How to match essay structures to IELTS essay prompts

An extract from a Band 9  Writing Workshop….

In this week’s Writing Workshop we will take a break from the regular plan and examine a question that I received from a new member to the Band 9 program.  This member had prepared an essay on the following prompt:

Computers have made the world a better place to live. Do you agree or disagree?

The essay had four paragraphs, and the body paragraphs began as follows:

BP1 – One good reason why I believe that computes have significantly improved……..


BP2 – Another reason that proves computers a valuable contribution is ………. 

Band 9 members will be aware that it is necessary to present the other side of an argument or discussion to score well in TA.  I therefore suggested to the student that she follow our Outline B and devote one body paragraph to the other side of the argument.

The student then raised a question, and pointed out that IELTS Liz had written a blog post arguing against giving the views of others in opinion essays.  You can review her post here.


So who is right?  Well, the question that Liz was using as her example was not an agree/disagree prompt:

Some people think that children should spend their free time doing homework, while others believe it would be better for children to participate in sports activities instead.  What is your opinion?

It is rare to see an IELTS essay prompt worded like this, so perhaps Liz has a point when she says that the examiner is only interested in your view.  However, in the very same post she advises that you cannot write a one-sided response that ignores the other side.  This appears to contradict the comments in relation to giving the other view.   So what is the right answer?

So what is the right answer?

Well, as Pauline Cullen explains, there really is only one type of IELTS essay question.

Each prompt is asking you to develop a clear stance while covering the ideas that the prompt introduces. The choice that you have to make is whether to use Outline B or Outline C for these “opinion” essays. If you have a strong opinion on one side, it’s better to use Outline C, as this structure results in a very strong position. If your opinion is somewhat weaker, or if you are stuck somewhere in the middle of the two sides, Outline B gives you a chance to create your stance while giving plenty of thought to both sides of the debate. Each of these approaches has its pitfalls to avoid. In Outline B, you need to make sure you are still maintaining a clear stance, while in Outline C, you need to avoid repeating yourself (especially in the refutation).


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