Identifying the 5 types of IELTS essays

ieltslettersGet familiar with the different types of IELTS essays.

Updated: August 25th 2023

Among IELTS teachers there are often considered to be five patterns or five types of IELTS essays. In this post, we will look at how to spot them.

Before you begin writing your essay the first thing you must do is analyse the task by looking at the instruction words. I have underlined the instruction words in the tasks below, these indicate what type of question it is.

Analysing the task question is a crucial step because if you do not take the time to do this, or if you are unclear about anything, you could write a completely different essay. See more here.

The 5 types of IELTS essays

1. Advantages and disadvantages essay
2. Opinion essays (sometimes called an argument essay)
3. Discussion essay
4. Two-part question essay (sometimes called a direct question essay)
5. Problem solution essay / causes solution essay

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Take a look at these question types for IELTS essays, can you guess what type of essays they are?

I have underlined the ‘instruction words’, these tell you what kind of essay it is and what to write about.

1. Today, the high sales of popular consumer goods reflect the power of advertising and not the real needs of the society in which they are sold. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Opinion essay: In this question, it asks to what extent do you agree or disagree? this means ” how much do you agree or disagree? ”  In other words: do you completely agree? completely disagree? partly agree? neither agree nor disagree. The thesis statement you write should state 2 reasons for your opinion. Each main body paragraph ten covers each reason with an example to support your view.

The essay should have 2 main body paragraphs with your opinion in the introduction, main body, and the conclusion.

2. Successful sports professionals can earn a great deal more money than people in other important professions. Some people think this is fully justified while others think it is unfair. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

Discussion and opinion essay: Here you need to discuss both points of view in the question and give your own opinion. So you need 2 body paragraphs covering each point of view and examples with details and your opinion. You could also have a third body paragraph with your own specific opinion if you prefer.  Your opinion should also be in the introduction as well as each body paragraph and the conclusion.

3. As most people spend a major part of their adult life at work, job satisfaction is an important element of individual well-being. What factors contribute to job satisfaction? How realistic is the expectation of job satisfaction for all workers?

Two-part or double question essay: In main body one you should write about the factors that make up job satisfaction. In main body two, it is asking your opinion, so you would write your opinion about whether, realistically, everyone can expect to be happy in their jobs. In my view, this is not realistic so I would state that as my opinion and explain why I hold that view.

4. Some people think that universities should provide graduates with the knowledge and skills needed in the workplace. Others think that the true function of a university should be to give access to knowledge for its own sake. In your opinion what should be the main function of a university?

Opinion Essay: It looks like a discussion essay as there are 2 views being presented; however, if you check the instruction words it does not ask you to ‘Discuss both sides’ 

First of all, paraphrase the task question then include your opinion in the thesis statement. There should be 2 main body paragraphs and each main body states your opinion with reasons for your opinion and an example.

5. In some countries, the average weight of people is increasing and their levels of health and fitness are decreasing. What are the causes of these problems and what measures could be taken to solve them?

Problem Solution Essay: You need to state the causes of the problem in the first main body paragraph and possible solutions in the second main body paragraph. Also, note that you do not have to give a direct personal opinion here, it is asking for a possible way the issue can be solved.

6. Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin learning a foreign language at primary school rather than secondary school. Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?

Advantages disadvantages essay:  The keyword here is ‘outweigh’ it means ‘are the advantages stronger than the disadvantages?’. Body paragraph 1 should focus on one or two advantages and body paragraph 2 should focus one or two disadvantages with explanations and examples.

This is a special type of ‘Advantage Disadvantage’ essay, it actually asks for your opinion here. You must write what you think is stronger, the advantage or disadvantage?. The whole essay will reflect your opinion.

7. Some people think a crime should always have a fixed punishment like life for murder, while others believe you should take the circumstances of the crime into account. Discuss both views.

Discussion essay. The instruction words say: “Some people think… while others believe”.. and also “Discuss both views”…These are the keywords that show it is a discussion essay.

Some people believe ….while others think…
Many people say…… whereas others think…..
Some say …….whereas others argue….

You will need to state the public/ general opinion and give examples and detail in this type of essay. Did you notice that the question does not ask for your opinion? Usually, discussion essays ask for your opinion so this type of task is quite rare.. click here for a lesson on language for discussion essays.

8. In recent times, more people prefer to communicate via messaging apps and email instead of face-to-face. Why do you think this is? When is face to face to face communication necessary?

Two-part or double question essay: This question is asking for a direct opinion because the words ‘Do you think..’ indicates that it wants your own opinion. You need to answer the first question in body paragraph 1, explain the issue and give an example. Then answer the second question in body paragraph 2, explain and give an example.  The conclusion is just a summary of your key points with your opinion again.

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