How to Answer the 5 Types of IELTS Writing Task 2 Question

Updated: Apr 12



There are 5 different types of essay question in Writing Task 2.


To make sure there are no surprises on exam day, you should be able to recognise them, and know how to answer each of them.


Also, in preparation for your IELTS exam, you should be reading articles and listening to talks about common essay topics such as health, technology, and the environment. While you're learning about these topics, there are certain critical thinking exercises you can do which will help you think about these subjects in more depth, and help you to answer whatever type of question you have on exam day.


This article will give an overview of how to understand the questions, and in a future article we will look at how to analyse specific questions, generate ideas, and plan essays in more detail.


In this class we are going to do 3 things:


  1. 🖐 Establish what the 5 types of essay question are.

  2. 🔍 Identify some examples of each question type.

  3. 🧠 Work out how to think about each type of question.

1. 🖐 The 5 Types of Essay Question


2. 🔍 Examples of Each Question Type


We are going to look at 5 different questions.


Look at the question and try to identify which type of essay it is, then click on the > button to find the anwer.


At the end of this exercise you will find an alternative downloadable version of this exercise which contains 5 more questions.



Which type of question is this?


Discussion - Two-Part Question - Problems/Causes and Solutions

Advantages and Disadvantages - Opinion

👈 Click here for the answer.

 


Which type of question is this?


Discussion - Two-Part Question - Problems/Causes and Solutions

Advantages and Disadvantages - Opinion


👈 Click here for the answer.

 


Which type of question is this?


Discussion - Two-Part Question - Problems/Causes and Solutions

Advantages and Disadvantages - Opinion


👈 Click here for the answer.

 


Which type of question is this?


Discussion - Two-Part Question - Problems/Causes and Solutions

Advantages and Disadvantages - Opinion


👈 Click here for the answer.

 


Which type of question is this?


Discussion - Two-Part Question - Problems/Causes and Solutions

Advantages and Disadvantages - Opinion


👈 Click here for the answer.


WT2 - 2 - The 5 Different Essay Types
.docx
Download DOCX • 606KB

3. 🧠 How to Think about each Type of Question


In this section we are going to look at what exactly each type of question is asking you to do, then we are going to look at some 'critical thinking exercises' you can do which will help you answer each type of question.


The critical thinking exercises work well in combination with your general IELTS preparation, ie. you can do them while you are reading articles, watching TED Talks, or talking with your friends or classmates. Also, even though I have written different exercises under different question types, practising all of them will help you with all question types.



How do you Answer a Discussion (Discuss both Views) Question?

  • A discussion question presents you with two different opinions. You have to discuss BOTH of these opinions, and you often have to give your own opinion too.

  • To do this, you can imagine person 1 saying point 1, and person 2 saying point 2. Think, how would person 1 develop their argument? How would person 2 respond?

  • If you're asked to 'give your own opinion' (you often are), you need to think: - 'Do I agree with person 1 or person 2?' - 'Do I partially agree with both of them?' - 'Do I disagree with both of them?' However, in the exam don't try to write the most complicated answer; write the one which is easiest to explain.

  • If you're not asked to give your own opinion, you just need to present what person 1 would say and what person 2 would say.

  • Sometimes the question will offer two 'complete' views, for example: "Some people say that doing physical exercise is the best way to improve your health, while other people say that having a good diet is more important." In contrast, some questions will offer one 'complete' view, and one 'non-complete' view, for example: "Some people say that doing physical exercise is the best way to improve your health, while other people say that it is something else". In this case, you need to think of a sensible example of what this 'something else' could be. Again, this should a nice, simple idea which you can write about clearly.


🤔 Some Critical Thinking Exercises for Discussion Questions 🤨

👞 Put yourself in someone else's Shoes


Try to see things from other people's perspectives. Listen to their opinions and try to imagine how they see the world and why they see the world like that.


While practising your reading or listening, pay attention to people's opinions and try to empathise with their arguments.


😈 Play Devil's Advocate


An even stronger exercise would be to "play devil's advocate". "To 'play devil's advocate" means to make an argument which is not necessarily one you truly believe in. It's a great way to see things from different perspectives.


Imagine that in your hometown, the local counsel is going to demolish a load of buildings in the centre so that they can build a big shopping centre. In your heart, you don't like this idea for many reasons; however, you should try and make some arguments in favour of the new shopping centre.


By playing devil's advocate, you might learn something new, and maybe even change your mind. Even if you don't change your mind, testing your own argument from a new perspective will make it stronger.



How do you Answer an Opinion (Do you agree?) Question?

  • An opinion question presents you with a statement. You have to say if you agree or disagree with the statement, and to what extent.

  • To do this, you need to read the statement very carefully and decide if you agree with all of it, if you agree with part of it, or if you disagree with all of it.

  • You can write a 'one-sided' essay, that is, you can make two points agreeing or disagreeing with the statement, or you can write a a 'balanced' essay, that is, make one point agreeing with the statement and one point disagreeing with the statement. However, it is usually easier to write a clear argument which is one-sided instead of 'on the fence' (ie. 'balanced'). Again, in the exam don't try to write the most complicated answer; write the one which is easiest to explain.

  • If you're not asked to give your own opinion, you just need to present what person 1 would say and what person 2 would say.


🤔 Some Critical Thinking Exercises for Opinion Questions 🤨

☝️ Be Opinionated!


This is actually important for almost every type of Writing Task 2 question and for the speaking exam.


You need develop an instinct for having opinions about the things you hear and read.


While practising your reading or listening, pay attention to people's opinions and think, do I agree with this or not?


😐 Avoid thinking 'I don't know.'


This is also very important for almost every type of Writing Task 2 question and for the speaking exam.


Outside of the IELTS exam, if you don't know something, it's more than Ok to say so. However, in the IELTS exam, none of the questions are really that complicated, and you don't need to be an expert on any subject to give a simple opinion. You should never look at an IELTS question and just think 'I don't know'.


To avoid thinking 'I don't know' every time you're faced with a difficult question, try to think 'I don't know, but if I had to give my opinion, I'd say ...' You can be humble about what you know and what you don't, but be brave, and be opinionated! This will help you on exam day!