When Should I Write My Opinion?

IELTS Essays: Knowing when to write an opinion

There is some confusion among IELTS students about when you have to give an opinion in an essay and when not to give an opinion.

If you are asked for an opinion and you don’t write it you could lose a band score, so it is a very important to understand when an opinion needs to be written.



First of all you need to analyse the question carefully, see a lesson here on this. You must then recognise the ‘call to action words’ or the ‘instruction words’ as they are sometimes called. This tells you exactly what kind of essay it will be and if it requires an opinion. Here is an example of call to action words: “To what extent do you agree or disagree?”

Key Point: If the task question asks for an opinion you must state it in the introduction, main body and conclusion, just writing it in the conclusion is not enough, you may lose marks if your opinion is not throughout the whole essay and supported.

 

You must not give an opinion in the following

  • ‘Discuss both views’
  • ‘What are the causes and what are some possible solutions’
  • ‘What are the reasons for this and how can it be tackled?’
  • ‘What are the advantages and disadvantages of this trend?’

In these questions you need to outline both views, or suggest solutions to problems or state advantages and outline disadvantages.

Two part questions or direct question essays usually do not ask for a direct opinion, (but be careful as some do ) so you just need to answer the two questions with examples. here is an example of a two part question where the first question does not require a direct opinion but the second question asks for your opinion.

  • What factors contribute to job satisfaction? How realistic is the expectation of job satisfaction for all workers?

In this question you need to outline factors and state if this is realistic or not, basically you are just answering the first question directly and the second question with your opinion.

Here is a Two Part question that does ask for an opinion:

  • Most people agree that money cannot buy happiness. Why is happiness difficult to define? How can people achieve happiness?

If the task is asking you ‘ Why’ or ‘How’ then state your opinion.


Problem Solution essays usually ask for examples or reasons for the problem and to suggest some possible solutions, so they are not asking your direct opinion.

You must give an opinion if you see the following words in the instruction words.

  • ‘…..do you think…?’
  • ‘ ….in your opinion…?’
  • ‘ ….in your view..?
  • ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree?’
  • ‘Give your opinion’
  • ‘Discuss both views and give your own opinion’
  • ‘Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?’ (outweigh is a key word here, this essay asks for your opinion)
  • ‘Has this development brought more advantages or disadvantages?’
  • ‘Is this a positive development?’
  • ‘How ….’ or ‘Why…’ questions. (eg: How realistic is the expectation of job satisfaction for all workers?)

Notice how some questions use the word you or your, it is clear that an opinion is asked for here.

Have a look at these 2 examples below, the first one asks for an opinion and the second one clearly asks for my direct opinion.


1. Advantages Disadvantages essay

There are many jobs at home which used to be done by hand but are now done by machines. Has this development brought more advantages or disadvantages?


Introduction of the essay
: (paraphrased with thesis statement)

Many years ago, domestic chores that were once done manually are now carried out by machines. I think this development has more advantages than downsides. First, because people do not have time to do housework. Secondly because machines are more efficient at doing household tasks than by hand.


You can see here that I have given an opinion in the thesis statement in green, because the question asks ‘Has this development…?’ .  It is not using the word ‘you’, or ‘in your opinion…’ but it still asks for an opinion, so this is a little bit tricky, in fact it is very similar to an ‘outweigh’ question where both the advantages and disadvantages must be explained and I have to clearly state my view.

2. Discussion essay

Some people think that the best way to reduce crime is to give longer prison sentences. Others, however, believe there are better alternative ways of reducing crime. Discuss both views and give your opinion.


Introduction of the essay
: (paraphrased with thesis statement)

There are some who believe that the most effective way to bring crime rates down are longer jail time for criminals. Other people, on the other hand, feel that there are better ways to decrease crime. I think that longer prison terms are not practical because even if sentences are prolonged, crime rates will not decrease.

Here I have given a direct opinion in the thesis statement in green using ‘ I think..’ So I need to write about what some people think in main body one and what other people think in main body two. I must also state my opinion with the side I agree with. If I have a specific opinion, I could write about that in the 3rd body paragraph. I prefer the 2 main body paragraph approach though.

3. Two part question essay

Most people agree that money cannot buy happiness. Why is happiness difficult to define? How can people achieve happiness?


Introduction of the essay
: (paraphrased with thesis statement)

Many people agree with the idea that happiness cannot be bought. Happiness is difficult to define because everyone has a different concept of it. I think people can become happier by changing their mindset, spending time in nature and working on themselves more.

Here I gave a direct opinion for the second ‘How’ question but I could also state a direct opinion for the first ‘why’ question too if I restructured the sentences.

3. Special advantage disadvantage essay

Here are two questions that are the same, but which one do you think is asking for an opinion?

1. More and more students are choosing to study at colleges and universities in foreign countries.
Do the advantages of studying abroad outweigh the disadvantages?

2. More and more students are choosing to study at colleges and universities in foreign countries.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of this trend?

The answer is number 1. The key word is outweigh, so the essay needs to reflect your opinion and which side is stronger. You need to also state the weaker argument but back up your opinion throughout the essay. Number 2 is just stating the advantages and disadvantages without your opinion.

 

Remember: if the question asks you or your then it is asking clearly for your opinion.


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