The Different IELTS Essay Types & How To Approach Them

Oct 23, 2023 | IELTS Test

Data from the IELTS partners show that Writing is the area in which Academic test takers will struggle the most. This significant insight underscores the necessity of mastering the essay writing section, especially if you are an aspiring student aiming to thrive in English-speaking academic environments.

In the Academic version of the test especially, it’s not just about stringing words together; it’s a precise evaluation of your ability to articulate ideas, build logical arguments, and present them in a coherent manner.

Recognising this challenge, we’ve compiled this guide to demystify the task 2 IELTS essay writing world. Whether you’re puzzled by Opinion Essays or baffled by Advantages and Disadvantages Essays, we will unravel the complexities. From breaking down each essay type to offering strategic insights on tackling them, this comprehensive guide is designed to put you firmly on the right path.

What Are The Different IELTS Essay Types?

image of Chinese student writing an essay

IELTS essay writing is a nuanced and multifaceted task, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, even if there are some general rules to follow. This is because, depending on the type of essay you are being asked to write, it will alter the way in which it needs to be approached. 

These are the types of essays in IELTS Writing Task 2, and there are five of them that candidates like yourself should be aware of…

1. Opinion Essays (or Agree or Disagree / Argumentative Essays)

What It Is: A statement will be given in the question, and you’re asked to give your opinion.

How to Approach It: Express your opinion on the statement, backing it with relevant examples and reasons. Keep your writing focused, clearly stating whether you agree or disagree with the statement.

It doesn’t matter whether you choose to agree or disagree with the statement given in this question; what is important is that you can logically present your own point of view. You can take a look here at a model answer we have written for exactly this type of IELTS Essay question.

2. Discussion Essays

What It Is: You must discuss both sides of an argument, often giving your opinion as well.

How to Approach It: Select one point of view to agree with and another to disagree with. Explain both perspectives and be sure to include your own opinion if asked.

With these types of essays, just as with the opinion essays, you’ll need to evaluate both sides of the argument and then give reasons for why you have sided one way or the other. Again, we have a model answer prepared on this IELTS essay type, which you can view here.

3. Advantages & Disadvantages Essay

What It Is: A statement is provided, and you’re asked to write about both its advantages and disadvantages.

How to Approach It: Discuss both the positives and negatives of the given statement. Answer the specific question asked, such as if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Often, with this type of IELTS essay, you will be asked whether or not the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. This, again, makes it more akin to an opinion essay as you’ll be expected to logically demonstrate your reasoning for your opinion. You can read an example of a Do The Advantages Outweigh The Disadvantages essay here.

4. Problem & Solution Essays (or Causes and Solutions Essays)

What It Is: A statement is given, and you’re asked to discuss the problems or causes and the solutions.

How to Approach It:

  1. Choose one or two problems or causes and develop them fully.
  2. Link each problem or cause with its solution and provide detailed explanations and examples.
  3. Avoid listing too many problems without linking and explaining them.

These types of Writing Task 2 essays can be especially challenging, as you won’t be given a point of view to evaluate; instead, you’ll be given a problem that needs to be solved. You can see an example of how we have approached one of the IELTS essay types here.

5. Direct Questions Essay (or Two Questions Essay)

What It Is: A statement with two different questions after it, which may or may not be linked.

How to Approach It: Answer both questions fully without confusing this with an opinion or a discussion essay. Focus on clarity and precision, being careful not to introduce too many ideas.

These are similar to cause and solution essays. Take a look at one of our model answers for a direct questions essay here.

Tips For Approaching Different IELTS Essay Types

image of woman sitting at a desk writing on her notepad

Writing an essay will always require more than just understanding the question; no matter the question, the process demands a strategic approach. It is true that the first step is to analyse and understand the question, identifying keywords and understanding what it is that the examiner is actually looking for from you. Planning your essay with a well-structured outline that includes main points and supporting details can guide your writing and keep you focused.

Managing your time effectively is crucial in the writing process. Allocate time for planning, writing, and revising, and use a timer during practice to simulate the real exam experience. Regular reading and writing practice will also enhance your vocabulary and grammar skills, improving your ability to express ideas clearly and coherently.

When it comes to some specific advice for each of the different types of essays in IELTS Writing Task 2, there are some things that, if you remember them, can keep you on the path to success when you are sitting the exam. 

Opinion Essays: Build a strong argument for Opinion Essays by presenting clear reasons and examples. Balance your opinion throughout the essay and conclude decisively.

Discussion Essays: In Discussion Essays, present both sides of an issue with insights and evidence. Include your viewpoint if asked, maintaining an objective tone throughout.

Advantages & Disadvantages Essays: For Advantages & Disadvantages Essays, weigh the pros and cons carefully, using concrete examples, and let your conclusion reflect your overall analysis.

Problem & Solution Essays: Problem & Solution Essays require you to identify key problems and propose viable solutions, supporting them with evidence and linking them coherently.

Direct Questions Essays: Direct Questions Essays demand precise answers to all questions posed. Stay focused and avoid unnecessary elaboration.

Writing Techniques & Use Of Language In Different IELTS Essay Types

Mastering techniques for approaching the different IELTS essay types isn’t solely about understanding the diverse essay types. It also hinges on the finesse of language skills and essay writing techniques, ensuring your responses are both compelling and clear in the view of the examiner.

You’ll need to have a good IELTS essay structure, and this begins with gaining an understanding of how the examiners will expect you to form your response. A well-constructed IELTS essay begins with a lucid introductory statement, paving the way for logically organised body paragraphs. It’s paramount that each of these paragraphs encapsulates a singular main idea bolstered with relevant evidence or examples. 

With the IELTS essay structure, and before we highlight the importance of using a complex vocabulary correctly, it’s also advised to use linking words. Transition terms such as “however,” “moreover,” “therefore,” and “hence” serve as bridges, binding your ideas into a coherent narrative. They not only enhance the logical flow but also fortify your arguments, making them more persuasive. These should not be overused, though! 30-40% of sentences in high-scoring sentences will begin with a transition word. Overuse of these words will be penalised just as harshly as underuse.

Another significant pillar when it comes to your IELTS essay is going to be correct use of different vocabulary. Demonstrating to the examiner your range of vocabulary, when correctly applied, can be one of the factors pushing your band score higher. However, you need to be careful, as it’s essential that every word or phrase used fits seamlessly within the context. Overindulgence in complex terms, especially when not fully grasped, can render an essay convoluted and confusing.

Finally, you’ll need to adhere to grammatical rules and use punctuation correctly throughout any IELTS essay. Whilst both of these may seem basic, a nuanced understanding can really elevate the quality of your essay. As part of any IELTS preparation, you should find ways to easily review grammar rules periodically and sharpen your skills by spotting and rectifying errors in your own various writings. 

These techniques and practices can ensure that your essays not only resonate with clarity but also captivate the reader with their depth.

Approaching IELTS Essay Types: A Summary

Navigating IELTS essay writing can undoubtedly be daunting and incredibly difficult for many candidates. Yet, with the right guidance, knowledge, and practice, this challenge becomes one that you can be much more comfortable with. 

Candidates can achieve their desired band score by understanding the different IELTS essay types, embracing effective writing techniques, and nurturing a keen sense of language use.

Remember, success in IELTS writing isn’t just about the depth of one’s vocabulary or the strength of one’s arguments; it’s about the holistic integration of all these elements into a cohesive, compelling narrative. 

Finally, always be conscious that to achieve the best possible score, you should not only aim to meet the exam’s requirements but to surpass them. Use your knowledge of the different IELTS essay types to guide you in performing well in IELTS Writing Task 2.