7 Types of Essay Prompts with Model Responses
The prompt type determines the approach you need to take. It's VERY IMPORTANT to read the prompt carefully as this affects the requirements of the task.
IELTS Writing Task Achievement Tip - Each body paragraph only needs ONE main reason
IELTS is NOT looking for a list of reasons to support your opinion. They are looking for ONE main reason per body paragraph (paragraphs have ONE controlling idea). Each reason needs to include an explanation and an example (this can be a research study, a personal example/one that you heard about in the news, or both).
Agree/disagree sample response
Example prompt: More and more people today get their news on the Internet. Nevertheless, newspapers will continue to be an important source of news and information for most people. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion? Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience. Write at least 250 words.
- Provide TWO reasons for ONE opinion.
- The first sentence in the prompt is a given: it's the background context of the topic. IELTS isn’t asking if you agree or disagree with “More and more people today get their news on the Internet.” Everyone already knows this is true! A major killer on Task Achievement is spending time on the first part of the prompt without connecting it to “newspapers will continue to be an important source of news and information for most people.” The second statement is the only one they are asking if you agree or disagree with. It’s the only one that it is possible to agree or disagree with.
- Note how both body paragraphs below follow TREES structure exactly: topic sentence, reason, evidence, example, significance. The first body paragraph includes evidence followed by a personal example; the second body paragraph includes evidence with an extended explanation.
Many people believe that newspapers will continue to be a significant news and information source despite the popularity of the Internet. However, I disagree that newspapers will remain relevant for the majority of people since they are redundant and most people expect news to be free.
In the old days, most people would get the local newspaper, which was their one comprehensive source of news and information. Today, people no longer bother because they are on their smartphones all the time and get constant updates from their favourite news websites. According to research published in The New York Times in 2019, newspaper circulation in the U.S. has dropped from over 60 million subscribers in the 1980s to about 30 million subscribers these days. I myself gave up my newspaper subscription years ago. I failed to see the point of maintaining my subscription when I never learned anything new from reading the paper; I’d already seen all the stories in my news feeds. For that reason, newspapers are unlikely to remain relevant for most people.
Furthermore, because so much news and information is available for free online, most people now fail to see why they should pay for the news, and this is killing newspapers. According to Pew research published in 2018, a large percentage of seniors still pay for a newspaper, but only 2% of the 18-29 demographic do so. This has coincided with the rise of smartphones and a massive rise in advertising revenue for social media giants like Facebook and Google, which publish news free of charge for their users, who now favour reading on their phones. Advertisers have thus shifted their ad budgets online from newspapers. This is the new reality and newspapers cannot survive in such an environment.
Therefore, as reading habits have changed and people now get most of their information and news online, newspapers have lost most of their readers and their revenue, and will not remain relevant for most people.
2 Perspectives and Opinion Essays
2 Perspectives and opinion sample response
Example prompt: Some people think that children should be encouraged to be competitive. Others believe that children should be taught to be cooperative. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion. Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience. Write at least 250 words.
- Easiest way to structure this essay type: the first body paragraph summarizes the side you DISAGREE with; the second body paragraph summarizes the side you AGREE with.
- Note how both body paragraphs below follow TREES structure exactly: topic sentence, reason, evidence, example, significance. The first body paragraph includes evidence with an extended explanation; the second body paragraph includes an extended personal example.
There is much debate about the skills that children need to be taught as they grow. Some argue that learning to be competitive will benefit children in many ways, while others argue that encouraging children to be cooperative is far more advantageous, and I agree with the latter position.
Clearly, being competitive is a key part of success in the world today. Children that are brought up in competitive atmospheres tend to strive more to do their best, whether the pressure comes from their parents, siblings, teachers, or peers. Therefore, when they lose, they learn what they need to do in order to try and win the next time and this is a key skill. The New York Times published an article recently showing that six out of the ten CEOs of the largest companies in the US had gone to high achieving, competitive schools as well as all stating that competition with their siblings was a huge factor in their childhood. This shows that being encouraged to be competitive does lead to professional success for some.
On the other hand, learning to be cooperative is a life skill that benefits children far more throughout their lives. Cooperative children have far more positive social interactions and are able to make and, more importantly, keep their friends. When I was at primary school, there was a boy called Costa that wanted to win everything at all costs. He wouldn’t work with anyone and thought he was better than everyone else. This lack of cooperation and over-competitiveness meant that he had no friends throughout primary school. When I met him in the street by chance 30 years later, he commented that he had found primary school very difficult due to not having any friends. If he had been taught to be cooperative, then maybe he would have had a happier time at school.
To conclude, although both skills are important in life, learning to cooperate will benefit children far more and lead to a much happier school life.
Advantages and Disadvantages Essays (3 Types)
There are 3 versions of advantages/disadvantages prompts:
- The first type is "Do the advantages of X outweigh the disadvantages?" This type is quite similar to the "agree/disagree" essay type. You ONLY need to argue in favour of ONE side. It's enough to acknowledge the side you disagree with.
- The second type is "Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of X." In this prompt, notice that you are not being asked for your opinion. If you give an opinion, it's considered off-topic and you will lose marks.
- The third type is "Discuss the advantages and disadvantages, and give your opinion." In this case, you need to talk about both sides and simple state which one you agree with. You do not need three body paragraphs for this - two are enough.
Advantages/disadvantages sample response
Example prompt: Many people spend long hours at work but this leaves little time for leisure activities. Does this situation have more advantages or more disadvantages? Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience. Write at least 250 words.
- The is the first type of advantages/disadvantages prompt. You only need to argue in favour of ONE side.
- Note how both body paragraphs below follow TREES structure exactly: topic sentence, reason, evidence, example, significance. The first body paragraph includes an extended personal example; the second body paragraph includes evidence with an extended explanation.
Nowadays, working hours are getting longer and longer and this has meant that people have less time to engage in leisure activities, which, in my opinion, has a number of disadvantages.
Firstly, as people are working longer and spending more time in front of a screen, they are spending less time moving around, going for a walk, or doing sports. This has led to more and more people putting on weight as they live a more sedentary lifestyle. My cousin is a prime example of this. He works in IT and often works 10 hours a day and on weekends too. Before entering the IT market, he was a keen squash player and would often meet friends to play two or three times a week. However, as he now works such long hours sitting at a computer, he doesn’t have time to play anymore. This has led to him putting on an unhealthy amount of weight and losing contact with some of his friends.
Furthermore, leisure activities are a great way for people to release stress that builds up due to the pressures of work, and without them, we tend to pursue more unhealthy habits. The Guardian newspaper in the UK recently published an article showing how stress at work due to working longer hours was a key government concern in terms of public health. As more and more people were not able to do what they enjoyed, whether it was painting, yoga, or tennis, they found that, for the first time in over 10 years, the number of people taking up smoking and binge drinking was on the rise. As people had no time to do a hobby or something with friends, people were looking for more destructive ways to release the stress of longer hours at work.
Although it feels like we have more options in terms of activities we can do these days, working long hours has taken away many people’s chances of taking up or continuing an activity, and the drawbacks of this far outweigh the benefits.
Causes and Solutions Essays
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Double Question Essays
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Where to Find More Good IELTS writing samples
Where to get access to our full collection of 40 Task #1 and 60 Task #2 model responses written by ex-IELTS examiners:
Models like these are one of the best ways to prepare for IELTS. 40 Writing Task #1 General and over 60 Writing Task #2 models, all written by native speaker ex-examiners, are now included in the IELTS course.
IELTS Writing Task 2 Tips
How to edit your own writing
Research shows that grammar is largely auditory. Your ears play a very important role! It’s just like listening to an instrument that you don’t know how to play: if the musician hits the wrong note, it just SOUNDS awkward even though you may not know why. In the same way, when you read your work out loud, if ANYTHING sounds awkward, change it to a simpler construction that SOUNDS good. Trust your ears!
If any grammatical construction sounds awkward, use a simpler verb tense.
If any vocabulary sounds awkward, describe your idea using simple words.
When editing, look for different issues separately
The brain is not good at finding problems unless you give it specific instructions. This is why doctors, even though they are super smart, have checklists to make sure they didn't forget any tools inside the patient after surgery. There are just too many things to think about so sometimes we need a small checklist to remind us what to look for.
For that reason, for example, if you often have punctuation issues, you need to go through your writing specifically looking for punctuation problems. As mentioned previously, read your work out loud and where you find yourself pausing (to take a breath between ideas), you need punctuation.
Once you’ve gone through your writing looking for that first problem, go through your writing again looking for the next problem. Then read it out loud for a third time looking for a 3rd issue your writing typically has.
This process is slow initially, but once you start looking for these specific problems on a regular basis, you’re training your brain to automatically look for those problems. Your brain will get faster and more accurate at identifying those problems, and pretty soon you're not going to have them. Then you can move on to the next problem.
Take it step-by-step and look for a couple things at a time rather than looking for 10 different problems at once, which is overwhelming and doesn’t work.
Top 10 Grammar Structures for IELTS Essays
A Band 7 on Grammatical Range and Accuracy requires "a variety of complex sentences." A Band 8 on Grammatical Range and Accuracy requires "a wide range of structures."
There are 10 grammar structures you MUST know to get a Band 7+ on IELTS Writing Task 1 General. Examiners are on the lookout for these. These structures are COMMONLY used in English and are often appropriate for all written and oral parts of the IELTS exam. Band 7 means your English is at an advanced level. At this level, these structures are necessary to express yourself precisely and fluently:
- Passive voice
- Unreal conditional
- Subordinate clauses
- Relative clauses
- Semi-colon sentences
- Colon sentences
- Participial phrases - active voice
- Participial phrases - passive voice
- Noun clauses in subjunctive mood for orders and suggestions
IELTS Writing Grammar Tip - Best Sentence Length for Band 7 Level Grammar
Many students write very long sentences because they believe this will impress the examiner. This certainly will impress the examiner, but ONLY if your long sentences are grammatically flawless. However, the Band 7 criteria very clearly state “produces frequent error-free sentences.” Even a SINGLE MISTAKE in a long sentence means that the entire sentence is no longer error-free.
For example, one student recently wrote Task #1 Academic in four sentences (his sentences had 45 words on average)! He was very lucky as 2 sentences were flawless; therefore, half his sentences were error-free so he received a Band 7 rating on grammar.
However, even among professional writers, this is not a normal way to write. While two of these monster sentences were technically flawless, they had so many clauses in them that I had to reread his work several times to make sure I understood it correctly. In other words, these long sentences were not at all reader friendly. Don’t take chances like this! I strongly recommend limiting sentences to three clauses. You don’t need anything longer for Band 7 performance.
In short, your #1 goal as a writer is to be clear, and long sentences do not help with clarity. In general, you can limit sentence length to 3 clauses.
As another example, Dr. Bruno had taken IELTS repeatedly and failed to get at least Band 7 on writing, which he needed to work as a doctor in Canada. After training with Toronto IELTS Prep, Dr. Bruno simplified his approach to writing and finally got the Band 7 he needed:
I appreciate all your corrections and tips. It made a huge difference to notice that [not enough] “error-free” sentences were pushing my score down. I tried to control those errors during my last test, and it seems everything went well!”
“I just wrote the texts in a simple way instead of using complex structures to give a good impression. I also paid more attention to subject/verb and tenses, avoiding those basic single/plural errors. I didn’t have time to read and correct my texts at the end (like always), but I believe that I controlled my errors during the writing process.
Dr. Bruno E.
1. Passive voice
Passive voice is useful when the subject is too obvious:
Baby English: The bakers bake the bread at 5 AM daily.
- This is baby English. Only bakers bake bread so it’s unnecessary to write “bakers bake the bread.”
Better: The bread is baked at 5 AM daily.
- In this case, passive voice is better. The focus of the sentence is now on when the bread is baked. We don’t need to be reminded that bakers bake the bread (instead of police officers or firefighters!).
2. Unreal conditional
Unreal conditional is commonly used to give advice:
- If the government were to fund additional training for the unemployed, this would help reduce the unemployment rate.
3. Subordinate clauses
Using a subordinate clause is the most common way to make a complex sentence.
If the subordinate clause comes BEFORE the independent clause, ALWAYS place a comma AFTER the subordinate clause.
If the subordinate clause comes AFTER a short independent clause, do not use a comma. If the subordinate clause comes after a long independent clause, it’s your choice whether or not to use a comma between them. Use your ears to make this decision: read the sentence out loud and if you find that you need to pause between the two clauses, then you should probably use a comma.
Subordinate clause 1st: Because it’s nice outside, we went to the park.
Subordinate clause 2nd: We went to the park because it’s nice outside.
IELTS Writing Grammar Tip - Use a Subordinate Clause in the Middle of a Sentence
It's easy to add a subordinate clause at the beginning or end of a sentence:
- While he was camping, my friend encountered a bear.
- My friend encountered a bear while he was camping.
It's less common to use a subordinate clause in the middle of a sentence. This is considered ADVANCED usage:
- My friend, while he was camping, encountered a bear.
4. Relative clauses
The second most common way to make a complex sentence is to use a relative clause.
Relative clauses are also called adjective clauses because they describe a noun/noun phrase (person, place, thing, or idea). They provide details just like adjectives do, but they come after the noun instead of before it. Relative clauses generally begin with who, that, or which.
- My friend Jim, who lives in Montreal, is visiting next week.
- The X501, which we ordered last week, has finally arrived.
Relative clauses also provide important information about the entire preceding clause:
- He was late getting to the airport, which means he missed his flight.
Relative clauses follow 2 punctuation patterns.
1. Use commas around the relative clause if it’s an extra detail:
- Jim, who lives in Montréal, is visiting next weekend.
- The X501, which we ordered last week, has finally arrived.
These are called "non-defining relative clauses" because the audience knows who you’re talking about ("Jim") or what you're talking about ("the X501") without the relative clause, so the information about where Jim lives or when the part was ordered is an extra detail. If we remove the relative clause from the sentence, we still know who/what you’re talking about:
- Jim is visiting next weekend.
- The X501 has finally arrived.
IELTS Writing Grammar Tip - Read Aloud to Hear the Commas
You can hear these commas! When you read your work out loud, you will find yourself pausing naturally on both sides of these kinds of relative clauses. Use your ears to help with grammar!
2. Don’t use commas if we need the relative clause to understand what the noun refers to:
- My friend who lives in Montréal is visiting next weekend.
- The part that we ordered last week has finally arrived.
These are called "defining relative clauses" because you need the information in the relative clause to understand which noun the speaker is referring to. The audience doesn’t know who you're talking about ("my friend") or what you're talking about ("the part") without this information in the relative clause. It’s NOT just an extra detail like in the previous example about Jim.
- My friend is visiting next weekend. Which friend?
- The part has finally arrived. Which part?
IELTS Writing Grammar Tip - No Pause, No Comma
In these examples, when you read your work out loud, you will NOT pause on both sides of the relative clause. Use your ears to help with grammar!
Which vs that
In a defining relative clause, you can use either “which” or “that”:
- The part which/that we ordered last week has finally arrived.
In a non-defining relative clause, DO NOT use "that":
- The X501, which/that we ordered last week, has finally arrived.
5. Semi-colon sentences
Another way to join simple sentences is to use a semi-colon + conjunctive adverb combination. Just remember that both sides of the semi-colon MUST be independent clauses (i.e., stand-alone sentences).
- I would love to stay at the 5-star hotel; however, it’s too expensive.
6. Participial phrases - active voice
Participial phrases are a common construction that you can think of as a compressed version of a subordinate or relative clause.
Subordinate clause > participial phrase:
- Subordinate clause: While we were walking through the woods, we saw several deer.
- Participial phrase: Walking through the woods, we saw several deer.
Relative clause > participial phrase:
- Relative clause: We saw several deer that were walking through the woods.
- Participial phrase: We saw several deer walking through the woods.
- Considering the amount of money this item cost, we expected it to arrive in better condition.
7. Participial phrases - passive voice
Participial phrases also come in passive voice:
- Given the current situation, it's probably best to stay home.
- Based on your personality, I'd say going to work makes more sense than going to school.
8. Colon sentences
Use a colon for lists or instructions:
- You should definitely bring these items on your trip: bug spray, bear spray, and a flare gun.
- The recipe will turn out better if you do things the other way around: first mix the wet ingredients and then add the dry ingredients.
In many cases, it's not necessary to use a relative clause for important details, in particular when the detail is another name for that noun. Instead, use an appositive:
- I'm quite familiar with this machine as I used it at another company, Magna Automotive, to assemble car seats.
- I'll be taking a course, Fundamentals of Accounting, in the fall.
In these cases, the appositive is another name for the noun:
- another company = Magna Automotive
- a course = Fundamentals of Accounting
10. Noun clauses in subjunctive mood for orders and suggestions
For orders and suggestions, English grammar gets a bit weird. You have to use noun clauses in subjunctive mood in these cases:
NOTE: In noun clauses in subjunctive mood, DO NOT add "S" to 3rd person singular verbs as you normally do. In fact, DO NOT conjugate the verb in the noun clause at all. ONLY the verb following the main subject is conjugated.
- The government funds this initiative in order to prevent further problems from occurring.
Subjunctive mood for suggestions - note the the verb in the noun clause IS NOT CONJUGATED regardless of the time information in the first part of the sentence:
- PRESENT SIMPLE: It's essential that the government fund this initiative in order to prevent further problems from occurring.
- PAST SIMPLE: The committee suggested that the government fund this initiative.
- FUTURE: The panel will likely recommend that the government fund this initiative.
Subjunctive mood in passive voice:
- It's critical that the new community centre be built in a central location accessible to the majority of its members.
- It's important to the community that the park not be developed into highrises.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Should I use a lot of high level vocabulary on IELTS?
Yes, but "high level vocabulary" doesn't mean what you think it means. "High level vocabulary" refers to less frequently used vocabulary - it is not related to how big a word is.
- Calling something "inexpensive" is considered basic vocabulary (Level B1 if you are familiar with CEFR)
- Calling something "cheap" is considered advanced vocabulary (Level C1 on CEFR).
In general, trying to use big words is a terrible strategy on IELTS and in real life. Your #1 goal as a writer is clarity; your goal should NOT be to impress the reader with your vocabulary knowledge. Professional writers will always tell you to use the simplest, most direct words to communicate an idea.
IELTS assesses your vocabulary on whether it is accurate and precise. The examiner does not have a list of words they are looking for.
What should the level of formality be for Writing Task 2?
How do I get my IELTS writing checked online?
In my humble opinion, the best IELTS writing program is the Toronto IELTS Prep online writing program. It starts with a diagnostic assessment and 1 hour consultation & training session to make sure you understand why you're not getting Band 7+, and EXACTLY what you need to do to get Band 7+ on writing.
For many people, this one-hour consultation is enough to help them get the Band score they need. This often happens because they simply misunderstand what IELTS wants to see. The consultation clarifies exactly what IELTS is looking for.
This is not a writing correction service! WRITING CORRECTION SERVICES DO NOT WORK for the same reason that a swimming coach simply showing you how she swims is not going to help you learn how to swim. If a swimming coach shows you how to improve your swimming technique, she is then supposed to check whether YOU know how to apply the new technique.
In the same way, when you practice writing with Toronto IELTS Prep, your work is checked twice:
- When you first submit your writing, you get a Band score and detailed, descriptive feedback. This is colour-coded by problem type so we can see where you are losing the most marks, and thus what you need to focus on. You also receive links to mini follow-up lessons in our grammar and sentence structure lesson bank.
- You then revise your work based on the feedback and re-submit it.
- Your writing is re-checked to see if you understand how to correct the areas you are having trouble with. At this stage, your work is corrected and additional explanations for changes are provided.