Ielts Academic Writing Essay Types Of Introductions

IELTS Writing Task 2 Introduction

This post will help you write better introductions in your Task 2 IELTS essays and show the specific sentences I advise all of my students to use when writing IELTS Writing Task 2 introductions.

The introduction is the first part of the essay the examiner will read and it will give them a good first impression of what to expect in the rest of the essay.

Just like in person, first impressions last.

I often tell my students that a bad introduction in IELTS writing part 2 is the same as going in to the speaking exam and being rude to the examiner- no matter how good you are in the rest of it, the examiner won’t be happy and unhappy examiners are more likely to give you a lower mark.

Despite this warning, many good students go on to produce introductions with a few common problems in them.

Common Problems

  1. Talking too generally about the topic.

Most of these essays start off with ‘Nowadays……’ or ‘In modern life….’ followed by general information about the topic. In my opinion, this is the worst start you can possibly make. Remember that you are supposed to answer the question not write generally about the topic.

  1. Not including a thesis statement

This is the most important sentence in the essay. Not including one will lose you marks in several different ways. I will tell you more about this below.

  1. Not outlining what you are going to do

If you don’t include a sentence outlining what your essay will say, the examiner doesn’t really know what you are going to write about in the rest of your essay. This will also lose you marks. I’ll show you how to write an outline sentence below.

  1. Trying to write a ‘hook’ or be entertaining

Remember this is an IELTS exam, not a university essay. There are no extra points for being interesting, in fact being boring will probably help you. This will help you avoid ‘flowery’ language.

  1. Using an informal style

Know your audience. You are expected to write in an academic style.

Good and Bad Examples

Question: There is a good deal of evidence that increasing car use is contributing to global warming and having other undesirable effects on people’s health and well-being.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Good Introduction

Rising global temperatures and human health and fitness issues are often viewed as being caused by the expanding use of automobiles. This essay agrees that increasing use of motor vehicles is contributing to rising global temperatures and certain health issues. Firstly, this essay will discuss the production of greenhouse gases by vehicles and secondly, it will discuss other toxic chemicals released by internal combustion engines.

Bad Introduction

Nowadays, cars are a very popular way of getting around. Day by day many more people drive cars around but others feel that they cause global warming. Global warming is one of the most serious issues in modern life. They also affect people’s health and well-being which is also a serious issue.

As you can see the bad example talks about the topic very generally, copies words and phrases from the question and doesn’t include a thesis statement or outline statement.

If your introductions look something like this, don’t worry. Most of my students write introductions a lot like this when they first start in my class and the structure below always helps them fix any problems and write very effective introductions.

Structure of a Good Introduction

If you use this structure you will not only score higher marks but you will also save time in the exam. If you practice enough, introductions will become easy and you will do them in just a few minutes. This will leave you lots of time to focus on the main body paragraphs where you can pick up lots of mark.

An IELTS writing task 2 opinion essay should have three sentences and these three sentences should be:

  1. Paraphrase question
  2. Thesis statement
  3. Outline statement

That’s it. Simple! Let’s look at each sentence in more detail.

  1. Paraphrase Question

Paraphrasing means stating the question again, but with different words so that it has the same meaning. We do this by using synonyms and flipping the order of the sentences around.

Question: There is a good deal of evidence that increasing car use is contributing to global warming and having other undesirable effects on people’s health and well-being.

Paraphrase: Rising global temperatures and human health and fitness issues are often viewed as being caused by the expanding use of automobiles.

The synonyms I’ve used are:

Increasing- expanding

Car use- use of automobiles

Global warming- rising global temperatures

People’s health and well-being- human health and fitness

As you can see, I then switched the order of the sentence around.

I have therefore demonstrated to the examiner that I can paraphrase and have a wide range of vocabulary. These are two of the things that the examiner is specifically looking for and you will gain marks for including them.

You should practice this with past paper questions.

  1. Thesis Statement

This is the most important sentence in your essay. This is your main idea and I often describe it to students as how you feel about the whole issue in one sentence. It tells the examiner that you have understood the question and will lead to a clear and coherent essay.

Let’s look at the thesis sentence from the previous example:

Thesis statement: This essay agrees that increasing use of motor vehicles is contributing to rising global temperatures and certain health issues.

It is always just one sentence long so you will have to practice summing up your opinion in one sentence. It should also address the micro-keywords and not the topic in general.

You should start your thesis statement with:

This essay agrees that….. or this essay disagrees that….. (Opinion essays)

The main cause(s) of this issue is….. (Causes and solutions)

The principal advantage(s) is (xxxxx) and the main disadvantage is (xxxxxx). (Advantage and disadvantages).

For a discussion (of two points of view) essay you should state both points of view clearly.

Let’s look at another example:

Some aspects of celebrity culture have a bad influence on young people.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?

To keep things simple, we have two options-

  1. Agree that some aspects of celebrity culture have a bad influence on young people.
  2. Disagree that some aspects of celebrity culture have a bad influence on young people.

My essay will argue that celebrity culture does have a bad influence and my thesis statement will there be:

This essay agrees that the some famous people’s lifestyles have a detrimental effect on the youth of today.

I have stated my opinion in one sentence and used synonyms to make sure I don’t just repeat the question.

Thesis statements are very important but only in question that ask you for your opinion. Some IELTS questions do not ask you for your opinion and in these cases you can leave it out.

  1. Outline Statement

Now that you have paraphrased the question and told the examiner what you think in your thesis sentence, you are now going to tell the examiner what you will discuss in the main body paragraphs. In other words, you will outline what the examiner will read in the rest of the essay. This should be one sentence only.

Example:

Question: There is a good deal of evidence that increasing car use is contributing to global warming and having other undesirable effects on people’s health and well-being.

Outline statement: Firstly, this essay will discuss the production of greenhouse gases by vehicles and secondly, it will discuss other toxic chemicals released by internal combustion engines.

So what I have done is just look at my main body paragraphs and wrote about what they contain. You should have only one main idea per paragraph. In this essay, I have only two main body paragraphs, so I only need to say two things in the outline statement.

Main body paragraph 1- production of greenhouse gases by cars.

Main body paragraph 2- toxic chemical produced by car engines.

Again, your main body paragraphs should have only one main idea so it should be easy to spot these and then write a sentence about them.

For advantages and disadvantages essays and problem and solution essays you could write something like this:

Advantages and disadvantages: this essay will first discuss the (main advantage(s)) followed by an analysis of the (main disadvantage(s)).

Problem and Solution: This essay will analyse the principal problem(s) and offer solutions to this issue.

Final Example

Question: Learning to manage money is one of the key aspects to adult life. How in your view can individuals best learn to manage their money?

Good answer: One of the keys to adulthood is appreciating how to budget your finances. It is clear that the best way someone can learn this, is by managing money during childhood. Firstly, the essay will discuss the importance of parental involvement during childhood and secondly, the essay will look at the importance of having a part time job during childhood.

As you can see, the above introduction follows the structure I laid out above.

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Writing Task 1

Writing Task 2

IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 involves composing a formal five-paragraph essay in 40 minutes. This is the second of two writing tasks on the IELTS. The first section—Task 1—should take you only 20 minutes. Why spend more time on IELTS Writing Task 2? This basic comparison offers a few reasons:

  • Points: Task 2 counts more towards your Writing band score
    Task 1 = 1/3rd of your score
    Task 2 = 2/3rds of your score
  • Word count minimums: Task 2 is longer
    Task 1 = 150 word minimum
    Task 2 = 250 word minimum
  • Planning your response: Task 2 questions require more thought
    Task 1 = transfer of information from a visual into writing
    Task 2 = answer an open/abstract question with no clear or “correct” answer


Even though Task 1 is by no means easy, most students find IELTS Writing Task 2 more challenging. It is well worth your time to write many Task 2 practice essays as you prepare for exam day. Understanding Task 2 deeply and developing an approach to the various question types you might face will make your practice even more effective.

The purpose of this guide is to help you master the IELTS Writing Task 2 skills you need in order to do well on this important section of the IELTS exam. Click on a section in the table of contents to skip directly to that topic, or continue reading below to start learning all about IELTS Writing Task 2.

Table of Contents

This post is all about the IELTS Academic Writing Task 2. If you’re looking for IELTS Writing Task 1 tips, click here!
 

IELTS Writing Task 2 Basics

Let’s begin with some basic tips for IELTS Writing Task 2:

Handwritten Responses

The IELTS is a pencil and paper exam, so your responses will be handwritten. It is essential that you handwrite (don’t type!) your practice essays for Task 2. Writing by hand helps you develop a sense of pacing. In other words, you will learn how quickly (or slowly!) you write with pencil and paper in English.

Importantly, as you’re probably aware, precious points will be deducted if you do not meet the minimum word requirements in the Writing section. But it is a huge waste of time to actually count your words on exam day. If you take the additional step of using official IELTS Writing Task 2 response sheets (download and print them here), you can see how many words you typically write on each page. You won’t have to count because you will know what that number of words looks like on the IELTS answer sheet.

Timing

Writing speed varies a lot from student to student. How you allocate time depends a lot on how fast you can write. The more you practice Task 2 responses, the quicker you will become. Your goal should be to allow enough time for these three things:

  • Essay planning 2 – 10 minutes
  • Writing 25 – 32 minutes
  • Editing 5 minutes (or more if possible)

As you practice, try very hard to cut down on the amount of time it takes to plan your responses before writing. Some students can take up to 10 minutes to brainstorm and plan. For most people, however, using 10 minutes at the beginning will take away too much time from writing and editing. I usually recommend three to five minutes of planning as a reasonable target. The more practice questions you answer, the faster you will become at generating ideas before you write.

Academic/Formal Writing

The IELTS expects you to use an academic/formal writing style. This means you should use the same kind of language that you would when writing a report for work or an essay for school. Obviously, you would avoid using “slang” words. You would also write in complete sentences and use proper punctuation. Here are some additional features of academic/formal writing to keep in mind for Task 2:
 

  • Organize ideas into separate paragraphs: You will lose points if you do not divide your essay into paragraphs. In the next section of this post, I’ve included an IELTS Writing Task 2 response template. The template includes the essential paragraphs you should include in your Task 2 response. Generally speaking, your essay must have an introduction paragraph, 2 – 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
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  • Write in complete sentences: Make sure each sentence you write has an independent clause with a subject and verb. When you write complex or compound sentences, use “connectors” like coordinating conjunctions (and, but, so, etc) or subordinating conjunctions (when, although, because, etc).
  •  

  • Avoid repetition of words and ideas: Your ideas should move from one to the next logically, and you should show off your vocabulary by avoiding redundancy (don’t repeat the same words over and over).
  •  

  • Avoid “slang:” The English you hear in the movies or read on social media is often inappropriate for formal writing. It is a big problem to use words like “dude” or spellings like “U” (for “you”) on the IELTS.
  •  

  • Thoughtful and Neutral Tone: Academic/formal writing has a very careful and thoughtful tone. It rarely sounds angry, excited, or overly certain about an idea. It is also best to avoid broad generalizations in formal/academic compositions. Here are some examples to demonstrate:

 

NOT ACADEMIC: I hate this idea! (Too excited/angry)
ACADEMIC: This idea has some problems to consider.

 

NOT ACADEMIC: Everyone is distracted by cell phones these days.(Too broad)
ACADEMIC: Many people are distracted by cell phones these days.

 

NOT ACADEMIC: I have the best solution to the problem. (Too certain)
ACADEMIC: I would suggest this solution to the problem.

IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 Essay Organization & Example

In this section, we will look at the overall structure of an IELTS Writing Task 2 response. Before we get to that, however, let’s take a look at a sample Task 2 question. Read it over and take a moment to think: How would you respond?

IELTS Writing Task 2 Sample Question

Planning Before You Write

When you first encounter an IELTS Writing Task 2 question, try to decide what perspective you will take fairly quickly. Unfortunately, the IELTS doesn’t give you much time to do this. Making matters worse, it is fairly likely that you won’t have strong, well-developed opinions about the topic. Don’t worry. Task 2 questions are (intentionally) debatable, with no clearly “correct” answer.
 
Fortunately, unlike an essay you might write for work or school, it is not important to present your true opinions on the IELTS. Remember, the IELTS is an English language test. It is not a test of what you know about the topic of your Task 2 question. While you should present reasonable ideas in a clear and logical way, you can argue any side of the question and do well. Therefore, rather than worrying about (and spending time on) formulating your true opinion on your Task 2 topic, ask yourself the following question instead:
 
“What is the easiest way for me to answer this question?”
 
Can you think of some main ideas and/or examples quickly for one side of an argument? Even if these ideas don’t fully represent your perspective, just go with them on the IELTS. You don’t want to waste too much time thinking about how to express your true opinions.
 
Once you’ve chosen a perspective on your question, you can do some planning/brainstorming. Below are some planning notes for our sample Task 2 question (introduced above). On exam day, you won’t have a chart like this to fill in. The chart simply helps to make the information easier to read in this post. Basically, your goal in the planning phase is to come up with a main idea for each paragraph of your essay. We will discuss each of these paragraphs in more detail below the chart.

Writing your Essay

When you’ve done some initial planning, you’re ready to dive into a writing. Let’s take a closer look at how to organize your Academic Writing Task 2 response paragraph by paragraph. After you read about each paragraph, look at the sample Task 2 essay immediately below this section as an example.

The Introduction Paragraph
An introduction is a very important element of your Task 2 essay. Practicing introductions can really pay off, even if you don’t follow through and write a full practice essay every time. Many students get stuck at the very beginning, not knowing how to respond to the question in the introduction. Let’s look at what to do.
 
IELTS Writing Task 2 introductions can be short and simple. A two-sentence introduction should be your goal. There are two main parts of a Task 2 introduction to include every time:

  • Topic Presentation:
  • In this first sentence of your introduction, you simply need to paraphrase the topic described in your question prompt. In other words, find a way to accurately state the topic in your own words. Try to avoid using the same words and phrases as the prompt.
     

  • Thesis:
  • After presenting the topic, you need to provide your perspective on it. This is your thesis. It is a sentence that expresses the main idea of your essay. At a minimum, you need to provide a general answer the question prompt in your thesis: “I believe that…”, or “I agree that…”. A really great thesis also introduces the main ideas of each body paragraph in a general way. Take a look at the sample essay below. Notice how the thesis introduces the main idea of both body paragraphs.
     
    Important! You MUST answer the essay question directly in your thesis. Students sometimes lose points because their thesis does not answer the question directly enough. Read your question prompt carefully and make sure your essay will answer every part of the question.

2-3 Body Paragraphs
The next two (or if necessary, three) paragraphs of your IELTS Task 2 essay are your opportunity to explain your thesis. Each body paragraph should present ONE main point. If your question prompt includes several questions, you should write a body paragraph for each one. The main point of each body paragraph must relate directly to your thesis statement in the introduction. Use supporting details and/or examples to explain your main point before moving on to the next body paragraph.

Conclusion
Don’t spend a long time on your conclusion. A good IELTS Task 2 conclusion should be one or two sentences long. Simply paraphrase your thesis and main points from your body paragraphs to close out your essay. This means you should avoid using the same words, phrases, and sentence structures as your thesis statement. Definitely do not copy your thesis statement word-for-word as your conclusion.

Before we dig into an example IELTS Task 2 essay, check out the video below and try your hand at writing an introduction paragraph.

Sample IELTS Task 2 Essay

Let’s take a look at an example essay containing each of the Task 2 paragraphs described above.

Some parents may worry that pushing their children towards a particular career could be harmful. While I agree it is unwise to predetermine a child’s profession, parents should still offer guidance through open communication.
 
Young people need freedom to make choices, especially when it comes to their careers. Even parents who agree with this idea may still feel some anxiety about it. Ultimately, most parents hope their children will be financially secure. Deep down some parents may also want their children to choose prestigious careers, or jobs that will impact society in some way. These wishes are normal and not necessarily harmful. Yet, it can be problematic if these desires turn into firm expectations. In such cases, the main motivation for a child becomes fear of disappointing her parents. It can lead to resentment if she spends her life doing something she doesn’t enjoy. With freedom to explore, by contrast, she can take ownership of her career decisions and develop internal motivation to reach her goals.
 
Yet, offering a child freedom does not imply that parents should be absent. To the contrary, parents should strive to foster open communication about career decisions. If a child’s aspirations do not line up with his parents’ wishes, he may fear that approaching them could lead to judgement and confrontation. However, if he feels that his parents will listen carefully and maintain an open attitude, he may let down his guard and welcome their feedback. When this happens, parents can provide guidance and, importantly, even critiques of their child’s plans. In this way, open communication creates opportunities for young people to benefit from their parents’ wisdom and experience.
 
In conclusion, even though parents should avoid pressuring their children to follow specific career paths, they should not abandon the discussion. Parents should strive to create an environment where they can offer caring guidance through open communication.

IELTS Writing Task 2 Question Types

No matter what question you get for IELTS Writing Task 2, your goal should always be to answer the question completely and directly. Take time, every time, to read the prompt carefully and understand it fully. In Task 2, you are always required to provide your perspective on a topic. However, there are a variety IELTS Writing Task 2 question types you may encounter. The charts below present the five basic IELTS Writing Task 2 question types, and offer some tips on how to organize your responses for each one.


 

 

 

 

Improving Your IELTS Writing Task 2 Score (By Scoring Category)

There are four scoring categories for IELTS Writing Task 2:

  1. Task Response
  2. Grammatical Range and Accuracy
  3. Lexical Resource
  4. Coherence and Cohesion

Here are some tips to help you improve your score in each category.

IELTS Writing Task 2 Scoring Categories

1. Task Response

This his is a measurement of how well you fulfilled the basic requirements of the task based on the instructions. Following the template and organization advice above helps you most in this category.

2. Grammatical Range and Accuracy

This is a measurement of your ability to use a wide range of grammatical structures without making a lot of grammatical errors. If you have enough time (a few months or more) before you take the IELTS, consider taking an English class or investing in a good grammar book for self-study. I often recommend this grammar book to intermediate and advanced students. It offers clear grammar explanations and contains many practice exercises.

Here are some additional grammar tips to help you, even if your IELTS exam is coming up soon and you don’t have time to take a class or study a textbook!

Grammar Tip 1: Don’t use the same simple sentence structures over and over.

The next time you write a practice response, take a close look at your sentence structures. Do you use a variety of sentence patterns? English language learners often develop a habit of using forms of the “BE” verb (am, is, are, was, were) very frequently as the main verb of the sentence. Using “BE” verbs is not a problem (I have used many in this blog post!!), but using them too often makes your writing sound very basic. Importantly, using “BE” verbs repeatedly also limits your grammatical range. Choosing more descriptive verbs opens up many grammatical possibilities. For example, you can use adverbs and adverbial phrases to describe an action. By limiting yourself to forms of “BE” as the main verb, you will mainly rely on adjectives for description.

To work on this, go back through your practice essays and try to change every sentence that includes a “BE” verb as the main verb. Don’t worry about sentences with “BE” auxiliary verbs like this:

She is running.

“Running” is the main verb of this sentence and “is” is an auxiliary. There is no need to change this. You want to edit sentences that look like this:

Michael is a history professor at my college.

“Is” is the main verb of the sentence. When you revise these sentences, don’t change the meaning of the sentence too much. The sentence should still fit logically in your essay. This can be tough! Making these changes will force you to use different sentence patterns and, importantly, more descriptive verbs and adverbs when you write. Please note—you do not need to avoid all “BE” verbs when you write for the IELTS exam. This exercise simply helps you to develop your ability to use a variety of grammatical structures. Review the following examples:

Original sentence: Mary is an excellent teacher, so students always love taking her class.

Revised sentence: Mary teaches so well that students always love taking her class.

Grammar Tip 2: Use complex sentence structures

On the IELTS, you need to prove that you can write advanced sentences without mistakes. Therefore, you should include some complex sentence patterns in your writing. What is a complex sentence? Complex sentences include “subordinating conjunctions,” which introduce a variety of dependent clauses in English. Look over this review of dependent and independent clauses if you need to. Below are some examples of subordinating conjunctions:

Adverbial Subordinators (there are many!):

Even though
Whereas
While
When
Because
Since
Etc

Adjective Clause Subordinators:

Who
Whom
Which
That
Whose

Noun Clause Subordinators:

What
When
Where
How
Who

A few complex sentence examples:

Adverbial:
Even though it rained all weekend, we had a great time.
I like playing chess because it provides a mental challenge.

Adjective:
I threw the ball to my friend, who was not ready to catch it.

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