IELTS Writing Agree Disagree Essay

One possible IELTS writing task 2 essay is the agree disagree essay. In this essay you are given a statement and asked the extent to which you either agree or disagree with it.

Strategy

One thing that will help you with IELTS writing is to have a clear strategy for constructing your answer. You may find that there are other suggested strategies elsewhere online; the important thing is to find one that you are happy with that works.

Step 1: Understand the Issue

Before you can start writing you should think about the statement that is contained in the question. Two questions that you should try to answer are:

  • Why is this an important issue (now)?
  • How do you feel about this statement?

The first of these questions will help you to set the scene and establish why the reader should care about this topic. The second will help you to decide which side you favour.

It is possible to sit on the fence or, in other words, to not pick a side. However, in my experience the stronger essays are by those students who pick a side even if they don’t totally agree.

Assuming that you will take a side, you want to try to think of two arguments in favour of that position.

Example

As an example, let’s take the following question:

Smaller classes, i.e. those with fewer students, are more effective for learning than larger classes.

The reason why this issue is important is that the students studying today are the workforce of tomorrow. Well-educated employees should result in a better-performing economy with a better-run government. This will generally be a good reason why any education question is important. Note the word “now” in this question – we can also point out that students and parents have never had greater choice when it comes to their education.

I suspect that most of you agree with this statement. In this case, two arguments for this side might be:

  • the teacher can give students more individual attention,
  • students are likely to have fewer distractions from their classmates.

You may be thinking that these arguments are a bit obvious. That’s fine – you don’t need to reinvent the wheel and the more obvious your arguments, the more likely the examiner will know you understood the question.

Step 2: Write the Introduction

A task 2 introduction can consist of three statements:

  • global statement;
  • thesis statement;
  • outline statement.

Each of these three statements has a different purpose. The global statement sets up the topic of the essay by answering the question “why is this an important issue (now)?” For example:

In an increasingly competitive world, students are driven to seek optimal learning conditions to achieve success.

The thesis statement gives your opinion. It is possible to write this statement by paraphrasing the statement in the question. For example:

One factor which affects this is the size of their class, which may result in accelerated learning if it contains fewer students…

You don’t need to write “I think” or “In my opinion”. In fact, I discourage you from doing this, since your opinion sounds stronger when expressed as a fact, and our goal in an agree/disagree essay is to convince the reader.

Finally, the outline statement tells the examiner what they will read in the rest of the essay. You could write a sentence like “In this essay, I will explain why…” This is pretty weak, however. A better approach is to continue the thesis statement with because and briefly state the two arguments you thought of. For example:

One factor which affects this is the size of their class, which may result in accelerated learning if it contains fewer students because teachers can allocate more time to individual students and there are fewer distractions.

Note that although I mentioned three statements, I did not say three sentences. Each statement may be a sentence on its own, two sentences or a clause in a sentence with another statement.

Step 3: Write the Body

You want two body paragraphs – one for each of your arguments. The goal here is to make each argument and then develop it. Getting a high score for task response requires you to have not only clear, but well-developed arguments.

The First Argument

In your first body paragraph should be your first argument. You need to introduce this with a topic statement. This should, as clearly as possible, state the argument you are making. For our example:

If teachers have fewer students in their class, they are able to focus more time on each individual student.

We then need to support our arguments. One way we can do this is to use the 3 ex’s:

  • explanation
  • example
  • experience

In my view, the first two of these make for the stronger argument since an example applies to more people than an individual experience. Experiences can easily be generalised into examples by referring to “some people” instead of “I”.

To continue our example:

By providing time to each student, the teacher can ensure that they have fully grasped the material being taught and remedy any deficiencies in their learning. In a class of thirty students, it is likely that (whether they realise it or not) many of them do not understand everything that is being taught. Since it is impossible for the teacher to ask all students individually, it is highly likely that several people leave each class with gaps in their knowledge that would have been detected in a smaller group.

The Second Argument

Before we launch into the second argument, we should include a linking statement. This is a statement that links from one argument to another. In an agree/disagree essay, it might say something like “This isn’t the only reason why smaller classes are more effective.”

After the linking statement, we do the same as we did for the first paragraph – write a topic statement and back it up with explanation and example. For instance:

Classes that contain fewer students are also likely to result in higher levels of student concentration and engagement. Firstly, with smaller class sizes, there will be fewer students who might potentially disrupt the lesson. Furthermore, unruly students are likely to be discouraged from disrupting the class as they are more likely to be noticed by the teacher and punished for their behaviour. Finally, as the individual attention given should reduce the gap between weak and strong students, this will eliminate triggers of disruptive behaviour such as boredom.

You may note that this paragraph used more explanation with three distinct sub-points. This is fine to do, but the sub-points should all relate to the main argument as they do in this example.

Step 4: Write the Conclusion

The final step is to write the conclusion. There are two things that you need to include:

  1. rephrase your arguments;
  2. rephrase your opinion.

You can start your conclusion with a phrase like “In conclusion”, “To conclude”, “In summary”, or “To summarise”.

Remember that as this is a conclusion, we shouldn’t be introduce new arguments that didn’t appear earlier in your essay.

For example:

In conclusion, lessons with fewer students tend to achieve better outcomes. This is because students benefit from more personal attention from the teacher while also having fewer distractions to contend with.

Practice Questions

Click here for all IELTS writing task 2 practice questions and sample answers.

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