Types of IELTS Writing Task 2 and when to give an opinion?

Very often when I am checking my students’ papers, I come across some stellar essays, which I am forced to grade lowly. It breaks a teacher’s heart to see shining improvements in their students’ language and grammar, and still not be able to give the marks they so desire. The reason? They have placed their opinion (albeit rational ones) when it was not asked for. Which leaves students wondering – should I give an opinion in IELTS Writing Task 2? And if so, when do I give my opinion?

First, you must offer your opinion in an IELTS essay only when it is asked. There are two types of IELTS essay tasks: Discussion-based and Opinion-based essays. You must offer your opinion only in the latter type of essay question. Second, you must offer your opinion in the introduction as well as in the END paragraph. Let's understand this step by step.

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Types of IELTS Essay Tasks

Type 1

Discussion-based essay:

Consider the following IELTS task.

You should spend 40 minutes on this task.

Many people around the world are pet-owners.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of having pets?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your knowledge or experience.

Write at least 250 words.

Here, if the students read only the topic statement, they may think that I am supposed to offer their opinions about having pets. However, when they read the instruction immediately after that, they may realise that the task asks them to list the advantages and disadvantages of having pets. Now, since they are not asked to choose or favour any side, their opinion is not asked. Hence, there is no need to offer any opinion.

Type 2

Opinion-based essay

Now let’s turn to Opinion-based essay where you are clearly instructed to choose or favour any side. There are three subtypes of these essays tasks. Let’s understand these three types of essays, one with examples.

Case 1 – One-Opinion (Agree-Disagree) Essay:

Consider the following question as an example.

You should spend 40 minutes on this task.

Some people believe that cats are the best pets to have.

How far do you agree or disagree?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your knowledge or experience.

Write at least 250 words.

This is the most straightforward opinion based question to spot. There is no other layer to the question. There is only one viewpoint given. You are to either affirm it or reject it, depending on your personal opinion and the reasons you provide. Make sure to support your opinion with examples!

Case 2 – Two Opinion (To-What-Extent) Essay:

Let’s look at another example of this type of question.

You should spend 40 minutes on this task.

Some people believe cats are the best pets, while others prefer to have a dog in their homes.

Discuss both these views and give your opinion.

This question would require you to discuss both sides of the argument in a manner that it supports your final position on which animal you would rather have as a pet. This is also a more straightforward opinion-based essay to spot. It is expressly asking for your opinion after you debate about both sides. The side you favour has to be clear with the type of points and examples you give.

Case 3 –  Advantage/Disadvantage Opinion-Based Essay:

Let’s look at the third type of question you might encounter in your exam.

You should spend 40 minutes on this task.

While some people prefer to have cats as pets, others do not think cats make for suitable companions.

Do you think the advantages of having pets outweigh the disadvantages?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your knowledge or experience.

Write at least 250 words.

Even though it sounds like two different opinions are being expressed, the opinions are about the same thing, in this case, cats as pets. This type of question confuses students the most because of the scope of the opinion, which is very little. One might say that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, or they don’t. Most students end up giving their opinion or even a few advantages and disadvantages. They miss out on which they believe outweighs the other, the actual question asked, resulting in low Task Achievement marks. I recommend that my students write down the one-sentence answer to the first instruction before they start writing the essay. This is to ensure that their stance on the question is clear, and they don’t forget to mention it in the essay.

Summary:

You must give your opinion only when you encounter one of these types of tasks. The first one is a basic agree-disagree type, which we call One-Opinion essay. The question will state an opinion in the topic statement and simply ask you whether you agree or disagree with the statement while giving reasons for the same. The second type of question is commonly known as ‘to what extent’ questions, and we call it Two-Opinion essay. It involves favouring one opinion over the other. The topic statement usually has two different opinions, and the student is supposed to pick one and give reasons for the same. The third type is the trickiest of them all as most students don’t realise that while giving their opinions, they must favour either advantages or disadvantages. Any opinion in other forms may not be correct.

Now since it is settled when to offer your opinion, let’s see which paragraph should have it?

Where to write your opinion?

Write your opinion in the introduction as well as in END paragraph.

Many students ask, “Won’t that be repetitive?” Well, I am not asking you to use the same words while writing your opinion in these two paragraphs.

Opinion in the introduction paragraph

When you write your opinion in the introductory paragraph of the essay, it is clear which side do you favour? Let’s say that you don’t reveal your point of view in the first paragraph, and you are an average writer. In such a case, the examiner may interpret your points the way he or she sees it. It could happen that the examiner may consider your opposing side as strong. And when he or she reads in the last paragraph which side you are supporting, the reader may be perplexed. You may even lose your scores unnecessarily.

On the other hand, when you offer your opinion, it is easy for the examiner to evaluate your essay.

Opinion in END paragraph

Writing your opinion, in the END, is essential as that is the final declaration. It finally convinces the examiner that your line of reasoning is correct. However, remember, do not use the same words that you have already used in the introduction.

Conclusion:

Please do not give your opinion in discussion-based essays. That is not the demand of the question, and results in negative marking in Task Achievement, citing not having read the question correctly. Answering the first instruction in one sentence is an excellent test to see whether or not you have to give your opinion. If you cannot answer the question with a simple yes/no, or pick one over the other, then chances are your opinions are not required for the question.

How to write introduction and avoid mistakes on IELTS Writing Task 2?

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