How To Do IELTS Essay Writing Task 2 General And Academic

IELTS coach

Hey there! This is former IELTS examiner Tim James here, and I am going to cover how to do the IELTS Task 2 essay questions. Here's what you need to do:

Analyse the question carefully, underlining keywords and decide what type of essay you need to write. Plan your answer in bullet points. Write an introduction that paraphrases the question. Write two main body paragraphs focused on the questions requirements. Add a conclusion which paraphrases your key points.

Clearly, there are a lot of details you need to know, including, how you should structure your essays depending on what type of question you have, the writing process to go through, how to score a band 7+, what tips to follow, and so much more.

Everything is covered on the links below and you can go to different sections of the page using the menu. All the techniques have been proven to work by the thousands of students I have taught already. Are you ready? Then let’s go!

This page is going to cover:

  1. Sample IELTS essay questions and answers
  2. IELTS essay structures
  3. The IELTS essay writing step by step guide
  4. How to write an IELTS band 7, 8, or 9 essay
  5. Useful language for IELTS essays
  6. IELTS essay tips and tricks
  7. IELTS essay practice questions
  8. IELTS essay lessons

Writing Task 2 Sample Essay Questions And Answers

There are 4-6 different IELTS essay question types depending on how you sort them. Each different question type requires a slightly different essay structure so it is important to know which is which. Let's take a look at each question type and and example answer.

Can you spot what is different about the structures of the different essays?

Opinion Questions

These types of questions usually include words/phrases such as:

What is your opinion?

• Do you agree or disagree?

• To what extent do you agree of disagree?

• Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?

Here's an sample question and answer:

The large amount of time and money that is spent on conserving wildlife would be better spent on improving the lives of humans.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Model Answer +

In recent years a lot of time and money has been spent on attempting to preserve endangered animals rather than be used to aid human needs. Personally, I disagree with this philosophy and the remainder of this essay shall outline my reasons for this position.

Firstly, the value of a human life is greater than the value of an animal’s life. Every person that has ever been born has had a loving mother, or father who cared deeply about them. Most people also enjoy close relationships with other relatives and friends too. Therefore when any human life is destroyed it impacts upon more than just that one individual.

However,when an animal dies the impact is not the same because animals do not possess the  same level of consciousness as humans. For instance, humans hold funerals and gather to mourn, whereas animals generally continue with their lives as normal.

Furthermore, if a particular species needs help to survive then surely it is only a matter of time before it becomes extinct anyway. The Giant Panda is a great example of an animal that has basically been prevented from becoming extinct by the efforts of humans alone. The panda itself is poorly adapted to life in the world’s current environment and any attempts to
preserve this beast will eventually be proved futile. The Chinese government spends over $12 million US dollars per year trying to keep alive a species which will probably eventually die out anyway.

In conclusion, humans lives are of greater importance and species that are dying out should be allowed to do just that. Government around the world need to recognizes the importance of human lives over animal lives.

281 words

Examiner comments +

Teaching Point: Always start with the first sentence of the introduction rephrases the original question. You should try to use different words i.e. synonyms and paraphrases of the original words in the question so that you can show to the examiner your range and level of vocabulary. You can also alter the order of the words to show your control of grammar.

This is the sentence from the question:

The large amount of time and money that is spent on conserving wildlife would be better spent on improving the lives of humans.

Which the writer has changed to:

In recent years a lot of time and money has been spent on attempting to preserve endangered animals rather than be used to aid human needs.

A word of warning though, you won't always be able to get direct synonyms for the words in the questions, and if this is the case then just use the word from the question rather than risking using a word that you are not confident about. It is better to be 100% accurate than to risk making mistakes with words you are not confident in using.

Discussion And Opinion Questions

These types of questions usually include words/phrases such as:

Discuss both sides of the argument and then give your opinion

• Discuss both views and give your opinion

• Discuss both sides of the argument and give your opinion

• Discuss the advantages and disadvantages and give your own opinion

Here's a sample question and answer:

Some people believe that building cities vertically, with tall towers, is better than building cities horizontally.

Discuss both sides and give your own opinion.

Model Answer +

Expanding cities upward rather than outwards is thought to be a better option by certain groups of people as a means of expansion. Personally, I agree with this statement and this essay shall discuss both sides of the argument.

Firstly, expanding upwards uses less precious land and should therefore reduce the amount of countryside lost to developers. This is important if we wish to maintain the same natural wild life that we currently enjoy. If we continue to destroy the habitats of wild animals then there is a danger of unforeseen consequences. For example, if the number of foxes is reduced, due to habitat loss, then the number of rabbits may actually increase. This in turn brings further difficulties to farmers who grow crops for a living.

On the other hand, expanding outwards may create traffic issues with more cars on the road trying to access the city centre going backwards and forwards during peak times. Traffic congestion adds greatly to the stresses of living in a city can add a short journey can end up taking much longer than it should do. For instance, a 5 kilometer journey in London, which would normally take 7 minutes, may take up to 40 minutes during rush hour.

In summary, preservation of green spaces and maintaining a moderate level of traffic congestion are key reasons to avoid outward expansion. Governments around the world should formulate plans to balance the needs of all stakeholders in a community when considering expansion of cities.

250 words

Examiner comments +

Teaching Point #1 The examples that you use in your essays do not have to be real! You can actually make them up so long as they sound realistic. The examiner is not going to check if your examples are true or not but make them sound real by making them as specific as possible. This could mean giving exact numbers, or figures, or using real place names.

Teaching point #2 As this essay question asks for your opinion, it is very important to actually give your opinion and also not to change your mind and give a different opinion at the end of the essay. You can see that the writer here gave their opinion in the introduction and in the summary.


Discussion Questions

These types of questions usually include words/phrases such as:

Discuss the advantages and disadvantages

• Discus both sides of the argument

• Discuss both points of view

Here's a sample question and answer:

Consumer goods have become the most important part of people’s lives.

Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this?

Model Answer +

People’s lives these days seem to be more concerned with what products they own rather than anything else. This benefits society in many ways but also provides drawbacks too. This essay shall discuss both sides of this emerging trend.

One of the primary advantages of materialism is that it boosts the economy of many countries. As demand has risen for physical goods jobs have been created to try and create products which satisfy these demands. For instance, the Apple factories in China employ hundreds of thousands of workers who would otherwise struggle to find employment. Furthermore, the lives of peoples today are infinitely better due to the development of physical goods. For example, people can play games, order food, perform financial transactions and many more things all using a tiny smart phone which would not have been possible in the past.

The advent of consumerism has bought with it certain downsides though. It seems that traditional values are being eroded as people strive to purchase more and more things. For example, according to a recent survey by the University of Manchester, on average, people spend 45% less time with their grandparents than they did just ten years ago, yet they still find time to spend on average over three hours per day on Facebook. Finally, this desire to have more and more things has increased debt levels in society to dangerous levels. Repayments, interest rates and penalties can put stress on an individual and even cause health problems too.

In conclusion, consumerism brings with it a boost for economies around the world but is also challenging the core values of society too. Only hindsight will reveal whether or not the desire for more and more physical goods is a positive thing for the global community or not.

Examiner comments +

Teaching Point #1 Note, that the candidate has not given their opinion anywhere in the essay as the questions does not ask for it. Secondly, notice how the writer has developed the first main body paragraph really well by adding a second topic sentence in the form of a further idea supporting the first main point and they have then also explained this too. This will definitely help improve the task achievement band score.

Two Part Questions

Sometimes known as problem-solution questions and direct questions. I group these all together as the essay structure you can use is essentially the same, or at least very similar. Some teachers/websites will break it down further but I think that is overcomplicating things unnecessarily.

These types of questions usually include words/phrases such as:

What are the reasons for this? What is a solution?

• What are the causes of this? How can this problem be solved?

•  What problems does this cause? What solutions can you suggest?

• Why is...? Should we...?

• Do you think...? Should we...?

• Do you think...? What other factors...?

Here's an sample question and answer:

In many cities more and more people are choosing to live on their own.

What are the reasons behind this? Is it a positive or negative trend?

Model Answer +

In recent years, the lives of the inhabitants of large cities has been made more difficult by the number of issues that they routinely face. Personally, I feel governments should urge the public to consider relocating to less crowded towns and the following paragraphs shall outline my reasons for this belief.

The main problem with cities nowadays is the sheer number of people living there which creates a variety of serious issues. Firstly, with millions of people all commuting around a city at similar times, traffic congestion has become particularly bad in some cities. This means that employees have to either leave to go to work earlier or find an alternative means of transportation. Secondly, the rise in population levels of cities means that the amount of rubbish created has become almost intolerable. Governments are struggling to provide services to collect all the rubbish and dispose of it in a hygienic environmentally friendly manner increasing risk of disease and levels of pollution.

Allied to the above, with so much unskilled labour in cities these days, wage levels have plummeted, which means the poorer people in cities earn even less than in the past. This could actually be trapping this particular group of people in poverty, possibly for generations to come. For instance, the city of Detroit has experienced a 27% rise in population levels over the last 5 years alone with the percentage of people living in poverty soaring to a a record 35% of the city’s total population, up from 20% over the same time period.

Overall, unemployment, traffic congestion and waste management are the most significant issues faced by city residents nowadays. Governments should do all that they can to encourage people to migrate away from large cities in order to alleviate these issues for the benefit of all.

300 words

Examiner comments +

Teaching Point #1 As with any two part question, it makes sense to have one body paragraph answering each of the questions. In this example, you can see that the candidate has made a BIG mistake, instead of answering the second question in the second body paragraph, they have lost focus and simply written a second body paragraph related to the first question.

This means that they have only answered half of the question and so they will lose a lot of marks in the task achievement marking band criteria. Do not make the same mistake, always answer both questions!

According to this study, using model IELTS essays is a great way of learning what to do and not to do in an IELTS essays.

IELTS Essay Structures

So, did you notice the structures being used in those sample essays? I have outlined them below and recommend that you follow these structures.

Please be aware though, there is no perfect structure that will get you a band 9 magically. You need to follow a sensible/logical essay structure like these ones below, and explain your ideas with good spelling, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary to do well in IELTS.



  • Paraphrase the question
  • Give your opinion
  • Say what the essay will do


Main body paragraph 1

  • Topic sentence stating main point
  • explain
  • example


Main body paragraph 2

  • Topic sentence stating main point
  • explain
  • example



  • Summarise topic sentence
  • Restate opinion



  • Paraphrase the question
  • Say what the essay will do


Main body paragraph 1

  • Topic sentence stating main point
  • explain
  • example


Main body paragraph 2

  • Topic sentence stating main point
  • explain
  • example



  • Summarise topic sentence
  • Make recommendations



  • Paraphrase the question
  • Give your opinion
  • Say what the essay will do


Main body paragraph 1

  • Topic sentence stating first viewpoint
  • explain
  • example


Main body paragraph 2

  • Topic sentence stating opposing viewpoint
  • explain
  • example



  • Summarise opposing arguments
  • Restate your opinion



  • Paraphrase the question
  • Say what the essay will do


Main body paragraph 1

  • Topic sentence answering first question
  • explain
  • example


Main body paragraph 2

  • Topic sentence answering second question
  • explain
  • example



  • Summarise opposing arguments


Next, we will have a look at what we need to do, step-by-step, in order to write high scoring essays using those structures.

IELTS Essay Step By Step Guide (Video)

The Writing Process from Tim James on Vimeo.

IELTS Essay Step By Step Guide (Flow-Chart)

The more you practice this process the more confident you will become. Following the same process each time helps to eliminate nerves on exam day, it prevents you from making silly mistakes and means you will produce a well structured essay every time. It is how to do IELTS General and Academic questions in an efficient and time effective way and can possibly help you score an IELTS Writing Task 2 Band 9!

  1. Identify the essay question type. There are several different types of questions and each question type requires a particular type of structure to answer it effectively. Read how to identify question types here.

2. Generate ideas and plan your essay. A simple yet important process that will ensure you answer the main parts of the question and not run out of time. Read more about essay planning and idea generation here.


3. Write the introduction. Most introductions can be done quite simply and quickly in just 3 or 4 sentences, learn how to write introductions here.


4. Write main body paragraphs. Using your essay plan you should be able to write body paragraphs with real purpose. Discover how to write main body paragraphs here.


5. Add your conclusion. A short but important paragraph that summarises your  main ideas. Learn how to write effective conclusions here.


6. Check your essay. An essential part of writing is to check for errors. This is really important in IELTS tests as simple mistakes can effect your band score. Discover how to check your essay efficiently here.

How To Get A Band 7, 8, or 9 In IELTS Essays

In the video below I will explain what the examiners are looking for, their band marking criteria and exactly what you can do to achieve a higher band score. Sound good? You might want to make some notes as you go through this one...

Useful Language For IELTS Essays

Now, let's take a look at the types of sentence starters you can use for different IELTS essay type. You can copy these and use them in your exam and your essays will sound just great! these sentence starters are mainly topic sentence starters for body paragraphs.

As a reminder, a topic sentence is the first sentence of a paragraph and it should really tell the reader what the remainder of the paragraph is about. This is great for essay 'coherence and cohesion' but also for making sure that you directly answer the question asked and get a high 'task achievement' band score too.


Topic sentence starters include:

  • Some people believe, one of the main benefits/downsides of…is…
  • One commonly held perception is that…is dis/advantageous as it…
  • One point of view is that the main benefit/drawback of…is…
  • It is said that, one of the major advantages/disadvantages is…
  • According to some people, one of the major positives/negative of… is…
  • Certain groups of people are of the opinion that a significant advantage/drawback of… is…

And to state the opposing point of view:

  • On the other hand, some people believe, one of the main benefits/downsides of…is…
  • In contrast to this, is one commonly held perception that…is dis/advantageous as…
  • However, another point of view is that the main benefit/drawback of…is…
  • In direct contrast to this though, it is said that one of the major advantages is…
  • Despite this, according to some people, one of the major positives/negative of… is…
  • On the contrary, certain groups of people are of the opinion that a significant advantage/drawback of… is...


Topic sentence starters answering 'how' questions:

  • Governments could start by…
  • Governments could begin by…
  • Firstly, governments could…
  • One measure they could take is to…
  • A significant first step would be to…
  • An important first step would be to…

Topic sentence starters answering 'why' questions:

  • Deforestation still continues due to the amount of profit that businesses make from it.
  • Deforestation still continues because of the large amount of money generated.
  • Deforestation remains a problem as it is so financially lucrative.

Topic sentence starters answering 'should' questions:

  • Governments should do more to protect the environment as…
  • As part of their duties, governments should do more to protect the environment.
  • Governments really ought to aid the preservation of the environment more.

Topic sentence starters explaining 'causes':

  • One of the major causes of… is that fact that …
  • A major factor that contributes to… is…
  • One significant cause of… is…
  • One of the main reasons for… is…

Topic sentence starters explaining 'problems':

  • One major problem with… is…
  • A significant problem with… is…
  • One potentially serious problem with…is…
  • One problem associated with… is…

Topic sentence starters explaining 'solutions':

  • One method of easing this issue could be to…
  • One possible solution could be to…
  • One way to attempt to solve this could be to…
  • In order to solve this problem…(name a person/thing e.g. the government) could…

IELTS Essay Writing Tips And Tricks

Okay people, now I’m going to give you my best possible IELTS writing task 2 essay tips. Take note, some of these are smoking hot! (smoking hot is an idiom which in this case means awesome, but can also mean sexy!). 

So, I guess you could tell the IELTS examiner they look smoking hot and then they might have to give you extra marks for making them feel better and for using an idiom - double win!

Anyway, back to my list of red hot IELTS essay tips:

1. Practise answering the different question types.

This might be annoying and you might not enjoy doing this but it is far better to do it on your own before test day using the correct essay structures I have shown you rather than being lazy doing nothing and then forgetting what structure to follow under the pressure of test day. Remember, only give your opinion if they actually ask for it - in which case you should give it in your introduction and in your conclusion.

2. Practice under timed conditions.

This is essential, on test day you will be nervous and you might have just answered a tricky task 1 question and perhaps have even less than 40 minutes. Therefore, you absolutely must be able to complete this task from beginning to end inside the 40 minutes. The only way to know whether you can do this or not is to time yourself doing this.

If you can’t do this in time then it is probably because you are not planning your answers properly. If you create a bulleted plan as I have show you to do, then all the ‘thinking’ is done after the first few minutes. All you then need to do is focus on the writing accuracy.

You see, the things that slows people down is when they have to keep stopping writing to think of their next idea or sentence, but if you get all of that done first then you can then just get into the ‘flow’ of writing and you will finish it much quicker! 

3. Check your work.

You absolutely must do this. I have seen essays score a band 6 and then I have asked my student to check it again properly and they were able to get it up to a band 7 just with 5 minutes of checking, it really is an easy way to pick up marks. Check your spelling, punctuation and grammar to get rid of any simply mistakes you may have made under the pressure of the test day.

4. Don’t worry if your ideas suck!

(that means if they are not interesting) It really does not matter the examiners are only marking the language you produce not the quality of your ideas so there is no need to try to be funny, or original.

In fact some of the most common sense ideas are often the easiest too explain and help you to write your essay with more time left for checking and with less stress which often helps to improve your band score. My full video course will show you different ways to come up with ideas too.

5. Make up your examples.

That’s right, make em up! You see, examples are important to have because they help you to develop your paragraphs, which is an unimportant part of your task achievement band score, however, there is no way in the world the examiner will know (or care) if you have made up your examples.

So, for anything you write about you could easily write an example starting like this: ‘A recent study from the university of London found that…’, or like this, ‘The New York Times on the 5th of March this year reported that…’. And then just fill in the blanks to make it support whatever point you are trying to make.

OK, got it? See how easy it is to develop your paragraphs with examples?

6. Add a conclusion

If you follow my writing process you really should not run out of time, however, if you do then always add a conclusion to the essay. This will then complete the structure of the essay and mean you get a better score for your ‘task achievement’ score, because you will have completed the structure of the essay at least.

7. Plan your essay the way I show you.

If you don’t then you risk writing off topic. This often happens when a student sees the topic of the question and then just writes everything they know about that topic, however, if you just slow down and plan your answer first after carefully reading the question then you will produce an essay that is on topic and well organised.

8. Don’t go off topic

Match topic sentences carefully to the questions asked. As you write your topic sentences, check that they are directly answering the question(s) being asked. If you do this then you will be preventing yourself from making the most common mistake of ‘going off topic’ and you will be structuring your paragraphs logically.

9. Do use an academic language style

This means: don’t use ‘I’ unless you are stating your own opinion, don’t use contractions such as can’t/won’t, don’t use superlatives such as, awesome, fantastic, but do use the sentence starters I have given you above, and do choose words that sound more formal.

10. Go for quality over quantity

It is far better to write 250 words of well thought through, well developed, well checked paragraphs rather than 350 words of off topic unorganised work full of errors. Focus on quality and accuracy every time.

Go Through Our Series of Mini IELTS Essay Lessons...

These lessons use real IELTS essay questions to teach you some of the essential essay writing skills and techniques to score a band 7 or higher in your essays. Simply read the example essay and the teaching notes underneath which all give you more insight into how to do IELTS Writing Task 2 General and Academic (IELTS Writing Task 2 Band 9 Guides).

Mini lesson: Stages of writing, word counts and time management

Mini lesson: Introduction writing tips

Mini lesson: When and when to add your opinion

Mini lesson: Writing with flow

Mini lesson: Topic sentences

Mini lesson: How to develop your body paragraphs

Mini lesson: How to add examples

Mini lesson: How to write complex, compound and simple sentences

Mini lesson: What tense to use in your IELTS essay

Mini lessons: Vocabulary and collocations

Mini lesson: IELTS essay ideas

Mini lesson: How to write conclusions

Mini lesson: How to write conclusions 2

IELTS Writing Task 2 Practice Questions

Recent IELTS Essay questions as reported by recent test takers from around the world. Here we have compiled recent questions reported to us, and other reliable sources, that appeared in recent tests.

IELTS Essay questions by topic area This is where you want to go if you want to practice certain topics as there are separate pages for each topic. Questions are also categorised by type i.e. discussion, opinion, and situation question types.