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2 Different Types Of Essays Essay

It is a bit of a myth that there is a ‘one size fits all’ structure for IELTS Writing task 2 essays. Whilst the exam task criteria is the same each time, ie. you must write a minimum 250 words in approximately 40 minutes, there are actually 5 different types of Task 2 essays and each has a slightly different structure.

Many IELTS websites will suggest that you organise your essay in a specific way. It will probably look something like this:

  • Introduction
  • Paragraph 1
    • Main idea
    • Supporting ideas
  • Paragraph 2
    • Main idea
    • Supporting ideas
  • Possible Paragraph 3
    • Main idea
    • Supporting ideas
  • Conclusion

If you are aiming for a Band Score of around 5 or 6, then this kind of generic structure will probably be enough in each case. However, if you are aiming for a higher score, it is crucial that you familiarise yourself both with the different variations of essay types you might be given and the most effective way to organise your response.

The 5 most common types of Task 2 essays are:

  • Opinion (often Agree or Disagree)
  • Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Problem and Solution
  • Discussion (Discuss both views)
  • Two-part Question

Opinion essays:

In an Opinion essay, you need to clearly express what you personally feel about the given topic. If you are asked direct questions like in the task below, then it is up to you how balanced or one-sided you choose to answer. You can address both parts of the question equally or focus mainly on one side, depending on your point of view.

Have newspapers become a thing of the past or do they still have an important role to play in people’s lives today?

In a task like the one below, where you are asked to what extent you agree or disagree, it is very important that you state this explicitly at the beginning and then again at the end of your essay. Do you agree fully, mainly, partly or not at all?

Computers have made it possible for people to work from home  instead of working in offices every day.This should be encouraged as it good for both workers and employers. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Remember: this is also considered an ‘argument’ essay and you should try to convince the reader that your opinion is right. In this case, I suggest that your essay structure should look something like this:

  • Introduction
    • Paraphrase the question (your own words)
    • Thesis statement (state your agreement or disagreement)
    • Essay overview (optional)
  • Paragraph 1 and 2
    • Topic sentence (state a position)
    • Explain this further (maybe give a reason)
    • Give an example
    • Summarise paragraph
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise main ideas
    • Reiterate your opinion

Simon at, a former IELTS examiner, explainshere how to structure an opinion essay depending on the extent to which you agree.

Advantages and Disadvantages essays:

In an Advantages and Disadvantages essay such as the one below, you need to discuss the positive and negative perspectives equally and to clearly explain why you think something is an advantage or a disadvantage.  It is common to start Paragraph 1 with the advantages, however this is optional.

Nowadays many students have the opportunity to study some or all of their course in a foreign country. What are the advantages and disadvantages of studying abroad?

A possible structure for this type of question is:

  • Introduction
    • Paraphrase the question
    • Outline your main ideas
    • State your opinion (if the question asks)
  • Paragraph 1
    • State one advantage
    • Explain the benefits of this advantage
    • Give an example or a result
  • Paragraph 2
    • State one disadvantage
    • Explain the negative aspect of this disadvantage
    • Give an example or a result
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise your main ideas
    • Give your opinion (if asked)

Problem and Solution essays:

In a Problem and Solution essay, such as the one below, you need to think carefully about how to respond to the questions posed. It is also important that you address all parts of the task. The first question will refer to the problem or cause and the second question will refer to the solution. Try to limit yourself to answering these questions only and don’t introduce any further questions/points of your own otherwise you might stray off task.

Overpopulation is a major problem in many urban centres around the world. What problems does this cause? How can we solve the issue of overpopulation?

Try this structure to organise your essay:

  • Introduction
    • Paraphrase the question
    • Outline your main ideas
  • Paragraph 1
    • State the problem
    • Explain the problem
    • Explain the consequence (result) of this problem
    • Give an example
  • Paragraph 2
    • State the solution
    • Explain the solution
    • Give an example
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise your main ideas

Discussion essays:

In a Discussion essay, such as the one below, you will be presented with two sides of an issue and you will need to examine both perspectives equally before giving your own conclusion.

In today’s competitive world, many families find it necessary for both parents to go out to work. While some say the children in these families benefit from the additional income, others feel they lack support because of their parents’ absence. Discuss both sides and give your opinion.

In this case, your essay structure could look like this:

  • Introduction
    • Paraphrase the question AND/OR state both points of view
    • Give your thesis statement (which view you prefer)
  • Paragraph 1
    • State first point of view
    • Discuss this perspective
    • Give a reason why you agree or disagree with this viewpoint
    • Give an example to support your view
  • Paragraph 2
    • State second point of view
    • Discuss this perspective
    • Give a reason why you agree or disagree with this viewpoint
    • Give an example to support your view
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise your main ideas
    • Restate your opinion

Two-part esssays:

In a Two-part question essay, such as the example below, you will get two questions. You must answer both questions fully otherwise you risk getting a low score for Task Achievement.

In today’s society, success is often measured in terms of wealth and possessions. Do you think these are the best measure of success? What makes a successful person?

So, in this case, I suggest organising your ideas in the following way:

  • Introduction
    • Paraphrase the question
    • Briefly answer both questions
  • Paragraph 1
    • Answer the first question directly
    • Explain your reason(s)
    • Expand your argument (evidence, examples, personal experience)
  • Paragraph 2
    • Answer the second question directly
    • Explain your reason(s)
    • Expand your argument (evidence, examples, personal experience)
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise your main ideas

Please bear in mind that these structures are my suggestions; they are not fixed in stone and you can adapt them to fit what you want to say. However, I highly recommend using these templates to practise organising your ideas into paragraphs then developing them into an essay, in preparation for the writing exam. Having a clear idea of these essay structures will help you stay on task in the exam, manage your time more efficiently and express your ideas clearly.

Remember too to use linking words and phrases to connect your sentences and paragraphs together to improve your scores in Coherence and Cohesion. Stay tuned for a blog post on this topic very soon!

We will soon be launching IELTS Write, where you can supercharge your writing score! Sign up to IELTS Write to access a variety of exclusive IELTS Writing tasks. Our experienced IELTS tutors will give you quick, detailed feedback on your writing. Sign uphere and you’ll be the first to know when we launch!

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Filed Under: Writing Task 2

An essay is a paper that discusses, describes or analyzes one topic. It can discuss a subject directly or indirectly, seriously or humorously. It can describe personal opinions, or just report information. An essay can be written from any perspective, but essays are most commonly written in the first person (I), or third person (subjects that can be substituted with the he, she, it, or they pronouns).

There are many different kinds of essays. The following are a some of the most common ones:



 Examples: A descriptive essay could describe . . .

* a tree in my backyard;
* a visit to the children's ward of a hospital;
* a hot fudge sundae;
* what an athlete did in order to make it to the Olympics.

The descriptive essay provides details about how something looks, feels, tastes, smells, makes one feel, or sounds. It can also describe what something is, or how something happened. These essays generally use a lot of sensory details. The essay could be a list-like description that provides point by point details. Or, it could function as a story, keeping the reader interested in the plot and theme of the event described.


 Examples: A definition essay may try and define . . .

* the meaning of an abstract concept, like love;
* the true meaning and importance of honesty;
* how the meaning of family goes deeper than just your blood relatives.

A definition essay attempts to define a specific term. It could try to pin down the meaning of a specific word, or define an abstract concept. The analysis goes deeper than a simple dictionary definition; it should attempt to explain why the term is defined as such. It could define the term directly, giving no information other than the explanation of the term. Or, it could imply the definition of the term, telling a story that requires the reader to infer the meaning.


 Examples:A compare/contrast essay may discuss . . .

* the likenesses and differences between two places, like New York City and Los Angeles;
* the similarities and differences between two religions, like Christianity and Judaism;
* two people, like my brother and myself.

The compare/contrast essay discusses the similarities and differences between two things, people, concepts, places, etc. The essay could be an unbiased discussion, or an attempt to convince the reader of the benefits of one thing, person, or concept. It could also be written simply to entertain the reader, or to arrive at an insight into human nature. The essay could discuss both similarities and differences, or it could just focus on one or the other. A comparison essay usually discusses the similarities between two things, while the contrast essay discusses the differences.



 Examples:A cause/effect essay may explain . . .

* why a volcano erupts, and what happens afterwards;
* what happens after a loved one's death.

The cause/effect essay explains why or how some event happened, and what resulted from the event. This essay is a study of the relationship between two or more events or experiences. The essay could discuss both causes and effects, or it could simply address one or the other. A cause essay usually discusses the reasons why something happened. An effect essay discusses what happens after a specific event or circumstance.

The example below shows a cause essay, one that would explain how and why an event happened.

If this cause essay were about a volcanic eruption, it might go something like this:
"Pressure and heat built up beneath the earth's surface; the effect of this was an enormous volcanic eruption."

The next example shows an effect essay, one that would explain all the effects that happened after a specific event, like a volcanic eruption.

If this effect essay were about a volcanic eruption again, it might go something like this:
"The eruption caused many terrible things to happen; it destroyed homes, forests, and polluted the atmosphere."


 Examples:A narrative essay could tell of . . .

* my brother's and my fishing trips;
* a boring trip to the grocery store;
* my near-death experience at the beach.

The narrative essay tells a story. It can also be called a "short story." Generally the narrative essay is conversational in style, and tells of a personal experience. It is most commonly written in the first person (uses I). This essay could tell of a single, life-shaping event, or simply a mundane daily experience.


 Examples: A process essay may explain . . .

* how to properly re-pot a plant;
* how an individual came to appreciate hard work.

A process essay describes how something is done. It generally explains actions that should be performed in a series. It can explain in detail how to accomplish a specific task, or it can show how an individual came to a certain personal awareness. The essay could be in the form of step-by-step instructions, or in story form, with the instructions/explanations subtly given along the way.


 Examples: An argumentative essay may persuade a reader that . . .

* he or she should use public transportation instead of driving.
* cats are better than dogs.

An argumentative essay is one that attempts to persuade the reader to the writer's point of view. The writer can either be serious or funny, but always tries to convince the reader of the validity of his or her opinion. The essay may argue openly, or it may attempt to subtly persuade the reader by using irony or sarcasm.


 Examples: A critical essay may analyze . . .

* how Shakespeare presents the character, Othello, in his play, Othello;
* the strengths and weaknesses of the movie, Children of a Lesser God;
* the use of color in Monet's painting, Sunflowers.

A critical essay analyzes the strengths, weaknesses and methods of someone else's work. Generally these essays begin with a brief overview of the main points of the text, movie, or piece of art, followed by an analysis of the work's meaning. It should then discuss how well the author/creator accomplishes his/her goals and makes his/her points. A critical essay can be written about another essay, story, book, poem, movie, or work of art.