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IELTS Writing Task 2 (Essay) - Developing examples, explanations & ideas

Published on February 5, 2018

Writing a 250 word essay in 40 minutes is no easy task. And if you aren’t allowed to use the internet, ask for help, or even use your computer, this can be a real challenge. If you have been prepping for the IELTS essay, you will know exactly what I mean. When I chat with people getting ready to write, they often say the same thing – I can learn vocab, grammar, paragraphs, and essay organization. They tell me that’s not a big problem. The problem, they say, is how to think of ideas for the essay. They also are often worried of getting an essay question they know NOTHING about. Like, what if you get a question about Russian history, or plants that grow in the desert, or just something you don’t have ideas about?

Let’s get to the bottom of this. How does IELTS score you on your essay ideas anyway? The easiest way to check this out is to look at the public scoring guide, also known as ‘the bands’ . The bands are divided into four criteria = Task Response, Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource, and Grammatical Range and Accuracy. Each one of these criteria is worth 25% of your writing score.

Task Response, is where we want to pay attention. Task response basically focuses on your response to the question. In other words, does your response fully and completely answer the question? That said, Task Response is area where you need to be effective with your ideas, your examples, and your explanations. To get above a 6 in this area, you’ll need to do well, so let’s take a look at some ways to do it.

The truth about essay topics

Did you know that IELTS is one of the most popular and largest language tests in the world? IELTS has some very intelligent English language experts designing the test. They have a goal- get the best language and the most language from you on your test. It is their goal for you to write well, and for you to write a lot. If you are truly an IELTS 7, they want to make sure you have the chance to show them!

Ok. So where am I going with this? My point is, if IELTS want you to write a lot, they will choose questions that everyone can answer. This means that the questions will be very broad, very general, and about things that almost everyone knows about. Look at the chart below for some examples:

Type of question IELTS WILL NOT ask you on the essay

Type of question IELTS WILL ask you on the essay

What is the difference between a manual car transmission, and an automatic car transmission?

What is better for a city, more cars or more public transportation?

Many people hurt their knees because they run too much. How can they protect their knees and keep running for many years?

People are becoming less and less active. What can governments do to encourage more exercise?

Asia is dominated by large and powerful nations. What can be done for smaller Asian countries to find a voice in international organizations?

Some people think rich governments should give poor governments money for food, infrastructure, and education. Is this a good idea? Do you agree or disagree?

The Brainstorming Method

If you have ever taken an essay writing class, you’ve probably heard about brainstorming. So what is brainstorming? It’s a way to pull ideas out of your head. Businesses do it to improve their business. Friends do it when they are planning a vacation. Writers do it when they need and idea for an essay . The key to brainstorming well is to write down anything and everything. Any idea is ok. Just open your mind, and let the ideas flow!

One popular way to organize your brainstorm is by using a mind map. A common way to do a mind map is to write the topic in the middle, draw a circle around it, then branch ideas from the middle. Try and connect one idea to another. After a minute or two, start adding more ideas to each branch.

After finishing your mind map brainstorm, put the ideas you have into groups. Hopefully now you’ll have lots of ideas for your essay.

Tip: During the test, use the back of your test booklet as a place for your brainstorm!

IELTS tests language, not knowledge

One very important thing to remember for the essay is that IELTS is looking for your language skills. They are not looking for your knowledge. Remember the criteria, vocabulary, grammar, organization, and response. True, you need to show IELTS the language you have, but you don’t have to have an amazing idea or show that you know everything. You just have to present your ideas clearly and present your ideas well. They could be boring, unpopular, crazy, or foolish. Just remember, it isn’t the idea, it’s how clearly, fully and completely you write it.

So there you have it. When you do your prep and write your test, remember this. The question will be a common one, you should take few minutes to brainstorm, and focus on well-presented language, not brilliant ideas.