When it comes to the IELTS essay writing section, there are three main formats for writing topics: arguments, proposals and discussions. Each format poses its own set of difficulties to a student and ideally you should be able equally comfortable answering all three.
The following guide offers writing topics, complete with questions and brief explanations, on each of the three main formats. If you can master all three, there’s nothing the exam can throw at you that you aren’t prepared for (but if you’d still like some more practice when you’re finished, learn how to get a Band 7 or higher with this success in IELTS writing course.
Argument Writing Topics
The argument essay type requires the students to formulate their own arguments. In other words, they must discuss both sides of an issue or problem. The questions themselves will be phrased so that you must either write about disadvantages and advantages, two different opinions, or two choices. It’s very self-explanatory, especially once we look at the following examples.
Topic 1: Advantages and Disadvantages: Many poor countries in the world require international aid from larger, more prosperous countries, such as the United States. What are the advantages and disadvantages, if any, of giving aid to poor countries?
Note: Many of the writing topics will be very short. While this one is particularly short, don’t expect more than a few short lines. The lack of explanation can be attributed to making the test more difficult, i.e. the student is not given any hints or clues. But you can succeed without hints or clues with the advice offered by this post on IELTS writing tips and how to prepare to be tested.
Topic 2: Two Different Opinions: Overwhelming evidence exists to support the claims of global warming. Some people believe that global warming does not exist and should not be given consideration when making environmental regulations, while others believe that global warming should be given the utmost priority and that energy production needs to be more strictly regulated. Discuss.
Note: The key is to look for phrases such as some people believe and other people say. This cues you to a discussion of different opinions, rather than what is good or bad about a single topic.
Topic 3: Two Choices: Should colleges and universities adopt online courses and require their instructors to offer online classes, or should they retain a more classical and personable approach to learning? Discuss the issues involved and defend your opinion.
Note: This differs from Two Different Opinions in that you have two choices available but can only defend or offer one opinion. It’s important not to confuse the two. Learn about the top 5 reasons students score poorly on the IELTS and how to avoid them with this fantastic IELTS and TOEFL writing course.
Proposal Writing Topics
The proposal writing topics differ from the argument topics in that they tend to address social issues. Subsequently, you are required to offer one opinion. I repeat: you are required to offer an opinion, whether or not the proposal is beneficial or detrimental.
Example 1: Government spending on NASA is a waste of money because it does not benefit society. NASA is concerned with space exploration, not curing diseases or solving global economic issues. The government should instead invest this money in public services.
To what extent do you agree with this statement?
Note: The question, “To what extent do you agree (or disagree) with this statement”? is very common under proposal writing topics. If you see this question, you know you are dealing with a proposal. This would also be a good time to brush up on the basics of writing great essays. Check out this five-star course on quality paragraph and essay writing and learn how to give your essay shape and voice.
Example 2: The best deterrent to crime is prison. The fact that our prisons are filled beyond capacity is a sign that we need to build more prisons. Enforcing stricter rules and longer prison sentences will be one of the most effective ways to cut crime.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?
Example 3: The Internet is one of the greatest communication tools in the history of mankind. It allows people to communicate instantaneously and for very little money. It draws attention to important social, economic and environmental issues that otherwise would not receive exposure. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
Example 4: The role of women in society needs to be much greater. While the role of “mother” is of the utmost importance, women are underrepresented and can provide vital assistance to every sector of society. To what extent do you agree with this statement?
Example 5: Traditional or cultural values are quickly being lost as globalization continues to spread. People are able to travel and live abroad easier than ever before. The young generation is less interested in their own cultures than in the modern way of life. If we cannot preserve our traditional or cultural values, then we must forget them and build an entirely new culture. To what extent do you disagree with these statements?
Example 6: Tobacco is one of the damaging drugs to the health of the general population. It is addictive, it leads to other drug use, it harms non-smokers through second-hand smoke and it costs our country billions of dollars. Tobacco should be illegal and should not be available to people who want to smoke. To what extent do you agree with these statements?
If you still aren’t sure whether you want to take the IELTS or TOEFL exams – or maybe you want or need to take both – get all the vital knowledge with this blog post on IELTS vs. TOEFL and how to decide which English language exam is right for you.
Discussion Writing Topics
Similar to the argument topics, discussion topics come in three main varieties: one direct question, two direct questions, or find the solution. The general consensus is that you will most likely be asked two direct questions as this makes for a more difficult response (it is also easy to write on one question and forget or neglect the other).
Topic 1: One Direct Question: The Internet has changed the way we live, interact and work. It is predicted that as globalization continues to happen at an exponential rate, commerce will become more and more spread out. Many people will work remotely, such as in a different country from the company that employs them or even from their own homes. How do you predict the world will adjust to this new economic structure?
Topic 2: Two Direct Questions: Example 1: Books and print journalism, such as magazines and newspapers, are outdated and are a waste of resources, such as trees. Online media is more efficient and better for the environment. Why do you think some people consider print journalism outdated? Do you think the tree argument is valid when there are much larger environmental issues at hand, such as global warming and water pollution?
Note: I am providing multiple examples of two direct questions due to the fact that it is the most common and difficult discussion topic. Prepare yourself for these difficult essays with this step-by-step guide to learning how to write academic essays.
Topic 2: Two Direct Questions: Example 2: Marijuana is becoming legal in more and more states and is used medicinally in many others. Many people either enjoy marijuana recreationally or find that it alleviates pain or symptoms of some of their illnesses. Do you think marijuana should be used recreationally? Do you marijuana should be available for medical use or should it be illegal in every regard?
Topic 3: Two Direct Questions: Example 3: Affirmative action is a policy that ensures that a certain percentage of minorities are given the same opportunities as non-minorities. Some people disagree with this philosophy because it often involves giving an opportunity to a less qualified candidate simply because they are a minority. However, it is proven to help minorities who are underprivileged or who did not have access to the same resources as non-minorities. Do you think affirmative action should be supported? If someone is underprivileged, then should this be taken into account when deciding who is the best candidate?
Topic 3: Find The Solution: Many underprivileged areas of cities have very low high school graduation rates and very high crime rates. Do you think low graduation rates cause high crime rates, or vise versa? Identify one possible solution to education inequality in our country.
You may find similarities between two direct questions and find the solution. You may even offer a solution to a prompt that features two direct questions. That’s ok. It’s just important to remember that you must offer a solution if it asks for it; answering the questions without offering a solution will not yield a high grade. If you want to boost your score on all sections of the IELTS, get on the fast track with this Express IELTS Preparation Course and learn everything you need to know about Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.