After years of experience with a variety of students, we have realised that students find it difficult actually to understand what the essay question wants. There are two components to any writing task – first, understanding the demands of the question, and then actual writing an essay. Often students cannot comprehend the true meaning of the question because of all the instructions IELTS tends to give together for their Writing Task 2. Not understanding the question correctly will fetch even a brilliant essay earn a low band.
To explain how to analyse an IELTS Writing Task 2 or essay better, consider following sample task. This is exactly, how a task on IELTS would look like.
You should spend 40 minutes on this task.
Some people prefer to read fictional books such as novels, while others believe it to be a waste of time.
Are there more advantages than disadvantages to reading fictional books?
Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your knowledge or experience.
Write at least 250 words.
Since this is IELTS Writing Task 2, students often reach this section of the paper with less than 40 minutes to spare. Panicked, they read just the topic statement, and start writing about what they think the topic is. Alas, that is a sure-shot way of getting exceptionally low marks in Task Achievement as the student has not even read what the task is! Based on the sample given above, if a student just reads the topic statement, they might think that the question is about whether reading fiction books is a waste of time or not. However, it is only upon reading the following instruction that the student would realise that they actually have to write about whether there are more advantages or disadvantages of reading fiction. This is the difference between scoring well and writing an inappropriate answer.
There are four key terms in this question: ‘fiction books’, ‘waste of time’, ‘some-while others’ and ‘novels’. Without reading the instruction below the topic statement, it is impossible to determine what is the real focus of the question. Remember – while the topic statement gives the subject of the essay, it is the next instruction that restricts the broad topic. There are many topics that a student might guess from reading the topic statement. The most obvious and wrong would be to list why people like fiction, and why some people don’t. Focusing on all the wrong keywords would ensure that the whole essay is derailed from what the question actually demands.
Very often, the topic statement might give away what kind of an essay a student is supposed to write. But, as in the case of the sample above, it is essential to identify whether you are to write a discussion-based or an opinion-based essay. Mixing up the two will land you in trouble as you would not have met the demands of the question. In this case, the question asks whether there are more advantages than disadvantages to reading fictional books. It is seeking your opinion about the number of the pros and cons – not whether there are any pros and cons, or even what books to read. Make sure you understand what the question asks of you before you start coming up with content for your essay.
The first instruction outside the box ensures that regardless of what you are writing about, you need to back your opinion or discussion with logic and show how they apply in real life. Of course, there is no way for the examiner to check whether the example you are providing is from real experience, or not. But that is the format in which your examples must be written. What they are judging is your writing prowess and comprehension skills, not your personality and experience. Therefore, remember to offer a reason, and proof for the same in the form of an anecdote or a believable statistic.
The third instruction is about word count. It reads “Write at least 250 words”. Therefore, you must write a minimum of 250 words. To know more about how many words, you should really be writing, and the consequences of not doing so, click here. Not reaching word count, or not providing enough examples and reasons can be harmful to your task achievement marks since you would not have followed the basic instructions given to you.
Always remember that IELTS Writing Task 2 will only have topics that do not require any specialised knowledge. The topics are generalised and can be answered by anyone regardless of their age or nationality. Therefore, it should be easy for one to find points as IELTS is not judging you based on the content of your answer, but how you write that content. As long as you have met all the IELTS criteria, you can score well regardless of the academic merit of your ideas.
Please ensure that you have read the full question at least twice before you start writing your essay, including the instruction for the time you need, and the word count. This will allow you to have a mental checklist of all the things you need to have in your essay so that you do not forget to give examples or run out of points to support the side that you wanted to. We suggest creating a mind-map about all the things you would like to write about before you start writing the essay.