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Writing Task 2: How to organise an "agree or disagree" essay

Published on June 4, 2018

When writing for task 2 of the IELTS Writing section, you have 40 minutes to identify the key question, come up with an answer, find examples to support your ideas and then write a well-organised response.

With the time pressure, it’s no surprise that people hurry through and produce writing that leads off in all directions or digresses because they didn’t have a plan for how their argument would unfold. The result is an essay that is difficult to follow and therefore lower scoring.

If you want to save time and make sure the message in your essay is clear (one of the key criteria for higher level scores), you should walk in knowing exactly how to put it together.

The formula I’m presenting here is no secret and you may recall elements of it from English classes you have taken. I suggest you use it as a road map for composing your essay, sentence by sentence. You can then be more confident that your ideas will be easier to follow and you’ll save time writing your work.

We’ll look at the basic template, plug some ideas into it and then see how smoothly it reads when we put it all together.

First, take a look at the formula.

Agree/disagree essay – 4 paragraph formula

Paragraph One - Introduction

Sentence 1: State the premise that the essay will address (you can simply rephrase the words in the task).

Sentence 2: State your opinion in the matter.

Sentence 3: Briefly outline what you are going to write in the next two paragraphs to support your opinion.

Paragraph Two and Three – the Body of Support

Sentence 1 (topic sentence): Tell the reader what this paragraph is about by introducing your first point.

Sentence 2: Assume that the reader doesn’t know anything about this topic and explain your point clearly.

Sentence 3: Give a real life or made up example that illustrates and supports this point.

Sentence 4: State an opposing position but redirect to yours.

Paragraph Three – Repeat the above

Sentence 1 (topic sentence): Tell the reader what this paragraph is about by introducing second point.

Sentence 2: Assume that the reader doesn’t know anything about this topic and explain your point clearly.

Sentence 3: Give a real life or made up example that illustrates and supports this point.

Sentence 4: State and opposing position but redirect to yours.

Paragraph Four – Conclusion

Sentence 1: Rephrase your opinion and sum up your two supporting points.

Sentence 2: Make a prediction or a recommendation based on what you have said.

Next, look at how you can use the formula to organise a response to this task.

Agree/disagree essay – 4 paragraph formula & example response

Paragraph One -Introduction

Sentence 1: State the premise that the essay will address (you can simply rephrase the words in the task).

Developing and buying medicine is expensive and some believe that money would be better spent on preventing disease from arising in the first place.

Sentence 2: State your opinion in the matter.

I somewhat disagree with this notion.

Sentence 3: Briefly outline what you are going to write in the next two paragraphs to support your opinion.

It would be a mistake to focus only on prevention as there will always be diseases to treat and spending money on the research and development of medicines might lead to more effective preventative measures.

Paragraph Two and Three – the Body of Support

Sentence 1 (topic sentence): Tell the reader what this paragraph is about by introducing your first point.

Preventative actions do not always stop illness from occurring.

Sentence 2: Assume that the reader doesn’t know anything about this topic and explain your point clearly.

One glance at the healthy living section of a book store shows that there are opposing opinions on what to do to keep illness away.

Sentence 3: Give a real life or made up example that illustrates and supports this point.

For instance, smoking is an identified cause of cancer but choosing not to smoke does not guarantee that you will not develop lung cancer because it still occurs in non-smokers.

Sentence 4: State an opposing position but redirect to yours.

So, although it is undeniable that preventative measures increase chances of a healthy life, they will never ensure a disease free world.

Paragraph Three – Repeat the above

Sentence 1 (topic sentence): Tell the reader what this paragraph is about by introducing second point.

Instead, we need to continue funding the research and development of medicines to better understand the cause as well as the prevention of disease.

Sentence 2: Assume that the reader doesn’t know anything about this topic and explain your point clearly.

If we keep looking for ways to fight and treat sicknesses, we are more likely find better ways to stop them from occurring.

Sentence 3: Give a real life or made up example that illustrates and supports this point.

For example, while searching for ways to cure a cold, scientists discovered that an effective way to avoid catching one was frequent hand cleaning but, prior to the science, it was mistakenly believed that avoiding cold air would keep the virus away.

Sentence 4: State an opposing position but redirect to yours.

So, it’s true that it takes a great deal of money to develop new medicines, however, those investments lead to more informed methods for keeping people healthy.

Paragraph Four – Conclusion

Sentence 1: Rephrase your opinion and sum up your two supporting points.

Prevention goes far in improving people’s lives and reducing suffering but we still are not certain that these methods work for all, so continued investment into research and treatment is important.

Sentence 2: Make a prediction or a recommendation based on what you have said.

Investing money in both tactics would be ideal.

Here’s how the completed essay looks and reads:

Developing and buying medicine is expensive and some believe that money would be better spent on preventing disease from arising in the first place. I somewhat disagree with this notion. It would be a mistake to focus only on prevention as there will always be diseases to treat and spending money on the research and development of medicines might lead to more effective preventative measures.

Preventative actions do not always stop illness from occurring. One glance at the healthy living section of a book store shows that there are opposing opinions on what to do to keep illness away. For instance, smoking is an identified cause of cancer but choosing not to smoke does not guarantee that you will not develop lung cancer because it still occurs in non-smokers. So, although it is undeniable that preventative measures increase chances of a healthy life, they will never ensure a disease free world.

Instead, we need to continue funding the research and development of medicines to better understand the cause as well as the prevention of disease. If we keep looking for ways to fight and treat sicknesses, we are more likely find better ways to stop them from occurring. For example, while searching for ways to cure a cold, scientists discovered that an effective way to avoid catching one was frequent hand cleaning but, prior to the science, it was mistakenly believed that avoiding cold air would keep the virus away. So, it’s true that it takes a great deal of money to develop new medicines, however, those investments lead to more informed methods for keeping people healthy.

Prevention goes far in improving people’s lives and reducing suffering but we still are not certain that these methods work for all, so continued investment into research and treatment is important. Spending on both tactics would be ideal.

As the template reveals, each and every sentence has a purpose and when the sentences are put together, they provide a logical structure that allows your message to be followed with greater ease.

What I hope you see from this example is that when you put some effort into organising your essay, it’s effortless to read it. I also want you to realise that it isn’t difficult to accomplish this clarity when you have a reliable structure in mind.

Check back for future blogs that will show you how to modify this formula for other types of IELTS essay tasks.

In the meantime, the blank template is for you to use when you write your next agree/disagree essay.

Good luck and have fun with it.