Two easily confused essays (problem / causes solutions essay)

What is the difference between a Causes Solutions and a Problem Solutions essay?

Problem solutions and causes solutions essay are very similar but there is a subtle difference,  one type asks about the problems and the other type asks about the causes.

It is very important to spend a couple of minutes analaysing the task question so that you know what to write about in the essay. I have seen many good essays lose marks in Task Response because the writer did not find the issues in the task question, or did not fully understand what to write about.

In both types of essay you have to mention the problem, but in a causes solution essay you are mainly focused on the cause of the problem and that is what you will write about, and of course the possible solutions.

 

What are the differences between these two essay questions below?

Analysing the question

The first essay is asking in the instructions words: What problems does this cause? The word ‘this’ refers to the issue of ‘professionals leaving their own poorer countries to work in developed countries’ 

So you have to write about: the problems that happen as a result of these professional people (doctors, teachers, etc) leaving their own developing countries. You then have to write about: possible solutions to this issue of these professional people wanting to leave their own countries.

In the second essay, the instruction words ask: What are the causes of this problem? . The word ‘this’ again refers to the issue of ’professionals leaving their own poorer countries to work in developed countries’ so it’s the same issue as in essay 1. 

However, you have to write about why this problem is happening in the first place. In the essay, you do not need to focus on what happens when these professionals leave their countries, instead you will write about what is causing this issue to happen. The solutions paragraph will be the same as the first essay, addressing ways to solve the cause of the problem.

Of course, you can mention the result of people leaving their own countries and the problems it will cause, but remember that this essay is asking you what are the causes of the problem.

This is the reason why I advise taking a couple of minutes to really be sure you understand what the task question is asking you to write about. The second essay task would be considered a ’causes solutions’ essay.

Other instruction words to indicate a causes solutions essay:

  • What are the reasons for this happening?
  • Why is this happening?
  • What is the cause of this issue?

IELTS likes to paraphrase the instruction words in essay tasks, so you may see the above instruction words in this kind of essay, they are all asking about the causes.


Task Response

If you do not analyse the question well you could end up writing a different essay and get a much lower score in Task Response.

What does it say in the IELTS marking criteria for task response?

For Band 5 it says: addresses the task only partially…
For Band 6 it says: addresses all parts of the task although some parts may be more fully covered than others.


For Band 7 it says: addresses all parts of the task.

If you want a band 7 make sure you analyse the questions well, plan your main ideas and supporting points and make sure you explain your points with a specific example. Do not give too many examples like a list.

In fact, you can write about one problem and one solution (or one cause and one solution) as long as you develop your answer well.


Getting ideas and planning

I always advise taking at least 10 minutes to plan before writing. In the planning stage you need to first analyse the question, pick out the key words and the issues you have to write about, think of topic sentences and supporting points, decide on a structure (2 main body paragraphs or 3?) , then think about how you will write the introduction and a thesis statement.

It sounds like a lot to do, but with practice you can do this in 10 minutes. I have had high level English students write an IELTS essay with only a minimal 2 minutes of planning and they ended up with a Band 6.

Actually the most obvious ideas are the best, the IELTS writing exam is not testing your general knowledge or cool ideas.

Let’s take a look at the first essay type for a structure we could use. At this stage you should just be making notes on a topic sentence and supporting points.

Introduction: paraphrase the task question and give a thesis statement

Main body one main idea: If professional people leave their own country it will negatively impact schools, universities and hospitals, so they will lack expertise and experienced staff.



Main body two main idea:  The governments of poorer countries should support professionals with higher salaries, better housing and bonuses to entice them to stay.



Conclusion: Refer to the problem and paraphrase the solution.


Now, Let’s take a look at the second essay type. The essay is the same structure as essay 1 but I have made changes to main body one mainly. The second main body paragraph, which deals with the solutions, is going to be similar to essay 1, but I will also make a point about career advancement chances.

Introduction: paraphrase the task question and give a thesis statement

Main body one main idea:  The problem is caused by low salaries and lack of chances for professionals to advance their careers,  also there are better opportunities overseas.

Main body two main idea:  The governments of poorer countries should support professionals with higher salaries and more chances of career advancement to entice them to stay.



Conclusion: Refer to the cause and paraphrase the solution.


Can you match these introductions to the appropriate task questions above?

  • A growing number of qualified personnel, such as doctors and teachers from developing countries, are migrating to work in more developed countries. Due to this, highly qualified people are in short supply, which negatively affects education and health services.To tackle the issue, their governments should offer greater financial rewards to entice people to stay.

 

  • A growing number of qualified personnel, such as doctors and teachers from developing countries, are migrating to work in more developed countries. This is caused by low salaries and a lack of career advancement opportunities. To tackle the issue, their governments should offer greater financial rewards and more chances of promotions.

1. A growing number of qualified personnel, such as doctors and teachers from developing countries, are migrating to work in more developed countries. Due to this, highly qualified people are in short supply, which negatively affects education and health services.To tackle the issue, their governments should offer greater financial rewards to entice people to stay.

  • It is clear in the thesis statement that I am referring to the problems that happen as a result of these professional people (doctors, teachers, etc) leaving their own developing countries, and a possible way to tackle this.

 

2. A growing number of qualified personnel, such as doctors and teachers from developing countries, are migrating to work in more developed countries. This is caused by low salaries and a lack of career advancement opportunities. To tackle the issue, their governments should offer greater financial rewards and more chances of promotions.

  • In this thesis statement, I am referring to what is causing this issue to happen and a possible way to tackle this.


Any Questions? , leave a comment below