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Writing Task 2: Reading and analysing the task

Published on January 29, 2018

If you’ve been preparing for IELTS, you’ve probably come across lots of IELTS-related information. It’s never a bad idea to pause for a minute and revise some of the things that you’ve learned so far, so let’s start this post with a quick review on Writing Task 2.

Writing Task 2 is the second section of your IELTS Writing test. It requires you to write an academic-style essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. You’re expected to write at least 250 words and it is recommended that you spend approximately 40 minutes on this task.

Naturally, it is essential that your writing be clear, well organized and accurate. But it is just as important that you carefully read and analyse the task input, that is, all the information presented to you as part of the task. This is something that IELTS candidates often fail to do – a mistake that can easily be avoided.

The importance of reading and analysing task input

You might be wondering why it is so important to read and analyse the task before you even start writing. The reason is pretty straightforward: you need to address all the parts of the question in a relevant way to score a higher band in Task Response, one of the four assessment criteria . If the task has two parts and you don’t cover one of them, a Band 5 will be the highest band you can get for Task Response. To avoid this, you need to make sure you know how many parts the task has and make a plan for your writing based on your analysis of the question.

To better understand how to analyse the task, let’s take a look at the following example of a Task 2, then try to answer the questions below:

The threat of nuclear weapons maintains world peace. Nuclear power provides cheap and clean energy.

The benefits of nuclear technology far outweigh the disadvantages.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

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

Write at least 250 words.

  1. What should you write about?
  2. How many parts does the task have?
  3. In the question ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree?’, what does ‘to what extent’ mean?

Now that you’ve answered the questions, it’s time to check if you’re right:

  1. What should you write about?
    It is clear from the prompt that the topic is nuclear technology. Whether this technology is used for weapons or as a source of energy, the argument presented states that nuclear technology has more advantages than disadvantages. To support this, two benefits are provided as examples: 1) the potential danger of nuclear weapons results in world peace and 2) nuclear power is a cheap and clean source of energy.

  2. How many parts does the task have?
    You may have noticed how I numbered the benefits in the answer above. This is because those are precisely the two ‘parts’ that you need to explore while developing your position. Also, make sure you support your answer with arguments and examples from your own knowledge or experience.

  3. In the question ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree?’, what does ‘to what extent’ mean?
    ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree’ means ‘how much do you agree or disagree’. When you’re asked this question, you’re expected to express to what degree you think the statement is true or untrue. To achieve this, you may use phrases such as I partly agree/disagree, I mostly agree/disagree or I completely agree/disagree.

In addition to the ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree?’ question, other common questions or statements that you may encounter on your IELTS Writing Task 2 include the following:

  • ‘Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.’
    Here you need to analyse both sides of the argument, present relevant arguments for both sides and give your own opinion.

  • Two separate questions (e.g. What are the causes of this problem? What are some possible solutions?)
    When asked two questions, you’re expected to explore both of them fully.

  • ‘Do you agree or disagree?’
    In this case, present a clear and relevant position and maintain it throughout your answer.

Use your own words!

When writing your essay, make sure you don’t copy words/phrases from the task input. This is particularly important when introducing your answer, as using words or phrases from the prompt might seem like an effective way to start your answer. Copied material will not count as part of your total word count, and can show the examiner a limited range of vocabulary. Instead, change the order of the information, use synonyms, and explain more complex ideas using your own words.

And remember, always take a few minutes to carefully read and analyse the task when doing practice tests and on test day. Doing so will ensure that you won’t lose marks simply because you failed to cover a part of the task.