IELTS Writing – Main Types of Essay

On Task 2 of the IELTS Writing you will have to write a 250-word essay.
It is the most important part of the writing component.
Rather unsurprisingly, many students find this task particularly challenging.
Form my experience many problems related to Task 2 could be easily solved if students learnt to recognise different types of essay questions.
In order to answer the question, students need to first understand what the question is about.
Simple? Not really.
Too often students with very good language skills receive lower scores on the essay because they didn’t answer the the question(s) fully.
For example, the question might ask to provide a discussion together with a personal opinion on the topic.
However, the answer addresses only the first part of the question i.e. discussion.
Remember! Before you answer the question, always read it carefully.
Analyse the question. Underline the key words in the questions. Identify what you are actually asked about.
Are you asked about your own opinion?
Are you supposed to discuss the topic?
Should you both discuss the topic and express your opinion?
You have to be clear about it before you start outlining your answer.
If you want to score high, you must answer all parts of the question.
IELTS Writing might confront you with several types of essays.
Generally students need to write:
  • opinion/point of view essay
  • discussion essay
  • essay with opposing views
  • problem-solution essay
  • mixed type of essay

How can you recognise which type of essay you are supposed to write?
Again, look at the question and read it carefully.
Does the question involve phrases such as ‘to what extent do you agree’, ‘what is your opinion’.
It is clearly an opinion essay.
Are you asked ‘what are the main causes of’  and ‘what solutions can you suggest’.
It looks like a problem-solution essay which is likely to answer a question related to important social issues. 

Many essay fall into a mixed category e.g. you will have discuss the issue and express your opinion.
It is not really problematic as long as you are aware of what you are expected to do.
Once you can identify different types of essays, you should learn the most appropriate structure for a particular type.
Most of IELTS essays have similar underlying structure i.e.  introduction with a paraphrased question, body with supporting paragraph one and supporting paragraph two,  conclusion. However, there are also significant differences. Depending on  the type of essay, you might have to include into introduction either a thesis or a challenge. You might have to include in paragraphs supporting and/or refuting evidence, contributing factors etc.
You can find online writing templates for each type of the essay.
If you were interested in more detailed information on the templates, please let me know and I will post skeleton structures for the most common types of essays.