One of the key problems facing many students in Task 2 Essay writing is a lack of ideas and opinions with which to answer the question. There are some simple steps, however, that students can take to overcome this problem: learning vocabulary for the most common IELTS exam topics, and developing your personal opinion on a wide range of questions.
Students who are familiar with the IELTS reading and writing tests will know that there are common topics (or subjects) which come up again and again. These include education, the environment, technology, health, globalisation, transport and government. These are also very common themes in part 3 of the speaking test. So, for each of these topics, you should do the following:
- Read as much as possible about these topics. Use online resources such as newspapers, articles and essays to become very familiar with the subject (i).
- Write down vocabulary lists. It will very hard to remember all the words, phrases and collocations you read about if you don’t write them down, so use keyword tables to write down the meaning, synonyms and some example phrases for the vocabulary you learn.
Develop your personal opinion
Finally, study with these topics. I try to do this in my lessons by developing topic-based lessons. For example, if we do some reading in class on the environment, I will follow up by asking my students to answer part 3 questions on the same subject. This will reinforce your ability to discuss the topic in detail and help you to decide your opinions.
Part 3 speaking questions are often very similar to essay questions, in that the examiner will ask you to discuss advantages and disadvantages, give your opinion, answer hypothetical questions or even talk about something that will happen in the future. If you ask yourself the question “What is my opinion?” or “Do I agree or disagree?” it is easier to come up with a list of ideas, arguments, examples and reasons to support your views.
Remember that the IELTS exam is a language test, not a test of your general knowledge, and this also applies to the essays.
(i) The Economist, National Geographic, Time, New Scientist, History Today
Look through the following list of common IELTS topics. Do you have opinions about them? Could you discuss them in an essay or in a conversation?
- Animal Rights: testing on animals, vegetarianism, zoos
- Cities: urbanisation, problems of city life
- Crime: police, punishments/prisons, rehabilitation, capital punishment
- Education: studying abroad, technology in education, education in developing countries, higher education, home-schooling, bad behaviour, corporal punishment, single sex education, streaming (grouping children according to ability)
- Environment: global warming, impact of humans on the environment, solutions to environment problems, waste/rubbish, litter, recycling, nuclear power, weather
- Family: family size, working parents, negative effects on children, divorce, care for old people
- Gender: gender and education, gender and work, women’s and men’s role in the family
- Genetic Engineering: positives, negatives, genetically modified foods
- Global Issues: problems in developing countries, how to help developing countries, immigration, multi-cultural societies, globalisation
- Government and Society: what governments can do, public services, censorship, video cameras in public places
- Guns and Weapons: gun ownership and possession, police and guns, nuclear weapons, armed forces
- Health: diet, exercise, state health systems, private healthcare, alternative medicine, stress
- Housing and Architecture: state housing, old buildings, modern/green buildings
- International Language: English as an international language
- Money: money and society, consumerism
- Personal Development: happiness, success, nature or nurture
- Sport and Leisure: professional/competitive sport, sport salaries, sport and politics
- Tourism: positives, negative effects on environment, future of tourism
- Traditions and Modern Life: losing traditional skills, traditional customs
- Transport: traffic problems and solutions, public transport, road safety
- Television, Internet and Mobile Phones: positives and negatives, Internet compared to newspapers and books
- Water: importance of clean water, water supply, water should be free, bottled water
- Work: same job for life, self-employment, unemployment, work/life balance, technology and work, child labour