IELTS Writing: The Perfect Task 2 Introduction

For some IELTS candidates, Writing Task 2 can seem like the scariest part of the exam. Faced with a blank sheet of paper and a question that could be answered in a million different ways, some candidates panic. But if you know how to start, the panic goes away, and you can focus on writing a good essay.

So: how do you start?

1. Underline key words

It’s the oldest trick in the book, but it works. Underlining key words keeps yourself focused on the task and away from discussing topics which are irrelevant. Let’s take an example:

Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin learning a foreign language at primary school rather than secondary school. Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?

From our underlined words, we can understand that this is an advantages and disadvantages style essay. But is the question asking for

a) the advantages and disadvantages of learning a foreign language as a child?

or

b) the advantages and disadvantages of beginning a foreign language at primary school rather than secondary school?

It’s b. And we know that because we underlined the words primary school and secondary school. Do not make the mistake of discussing a completely different topic. Now we know the key words and are focused on the task question, we can move to stage 2.

2. Paraphrase the statement.

Very often in Task 2, you will not just receive a question, but also a statement that comes before the question. The question asks you to reflect upon the statement and make an argument based on it. Look at the statement for nouns, verbs and adjectives and think about their synonyms and word order. Then write the statement again using these synonyms. Break the sentence into two if you need to. For example:

Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin learning a foreign language at primary school rather than secondary school. —-> Nowadays, most children must wait until secondary school to start their foreign language education. However, a number of specialists say that primary school is the best time to start studying a foreign language. 

This takes practice. The best way to get good at paraphrasing is to practice re-writing exam statements again and again, until you can do it really quickly. If you can get these sentences checked by a tutor or friend, even better.

It’s also a good idea to have a list of synonyms ready for advantages and disadvantages i.e. pros and cons, benefits and drawbacks.

3. Write what you are going to write about

This sentence is key, because it’s really easy and can improve your score in Coherence and Cohesion without much effort. Don’t confuse yourself and the examiner by trying to make this sentence too academic or intelligent. You must be coherent above all else.

In this essay, I will be looking at… the benefits and drawbacks of starting foreign language studies in primary school, and will attempt to draw some conclusions regarding my observations. 

Simple. Just remember those two bolded phrases. You don’t really need to confuse yourself with any more; these will do. They are good enough to score the highest marks possible with almost any Task 2 question.

So, how do they look when put together?

Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin learning a foreign language at primary school rather than secondary school. Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?

Nowadays, most children must wait until secondary school to start their foreign language education. However, a number of specialists say that primary school is the best time to start studying a foreign language. In this essay, I will be looking at the benefits and drawbacks of starting foreign language studies in primary school, and will attempt to draw some conclusions regarding my observations. 

Now try practicing with these:

Some people think women should be allowed to join the army, the navy and the air force just like men.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Using a computer every day can have more negative than positive effects on your children.

Do you agree or disagree?