How to Write Effective Body Paragraphs

IELTSfocus writingGuide to writing good paragraphs in IELTS task 2 writing.

Body paragraphs are obviously very important and this is where you will gain most of your points in the marking. In this lesson I want to look at what is needed to write a good body paragraph. Each essay type has its own structure but they have similar paragraph rules. One particular essay type ‘ Discuss both views and give your own opinion’ can also use 3 main body paragraphs to discuss the views and one to give your opinion. In an IELTS essay there should be no more than 5 paragraphs in total, that means no more than 3 main body paragraphs… Download the free eBook below for some ideas on structures.

What kind of structure should be used?

It is important not to get too obsessed by structures as there are many ways to structure an essay, however,  make sure you use clear paragraphs, there should be no more than 5 paragraphs in an IELTS essay. Below is a free PDF with some guidelines and suggestions on structures to use.

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The main body paragraphs follow similar structures for most essays. Each main body paragraph should have the structure as below here:

  • Topic Sentence

  • Supporting Sentences

  • Specific example

  • State your opinion  (only if the question asks for an opinion)

Key point: The ideas you put forward and the opinion you give in the body paragraphs must reflect what you wrote in your thesis statement from the introduction. Don’t just repeat the thesis statement, expand on it and explain giving specific examples.

 

How are IELTS essays marked?

The essay is marked according to 4 criteria, Lexical resource (vocabulary), Grammatical range and accuracy, Coherence and Cohesion and Task Response. Lets take a look at the criteria below for Task Response.

  • Band 5:  ‘expresses a position but the development isn’t always clear’ This means that there is a topic sentence but there are either very few, or no relevant details to back up your topic sentence. It also states: ‘presents main ideas but these are limited and not fully developed there might be irrelevant detail’, this shows that this type of essay either lacks detail or supporting ideas are not connected to the points being made…also an opinion may not be given in the main body.
  • Band 7:  ‘presents a clear position throughout the response’  This means you have stated your topic sentence, supported it with detail and stayed on topic without contradicting yourself. It also states: ‘presents, extends and supports main ideas….. supporting ideas may lack focus’ So we can see that a Band 7 essay has good supporting sentences overall but in some cases they could be unfocused, the examples given could also be very general.
  • Band 8:  ‘relevant , extended and supported ideas’ So a strong topic sentence, well supported relevant points, clear and focused specific example.

Overall, to get a good score, the main body paragraphs must have a topic sentence and just one central theme for each paragraph, don’t list different ideas or go off topic, you only need one central idea per paragraph then support it, give a specific example and state why you agree or disagree (if the task asks for your opinion)

 

Important point about giving examples

IELTS essays are different from academic essays that you may have to write in University. In an academic essay in University you have to give citations, references and accurate data and it may be a few pages long. In an IELTS essay you are not expected to do this and you do not have time either, anyway the IELTS examiner is not marking your general knowledge or citations. They are testing your English ability, therefore you can just make up a recent study or a statistic.

When giving an example you should be specific, you can quote statistics , but you don’t have to.

Which of these is better?

  1. ‘ a recent study showed that 37% of parents prefer home schooling..’
  2. ‘ a recent study showed that 98% of parents prefer home schooling..’

This second one does not sound believable, so be careful here when stating studies and statistics, they must sound beleivable. By the way, the examiner will not check your statistics so you can just make them up.

Another good way to do this is without percentages, such as:

‘ a government report showed that an increasing number of parents now prefer home schooling..’

Key Point: You do not have to quote statistics in your examples, you will not get a higher band score either for this. They are just to help back up your supporting points and add weight to your argument.

You can also give either your own personal examples or of people that you know, these do not have to be true as long as you can give a specific example. Another way to give a good example is to quote a recent newspaper report or a study form a journal. Again, these do not have to be accurate and you can make them up because the whole point here is to demonstrate your ability with English to extend main ideas and present examples.

Remember that you do not have to be an expert on the topic. IELTS is not a general knowledge test. The examiner will not check your statistics on Google so don’t worry.

 

Which paragraph do you think is better?

Here are example body paragraphs from a problem solution essay, the task question is below:

‘All over the world, societies are facing a growing problem with obesity. This problem affects both children and adults. What are the reasons for this rise in obesity, How could it be tackled?’

Note: this is a problem solution essay , not all essays will follow this structure.

Example 1:
One of the reasons people are becoming obese these days is that they eat junk food like hamburgers and chips. The solution is for the government to raise tax on fast food. I think that this is necessary to stop obesity. Also people eat big portions and do not do much exercise.

Example 2:
One of the reasons that people are becoming overweight these days is that they are eating more junk food, ready meals and convenience food rather than cooking healthy meals at home. This is because many people tend to lead a busy life and after a long day at work it is easier to just buy ready meals in the supermarket or get a take away. For instance, In the UK, sales of these types of foods have risen sharply since 1990, one reason is because busy people see cooking at home as time consuming. To tackle this issue the government should take steps to increase tax on high fat, high sugar or unhealthy foods. Therefore consumers would think twice about the foods they consume, which could lead to them losing weight.

It is obvious that example 2 is a much better paragraph because it follows the structure below:

Topic sentence: One of the reasons that people are becoming overweight these days is that they are eating more junk food ready meals and convenience food rather than cooking healthy meals at home.

Supporting sentence: This is because many people tend to lead a busy life and after a long day at work it is easier to just buy ready meals in the supermarket or get a take away.

Specific example: For instance, In the UK, sales of these types of foods have risen sharply since 1990, one reason is because busy people see cooking at home as time consuming.

Possible solution: To tackle this issue the government should take steps to increase tax on high fat, high sugar or unhealthy foods.

Result: Therefore consumers would think twice about the foods they consume, which could lead to them losing weight.

Key point:  In the Example 1 paragraph above, there was more than one central topic, it also states ‘…people do not do much exercise’ the main topic sentence was about eating junk food, not exercise…so this should be avoided.  example paragraph 2 is much better

Lets try another one

This is a discussion essay where you have to give an opinion.

‘Some people believe that school children should not be given homework by their teachers, whereas other argue that homework plays an important role in the education of children. Discuss both views and give your own opinion.’

Example 1:
On the one hand, some people hold the view that too many home assignments is not beneficial and becomes a burden to school children. This is because pupils spend their whole day studying at school and they feel tired after returning home, then they have the added stress of finishing their homework. To illustrate this, in Japan the majority of youngsters are under pressure to complete lots of homework. If they fail to finish their home assignments they will not get into a good high school. I think that pupils ought to be given home assignments but should not be put under this kind of pressure.

Example 2:

If teachers give out too many homework assignments it becomes a burden to the school children. Young children spend their whole day studying at school which makes them feel tired after returning home. Also they have pressure to pass exams and get into a good university after they finish school. Many students have to do well and think of a good career, and also they might have the responsibility of sports clubs after school. Lots of children prefer to come home and play in the park but they are stressed. They also lose interest in their hobbies or friends. As far as I’m concerned they should relax when they come home.

What do you think is the best paragraph above for a high band essay?

Example 1 is a better paragraph. Example 2 has too many ideas, like a list and it is starting to go off topic with entering university, a good career, loss of interest in hobbies, after school clubs. Just too many ideas in one paragraph. It has to stick to the central theme of ‘too many homework assignments’ as in Example 1 above.

Another point about Example 2 is that it contains the phrase ‘As far as I’m concerned’ This is too informal for an IELTS essay so it is not advised to use that.

Analysis of Example 1:

Topic sentenceSupporting sentence Example – Opinion

On the one hand, some people hold the view that too many home assignments is not beneficial and becomes a burden to school children. This is because pupils spend their whole day studying at school and they feel tired after returning home, then they have the added stress of finishing their homework. To illustrate this, in Japan, the majority of youngsters are under pressure to complete lots of homework. If they fail to finish their home assignments they will not get into a good high school. I think that pupils ought to be given home assignments but should not be put under this kind of pressure.

 

Explaining and giving examples

When giving an example or explaining something we need to use some of the following sentences below:

  • Explaining

    One reason for this is……
    This is due to….
    This is because…
    This is down to the fact that… (slightly informal)
    That is to say….

 

  • Giving examples

    For instance…
    For example…
    To illustrate this…

 

  • Showing results

    As a result of this…
    Consequently….
    Therefore…
    Due to this…

 

  • Proposing solutions (problem solution essay)

    One possible solution could be….
    The answer is for….
    The government should….
    The government needs to…..
    One idea to solve the issue could be to…..
    To tackle this issue….
    An effective way to resolve this issue would be to…

 

Example: ‘……This is because many people tend to lead a busy life and after a long day at work it is easier to just buy ready meals in the supermarket or get a take away. For instance, In the UK, sales of these types of foods have risen sharply since 1990, one reason is because busy people see cooking at home as time consuming.To tackle this issue the government should take steps to increase tax on high fat, high sugar or unhealthy foods……’

You can try now

Here is a task question, write 2 main body paragraphs with a topic sentence, supporting sentence, specific example and your opinion (no need for an introduction or conclusion, just practice main body paragraphs only)

‘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.’

Write your answer in the comments section below.

Any questions on IELTS? type them in the comments below and I will answer them


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