IELTS Writing Task 2 Discussion Essay

The discussion essay question appears often in both the Academic and General Training IELTS writing tests. In this type of essay question you will be asked to discuss both sides of a particular issue or topic. You may also be asked to give your own personal opinion. This type of question is easy to identify because it’s often worded in the following ways:

  • Discuss both views and give your opinion.
  • Discuss both these views and then give your own opinion.
  • Discuss both sides of this argument and give your own opinion.

During my many years of teaching IELTS in Singapore, I’ve noticed that there are three common errors that students often make in IELTS discussion essays.

  • Not stating your opinion.
  • Not giving arguments for both views.
  • Not developing both sides of the argument equally.

These are all issues that greatly affect your task achievement score. In this article, we will look at the best way to go about answering this type of essay in order to get a high band score.

In this article we will cover:

  • How to analyse the question
  • How to generate ideas
  • The discussion essay structure
  • How to write a good introduction
  • How to write the main body paragraphs
  • How to write a good conclusion

Let us look at the following example:

“Some people think that all university students should study whatever they like. Others believe they should only be allowed to study subjects that will be useful in the future, such as those related to science and technology.

Discuss both views and give your own opinion.

Question Analysis

Every essay question has three different types of phrases/words. Topic Words which give us an idea about the general essay topic. Keywords in the question will give more details as to what you specifically have to write about regarding the general topic. Often students write a general essay about the main topic instead of focusing on what the specifics asked for in the question. Lastly, every question includes Instruction words which tell us exactly how to answer.

The general topic for this discussion essay is about university-level education. More specifically, we are being asked to discuss whether or not students should have a say in the subjects they choose. The instructions tell us we have to discuss both opinions, but we will also have to state our own personal opinion as well. Even though I agree with the statement that students should choose their own subjects, I still have to discuss both sides of this argument!

Generate Ideas

The next step in writing your essay would be to generate suitable ideas for BOTH SIDES of the essay topic. It is also important to ensure that for every main idea you come up with, you have sufficient supporting points and examples to back them up with. During this stage of planning, you can also think of useful topic-specific vocabulary to use in your essay. This essay is related to the topics of science and technology as well as finance. These are common topics for both the IELTS writing and speaking exam, which means that you should have a suitable range of vocabulary related to these topics. Remember to try to replace common and repetitive vocabulary with more uncommon phrases.

Try to think of two main ideas related to this topic for the two main body paragraphs and also come up with one or two supporting points. You can also add examples to strengthen your main idea. You can use mind maps to help organise your thoughts into a more logical format. Doing this can save you time later on when you are deciding on how to structure your essay. At this stage it’s also useful to think about topic-specific vocabulary.

Discussion Essay Structure

In general, your essay should include 4 paragraphs in total, with two main body paragraphs, one for each side of the argument.

Introduction

  • Paraphrase Question and/or state both viewpoints.
  • Thesis Statement
  • Outline Sentence

Main Body Paragraph 1

  • State first viewpoint
  • Discuss the first viewpoint
  • The reason why you agree or disagree with the viewpoint
  • Example to support your view

Main Body Paragraph 2

  • State second viewpoint
  • Discuss the second viewpoint
  • The reason why you agree or disagree with the viewpoint
  • Example to support your view

Conclusion

  • Sentence 1- Summary
  • Sentence 2- State which one is better or more important

How To Write A Good Introduction

A discussion essay introduction begins with a paraphrase of the question. The ability to paraphrase(rephrase), and use synonyms, is just one of the skills that the examiner will be looking out for in your essay. Your introduction should also include an outline statement in which you provide the examiner with a brief description of what will be discussed in the essay. If the discussion essay question asks for your opinion as well then you must also include a thesis statement. A thesis statement is just a short sentence in which you state your opinion for the given topic.

Here’s our sample intro:

These days there are many contrasting views regarding tertiary education. There exists a group of people who firmly believe that students should be allowed to follow their passion, while on the other hand there are those who are of the view that limiting learners to pursue careers in fields that are considered to be highly beneficial in the future is the correct way forward. Although this essay will discuss both opinions, I am personal of the view that the former view holds true.

Here are some good phrases to use to introduce the topic of a discussion essay question

  • Some people argue that… while others say that…
  • It is considered by some…. while there are others who think….
  • It is often argued that… whilst others disagree and think…

Writing The Main Body Paragraphs

Once we have written our introductions, we need to develop our planned ideas into cohesive paragraphs using good vocabulary and cohesive devices and the recommended paragraph structure. Use one of your main ideas to create a topic sentence. The rest of the paragraph will expand on these ideas. Make sure that your ideas flow naturally from one to the next and that you use the correct words to signal what is about to follow. This means that you need to understand which linking words and discourse markers to use for different functions such as introducing an additional point or mentioning an example.

Write An Effective Conclusion

A good conclusion will neatly end the essay by linking all your ideas together and sum up your arguments or opinions. You should not introduce any new ideas or make your conclusion too long. Every conclusion should include only two to three sentences. The first sentence is basically just a summary of your introduction. And the last sentence of your conclusion should either be a recommendation sentence or a prediction sentence. A prediction is a statement about what you think will happen in the future. A recommendation is a statement about what you think should happen in the future.

Here is our sample conclusion:

In conclusion, although zoos do help safeguard dwindling populations of particular species, the suffering experienced by many captive creatures due to unstable living conditions amounts to cruelty and they should be allowed to exist 

IELTS Discussion Essay Model Answer

These days there are many contrasting views regarding tertiary education. There exists a group of people who firmly believe that students should be allowed to follow their passion, while on the other hand there are those who are of the view that limiting learners to pursue careers in fields that are considered to be highly beneficial in the future is the correct way forward. Although this essay will discuss both opinions, I am personal of the view that the former view holds true.

While there are many reasons why university subjects should be limited to more lucrative fields like science and technology, the most compelling one is that doing so increases a graduate’s chances of financial security and a higher standard of living in the future. Technology and in particular Information Technology has seeped its way into almost every aspect of our lives and this is especially true within the job market. Many people think that those who have an enhanced knowledge of IT related subjects will almost always receive preference over those who do not. However, I believe that forcing students to choose subjects in this field only leads to an oversaturation of degree holders in these fields and this causes fierce competition for a limited number of positions.

One of the major reasons that I am of the opinion that the youth should determine their own way forward regarding their career path is that people are generally happier and more content when they are engaged in activities that they have a genuine interest in. Their chances of success increase manifold because they are more willing to put in the extra effort for those fields which they are passionate about. There has been much attention and research garnered around this particular topic, which clearly shows that at every stage from student to employee to senior management positions, people are more likely to stick with and flourish in their careers if they have chosen that path of their own free will.

In conclusion while it may seem reasonable to force students to study subjects which are currently viewed as useful, I believe that allowing people to choose what they study will be helpful in creating a society that is content and emotionally satisfied with their efforts in life as opposed to just being financially secure.

Word count  305

Free Weekly IELTS Zoom Class