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Analysing Both Sides: A Guide to IELTS Writing Task 2 Discussion Essays 

 April 10, 2024

By  Jonathan

A common IELTS Writing Task 2 prompt type is the discussion essay. This format requires you to explore both sides of an argument or issue, carefully weighing the advantages and disadvantages. Mastering the structure and presentation of a balanced discussion is crucial for demonstrating your critical thinking and ability to articulate complex ideas effectively on the IELTS writing exam.

Understanding the Discussion Essay Task

  • Prompt Types:┬áDiscussion prompts may ask you to:
    • Discuss both views and state your opinion.
    • Discuss advantages and disadvantages of a topic.
    • Consider possible causes and solutions to a problem.
  • No Simple Answers: These topics aren’t about ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but rather exploring different perspectives thoughtfully.
  • Objectivity is Key: While you can have a stance, avoid strongly biased language in favor of neutral exploration.

Structuring Your Response

  1. Plan Your Approach
    • Analyze the Prompt: Identify the keywords and the specific aspects you’re asked to address.
    • Brainstorm Points (Both Sides): List potential advantages along with disadvantages, causes alongside solutions, etc. Think critically!
    • Decide On Your Opinion (If Required): Some prompts ask you to indicate a stance at the end.
  2. Essay Organization
    • Introduction:
      • Paraphrase the prompt in your own words.
      • Briefly state that there are differing views on the topic, which you’ll explore.
    • Body Paragraphs Option 1: Opposing Views
      • Dedicate one paragraph to advantages, one to disadvantages. Signal shifts with phrases like “On the other hand…”
    • Body Paragraphs Option 2: Point-by-Point
      • Each paragraph focuses on one sub-issue. Within it, discuss BOTH sides before moving on to the next aspect.
    • Conclusion
      • Summarize the main arguments from each side.
      • If the prompt asks for an opinion, state yours clearly (briefly).

Strategies for an Effective Discussion

  1. Balanced Presentation
    • Equal Weight: Ensure you dedicate roughly equal space to both sides, avoiding any appearance of strong bias towards one view.
    • Linkers for Contrast: Use words like “however,” “while,” “alternatively,” to signal shifts between perspectives.
  2. Supporting Your Points
    • Real-World Examples: Illustrate the impact of both the advantages and drawbacks.
    • Reasoning, Not Emotion: Explain why a point is positive/negative, avoid strongly emotive language.
    • Conditional Language: Employ phrases like “could potentially lead to…” or “might be an effective solution…” to acknowledge multiple possibilities.
  3. Vocabulary for Discussion
    • Presenting Viewpoints: “Some proponents argue that…” “Conversely, critics believe…”
    • Weighing Significance: “A particularly compelling argument…” “A less significant drawback might be…”

Example: Discussion Essay (Short Excerpt)

Prompt: “The increasing popularity of online shopping will lead to the closure of traditional stores. To what extent do you agree or disagree?”

Body Paragraph Excerpt: “Supporters of e-commerce argue that its convenience is unparalleled. Consumers can shop at any time and compare prices easily, saving both time and money. Conversely, opponents point out that online shopping limits personal interaction and could potentially harm local economies by reducing support for brick-and-mortar businesses.”

Additional Tips

  • Manage Your Time: Task 2 carries more weight. Don’t sacrifice time needed for a full response by over-analyzing the prompt.
  • Consider the Audience: Write formally, as if addressing a professor or an informed reader.
  • Practice with Variety: Seek discussion prompts on different topics to build your ability to analyze issues flexibly.

Remember: The IELTS discussion essay assesses your ability to consider an issue from multiple angles, organize your thoughts coherently, and use appropriate academic language. Dedicating time to mastering this format will significantly boost your potential for achieving your desired band score.

Jonathan has been teaching students to prepare for the IELTS and PTE Exams for more than 10+ years. He's taught English to students in various countries in the world including Singapore, China, Australia, Canada and Colombia.