How to Understand and Analyze an IELTS Writing Task 2 Question

This article will help you understand IELTS writing questions and answer these questions more effectively.

One of the main reasons students fail to get the score they deserve in writing task 2 is not analysing the question effectively. I had one student recently who had great grammar and vocabulary, but always failed to read and analyse the question properly and therefore didn’t understand the question. He was so confident in his ability that he went straight in to writing without really thinking about what the examiner wanted him to write. He should have got at least a 7 or 8 but ended up with a 6 instead.

Some students think that analysing the question will take up too much time, but they are normally the students who don’t do as well as they should. I know teachers say over and over again ‘read the question’ but what does this actually mean?

The examiner is actually looking to see if you have understood the question properly and a failure to take the time to do so could result in you dropping down a few band scores.

So why do some students not do so well? There are four main reasons:

  • Failure to take the time to actually read the question;
  • Writing about the topic generally and not answering the specific question;
  • Failing to recognise the kind of question being asked and
  • Misunderstanding the question.

Luckily, there are simple steps you can take in the exam that will save you time and help you to understand and analyse the question effectively, therefore boosting your band score.

These 3 easy steps are simply identifying three easy things:

  • The topic words;
  • The micro-topic words and
  • The instruction words.

I will explain how you can do this below.

What do questions normally look like?

It is a good idea to at least have a look at the different types of questions that normally come up in this part of the exam. You will be much more confident in the exam and there will be no surprises.

The question will always start off with one or two statements. It will then give a set of instructions that will differ from question to question. For a summary of question types, click here.

Now we know the format, we can get in to analysing the question.

  • Identify the Topic Words

Each essay will be about a general topic and we must identify this first.

Let’s look at an example question:

The internet allows us to stay connected with each other no matter where we are. On the other hand, it also isolates us and encourages people not to socialise.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Give reasons for your answers and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

The topic word here is obviously ‘The internet’. If it is obvious why am I telling you about it? Because too many students will simply write generally about the topic and this is how you lose marks. It is fine to write about the topic, but it is must be linked to the rest of the question. This is where ‘micro-topic’ words come in.

  • Identify Micro-Topic Words

These words define the question and tell you which particular part of the main topic the question would like you to discuss and what the examiner is looking for. They often give an opinion or qualify the statement in some way.

Let’s look at our example question again:

The internet allows us to stay connected  with each other no matter where we are . On the other hand, it also isolates us  and encourages people not to socialise .

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Give reasons for your answers and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

So as you can see, we should only include things in our essay that are relevant to the words highlighted above. If we discuss anything else, such as how the internet helps us study, how it is dangerous for children, the history of the internet or how the internet is used for entertainment, then you are not being relevant.

Let’s look at another question:

Many children these days have an unhealthy lifestyle. Both schools and parents  are responsible  for solving  this problem.

To what extent do you agree with this statement.

The main topic is children’s unhealthy lifestyle. This is a very wide topic and we can’t write about it in general. Instead, we have to look at the second sentence for the micro-topic words. Here we have to look at both schools and parents and how they are responsible for solving this problem.

Remember; write about the micro-topic words, not the topic in general.

  • Identify Instruction Words

The next stage is looking to see what the examiner wants us to do. They could ask us to give an opinion, or evaluate the advantages and disadvantages or present problems and solutions. For a guide on the different question types click here.

Let’s look at our example question again:

The internet allows us to stay connected with each other no matter where we are. On the other hand, it also isolates us and encourages people not to socialise.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Give reasons for your answers and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

We can clearly see that this is an agree or disagree question and we therefore must follow this format or we will lose marks. We should also give reasons and include some relevant examples.

That’s it! You’re now ready to present relevant arguments backed up by supporting information.

This will also keep you focused throughout the essay and you should refer back to it from time to time to make sure you are staying within what the question asks.

Let’s practice

Have a look at this example question below and identify:

  • The topic words;
  • The micro-topic words and
  • The instruction words.

Women and men are commonly seen as having different strengths and weaknesses. Is it right to exclude males or females from certain professions because of their gender?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

Do you think the examiner wants you to discuss men and women’s strengths and weaknesses or something else? Comment below with your answers and we will reply.

If you have any questions then please feel free to leave a comment below. Any questions, no matter how big or small, are always welcome. We are always happy to help.

n this tutorial we will look specifically at getting ideas for IELTS essays about politics, we will then look at the collocations you can use to boost your score.

If you are stuck for ideas, then you need to fill your head up with information about politics.

Watch the TED Video below.

To get the full benefit from this you will have to do the exercise, so grab a pen and let’s get started.

I want you to go through the questions below and come up with ideas for each essay question. We are going to improve and develop our idea generating skills. This is an essential part of writing effective Task 2 articles.

Go through each question and try and get ideas, and back them up with examples if possible.

You really just need two ideas, then from these ideas we build the body paragraphs, then the introduction and conclusion. It’s really quite simple. If you need a simple essay structure for your ideas, then check out this.

Here is a quick tip: Simplify the question, what is the question saying?

For example:

Some believe that politicians are the most influential people in the world, while others believe scientists are the most influential. Which side do you agree with and why? Provide specific reasoning for your answer.

If we simplify the question we get:

Who are more influential, scientists or politicians?

This is a valuable to skill to develop because once we are clear about what we will write, we can develop ideas and start planning the our essay.

Try and simplify the questions below, THEN develop your ideas.

  1. How can the government of a country prevent illegal drugs from entering the country? Explain your solution to this problem and provide specific examples and reasoning.
  2. Many countries have different priorities when it comes to what they spend most of their time focusing on. While some countries focus on healthcare and education, other countries focus on infrastructure and employment. Out of these two compounded areas of focus, which do you find to be most beneficial? Provide ample details and examples for your answer.
  3. People in developing countries have a positive outlook when it comes to economic growth, while people in developed countries do not have this same positive outlook. Why is this so? Explain with specific examples.
  4. Many people in many countries prefer to shop in supermarkets as opposed to small, local shops. What is the developmental effect of supporting supermarkets instead of local businesses and how does it affect the local economy? Provide specific examples and reasoning.

—–

Sample Media: https://www.ted.com/talks/dambisa_moyo_economic_growth_has_stalled_let_s_fix_it

5 Comprehension Questions eliciting the collocations?:

Why is our inability to create and sustain economic growth the challenge of our time?

What are the three key drivers of economic growth according to Dambisa Moyo?

While they don’t need to grow as fast as developing countries, why is it important for developed countries to continue growing economically in the future?

What is capitalism and how does Dambisa relate it to economic growth in her talk? Explain.

What is Dambisa’s fundamental message to people on the topic of economic growth, why it has stalled, and how we can fix it?

Topic Specific Collocations

Economic growth – Economic growth is the main goal in developing countries in order to improve the way people live.

Private sector – The private sector of businesses has more money than the public sector.

Fundamental question – The fundamental question of the day is whether or not it will rain.

Developed economies – In developed economies, people are able to live in peace because the government has money to spend.

Emerging markets – Emerging markets in small countries can help increase their economic growth.

Financial crisis – The financial crisis in the United States caused our economic growth to be destroyed.

Human progress – The invention of computers has contributed substantially to human progress.

Practical experience – You will need practical experience in order to get a job with construction because they don’t want you to hurt yourself.

Social programs – Social programs such as the use of food stamps in the United States help poor families in need.

Living standards – The living standards in small African countries in much lower than the living standards in developed countries such as the United States.

Broad minded – Broad minded people need to be leaders in every country in order to appeal to all the people and their different mindsets.

Dominant ideology – The dominant ideology in Tennessee supports the idea that abortions should not be legal.

Greater population – The greater population puts their faith in politicians to make important decisions for their country.

Political models – Different political models include the Republican and Democratic ways of thinking in the United States.

Inventive ideas – Inventive ideas help progress the country by bringing new and helpful products to the market.

 

 

 

SAMPLE TASK 2 ESSAY GAP FILL EXERCISE

The ___________ ________ is whether scientists or politicians are the most influential in the world. Both scientists and politicians bring forth progressive ideas in order to improve the ______ _________ for people in society. While politicians are responsible for many amazing changes such as the creation of ______ ________ to help the poor and _________ ______ that have created democracy and freedom, scientists have made discoveries that have fueled _____ ________ over time.

 

Firstly, politicians can be considered more influential, because they are in charge of changing our laws and our way of life. While scientists make discoveries, politicians are the ones who distribute these discoveries and cause the people to embrace these _________ _____. For example, scientists discovered that global warming is a major problem in our world today, but politicians are the ones who take this problem, make it a ________ ________, and teach how to fix the problem. Therefore, politicians can be seen as the most influential people.

 

Secondly, politicians can be seen as more influential because they do, in fact, have the most influence. Why scientists may be smarter and _____ ______ sometimes, politicians are well known and their job is to influence others and lead. For example, studies have shown that politicians are more favorable to scientists in the public eye, because they are trusted by their specific supporters. Politicians of all backgrounds have a set of followers who wholeheartedly believe in them and are influenced by them.

 

In conclusion, politicians are more influential than scientists because they are well-known, followed by many, and are in charge of implementing and distributing the ideas of scientists to the _______ __________.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answers

Fundamental question
Living standards
Social programs
Political models
Human progress
Inventive ideas
Dominant ideology
Broad minded
Greater population

SAMPLE ESSAY

The fundamental question is whether scientists or politicians are the most influential in the world. Both scientists and politicians bring forth inventive ideas in order to improve the living standards for people in society. While politicians are responsible for many amazing changes such as the creation of social programs to help the poor and political models that have created democracy and freedom, scientists have made discoveries that have fueled human progress over time.

Firstly, politicians can be considered more influential, because they are in charge of changing our laws and our way of life. While scientists make discoveries, politicians are the ones who distribute these discoveries and cause the people to embrace these inventive ideas. For example, scientists discovered that global warming is a major problem in our world today, but politicians are the ones who take this problem, make it a dominant ideology, and teach how to fix the problem. Therefore, politicians can be seen as the most influential people.

Secondly, politicians can be seen as more influential because they do, in fact, have the most influence. Why scientists may be smarter and broad minded sometimes, politicians are well known and their job is to influence others and lead. For example, studies have shown that politicians are more favorable to scientists in the public eye, because they are trusted by their specific supporters. Politicians of all backgrounds have a set of followers who wholeheartedly believe in them and are influenced by them.

In conclusion, politicians are more influential than scientists because they are well-known, followed by many, and are in charge of implementing and distributing the ideas of scientists to the greater population.

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