Everything you need to know about 5 IELTS Academic essay types
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How to identify the type of essay in IELTS Writing Task 2?

How to identify IELTS essay type

Writing essays is an important part of the Writing section of the IELTS test. Many candidates sitting the test struggle to get the desired score. The reason is obvious: they fail to understand the essay task properly. There are five common types of essay in the IELTS Academic exam:

What do you have to write in each of them? Read this article and you will learn how to unpack the essay task in order to write an appropriate response.

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The essay task

What you have to do first before you actually start writing an essay is to read the task carefully. You cannot omit this step otherwise you will fail the task and will lose your points for the task achievement criterion. If you look at any IELTS Academic Writing Task 2, you are likely to notice and interesting detail. No matter what type of essay it is, the task will have a statement, a question or several questions to answer, and guidance (or instruction) for you. Let us have a look at the following task:

The statement is the topic of the essay. The questions tell you what you have to write about. The guidance tells you how to write your essay and what to include.

For example, in the task above the topic is “using the Internet to find solutions to health problems is becoming more popular”. You have to write the reasons and consequences of doing so because the questions ask you “Why do people do that?” and “What are the results of such actions?”. You will also have to give details to answer and provide good examples because the guidance asks you to give reasons and include relevant examples.

The questions and the guidance also assist you in understanding what type of essay it is. If you are aware of whether you have to write an opinion or a mixed essay, etc., you will know how to structure it, i.e. the score for coherence and cohesion will be higher.

READ ABOUT: 6 typical mistakes in IELTS essays

Cause-and-effect essay

This type of essay usually asks you to state the main causes of the problem and discuss what effects it might have. For example:

It can also be worded in other ways:

Statement + Discuss the causes and effects of

Statement + What do you think are the causes of …? What effect will this have on …?

Statement + Outline the reasons for … and discuss what effects …?

Statement + What are the positive and negative impacts of … and what can be done to minimize the bad effects?

Opinion essay

In this type of IELTS essay, you are asked to give your opinion on a given statement. For example:

You will have to clearly state your opinion and develop it without suddenly changing your mind in the middle of the essay, i.e. you have to remain true to what you state in the introduction. You will also have to provide some reasoning and support it with good examples of your own or someone’s experience.

You can come across different wordings of this type of IELTS Writing Task 2 though:

Statement + What is your opinion?

Statement + Do you agree or disagree?

Statement + To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Mixed essay

Sometimes at the IELTS exam, you have to answer more than one question. A ‘mixed essay’ is the type of task where you have to write about your opinion and answer another question about another aspect of the same topic. For example:

During the test, always check if the task asks you to give your opinion. Questions about opinion may be very obvious if you look at the previous type of essay. However, there may be some other questions that also ask you to write what you think. They can be worded in the following ways:

Is it a positive or negative trend?

Is this the worst problem that humanity is facing nowadays?

Should the media be controlled in such a way?

Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?

When you look at them more carefully, you will easily work out that they all require a YES or NO answer, or ask you to choose between the two alternatives.

This task usually looks like this:

Statement + Question 1 + Question 2 +Guidelines

One of the questions is always a question about your opinion. For example:

READ ABOUT: 25 phrasal verbs to avoid in IELTS Academic Writing

Two-views-and-opinion essay

In such type of task, you will find a statement that gives you two different views on the same problem. You will have to discuss both opinions as well as give your opinion about the issue. It’s important to support both views with the detail and examples equally no matter which one you choose to approve later in your essay.

As you can see from the sample task above, such type of task usually consists of:

Statement (with 2 opposing ideas) + 2 questions (to discuss both views + give your opinion) + Guidelines (give reasons and examples)

Other wordings might look the following way:

Statement + Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

Statement + Discuss both sides of this argument and give your own opinion.

It is likely that you will use the wrong structure for your essay if you misidentify the type of question. Once you have identified the type of essay, use our tips on how to write it.

Advantages-disadvantages essay

In this type of IELTS Writing Task 2, you have to analyse the benefits and drawbacks of a particular matter or problem. For example, you can come across such wordings:

Statement + What are the advantages and disadvantages of…?

Statement + Do you think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages…?

Statement + Discuss the advantages and disadvantages and give your opinion.

Generally, we can divide advantages & disadvantages essays into two types:

Type 1 asks you to simply discuss the advantages and disadvantages.

Type 2 asks you to discuss the advantages and disadvantages AND give your opinion on whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages or vice versa. We have already written about the essay structure and the main tips on how to write it.

Now, when you know everything about the possible types of questions you might have to answer in IELTS Writing Task 2 and we are sure you can spot them without much effort, it’s time to stick to your IELTS preparation and skyrocket your results.

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