How to approach essay questions in IELTS?

The writing component of the IELTS is usually regarded as the most difficult among pupils. Among these, the essay component is known for making it difficult for students to achieve a high band score. I feel that with the appropriate technique, essay writing would be a piece of cake.

The most important thing to remember when addressing an IELTS essay question is to comprehend what the question demands of you. Students frequently obtain lower grades because they misunderstand the question and create an answer that does not precisely answer the query in the essay question.

Before learning how to write an essay, it is vital to understand what components of your essay are graded by an examiner:


An examiner looks for 4 aspects in your essay: 

  1. Task achievement: you satisfy the scores for this section if you properly identified the type of question and answered the essay with consistency, including points in line with the question.
  2. Coherence and cohesion: Simply put, your answer should address the topic directly while maintaining the appropriate tone and flow until the end.
  3. Lexical resources: employing the appropriate language for the question without excessive repetition of the same phrases.
  4. Grammatical range and accuracy: Writing without grammatical errors and using various sentence kinds, including compound and complex statements. Grammar is very much important in IELTS.

Let us delve into some techniques that will help you approach the essay question effectively. 

IELTS Essay Writing Techniques

1. Identifying the type of question 

The first and most important step is to determine the type of question. A typical IELTS essay question will be divided into two parts. The first section will provide you with a statement about a topic, and the second section will describe how and what approach you must follow to address the essay.

The common IELTS essay question types are:

  1. Argument type
  2. Discussion type
  3. Direct essay
  4. Cause effect solution essay
  5. Double question essay

The common question endings are:

  1. Do you Agree or disagree? ( do you stand for or against)
  2. State your opinion
  3. Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?
  4. Discuss both sides
  5. Delineate the advantages and disadvantages
  6.  What are the cause/effect/solution
  7. Why is this the case? Is it a positive or negative trend ( double question) 

2. Brainstorming main ideas

Once you have identified the question, utilise the free space in your question paper to write down the points that you plan to present in a nutshell. This will assist you in organising these points while you write your essay.  Always confirm that the subpoints are relevant examples where necessary. It is of utmost importance to write points that are exclusively related to the question.  vague generalised points on the topic will not gain you a good band score.

3. Planning the essay structure and paragraphing 

It is critical to plan the framework of your essay before you begin writing. It is preferable to practise and master a specific structure pattern for each form of essay to write efficiently.

 For example, look at the essay question given below:

Many companies urge their employees to take up work from home. What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages to it ?

This question asks you to present the merits and demerits of work from home. A sample structure for this essay is as follows:

  1. Introduction – write 2 introductory statements about work from home. Write a third sentence about what you are going to present henceforth in the essay ( eg: this essay shall analyse the merits and demerits of work from home to both the employer and employees)
  2. Paragraph on merits of work from home – write 2 to 3 positives of work from home to employers and employees
  3. Paragraph on demerits of work from home -write 2 to 3 negatives of work from home to employers and employees
  4. Conclusion – write two or 3 sentences balancing the merits and demerits of work from home ( eg: In conclusion, while the benefits of work from home are undeniable, the drawbacks should not be overlooked)

Let us look at another example: 

Some people say that advertisements have only benefits while others argue that it has several negatives. Discuss both sides and give your opinion. 

  1. Introduction – write 2 introductory statements about advertisements. Write a third sentence about what you are going to present henceforth in the essay ( eg: this essay shall analyse both sides of the topic and draw a conclusion that advertisements has more drawbacks)
  2. Present one side – give 2 to 3 points about merits of advertisements and include relevant example
  3. Present other side – write 2 to 3 points about the demerits of advertisements
  4. Opinion paragraph – here say why you are of the opinion that advertisements proffer more negatives. Mention 1 or 2 points with anecdotal evidence to support your opinion.
  5. Conclusion – write 2 or 3 statements on your final opinion ( eg: after taking into consideration of both sides, i strongly stand by the opinion that advertisements proffers more negatives to individuals and society) 

Observe one more example:

Traffic is increasing day by day. What do you think are the causes and effects of it? What solutions can be applied for dealing with this issue?

  1. Introduction– 2 general statements regarding traffic problem.Write a third sentence about what you are going to present henceforth in the essay ( eg: this essay shall analyse the major causes and effects of this issue and derive solutions to it)
  2. Cause – mention 2 or 3 causes of traffic.
  3. Effect– write 2 to 3 effects
  4. Solution– write 2 to 3 solutions 
  5. Conclusion– write 2 or 3 statements about the importance of addressing this issue ( eg: as traffic is an ever growing issue it is critical to address it effectively. The solutions would help to mitigate this problem to an extend)

These examples show that the structure of each sort of essay should be distinct. And creating such patterns ahead of time and practising with them can help you finish your essay in the allotted period of 40 minutes.

Please keep in mind that this is an example framework that you can change and use based on your sensibility and the demand of the question. The number of points to be written is also part of the instructions; you can modify it according to your abilities because there is no set number of points that must be written. However, it would be preferable if you included at least two instances in your essay to back up your ideas.

4. Time management 

In essay writing, managing your 40 minutes properly is vital. Many times, students have the ability to write well but are unable to complete their essay on time. Remember that omitting any important paragraph of the essay will lower your score. This generally occurs when students write hastily when they are short on time and overlook the essay’s ‘conclusion’ paragraph. If you do not write the conclusion, you will definitely lose a point for it, and your essay may not receive a grade higher than the 6.5 band.

Let me provide a time management technique that you can use to start writing from the beginning:

Total time for essay writing: 40 minutes

First 5 minutes: understanding the question type, formulating and writing down the points briefly 

Next 35 to 37 minutes: presenting your essay using the appropriate structure and paragraphing 

Final 3 to 5 minutes: Review your essay for any possible errors, especially spelling and punctuation. 

5. Word count

An IELTS essay should be at least 250 words long, according to the guidelines. It is critical to monitor your word count because writing anything less than 250 words may harm your score. It is fine to write between 250 and 400 words as long as what you write is entirely linked to the topic and is presented in a logical and ordered manner.

How to find relevant content to write for essay questions?

Once you’ve established a strategy for presenting your essay, the next hurdle is to learn how to construct relevant points for a wide range of IELTS essay topics. The finest strategy would be to practise the most recent questions and to consult any reputable IELTS instruction materials.

 For more information on the top IELTS books, visit our blog 📖Top 6 books to prepare for IELTS Exam

Another useful strategy is to learn about the most prevalent subjects for essay questions in the IELTS exam. Let’s take a look at the top 20 IELTS essay topics:

Core topic Sub-topic 
Art 1. Censorship of art and artists
2. Creativity
3. Art in school
4. The benefit of art for individuals and society 
5. Funding
Business and Money 1. Small-scale vs large-scale business
2. Family-run business
3. Business and technology
4. Materialism and consumerism
Communication and Personality1. Technology and communication
2. Family and communication 
3. Face-to-face and long distance 
4. Types of communication
5. Innate and developed personality traits 
6. Female/male characters
Crime and punishment1. Education vs prisons
2. Capital punishment vs other types
3. Major vs minor crimes 
4. Crime and technology
5. Teenagers and crime
6. Role of police
7. Men and women in law enforcement
Economics 1. Cash vs cards
2. Saving vs spending
3. Globalisation and economy
4. World economic issues 
5. Economic progress and success
Education 1. Children and education
2. Choice of relevant subjects
3. Education and technology
4. Role of teachers vs computers in education
5. Single-sex vs mixed schools
6. Educational aid to poorer countries
Environment 1. Protection of endangered species
2. Zoo’s positives vs negatives
3. Environmental problems 
4. Government vs individual roles
Family and children1. Family roles 
2. Family size extended or nuclear
3. Generation gap
4. Discipline
5. Role models
Food 1. Healthy diets
2. Education of diet
3. Traditional vs modern diet
4. Homemade vs restaurant food
5. Fast food consumption 
6. Children and diet 
Health 1. Prevention vs cure
2. Funding
3. Health Education 
4. Health facilities poor and rich countries
5. Dealing with global epidemics
6. Hospitals and treatments 
7. Obesity
8. Stress and depression 
9. Exercise and health
Language 1. Only one global language
2. Methods of language learning
3. Travel and language
4. The disappearance of languages
5. Language and culture
Media and Advertising 1. Censorship control and freedom of speech
2. Methods of advertising
3. Chiltren and advertising
4. Media and technology
5. News and reports
6. Influence of media on people
Reading1. Hardcopy vs ebooks
2. Children and reading
3. Books in Education
4. Libraries
5. Reading and leisure
Technology 1. Controlling the internet
2. Socialising online
3. Children and safe internet usage
4. Influence on changing society
5. Letter vs email
6. Storing and sharing of data
7. Safety of personal information
8. Hacking
Transport 1. Development of infrastructure
2. Comparing forms of transport
3. Problems with modern transportation
4. Environmental issues due to transportation modes
Travel 1. Culture and travel
2. Understanding people and travel
3. Living in a global world
Society 1. Overpopulation
2. Poverty
3. Homeless people
4. Crimes on streets
5. Modern lifestyle
6. Budget spending
7. Public services
Sports 1. Professionals vs ametuerus
2. Equipments
3. Sports and learning
4. Sports as a school subject
5. Men and women in sports
6. Types of sports
Work 1. Shift work
2. Women i work 
3. Types of jobs 
4. Child labour
5. Part-time work
6. Work and technology
7. Salary 
8. Equality in pay/ at workplace
Other common topics1. Space exploration
2. Water and oceans
3. Change or moving vs stability and consistency

It is preferable if you go over questions on these topics to get a general understanding of them, and it will also help you formulate points for questions on each of these areas. There are a plethora of free resources available online to turn to if you are having problems formulating ideas and points for specific topics. For example, if you need knowledge on themes such as the environment, education, health, and politics, visit this fantastic website environmental-conscienceOpens in a new tab..

How to learn vocabulary for essay writing?

The most effective way to learn the language is through context and need. Rote memorising a large number of words will not help you much when writing your essay because you may not be able to recall them at the appropriate time because you did not learn them contextually.

I would recommend learning vocabulary whilst practising essay writing. Suppose you are writing an essay about health, either during your practise process or during the proofreading time you can gather vocabulary related to health and note it down.I would recommend learning vocabulary whilst practising essay writing.

Suppose you are writing an essay about health, and you can acquire health-related terminology and note it down throughout your practise or proofreading time. However, you should double-check that you understand where to use these words, and it is critical that you include them the next time you attempt an essay on a similar topic ( if relevant). It is also critical to keep a separate notebook for essay writing and mark the high-frequency vocabulary (the type of words that will increase your score) so that you can simply glance through it when revising.

Learn about the IELTS writing module in detail. Visit IELTS Writing – A Complete Guide

How important is it to use tough vocabulary for getting a good score in writing?

It is not critical to employ rare or uncommon words to improve your score. It is always important to use terms that are pertinent to the topic at hand.

A prevalent misconception among applicants is that you can only score a 7 or higher if you employ difficult terminology. Because vocabulary accounts for only 25% of the final score, it is equally crucial that you execute your assignment consistently and with the proper grammatical structures in order to achieve a band 7 or above.

You can utilise rare terms if they are important, but a much better approach would be to master topic-related vocabulary, as well as synonyms for the most regularly used words. When pupils repeatedly use the same words in their essay, they frequently receive a lower grade.

To check the IELTS band score use you can use our IELTS score calculator

How important is grammar and spelling for writing a good essay? 

Since IELTS is an English language proficiency test, test takers must ensure that their responses are written or presented appropriately with the right grammar. Grammar is essential for understanding, communication, and clarity as it  will enable you to make your presentation clear and easy to understand for the examiner. Your grammatical precision is critical in calculating your band score.

Spelling and punctuation are also important for the appropriate presentation of an essay. No matter how excellent the calibre of your essay is, if you make frequent spelling mistakes, it will disrupt the flow of reading your essay and lead to a lower band. The examiner will overlook a few minor spelling errors, but as they occur more frequently, they will be marked leading to a reduced band score.

A few minor spelling errors will be overlooked by the examiner, but when they occur more frequently, they will have a negative impact on your score.

The same is true for punctuation. Wrong punctuation, particularly commas, and uneven capitalization can cause your writing to lose significance. This may confuse the examiner, resulting in a low band score. Grammar and spelling are both equally important in achieving a higher band score in the writing portion.

How to proofread an essay? 

A student can proofread an essay using one of three approaches, depending on their comfort and circumstances. These are the self-evaluation, peer evaluation and mentor evaluation methods.

  1. Self-evaluation 

The self-evaluation method involves checking your responses on your own. You can spot spelling and grammatical problems, as well as concepts or views that are offered that are irrelevant to the issue. You can also look to high band score responses to get more ideas about how to communicate your ideas. Please keep in mind that this strategy will only be beneficial if your basic grammar is sound.

  1. Peer evaluation 

Peer evaluation is the process of having a friend or colleague check your essays. It would be preferable if this peer person had previously taken the IELTS exam and earned a high band score in writing. As a result, they can provide you with modifications and suggestions to help you increase your IELTS score.

  1. Mentor evaluation

This is by far the most effective and time-saving way because your writing will be corrected by an IELTS mentor or tutor. Using an experienced tutor for corrections will save you time because they are specialists in the field and can swiftly spot your mistakes and offer suggestions for improvement. They will also be able to provide you with an almost exact score for each essay you submit. As a result, you may track your progress in writing and determine whether you meet your final target band along the process. 


The proper strategy is essential for effectively presenting an IELTS essay. With regular practice and proofreading, you will be able to crack the writing section if you follow a suitable format and present ideas and points pertinent to the topic question.

Shruthi Raveendran

I am Shruthi Raveendran, a TEFL-certified IELTS/PTE and ESL tutor who has 8+ years of experience working in the education industry. I am a passionate writer, logophile and film enthusiast

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