The two main parts of the IELTS essay writing process that candidates typically struggle with are identifying the type of essay required and brainstorming for ideas before writing it. Here are some ideas on how to do both.
1, For and against essays
…present both sides of an issue, discussing points in favor of a particular topic as well as those against it, or, in some cases the advantages and disadvantages of a particular question.
A typical for and against essay should include
a, an introduction, in which you clearly state the topic to be discussed and a brief overview of its two sides,
b, a body, in which you present the different arguments for and against the subject in separate paragraphs, and
c, a conclusion, in which you revisit the sides discussed and give a balanced consideration of the topic.
2, Opinion essays
…display the writer’s personal opinion concerning the topic, clearly stated and supported. The writer’s opinion should be included in the introduction and summarized/restated in the conclusion.
A typical opinion essay should include
a, an introduction, in which you state the topic and your clear opinion about it,
b, a body, in which each paragraph discusses a separate viewpoint, but all forwarding the same opinion, and
c, a conclusion, which restates your opinion as expressed in the introduction.
3, Discursive essays
…do not require the writer to take a strong stand either for or against a subject (or both), only that a topic be discussed from various angles, either defined by the rubric of the task itself or the author of the essay.
A successful discursive essay should include
a, an introductory paragraph, in which you state the subject and the angles from which it is going to be examined,
b, a main body, in which you discuss the chosen aspects of your subject, each in a separate paragraph,
c, a conclusion, in which you restate the subject from the perspectives selected and discussed in the body.
4, Solution essays
…are a type of essay in which a concrete problem is analyzed in depth and possible solutions are put forward, possibly together with any expected results or consequences.
A typical solution essay should include
a, an introduction, which describes the problem (its scope, causes and possible consequences),
b, a body, with different paragraphs discussing several suggested solutions, and
c, a conclusion, in which you restate the problem and draw up a summary of how it might be solved.
5, ‘Hybrid’ essays
…are essays that ask you to do two things at a time, e.g discuss the reasons for a phenomenon, then give your opinion (discursive & opinion). Because they require you to practically carry out two tasks at the same time, they can be quite challenging to write.
The structure of a possible hybrid essay might include
a, an introduction which briefs the topic
b, a body, typically requiring either a for and against discussion of the subject, or a milder, discursive approach, and
c, a conclusion, usually asking you to give your opinion on the subject or suggest solutions.
Key Instruction Words
To help you correctly identify the purpose (‘subgenre’) of an essay it usually helps if you first find the key words in the task to help you understand what you are expected to write. This will help you demonstrate your critical thinking skills in writing by recognizing what information is relevant to include and how it should be presented.
The typical instructions in a for and against essay task might include one of the following:
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of …
Discuss both views for and against …
What are the possible benefits and drawbacks of …?
Opinion essay tasks tend to be worded using some of these instruction chunks:
Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
Give your own opinion about …
Discursive essays can be recognized by their use of question words, prompting you to examine a subject from different angles, for example
Which …do you consider to be the …?
What factors contribute to …?
Where can children …?
Essay tasks requiring your giving solutions will probably say something at the end such as
What could be done to…?
What solutions do you suggest to …?
How could … be eliminated/improved/…?
Hybrid essay tasks might ask you to carry out two of these, which should be clear from the wording of their instructions, for instance
What factors contribute to …? What could be done to …? (discursive & solution)
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of … and give your own opinion. (for and against & opinion)
Why might … and what are its benefits in your opinion? (discursive & opinion)
What is Brainstorming
The second stage of the essay writing process is called brainstorming. A successful IELTS essay writer is able to quickly
a, generate lots of relevant ideas for the task
b, that are about the topic identified,
c, of the right scope;
d, and will be suitable for the type of essay (=subgenre) that is being written.
While brainstorming is supposed to be one of the ‘freest’ stages in the process, in the IELTS exam you have to be fast and efficient when you collect ideas for the content of your essay, because you only have about two minutes to ‘zoom in’ on your target.
‘The Angle Bank’
To help you acquire brainstorming routine to increase both the spectrum and speed of your brainstorming, try to memorize some of the potential ‘topic angles’ in the following brainstorming device, the Angle Bank.
When preparing to write your essay, consider if any of these aspects might be relevant to the task by asking yourself the question ‘Is there anything I can say about the topic (that is relevant to my subgenre) from a … point of view?’