.

3. How to Write an Introduction

There are three things you can do in your introduction:

First, you can provide a ‘hook’: something which shows why the topic you’re writing about is interesting or relevant. This could be some background information, a rhetorical question, an interesting fact, or something similar.

Secondly, you can reframe the question to show how you are going to approach it, and how you are interpreting the key ideas in the task.

Finally, you need to give an indication of what your essay will talk about, and what your conclusion will be.

The first part is the least important. If you can think of a good hook, great! If not, don’t worry about it.

The second part—reframing the question—is important if you’re aiming for higher scores—7.5 or higher. If you’re aiming for a lower score, you don’t have to do this.

Be careful with reframing and paraphrasing; many IELTS candidates have problems with this. Not doing it at all is better than doing it badly.

The third part is essential. Your introduction must signal which direction you intend to take, and what your conclusion will be. This shows the examiner that you have a coherent plan, and you know where you are going.

Let’s look now at a model introduction:

Are you free to destroy your own health? If I want to smoke 60 cigarettes a day, eat fast food for every meal, or drink a litre of vodka daily, am I free to do so? In this essay, I will show that while you cannot stop people from making bad choices, the government can and should play an active role in encouraging people to live more healthily.

You can see all three parts in this introduction. The first sentence is partly a hook, partly a reframing of the question. You’re using a rhetorical question to address the topic directly.

The second sentence reframes the question in terms of personal freedoms. This is relevant, because in the body of the essay we’re going to focus on this aspect of the task.

The third sentence explains very clearly where the essay will go. Reading this, the examiner will know what your conclusion is going to be. That’s a good thing: in a coherent essay, your conclusion should not be a surprise.

Let’s review quickly: when you write an introduction, you absolutely must signal which direction you’ll take, and what your conclusion will be. You should consider reframing the question to highlight the ideas you want to focus on in your essay. You can optionally include a hook or some background information, but it isn’t necessary.

After your introduction, you need to move on to your body paragraphs.

4. How to Write a Body Paragraph

Tips to Write a Good IELTS Writing Task 2 Essay - writing body paragraph

Start your body paragraph by writing a topic sentence. The topic sentence summarises the main idea of your paragraph.

Let’s remember the plan we’re using:

  • Body paragraph 1: people are free to decide what to do with their own bodies
  • Body paragraph 2: people’s unhealthy choices have a negative effect on other people and society as a whole
  • Body paragraph 3: the government should encourage healthier choices, and discourage less healthy ones
  • Conclusion: people are free to make whatever unhealthy choices they want, but the government should also push people towards making healthier choices

So, our topic sentence for the first body paragraph could be the sentence from the plan:

  • People are free to decide what to do with their own bodies.

Or, you could say something more sophisticated, like:

  • People frequently make self-destructive choices, and to a certain extent they should be free to do so.

This is better, not only because it uses more advanced grammar and vocabulary, but also because it also signals the conclusion: people are free to make bad choices, but that freedom has limits.

After your topic sentence, you need to develop your idea by going into more detail.

For example:

  • Choosing what to eat or drink, how much exercise to do, how many hours to sleep, and whether to smoke or not are personal matters and very basic freedoms.

This is fundamentally the same idea as the topic sentence, but more detailed. Where the topic sentence is general, the second sentence is more specific.

If possible, add an example to support your point, like this:

  • For example, consider a man who does no exercise and regularly eats large amounts of processed junk food. His habits are clearly unhealthy, but equally clearly they are his decisions to make.

You can see that the paragraph starts with a generalisation, and then gets more and more specific. This is a good pattern to follow in your body paragraphs.

Finally, it’s good to end your paragraph with a mini-conclusion which restates the central idea of the paragraph:

  • It is hard even to imagine a world in which people are forced to exercise regularly, or prevented from eating what they wanted; the idea is manifestly ridiculous.

So, in the last sentence you’re going back to generalisation, but using the specific ideas you mentioned in the paragraph.

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s easy for you, but I don’t have the vocabulary to write something like that.”

Maybe, maybe not, but you can still follow the same ideas. Start with a topic sentence, go into more detail, add an example if possible, and then restate the central idea of the paragraph at the end.

Follow the same structure for your remaining body paragraphs, and then it’s time to write your conclusion.

5. How to Write a Conclusion

When writing a conclusion, you need to do two things:

One: state your opinion clearly.

Two: connect all of the key ideas from the task that you’ve discussed in your body paragraphs.

Start your conclusion with a very clear, direct statement of your opinion. For example:

  • I strongly agree that everyone should be free to make their own lifestyle choices, including unhealthy choices.
  • The government should do more to discourage people from making unhealthy lifestyle choices.
  • Both of the views expressed in the question are correct.

This shows the examiner that you’re addressing the question directly and that you have a clear opinion. This has a big effect on your IELTS writing score.

Next, you need to connect the key ideas from the task that you’ve discussed in your body paragraphs. Be careful not to simply repeat ideas.

Look at a model conclusion now:

  • Both of the views expressed in the question are correct. People are, and should be, free to make unhealthy lifestyle choices if they want to. However, because of the wider impact of such choices, the government also has a responsibility to encourage healthier lifestyles and disincentivise unhealthy habits.

You can see that we cover the idea of personal freedom from paragraph one, the idea that individual choices have broader consequences from paragraph two, and the idea that the government should encourage people to make healthier choices from paragraph three.

This is a strong conclusion, because it provides a clear position, and also connects everything together in a coherent way.

Thanks for watching!

Gina MaresTips to Write a Good IELTS Writing Task 2 Essay – Video Lesson