How to write an IELTS Essay at band 9 level

This comprehensive article guides you through the processes and techniques of writing an essay that would get you a band score of 9. This is an extensive article, so read it carefully and grasp the concept. Use the examples to understand the concepts explained in it.

In IELTS writing task 2, a candidate needs to write an essay of at least 250 words that examine, support, or oppose a statement through the use of discussions, reasons, logic, arguments, explanations and examples. The essay should aim to state an opinion on a given statement, investigate an issue, discuss a given topic or persuade the readers (the examiner in this case) about something.

Now, an effective way to score well in IELTS writing task 2 is to know where one can gain or lose marks. The essay will be evaluated based on the four marking criteria, and each criterion offers 25% of the total score. Hence, let’s have a look at the assessment criteria first.

IELTS Essay has 4 assessment criteria. They are:
1) Task Achievement
2) Coherence and Cohesion
3) Grammatical Range and Accuracy
4) Lexical Resource

1) Task Achievement:

This criterion assesses the extent to which a candidate can meet the requirements of the task. So, the candidate should sufficiently address all the parts of the question. In other words, he or she ought to form a well-organized response to the task with relevant, supported and extended notions. This can be achieved by having a clear understanding of the task. Otherwise, it will lead to an inaccurate answer. The best approach to do this is to interpret the question correctly.

Task Achievement Dos:

  • Answer the specific question being asked, not the general topic. [The essay question often includes a general topic or statement at the beginning of the essay which is not a part of the real essay question. You should find out what the essay topic is asking you to write about.]
  • Make sure the ideas are directly relevant to the question. [The ideas and arguments you present in your essay should always be relevant and never off-topic.]
  • Properly address each part of the question. [If the essay asks you two questions, for example, address them both with proper examples and explanations.]
  • State the opinion in the introduction and employ supporting paragraphs to support this opinion. [If the question asks you to give your opinion, simply state your position at the end of the “Introduction” paragraph.]
  • Develop key ideas with explanations and examples. [Yes, your essay must have examples and explanations to achieve a higher band score.]
  • Reiterate the opinion in conclusion, or write a solution or generally accepted point or statement.

Task Achievement Don’ts:

  • Devote lots of time to just one part of the question.
  • Provide very general examples.
  • State opinion until the last sentence of the “Conclusion” paragraph.
  • Repeat the same points again and again.
  • Write under 250 words.

Now, let’s look at a bad example first:

Bad example:

Topic:

Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin learning a foreign language at primary school rather than secondary school.

Do you agree or disagree?

“Learning a foreign language is crucial for people. Firstly, it boosts brainpower. Secondly, it improves performance in other academic areas. Finally, a second language improves memory.”

Now let’s illustrate why it is a bad example:

The writer introduces three main ideas in this paragraph. But, none of them is well-developed. None of them has explanations and examples as well. For instance, the candidate does not explain how a foreign language may boost young learners’ brains. What is more, you also probably have noticed that it talks about “people”. Although the question is about young students, the author writes about general people. He or she does not write an answer to the specific question. So, the writer has not fully developed his/her ideas. Also, the ideas are irrelevant. So, he/she may get only a 5-5.5 band score for this paragraph.

Let’s look at a good example now:

Topic:

Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin learning a foreign language at primary school rather than secondary school.

Do you agree or disagree?

“Learning a foreign language helps young students with their intellectual development. It has been shown that it supports a child’s brain development, and in fact, helps with subjects like physics and mathematics to a great extent. For instance, a recent study, conducted by the University of Cambridge, has revealed that children who learn a foreign language are more likely to be good at physics.

Let’s explain why it is a good example:

This is a good example mainly because the idea is relevant and specific. The idea is also well-developed. So, it has one main idea that is “learning a foreign language helps young learners with intellectual development.” Intellectual development means that young learners become smarter. In addition, it explains that studying a foreign language helps the brain to understand physics and mathematics in a better way making them good at science. It hasn’t stopped here. It develops the main idea even more by giving a specific example that children who study a foreign language are very likely to do well in physics.

Another good example of the same topic is given below:

Furthermore, it is evident that pupils who start learning a foreign language during their childhood, gain mastery of the language in their adulthood. It helps them communicate effectively and showcase their learning and speaking skills on the one hand and enhances their career prospects in the future on the other hand. To illustrate, a recent study by the University of California reveals that learners who start a foreign language like English, French, German or Spanish at a young age do better academically in their colleges and also show better mastery of these languages in their adulthood. And this mastery of these languages helps them get many competitive advantages in their future career.

Let’s explain why it is a good example:

This is a good example because it includes a relevant and specific idea at the beginning of the paragraph. The idea is then well-developed by the writer with an explanation. It also gives an example.

Interpreting the IELTS writing task 2 (Essay) question:

Interpreting the meaning of an essay question is crucial to writing a good essay in response. When analysing the question, the candidate should first shed light on these three properties: “Topic words”, “Qualifying words”, “Instruction words”.

To demonstrate these three attributes, take the following essay question:

Topic:

Some people think that it is better to educate boys and girls in separate schools. Others, however, believe that boys and girls benefit more from attending mixed schools.

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

The candidate can use the topic words to identify the “subject” of the question. In this essay question, ‘boys’, ‘girls’, and ‘the school’ are the three controlling topic words. Topics outside the boundary of boys, girls and school thus have no place in this essay.

Qualifying words tell the candidate how the various notions relate to each other. These words often describe the capacity of the opinion and shape some important thoughts as well. In the above sample question, the phrases “better to educate” and “benefit more” are used. Notice how these phrases clarify what is being said about boys and girls. Likewise, these words separate and mix the qualifying-topic word “school”. Notice how these words mould the question and give it enhanced precision. It’s crucially important for the candidates to understand the degree of this precision to ensure the response is properly aligned with the question.

Instruction words are the words that elicit a response from the candidate. Put simply, these words tell the candidate exactly what to write about and eventually channel the candidate’s essay towards a discussion or argument essay structure. In the above example essay question, the instruction words are – “Discuss both these views and give your own opinion” – a phrase that instructs the candidate to expound both the viewpoints and then venture his/her opinion.

2) Coherence and Cohesion:

“Coherence” in a written piece of work means that the reader can readily understand it. Put simply, coherence is a quality that ensures all the parts of an essay are logically arranged, well-connected and all head to the central focus of the essay. Without coherence, an argument may not make sense or may be difficult for the readers to get the message of the text. It’s a critically important quality of IELTS writing task 2/ IELTS Essay.

Similarly, “cohesion” is how a written piece of work relates its ideas to develop a clear relationship and logical progressions among them. In simple words, it relates to the linking of notions within a sentence, the linking of sentences (links between sentences) within a paragraph, and ultimately the linking between paragraphs.

The coherence and cohesion part of the candidate’s marks is a measure of how logically an essay’s ideas are arranged and connected by the candidate, and how smoothly these ideas flow together. The candidate can achieve coherence by using grammatically correct and short sentences that are concise, and to the point. Cohesion can be maintained by employing phrases or linking words, often called “cohesive devices”, to establish relationships between sentences and paragraphs in the essay.

Below is a list of various cohesive devices and an example of their use. Also, notice the corresponding punctuation:

To maintain sequence:

  • Firstly, separate schools are more relaxing for both girls and boys as they do not have social pressures to worry about, such as impressing the opposite gender.
  • Secondly, separate schools provide the teachers with an opportunity to tailor the curriculum in a way that students can easily connect with.
  • Moreover, separate schools have lesser cliques.
  • Finally, separate schools have a more conducive environment for concentrating on studies.

To provide evidence:

  • For instance, many studies reveal that students in separate schools feel more relaxed than their counterparts.
  • For example, teachers can maintain harmony in the classroom easily.
  • A case in point is the top-ranked schools in our country that are mostly single-gender educational institutes.
  • Take the example of separate schools in India, which have fewer cliques.
  • Many high school students in separate schools, such as those from Asian countries, are good at concentrating on their studies.

To show similarity:

  • Similarly, many high school students in Italy experience grade improvements when educated in separate schools.
  • Likewise, many girls in Indonesia can concentrate more on their studies when educated in separate schools.
  • In tandem with this are the experiences of many boys in Pakistan, whose grades improved when educated in separate schools.
  • Many girls in Malaysia also experienced grade improvements when educated in separate schools.
  • Coupled with this is the experience of many boys in Latin America, whose grades improved when educated in separate schools.

To demonstrate contrast:

  • However, studying in a mixed school impacts positively on the personality of both boys and girls.
  • On the other hand, a mixed-gender classroom provides an environment where girls and boys change their behaviour positively.
  • Many girls and boys in India change their behaviour positively when studying in mixed-gender schools; however, this is not the case in Australia.
  • Many girls and boys in Nepal improved their grades when studying in a mixed-gender classroom, but this is not the case in Germany.
  • Conversely, many girls and boys in India promote sexual equality when studying in mixed-school.
  • It is argued by many people that boys and girls are taught effectively when studying in single-gender schools, yet others believe that boys and girls gain considerable advantage from studying in a co-education system.
  • In contrast, many boys and girls respect each other when studying in the co-education system.

To amplify or extend:

  • Moreover, students in mixed schools improve their grades significantly.
  • Furthermore, several independent studies show that students who are taught in mixed schools prevent gender discrimination.
  • To add to this, a recent body of high-quality research has revealed that students studying in mixed schools perform far better in academics than students studying in single-gender schools.
  • In addition to this, students studying in mixed schools can be more candid than their counterparts.

To present a result:

  • Consequently, the link between the education system and students’ performance is obvious.
  • In mixed schools, girls need to spend most of the day with boys and vice versa. As a result, they learn how to live harmoniously.
  • Thus, students studying in mixed schools change their behaviour positively.
  • Therefore, boys and girls respect each other.
  • Because of this, it can lead to distraction to study.
  • It is clear that there is a close link between the education system and students’ performance.

To draw the conclusion:

  • To reiterate, the co-education system acts as a clear precursor of gender equality.
  • To conclude, the co-education system helps promote gender equality.
  • In conclusion, the co-education system advances gender equality.
  • All things considered, the co-education system is committed to achieving gender equality.

Let’s look at an example and go through some of the features that make an essay coherent. Although it is an entirely subjective judgement, most readers would agree that this is a reasonably coherent paragraph:

The co-education system confers both advantages and disadvantages. It goes without saying that in the presence of the opposite gender, one’s behaviour changes. A case in point is Indian boys, they change their behaviour in presence of girls. Thus, the co-education system reaps such benefits where boys or girls change their behaviour positively. However, this advantage comes at a high price: distraction. Students in mixed-gender schools may think of having a partner. Such thoughts can cause distraction as girls or boys may get attracted to the opposite gender, and if anything goes wrong, it can result in hampering learning, thereby distracting academic studies.

  1. Topic sentence: the paragraph begins with a clear, declarative topic sentence that expresses the controlling idea and the rest of the paragraph follows the idea. That is to say that everything in the paragraph deals with the advantages and disadvantages of the co-education system.
  2. Key terms (marked in blue colour): the term “co-education system” is repeatedly introduced in this short paragraph. This shows the reader that the paragraph is about the “co-education system”.
  3. Clear transitions (marked in orange colour): each sentence flows into the next very easily, and the reader can easily see how logically the ideas are organized and connected.

Coherence and Cohesion Dos:

  • Have at least four-paragraph structures. [It means your essay should have at least 4 paragraphs including the “introduction” and “conclusion”.]
  • State main ideas and your opinion in the introduction.
  • Introduce a clear topic sentence in the supporting paragraphs.
  • Use cohesive devices accurately and appropriately.

Coherence and Cohesion Don’ts:

  • Introduce background statement in the introduction.
  • Produce lots of ideas in one paragraph.
  • Use cohesive devices at the beginning of every sentence.

Let’s look at the bad example:

Learning a foreign language is crucial for people. Moreover, it boosts brainpower. Furthermore, it improves performance in other academic areas. Additionally, a second language improves memory. Last but not least, a recent study has revealed that children who learn a foreign language are more likely to be good at physics.

Let’s explain why it is a bad example:

If the candidate uses these words in red called cohesive devices again and again and uses them at the start of every sentence, it demonstrates to the examiner that the candidate doesn’t have good skills in English and he/she is not able to link sentences together without cohesive devices. Besides, “last but not least” is not accurate. Because it is used to give an example. The phrase ‘last but not least’ indicates the last point.

So, let’s look at a good example:

Foreign language helps young learners with their intellectual development. It has been shown that this can help a child’s brain development, and in fact, help with subjects like physics and mathematics. For instance, a recent study has revealed that children who learn a foreign language are more likely to be good at physics.

Let’s clarify why it is a good example:

In this paragraph, the writer employs just two simple cohesive devices. The writer actually gets more marks for using them accurately. This is because a good writer uses simple cohesive devices rather than merely using “moreover”, “furthermore” and so on without context. This paragraph also uses the appropriate cohesive device when giving examples.

3) Grammatical Range and Accuracy:

In the IELTS writing task 2 test, one of the most important areas for a candidate to master is “grammatical range and accuracy”. According to IELTS band descriptors, the test taker has to use a wide range of sentence structures as well as advanced verb forms including modal verbs, conditionals, and passive voice to get a higher band score. Besides, in IELTS writing task 2, punctuation has a profound significance. Put simply, in order to get a high score for grammar, the writing has to be complex, but it also has to be correct. So, devote full attention to those commas, semicolons and other grammar rules.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy Dos:

  • Write error-free sentences.
  • Use a variety of sentence structures.
  • Use complex sentences but use them correctly.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy Don’ts:

  • Try to force too many different structures.
  • Try to dazzle the examiner with complex grammar but make mistakes.
  • Write sentences that hinder the meaning being conveyed i.e. stop the examiner from comprehending and guessing the meaning.

Let’s look at an example:

“In the developed world, carbon emission is one of the most debated issues causing global warming and environmental challenges arising from its catastrophic consequences.”

This is a typical sentence from an essay that is trying to be highly complex. The writer has tried to put four simple notions into one sentence and the result is an incoherent and difficult sentence. The writer fails to maintain control of grammar, thus affecting its meaning. If the meaning is affected, the text becomes difficult to understand and that has a negative impact on the band score.

Let’s look at the example again. There are four simple notions that we can write in simple sentences:

  1. Carbon emission is a much-debated issue in the developed world.
  2. Carbon emission causes global warming.
  3. There are environmental challenges associated with global warming.
  4. Global warming has catastrophic consequences.

But, if we write all the sentences like this we fail to score higher marks in the IELTS exam. Actually, we need to put them together to form complex sentences. For example:

“One of the most debated issues is carbon emission which causes global warming. There are environmental challenges associated with this problem and its effects have catastrophic consequences.”

Here, four ideas have been put together in two complex sentences. It has been done to make them easy to understand. This way maintaining grammatical range and accuracy become easier.

4) Lexical Resource:

The “lexical resource” is another important area that an IELTS candidate has to pay attention to. That is to say that he or she should use a good variety of vocabulary in order to achieve a high band score in the writing test.

Let’s break this down into small points:

  1. Range of vocabulary – The candidate should use a wide range of vocabulary to convey precise meanings. Synonyms can help here. But keep in mind that every word should be used in proper contexts.
  2. Correct spelling – Spelling serves a crucial role. So, be sure to use them correctly.
  3. Appropriate use of collocations – These are the natural combination of words in a sentence. In order to ace the IELTS writing test, the candidates should learn not only the individual words but also focus on what other words they are used in combination in a sentence.

Lexical Resource Dos:

  • Be careful with grammar and spelling.
  • Use words that are directly relevant to the topic.
  • Be aware of collocations. Use appropriate collocations.

Lexical Resource Don’ts:

  • Repeat the same words over and over.
  • Force complex words into the essay without knowing them accurately.
  • Use wrong synonyms.
  • Learn lists of academic words out of context.
  • Use rare phrases and jargon.

Let’s look at an example:

“Research has evidenced that children who have excess screen time are more likely to be myopic.”

This is a common sentence from an essay that has used the medical jargon: myopic. The writer has tried to impress the examiner by inserting the word “myopic“. This is tricky because jargon includes the words or phrases used in a particular profession, which are difficult for other people to understand. Consequently, the candidate doesn’t get a higher score in the IELTS Writing exam.

It would be far better if the writer uses a simple phrase/word than a very rare phrase or jargon like ‘myopic’. For example:

“Many research has outlined that children who have excess screen time are more likely to have bad eyesight.”

A common phrase ‘bad eyesight’ has been used instead of a less common medical term ‘myopic’. This conveys meaning accurately while making the sentence easy to understand. So, keep it simple and avoid the use of jargon.

Now that you know what criteria are important to reaching a band 9 level IELTS essay, let’s explore some steps to enhance your band score from 5/6 to 8 or 9.

We would now explore a step-by-step guide to understand the process of writing an excellent essay to get a higher band score.

A step-by-step guide to writing a top-notch essay:

Step 1 – Analyse The Question:

A candidate has to analyse the question first so as to understand it. In many cases, candidates do not answer the question fully due to their lack of understanding of the question. Consequently, it stops them from achieving a score higher than band 6.

To analyse the question, you have to identify the question type first, then identify topic words, qualifying words and instruction words, one by one. This will help you understand exactly what the question asks you to do. However, the discussion on how to analyse the question has already been explained above.

Step 2 – Plan The Structure:

Candidates who get a higher mark in IELTS writing task 2 always plan their arguments and ideas. A good plan helps them organise their ideas, and then structure their essay before they write it, saving their time and helping them to write a well-structured, coherent essay. The following tasks should be in the planning phase:

A) Creating the structure plan:
Introduction
1st body paragraph
2nd body paragraph
Conclusion

B) Generating ideas:
Sometimes it proves to be difficult to write a good IELTS essay due to the lack of good ideas. However, there are several ways to overcome this problem. They are:

The common topic familiarization
Mind mapping
Brainstorming
6 question method
Thinking informal

Anyway, “practice” is the silver bullet for this problem. The more one practices with different topics the more she or he will be able to produce simple and better main ideas in just seconds. In fact, the candidate can be an idea-generating device through practice. So, practice, practice and practice.

Let’s take a look at the example question and create the skeleton plan:

Some people think that it is better to educate boys and girls in separate schools. Others, however, believe that boys and girls benefit more from attending mixed schools.

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

Structure plan:
Introduction: paraphrase the topic and express opinion [i.e. boys and girls reap more benefits from attending mixed schools.]
1st body paragraph: it is better to educate boys and girls in separate schools.
2n body paragraph: boys and girls benefit more from attending mixed schools.
Conclusion: re-paraphrase the introduction and opinion. Alternatively, you can suggest something that would be a good solution to the debate or something that would be accepted by most people. [Example: It is expected that schools teach boys and girls together so that they become responsible and sympathetic individuals in the future who do not allow any gender discriminations.]

Step 3 – Write the introduction paragraph:

The introduction paragraph performs as a roadmap for an essay. It brings up the topic, the writer’s position, and the main points that will be used to strengthen and prove this position. Thus, when a reader reads the introduction of an essay, he/she should know exactly what the rest of the essay will look like.

However, many candidates often produce an introduction with a few common mistakes in them. The common mistakes are:

i) Introducing hooks or long general background statements about the topic.
In most cases, essays begin with ‘In modern life……’ or ‘Nowadays….’ followed by general information about the topic. It’s a poor start you can probably make. So, it’s worth bearing in mind that you are asked to answer the question not talking generally about the topic.

ii) Not outlining opinion or main ideas.
This is a grave mistake. You should combine opinion with main ideas. In fact, it’s the most important part of the essay that will tell the examiner what you’re going to write in the rest of your essay. If you don’t state your opinion clearly, you will lose marks substantially.

iii) Copying the question.
If you just copy the question fully, the examiner will delete or discard it, and you will not get marks for this part of the exam. You can copy some words of the question, but don’t copy the whole question.

Bad and good examples:

Question:

Some people say that dangerous sports should be banned since they are deadly and life-threatening.

Do you agree or disagree with this viewpoint?

An example of a bad “Introduction”:

Nowadays dangerous sports are undeniably is a very controversial issue and some people say that they should be banned. This essay will discuss it and then come up with an opinion.

As you notice a bad example starts with a very common style of introduction, copies phrases and words from the question and doesn’t state an opinion or outline statement. So, the three essential elements are not included in the introduction.

An example of a good “Introduction”:

It is argued by many that extreme sports should be prohibited because they prove fatal and life-threatening. I agree up to a point, but I also think it is the democratic right of an individual to choose whatever sporting activity he or she wants to take part in.

In this “example introduction”, the writer paraphrases the question statement by using synonyms and outlines the opinion and main points. The is a great “introduction” because it meets the three obligatory criteria.

Skeleton of a Good Introduction:

It is very crucial that your introduction is well-structured. In order to do that, you have to include three essential things:

A. Paraphrase
B. Opinion (answer to the question)
C. Outline of the main ideas

You ought to combine these three elements into just two sentences and your introduction should be around 40-60 words. Your introduction shouldn’t be longer than that. Don’t spend too much time writing the “introduction” of your essay.

A) Paraphrase Question:
Paraphrasing means repeating the question statement in order to convey the same meaning, but with different words and styles. We can do this by using synonyms, different forms of the same words, and rearranging the clauses.

Question:

A higher salary is much more important than job satisfaction.

Do you agree or disagree?

Paraphrase:

It is argued by many that it is beneficial to land a high-paying job, even if it does not content you at all.

As you see in the paraphrased sentence, some words and phrases have been changed while retaining the same meaning. Instead of ‘higher salary’, for example, ‘high-paying job’ has been used. Thus, it demonstrates to the examiner that the writer can use a wide range of vocabulary and rephrase the question statement correctly.

B) Opinion (answer to the question):
This sentence is considered to be the most important part of your essay. It demonstrates to the examiner that you’ve understood the question perfectly and will drive to a clear and coherent essay.

Let’s look at the opinion sentence from the previous example:

Here, we’ve two choices-
Choice 1: This essay totally agrees with this statement.
Choice 2: This essay completely disagrees with this statement.

Opinion (answer to the question): This essay profoundly disagrees with the notion that higher remuneration is more crucial than career satisfaction.

The above sentence clearly states the position of the writer.

C) Outline of the main ideas:
Outlining main ideas is another crucial thing in your IELTS essays. Through this, you tell the examiner what you are going to discuss in the main body paragraphs.

Plan: Why I disagree:
Job satisfaction brings a sense of fulfilment.
Doing what people like keeps them motivated, thus leading to a successful career.
Combining opinion and main points: This essay profoundly disagrees with this statement because job satisfaction brings a sense of fulfilment and leads to a successful career as well.

In the above sentence, we simply use the word ‘because’ to combine them.

Putting it all together:
Question:

A higher salary is much more important than job satisfaction.

Do you agree or disagree?

“It is argued by many that it is far more beneficial to land a high-paying job, even if it does not content us at all. This essay profoundly disagrees with this statement because job satisfaction brings a sense of fulfilment and leads to a successful career as well.”

As you can notice, the above “introduction” follows the skeleton that has been outlined above. The rephrased question statement is given in green. The opinion has been given in purple, and the outline of the main ideas is in blue. Thus, this is a great “introduction” with two very simple sentences.

Now, we will through the introduction writing techniques for each easy type:

1. Opinion (Agree or Disagree) Essay Type
2. Advantages and Disadvantages Essay Type
3. Discussion (Discuss both views) Essay Type
4. Problem/Causes and Solution Essay Type
5. Double Question/ Mixed Essay Type

For each type of essay, the “introduction” would be slightly different. Let’s look at the examples for each of the five types of essay questions:

1. Writing Introduction for Opinion (Agree or Disagree) Essays:
Question: Some people believe that children should be taught how to manage money at school.

Do you agree or disagree?

Paraphrase: It is argued by many that schools ought to teach students financial literacy.

Answer to the Question:
a) Plan- agree.
b) Why I agree:
Lack of financial literacy leads to disastrous consequences.
Helps reach smart financial decisions.

c) Opinion and Outline of main points: This essay entirely agrees with that statement because children can make financial decisions carefully, understand basic money management, and lack of financial literacy leads to disastrous consequences.

The whole introduction:

It is argued by many that schools ought to teach students financial literacy. This essay entirely agrees with that statement because children can make financial decisions carefully, understand basic money management, and the lack of financial literacy leads to disastrous consequences. (41 words)

2. Writing Introduction for Advantage and Disadvantage Essays:
Question: It is suggested by many that young children should learn how to grow vegetables and keep animals.

Do you think that the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?

Paraphrase: Many people argue that young children ought to acquire basic knowledge of farming such as cultivating vegetables and keeping cattle.

Answer to the Question:
a) Plan – Agree that advantages outweigh disadvantages.
b) Advantages and Disadvantages
Advantages – children can develop good work ethics and soft skills through gaining such farming knowledge.
Disadvantages – children get exposed to hazardous pesticides and herbicides and can be distracted from academic studies.

c) Opinion and outline of main points: This essay will argue that despite children getting exposed to hazardous pesticides and herbicides, and being distracted from academic studies, the work ethics and soft skills they develop mean that the benefits outweigh the adverse effects involved in the process.

The whole introduction:

Many people argue that young children ought to acquire basic knowledge of farming such as cultivating vegetables and keeping cattle. This essay will argue that despite children getting exposed to hazardous pesticides and herbicides, and being distracted from academic studies, the work ethics and soft skills they develop mean that the benefits outweigh the adverse effects involved in the process. (60 words)

The writer here has used ‘despite’ to tell the examiner that many people think so, but he/she believes otherwise.

3. Writing Introduction for Discussion (Discuss both views) Essays:
Question: Some people think that zoos are cruel and should be closed down. Others, however, believe that zoos can be useful in protecting wild animals.

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

Discussion essays introduce two sides of an argument. So, the introduction should be written differently than an opinion essay.

Paraphrase: It is considered by some that zoological gardens help preserve endangered species, yet there are others who regard them as inhumane and opine that zoos ought to be abolished.

You can see two phrases: “it is considered by some” and “yet there are others who regard”. So, there are always two opinions.

Answer to the Question:
a) Plan:
Zoos are beneficial because of the breeding programmes for vulnerable species.
Zoos should be abolished because of unnatural environments and cramped cases.

b) Opinion and Outline of main points: This will argue that although the breeding programmes contribute significantly to protecting vulnerable species, the writer is of the opinion that zoos should be banned due to inhumane animal conditions.

The whole introduction:

It is considered by some that zoological gardens help preserve endangered species, yet there are others who regard them as inhumane and opine that zoos ought to be abolished. This will argue that although the breeding program contributes significantly to protecting vulnerable species, I am of the opinion that zoos should be banned due to inhumane animal conditions. (58 words).

As you can notice that by stating ‘although’, the writer recognizes that some people think that zoos are inhumane and should be abolished, but he/she doesn’t think the same way. However, we’ve introduced both views, answered the question and outlined our key points. So, it meets three essential criteria for a good introduction.

You must bear in mind is that you shouldn’t just write “This essay will discuss both views and then come to a reasoned conclusion”. The reason is that you haven’t expressed your opinion and also haven’t outlined your main ideas. Consequently, you will lose marks.

4. Writing Introduction for Problem/Causes and Solution type essay:
Question: In some parts of the world, the rate of divorce has increased dramatically over the past few decades.

Explain some possible reasons for this problem and suggest some solutions.

Paraphrase: Divorce, in many countries, has reached epic proportions over the few decades.

Answer to the Question:
a) Plan:
b) Problem & Solution:
Problem – Domestic violence and gender inequality.
Solution – mutual understanding and conjugal appreciation.

c) Opinion and Outline of main points: This essay will expound on how domestic violence and gender inequality are the main reason for increasing separation rates in many parts of the world, followed by a discussion on how mutual understanding and conjugal appreciation are the most effective remedy for this issue.

The whole introduction:

Divorce, in many countries, has reached epic proportions over the few decades. This essay will expound on how domestic violence and gender inequality are the main reason for increasing separation rates in many parts of the world, followed by a discussion on how mutual understanding and conjugal appreciation are the most effective remedy for this issue. (56 words)

5. Writing Introduction for Double Question/Mixed Essay type:
Question: Fossil fuels are essential for producing electricity, powering industry and fueling transportation. However, one day we will reach a point when all the world’s fossil fuels have been depleted.

How can we conserve these resources?
What are some alternatives to fossil fuels?

Paraphrase: Energy production is heavily dependent on oil, coal and natural gas but there will come a time in human history when these resources will be exhausted.

Answer to the Question:
a) Plan:
b) Conservation and Alternatives:
Conservation – choosing zero-carbon transportation, and reusing and recycling products.
Alternative source – renewable energies: solar, wind and tide power.

c) Opinion and Outline of main points: This essay will argue that we can preserve non-renewable energy sources by choosing zero-carbon transportation, and solar, wind and tide energy are viable alternatives to natural resources.

The whole introduction:

Energy production is heavily dependent on oil, coal and natural gas but there will come a time in human history when these resources will be exhausted. This essay will argue that we can preserve non-renewable energy sources by choosing zero-carbon transportation, and solar, wind and tide energy are viable alternatives to natural resources. (53 words)

Step 4 – Write The Main Body Paragraphs:

Main body paragraphs/ supporting paragraphs contain the main discussion of your essay. In other words, these paragraphs exist to help prove your position by employing real and factual – or seemingly real and factual- information. Therefore, this is where you can gain or lose most of your marks.

Many candidates, however, make some common mistakes in the exam. Knowing these you can avoid making them further. The common mistakes are:

  • Having lots of ideas.
  • Having undeveloped ideas.
  • Having no/poor explanations or examples.

You need to write around 250-300 words. If you conceive too many ideas, you won’t have enough time to develop the ideas fully. Consequently, you will lose marks. So, don’t make the same mistakes as others do.

Structure of a Good Main Body Paragraph

The structure of a good main body paragraph contains three key elements. They are:

  • Topic sentence
  • Explanation sentences
  • Example

Please note that although this is a standard model, the structure can change according to the question types.

Topic sentence: It plays a pivotal role in main body paragraphs. In simple words, the topic sentence introduces the key idea, acting as a signpost pointing to what the examiner is going to read.

Explanation sentence: The idea topic sentence states should be explained clearly. Put simply, you have to clearly explain what your topic sentence means. In fact, you answer the question through explanation sentences. The explanation should be 2-4 sentences.

Useful language for explanation:
In other words……
That is to say……..
This is because……
The reason is……..
As a result………….
Therefore……………

Example: examples are also crucial for an essay. You need to support your explanation with good and relevant examples. Examples prove highly useful when they are tangible facts because it causes persuasion and makes the argument tough to refute. Good examples contain references to personal experience, well-known people, cultural traditions, and historical events. Bad examples are overly general references, personal opinions, and assumptions.

Question:

Some people believe that criminals should be allowed to get an education and enhance their skills while they serve their sentences in prison.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Read the following “introduction” paragraph, paying close attention to the outline of the main points:

It is argued by many that convicted criminals should have access to education programmes so that they can develop their skills while serving their sentences in prison. This essay totally agrees with that statement because it reduces crime rates and can positively change incarcerated individuals.

The outline of the main points (in blue) declares the topics we will use in our supporting paragraphs:

1- prison education can reduce the crime rate
2- it also positively changes incarcerated people

Let’s write the first main body paragraph now. The first sentence states the topic sentence for this paragraph, which needs to be the reflection of what was stated in the introduction paragraph’s outline of the first key point:

“Prison education programs considerably decrease recidivism.”

As you can see that this topic sentence clearly declares the point initially introduced in the introduction paragraph’s outline of the first key point, this builds a clear link between the essay’s introduction and supporting paragraph.

The second, third and fourth sentences are the discussion sentences:

Most prisoners are released from prisons with educational levels and job skills that are extremely low, and that is why they can earn only meagre incomes once freed. Face with the desperate need to make money but the grim reality of odd jobs, many turn back to crime to survive. However, prison education can equip convicted persons with transferable skills that pave the way for the positive transition when they are released. Therefore, it would reduce prison recidivism.

As can be seen, these sentences clarify the topic sentence explaining that prison education helps prison with transferable skills that open up a wide range of career possibilities, this, in turn, refrain them from committing crime again.

The fifth sentence is an example sentence. The example makes the supporting point hard to counter, and this reinforces the argument of the essay and its ability to convince the examiner of the thesis. The example sentence is:

For instance, a study by Monash University found that ex-offenders who receive some vocational training courses cut recidivism to approximately 40 percent.

As you can see that the example directly supports the topic sentence by bringing up factual information. The study is by a renowned university which makes it seems real. It also shows that the prisoners who enrol in prison education programmes are less likely to return to jail.

When grouped, the sentences of the main body paragraph logically unite in a highly persuasive manner:

Prison education programmes considerably decrease recidivism. Most prisoners are released from prisons with educational levels and job skills that are extremely low, and that is why they can earn only meagre incomes once freed. Face with the desperate need to make money but the grim reality of odd jobs, many turn back to crime to survive. However, prison education can equip convicted persons with transferable skills that pave the way for the positive transition when they are released. Therefore, it would reduce prison recidivism. For instance, a study by Monash University found that ex-offenders who receive some vocational training courses cut recidivism to approximately 40 percent. (106 words)

As you can notice that the topic sentence extends upon what was stated in the introduction paragraph’s outline statement, an obvious instance of cohesion at the essay level. Likewise, the argument advances through the discussion and use of a tangible example, and this makes it difficult for the examiner to rebut.

Now look at the second body paragraph and notice how it is written:

Another reason why incarcerated individuals should get an education is that it transforms incarcerated people. In simple words, education in prison changes offenders because it revives humanity, boosts confidence and self-esteem, develops literacy levels, equips them with essential skills and transforms criminals into law-abiding and productive citizens on release. A case in point is Carlos Rosato, who was arrested for armed robbery and sent to prison in New York state for 16 years. He enrolled in an education program of the Bard Prison Initiative, and he earned an Associate degree and a Bachelor degree. Today Carlos Rosato is an engineer and makes $90,000 a year. He is a solid member of his community and is, in fact, a taxpayer. (119 words)

Both the main body paragraphs of the essay are now complete. When joined to the introduction, the composition reads:

It is argued by many that convicted criminals should have access to education programmes so that they can develop their skills while serving their sentences in prison. This essay totally agrees with that statement because it reduces crime rates and can change incarcerated individuals.

Prison education programmes considerably decrease recidivism. Most prisoners are released from prisons with educational levels and job skills that are extremely low, and that is why they can earn only meagre incomes once freed. Face with the desperate need to make money but the grim reality of odd jobs, many turn back to crime to survive. However, prison education can equip convicted persons with transferable skills that pave the way for the positive transition when they are released. Therefore, it would reduce prison recidivism. For instance, a study by Monash University found that ex-offenders who receive some vocational training courses cut recidivism to approximately 40 percent.

Another reason why incarcerated individuals should get an education is that it transforms incarcerated people. In simple words, education in prison changes offenders because it revives humanity, boosts confidence and self-esteem, develops literacy levels, equips them with essential skills and transforms criminals into law-abiding and productive citizens on release. A case in point is Carlos Rosato, who was arrested for armed robbery and sent to prison in New York state for 16 years. He enrolled in an education program of the Bard Prison Initiative, and he earned an Associate degree and a Bachelor degree. Today Carlos Rosato is an engineer and makes $90,000 a year. He is a solid member of his community and is, in fact, a taxpayer.

Please notice the way the sentences and paragraphs use linking devices to connect themselves together and how to build the overarching argument of the essay. Cohesion at the sentence level is underlined. Cohesion at the essay level is highlighted in blue.

Step 5 – Write The Conclusion:

The conclusion paragraph reiterates the writer’s main ideas and closes the essay. It’s far easier than the introduction and main body paragraphs because it contains the information that has already been imparted earlier in the response. Alternatively, you can propose a solution to a problem or issue or offer something that would be widely accepted regarding the topic discussed in your essay.

Let’s start with the common mistakes. Many candidates often make some mistakes. So, you should not:

  • Introduce new ideas.
  • Try to be entertaining.
  • Be too general.
  • Repeat exactly the same thing as in the rest of your essay.
  • Use the wrong cohesive devices.

Many candidates make the mistake of introducing new ideas in their “conclusion”. Bear in mind that this is a big mistake. New ideas shouldn’t be produced in your “conclusion” at all. All you need do is to state the ideas you have already discussed in the previous paragraphs or offer a solution to a problem that would be widely accepted. If you outline any new idea in your conclusion, you’ll get a lower mark because the conclusion is just paraphrasing or summarizing of what you’ve already said, or offering a universally accepted solution – nothing else.

Many candidates also try to finish their essays by being entertaining or interesting. There are no marks for being entertaining or interesting in your conclusion! There are only marks for writing an accurate conclusion! So, don’t try to write an entertaining conclusion.

Being too vague is another error while writing a conclusion. You need to be as specific as possible like the rest of your essay. The more specific you are, the higher the chance you get a higher band score. So, don’t be too general.

Some candidates repeat the same thing as in the rest of the essay. You need to paraphrase; you need to write the same thing but in a different way.

Finally, many people use wrong cohesive devices which ultimately negatively affect their scores. Therefore, don’t use the wrong cohesive devices.

Let’s look at some inappropriate cohesive devices:

All in all – it is a very inappropriate way to begin your conclusion. This is because it’s very informal. You need to be academic as the IELTS essay is academic in nature. You need to be as formal as possible. So, don’t use “all in all”.

In sum – it means just summarizing things. In the conclusion paragraph, you are not just summarizing your main ideas but also giving your opinion. So, the phrase ‘in sum/in summation’ is not quite appropriate for that reason.

To sum up – it is the same as ‘in sum’. So, you shouldn’t use it either.

Finally – it’s saying that you’ve got a final point and it would imply that you’ve got a new point. As we said before, you shouldn’t have a new idea in your conclusion. So, don’t use the word ‘finally’.

In a nutshell – like the phrase “all in all”, this is also informal. So, don’t use it.

Now let’s look at the cohesive devices you should use in your conclusion. They are:

To conclusion
In conclusion

These are two simple phrases you can use at the beginning of your “conclusion” paragraph.

Structure of a Good Conclusion Paragraph:
The structure of a good conclusion consists of two essential things. They are:

a) Summary of main points
b) Opinion

Please reread the introduction and main body paragraphs written above prior to preparing for the conclusion paragraph. Once you read it, let’s continue to the techniques and examples of writing the “conclusion” part.

As a recommended structure, the first sentence of the conclusion paragraph should summarize the topics discussed in the main body paragraphs. The topics are:

Prison education programs considerably decrease recidivism.
it transforms incarcerated people.

Grouped into a single sentence, these two ideas would read:

In conclusion, education in prison causes considerable recidivism reduction and also changes convicted persons in a positive way.

The second sentence has to rephrase the opinion of the introduction paragraph in a different manner. Here is the original outline sentence:

This essay totally agrees with that statement…

Thus, it is clear that incarcerated men and women should get an education while in prison.

Now the conclusion paragraph is finished. Notice how its sentences connect with one another and with earlier parts of the essay:

In conclusion, education in prison causes considerable recidivism reduction and also changes convicted persons in a positive way. Thus, it is clear that incarcerated men and women should get an education while in prison.

Please note that, if you wish to add one or two lines of suggestion or proposition that is related to the topic and offers something widely accepted, do that at the end of the conclusion.

Example of such a suggestion or proposition –

“It is expected that prison authority would take measures to educate inmates and train them so that they can become responsible members once they complete their prison sentence and get back to normal life.”

The essay is now a well-structured piece of writing. From beginning to end it reads:

Essay Topic:

Some people believe that criminals should be allowed to get an education and enhance their skills while they serve their sentences in prison.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Essay Answer:
It is argued by many that criminals should have access to education programmes so that they can develop their skills while serving their sentences in prison. This essay totally agrees with that statement because it reduces crime rates and can change incarcerated individuals.

Prison education programmes considerably decrease recidivism. Most prisoners are released from prisons with educational levels and job skills that are extremely low, and that is why they can earn only meagre incomes once freed. Face with the desperate need to make money but the grim reality of odd jobs, many turn back to crime to survive. However, prison education can equip convicted persons with transferable skills that pave the way for the positive transition when they are released. Therefore, it would reduce prison recidivism. For instance, a study by Monash University found that ex-offenders who receive some vocational training courses cut recidivism to approximately 40 percent.

Another reason why incarcerated individuals should get an education is that it transforms incarcerated people. In simple words, education in prison changes offenders because it revives humanity, boosts confidence and self-esteem, develops literacy levels, equips them with essential skills and transforms criminals into law-abiding and productive citizens on release. A case in point is Carlos Rosato, who was arrested for armed robbery and sent to prison in New York state for 16 years. He enrolled in an education program of the Bard Prison Initiative, and he earned an Associate degree and a Bachelor degree. Today Carlos Rosato is an engineer and makes $90,000 a year. He is a solid member of his community and is, in fact, a taxpayer.

In conclusion, education in prison causes considerable recidivism reduction and also changes convicted persons in a positive way. Thus, it is clear that incarcerated men and women should get an education while in prison.

(Approximately 300 words)

Learning to write an essay at a band 9 level takes a lot of practice. Use this article to acquire the technique, then do practice as much as possible on all the five types of questions. Best of luck!

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