February 18, 2018

IELTS Writing: The 3 Essay Types

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Today’s lesson is an IELTS lesson, so as usual, I’ll be speaking a little bit faster than normal, give you a little bit of listening practice. And today we’re going to look at specifically the essay types, the types of essays you’re going to have to come across for those of you taking the IELTS test in the writing section task two, the independent essay. I’m going to talk about the types of essays, and a very general idea, a very general discussion about how to approach, generally again, the essay.

Talk about templates, but I’ll do that a little bit later. So first of all, the main thing to remember, you have essentially three types of essays that you’re going to come across on the IELTS writing test. You’re going to have an essay that asks for an opinion, you’re going to have an essay that does not ask for an opinion, and then you’re going to have a hybrid, you’re going to have a combination of the two. Okay? So first let’s go over the types of questions you might see that ask for an opinion. Now, it’s very important to recognize that not all of you…

Sorry, not all of the questions are going to be specifically mentioning the word: “opinion”, or “think”, or “believe”, but you still have to recognize. So: “Do you agree or disagree with whatever has been mentioned before?” or whatever is written there. “Do you agree or disagree?”

Take a side. “I agree with this because”, reasons. “I disagree because”, reasons. And similarly: “To what extent do you agree or disagree?” A quick word about “to what extent”, I personally recommend completely, totally, fully agree with whatever you agree with because it’s a much easier essay to write. If you say: “I somewhat agree”, then you have to look at both sides and tell me what you agree with, what you disagree with.

If you say: “I completely agree with this idea”, then you only have to focus on that idea. It’s much easier. “Do you think” something, so this is a very direct question about your opinion.

“What do you think about this?” or “What do you think are the causes of”, “What do you think are the main issues or problems?” Now: “Do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks”, or: “Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?” As soon as you see, here, the word: “Do”, it’s a yes/no question, you have to say yes or no, and we’re going to talk about yes/no questions. But this word: “outweigh”… “Are there more drawbacks or are there more benefits?”

This is an opinion question. You decide if there are more drawbacks or opinions. “Which is better: This situation or this situation?”

Okay? “Is it more important to do this or to do that?” So, again, these are all yes/no… This is a choice question because you have the “better”, you have the comparative. And, again, you have this, plus the yes/no. So as soon as it’s a yes/no question, it’s an opinion question.

Make sure that you answer very specifically yes or no, this side or this side, and say why you think so. Support your opinion. And yes/no, if a question begins with: “Should some… Should somebody do something? “, “Should this be done? “, “Do… Do people need to do this?” for example.

Excuse me. Any yes/no question is asking for an opinion. Okay? Make sure that you give an opinion, make sure that you support that opinion. Okay, now, let’s go on to the non-opinion questions. “Discuss”, so they’re going to give you two attitudes, or two views, or two approaches to something.

They say: “Discuss both views. Discuss both attitudes.” This is not asking for your opinion. So, one thing, it’s a general rule of thumb, don’t always apply it because some of you don’t like to use the word “I”, but if the question has a “you”, the answer can, and in most cases should, have an “I”. Okay? You don’t have to use the personal pronoun.

It’s not wrong to. A lot of people are afraid, they think academic essays shouldn’t use “I”. Totally okay, recommended for a lot of people. If you can’t make your views clear without using the “I”, then use the “I”. Here, don’t use the “I”. They’re not asking for your opinion, don’t give them your opinion.

This is a descriptive essay: “Discuss both sides”, so this is one side, this is the other side, end of story. I’m going to show you how to begin your essay in the introduction for these. “Compare and contrast these two things”, that’s it.

Body paragraph one, this one; body paragraph two, this one. “What are the advantages and disadvantages?” Body paragraph one, advantages; body paragraph two, disadvantages. That’s it. Problem/solution: “What are the causes” or “What are the problems”, so you have cause and solution, you have problem and solution. “What might be some possible causes for this situation?

“, “What do you think are the problems with this approach?” That’s it. What solutions might actually work to help it? They’re not asking: What solution would you recommend? If they put a “you”, you’re going to put an “I”, an opinion.

If they don’t put a “you”, and they don’t ask for an opinion, don’t give one. Now: “Why”, “What”, “How”, these are very direct questions. “Why are…? “, “Why does this thing happen? “, “How can the government help fix this problem?”

etc. “What are some solutions to this situation?” Now, these are more commonly going to be found in the two-part question.

All of these are very straightforward question, this is mostly in the two-part. So, some essays will give you two questions and you have to answer both questions within the essay. Okay? Now, you can also have a hybrid, which is basically taking the non-opinion and asking for an opinion. “Discuss both views and give your opinion.” Make sure that you do both, but the approach is very different.

“Discuss both without opinion” and “Discuss both with opinion”, very different approach to the essay. Now, this is usually the one that’s most difficult for people to do because they don’t know how to break up their essays. But if you want to see how I work through both types of essays, go to my writing channel: www.writetotop.com or YouTube “Write To Top”, the link is in the description and you can watch me work through both types of essays, hopefully help you out.

Okay? Same thing with “compare”. “Compare both sides and say which you agree with.

“, “What are the advantages and disadvantages, and which do you think is more?” for example. Problems and solutions: “What are some possible problems to this situation, and what do you think are ways to fix it?” So, all of these can be… Have the opinion part added to it. Okay? So be very careful.

If you’re asked for an opinion, give one; if you’re not asked for one, don’t give one. If you’re asked for a descriptive essay and an opinion, make sure you do both. Okay? So we’re going to look at a little bit… How to begin your essays, how to introduce… Introduce both sides in a very general set up of your ideas and how to organize.

Okay? Okay, so we’re going to look at basic things to keep in mind when you’re writing these essays, but the main thing I want to make very clear to everybody: Don’t look for a template for the essay. Every question will require its own approach, its own way of looking at the topic, at the question and the issue, debate, whatever it is, and you have to approach each essay on its own. Don’t look for a template that you can try to apply to every question because you can’t. Every type of question has its own approach, every type of… Every hybrid, for example, has different ways to do it. There’s no one right way to write an essay.

There’s only one right way to express your ideas, that’s what you try to figure out how to do. Right? But the more you practice, the better feel you get for these essays, and you’re able to approach any question with the right things. But having said all of that, a few things to keep in mind. If you’re asked for an opinion, make sure you give an opinion in the introduction: “I agree that” or “I agree with”, “I believe that”, “In my opinion this is the right way”. Make sure you do this.

Now, you don’t have to use “I”, again, I mentioned this before, but if you’re not sure how to make your opinion very clear to the reader, just tell it to them very directly. “I agree”, “I believe”, “In my opinion”, etc. Now, how are you going to build your argument basically in your body paragraphs? Start with your strong argument first in the body paragraph, try to focus only on the side you’re arguing for. So if you agree with side A, spend the time and the words in body paragraph one to convince the reader that side A is a good side to choose.

In side B, in body paragraph two when you’re looking at side B, start with a concession. What this means… And talk about side B. What are some good points about the other side? But make sure it’s short, and make sure you turn it right back around and continue to arguing… To argue for your side. By the end of it, by the time you get to the conclusion it should be very clear what your opinion is and why you had it. Right?

Now, a lot of ways to play with this, but this is the general approach you’re going to be taking: If they’re not asking you for an opinion, don’t give one. Again, you can say: “This essay will look at”, “discuss” whatever topic you’re looking at or discussing. “There are several ways to fix pollution, as this essay will demonstrate.” So basically you’re telling the reader: “What is the objective?

What is the purpose of the essay?” It’s to deliver information or to describe something, or to outline a process, etc. Now, you don’t have to be very obvious either.

Right? You don’t have to say: “This essay will discuss”. If you know how to write a sentence that makes it very clear to the reader that this is what the objective of the essay is, do that. Okay?

“Though there are several reasons for the high-crime rate in the inner cities, the… This particular situation seems to be the most pertinent”, or “the most obvious”, or “the most common”. As soon as you say that, I understand that this is what you’re going to be talking about.

Right? “There are several reasons, but this is the most important one.” It doesn’t mean I think so, it’s obvious, it’s clear. “Here, I’m going to give you some information or some reasons to support this observation.”

Not opinion, observation. Body paragraph one, reason one; body paragraph two, reason two. Body paragraph one, advantage one; body paragraph two, disadvantage one. Benefit, drawback, compare, contrast. Okay? All of these things are very straightforward.

Paragraph one, one thing; paragraph two, the second thing; conclusion, therefore all of these things support the idea that this is the more important aspect, or reason, or whatever you’re discussing. Now, these are not templates. Don’t think of this as a template. Don’t do this every time you have an essay about… That’s not an opinion.

Okay? Sometimes you’ll have to do it in different ways. Okay? Compare, contrast. You can compare and contrast one aspect in body paragraph two, you can compare and contrast another aspect in body paragraph two.

Paragraph one, paragraph two. You can do both and both, you can do one and one. Lots of ways to do it. The main thing is: Don’t give an opinion, make sure the reader understands the objective of the essay, and then organize your ideas in a very clear way to support that. Give your opinion, make sure that the reader understands why you have this opinion, and that they believe… That you believe this opinion.

Okay? We’re going to look a little bit at the hybrid ones because they’re a little bit different. Lots of ways to approach it. Let’s look at some ideas. Okay, let’s look at the last one, the hybrid.

“Discuss both opinions” or “Discuss both things, and give your own opinion”. Right? So, now, what you have to do, you have to… In your thesis, in your introduction you have to make it clear to me that there are two sides and that you choose one over the other. So, actually I’m going to… “There are pros and cons to wearing uniforms in school.”

If the essay is: “Should students wear uniforms in school?” So: “There are pros and cons to wearing a uniform, though I believe that students should wear them every day.” Okay, just as an example. So as soon as you tell me there are pros and cons, remember you put it in the introduction. As a reader I’m expecting to see the pros and cons in the body. Right?

That’s why you put it here. So that is your discuss aspect: “Discuss both”, because pros, cons, both sides. Now, as soon as you believe one over the other, then you’re giving me your opinion. Okay?

Very straightforward. Now, how are you going to split up your ideas? Body paragraph one, discuss both things. Discuss the pros, discuss the cons, obviously very briefly. These are short essays, you don’t need to give me that much information.

Give me one pro, give me one con, but right away start to lean to the one you’re choosing. Right? If you’re believing that there are more pros than cons, that students should wear uniforms, make sure that the last sentence or the last couple of sentences give me, as the reader, a hint that that’s what you’re choosing. And then in body paragraph two fully support that choice and make maybe one or two mentions to the other side. Don’t spend too much time going back to the other side, just make a very short mention about the other side. So: “Students who are forced to wear uniforms don’t have to make decisions every morning, although some people say that making decisions is good for a child’s development.

But not having to make the choices helps them spend more time concentrating on school.” So, I mention the other side, and then quickly I come back to the side I’m choosing and I continue to support my choice. And then in the conclusion, again: “There are benefits and drawbacks, but I believe that…” Actually don’t say: “I believe”. “There are benefits and drawbacks, but it’s clear that wearing uniforms help the students more.”

Okay? Again, very different ways to do this, very… A lot of different approaches to these types of questions, but keep in mind there’s no template. Figure out exactly what you need to do and make sure that you do it. If you need to give an opinion, give it; if you need to not give one, don’t give one; if you need to discuss and give one, do both. Okay?

Especially be careful with the two-part questions. Sometimes it’ll be two questions that don’t ask for an opinion, sometimes it’ll be one question for description, one question for an opinion. Is it non-opinion or is it a hybrid?

Be very careful about that. There is a quiz on www.engvid.com where I make sure you guys understood all this stuff. Like the video if you liked it, please. And if you have any questions, please go to www.engvid.com, there’s a forum there, you can ask any questions you like. And subscribe to my channel.

And hopefully I’ll come back soon with more good lessons to help you with your IELTS. See you then. Bye-bye.