IELTS has crafted a wide range of potential formal essay types and topics to test the writing capabilities of foreign language test takers. EnglishWise has worked to develop writing advice and IELTS essay samples to help test takers be better prepared and also maximise their chances of a higher score.
Essays on the IELTS writing task 2 will follow one of the following types of essays. This is not a complete list, so make sure that you are prepared for the unexpected.
- Agree or disagree
- Evaluate two opinions
- Discuss causes
- Analyse problems and potential solutions
- Discuss advantages and disadvantages
Agree or disagree essay questions can may cover ideas or issues such as banning smoking, animal research, internet versus newspapers, the utility of social media, and much more. When preparing for an agree/disagree question, remember that your essay must describe the extent to which you agree with the topic. More advanced writers may want to study St. Thomas Aquinas’s structure of persuasive essay writing.
Questions that ask you to evaluate two opinions will provide these opinions to you, then ask you to describe each. Once you have explained the opinions, give factual evidence as to why you support one over the other. Topics under this heading could include the value of a university education, ways to reduce crime, donating to charity, and other issues.
IELTS has a range of possible angles on discussing “cause” questions. Each cause type of question requires you to discuss and to evaluate certain causes of an issue. The test will then ask you to build on the causes by describing effects, discussing solutions, or evaluating causes plus pros and cons.
Cause and effect essays may use topics such as childhood obesity, why families have certain numbers of children, bearing children at a later than conventional age, and other topics. Cause and solution discussions could involve topics such as youth crime, low attention span in school children, bullying, stress, and other issues.
Problems and solutions differ from cause related essay queries. The focus lies not so much on the origins of the problem itself as how to solve it. This essay type can cover issues such as education, crime, terrorism, corruption, civic apathy, and more.
Advantage and disadvantage questions require that you evaluate the positives and negatives of the given topic. These topics could include issues such as age discrimination, military budget expansion, passing fuel mileage standards, the gig economy, international university education, and more.
Other common essay question topics include, but are not limited to:
- Finance and economics
- The criminal justice system
- Education at all levels
- Children and family related issues
- Nutrition, food, and related health issues and concerns
- Public policy
- Issues related to housing
- Media, social media, and marketing
- Exploration of space
- Exercise, sport, and fitness
- Technology and its various applications
- Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and related concepts
- Public transportation systems
- Work, careers, employment, and unemployment
As you can see, the IELTS essay often pulls a question from current events or controversies. We recommend that as part of your preparation for this exam that you follow news from around the country and across the world. Gaining background knowledge will serve as invaluable preparation for your essay by helping to add facts while also providing valuable context.
We also recommend that you practice. One fun way to mimic the random selection of question and type is to write each type of essay on strips of paper and place in one container. Then write every possible IELTS essay topic that you can find in this guide or elsewhere online. Place those in another container. Practice by blindly selecting a strip from each box, then follow the IELTS testing protocols. This will give you some preparation for how you will be tested.
Doing well on the IELTS examination requires months of intense study and preparation. We encourage you to do as much research as possible on the test, its questions, and reviews of respondent experiences. The more prepared you are going into the test, the more comfortable you will feel and the better you will perform.