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Structure and Organization: IELTS Essay Writing Help for Task 2

Structure and Organization: IELTS Essay Writing Help for Task 2

Are you nervous about writing an essay for your IELTS test? Whether this is your first time taking IELTS or you have challenged it before, tips for practice on Writing Task 2 for both General and Academic will be useful.  Some candidates may have ideas about how to answer the question, but may get writer’s block or not know where to even begin! These few tips on organizing your ideas and how to structure an essay will help put you on the right track.

 If I were a test candidate, I would first want to know the test format. The essay will be a response to a number of different types of questions; for example, you may need to show that you are capable of challenging a position by supporting your opinion on an issue, and you can find out more about what might be expected by visiting the Centennial College IELTS Test Centre’s website. The essay is scored on a 9- band scale and for more detailed information on the criteria for grading, you can check out a public version of the band descriptors.

Start with gathering ideas to support your opinion or response in your mind. Write down 2-3 main ideas in a simple outline. Craft a clear thesis statement for your response to the question in 1-2 sentences as this will help make your position known and provide a way to keep organized (i.e.: your first reason or solution should be the topic of Body paragraph 1 and so on).  A basic 4-5 paragraph essay should begin with a short introduction followed by 2-3 body paragraphs and a brief conclusion. I like to think of the structure as a sandwich or a hamburger with three main parts. The top bun of a burger is like the introduction. The meat and lettuce in the middle of the burger reminded me of the body of an essay. Finally, if my burger doesn’t have a bottom bun, it will fall apart and I will have a disorganized mess on my plate! Similarly, if an essay doesn’t have a conclusion, the ideas are left hanging.       

When you have completed the quick and simple outline and have created a thesis statement, you can begin writing. Don’t take too long since you do not have much time, but spending a couple of minutes on organizing your thoughts may save you time later.

Start with describing the problem, issue or position presented in a couple of sentences. Finish the introduction with the thesis statement that you have already crafted. A good thesis statement should clearly show your opinion or response; additionally, a good thesis statement should not simply announce a topic (University of Illinois Writer’s Workshop, 2013). Everyone has their own way of approaching writing an essay. If you are more comfortable creating a thesis statement after you have begun writing your introduction, that’s fine, too. However, it is very important to practice writing before you take your test. You could even have a friend or colleague read your practice essay to check for clarity. Practice will also help in managing your time because you will be able to plan accordingly.  

 Each body paragraph should start with a topic sentence, which is a statement usually placed at the beginning of the body paragraphs that “indicates in a general way what idea or thesis the paragraph is going to deal with” (Purdue Online Writing Lab, 1995-2019).  For example, if the question was about whether students should work part-time while studying, a topic sentence for the first body paragraph might be as follows:

‘Gaining work experience is one benefit for students who work while studying.’

It is also important to keep one body paragraph to one main idea. It should not be a hodgepodge of ideas or jump back to a previously mentioned topic. The paragraph should be adequately supported with examples, your experience, and/or explanations. Take a look at free IELTS Writing Task 2 sample test questions from an IELTS official website. Read the instructions carefully and take note of what test takers are being asked to do. One final tip on body paragraphs is that just as each paragraph has a beginning, each one should also have an ending. Of course, the final conclusion is separate, but conclude each paragraph with an ending statement that provides a basic summary of the main idea. 

Transitions between paragraphs and between sentences will help readers follow your argument. Think of transitional words as a kind of road map for the logic and organization of your essay so that the reader doesn’t get confused about your main point. It is important to think of the essay from the reader’s point of view (to help the reader understand more clearly what you want to express). Adverbial conjunctions, such as ‘nevertheless’, ‘however’, and ‘on the other hand’, helps signal a contrasting idea. For instance, you may be asked to write an essay on the benefit of cooking your own food. An IELTS test taker might also discuss the opposite view (the drawbacks of cooking your own meals) to recognize that some people may be too busy to cook their own food. As a side note, the topic ideas used in this article are crafted for illustrative purposes of basic essay writing style only. An example sentence may be as follows:

‘One cannot deny the nutritional benefit of cooking your own food; however, those with a hectic lifestyle may not always have time to cook as well as complete their necessary duties.’   

Other transitional words usually come between paragraphs in an essay, such as firstly, and secondly. Another way to provide a transition between paragraphs is by rewording the question in statement form and providing your answer. An example statement is provided below for an essay on the drawbacks of families caring for their elderly on their own.

A second reason why families should not carry the responsibility of caring for their elderly relatives by themselves is because they may develop caregiver burn out.’       

Last but not least, ensure you have enough time to summarize your main ideas in a conclusion. It is a good idea to use alternate ways of stating your main points instead of merely repeating yourself. If you have forgotten another idea you wish you had mentioned earlier, it is best to revise the body paragraphs. The conclusion is not a good place to introduce a new idea. Finally, think through the issue carefully so that you present your ideas in a logical manner and avoid making too many mistakes. Always leave extra time at the end to read the entire essay and check for errors. Also, enjoy sharing your unique ideas in writing. Yes, I said ‘Enjoy!’ My advice as an instructor to anyone encountering an academic writing situation is to relax and allow your ideas to flow more easily. Be proud of yourself that you have come this far, practice your writing skills, and work diligently to get where you hope to be.