It doesn’t matter if you are doing IELTS General Training Writing Task 2 or Academic Writing Task 2, you need to write clear and concise topic sentences so the reader knows what each paragraph is about. If you can do this effectively it will benefit your Coherence and Cohesion band score.
What is a Topic Sentence?
So, how should I write a topic sentence?
Use ‘is’, ‘might be’, ‘could be’ + noun phrase / noun clause to write a topic sentence.
Click here for more on complex noun phrases.
Look at the examples below.
advantage / free higher education
One of the advantages of free higher education is that it allows poorer people to study.
‘that it allows people to study’ – this is a noun clause. It is introduced by the word ‘that’. This is an example of complex language and will benefit your Grammatical Range and Accuracy (GRA) band score.
effect / global warming
One of the effects of global warming might be a large rise in sea levels which could cause problems for coastal communities.
The underlined relative clause provides more specific information and suggests the paragraph will focus on coastal communities.
cause / rising food prices
A likely cause of rising food prices is that the global population is growing but the amount of food produced is not increasing at the same pace.
Now try and write topic sentences from the prompts below, then compare your sentences with ours.
1. advantage / online shopping
An advantage of online shopping could be that it is very convenient, particularly for people who are very busy.
2. disadvantage / being famous
These days a major disadvantage of being famous is that privacy is reduced because the media want to cover all aspects of celebrities' lives.
3. effect / high cost of petrol
One of the possible effects of the high cost of petrol could be that food prices might rise.
4. solution / problem / heavy traffic in cities
A solution to the problem of heavy traffic in cities today might be for the government to introduce a fee for driving in city centers at busy times of the day.
5. negative effect / children watching TV
A negative effect of children watching TV is that they are becoming less active than they were in the past and this is bad for their health.
6. cause / falling numbers / fish
The biggest cause of falling numbers of fish in the world’s oceans is over-fishing.
7. benefit / school sports
A benefit of school sports is that even children who are very inactive at home will get some exercise in school and so be healthier.
8. advantage / online learning
One advantage of online learning is that people who are working can study at a time which suits them.
Now that you can write topic sentences, you should practice what you have learned by using them when you write your task 2 responses.
If you want some free feedback, write a response to the following question and then copy and paste your response into the comments section and we'll get back to you when we can. Remember to write at least 250 words but don't take longer than 40 minutes.
Some people think more money should be spent on protecting endangered wildlife while others think it is a waste of valuable money.
What is your opinion?
If you feel like you need more practice, we have another detailed interactive lesson on topic sentences here.
We are going to take a look at the different types of IELTS Writing Task 2 questions, starting with opinion type tasks. For each type of question, you can see how you should structure your answer. There are also example essays that demonstrate the different structures. There are many possible ways to structure your academic essays so you can modify our suggestions to fit your style if you like.
The best way to improve your writing is by practicing so try and use what you have read here next time you write an essay. If you need some help with your writing email IELTStutors.org to get personalised IELTS writing feedback that will help you to achieve your goals.
If you have any questions or tips that you would like to share then please leave a comment at the bottom of the page.
Type 1 - Give your Opinion
TV is harmful for children. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?
All the questions below ask you to give your opinion.
Your essay could be one sided or two sided. You could just give your opinion or you could also talk about the opposite point of view. So you could structure your essay like this:
Let's have a look at an example:
TV is harmful for children. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement
Over the past forty to fifty years, television sets have become standard pieces of equipment in most homes, and watching television has become a common activity for most families. Obviously, this must have an effect on children’s development. Although there are many excellent programs for young viewers, I would argue that television can have a detrimental influence on children for three main reasons.
First of all, certain types of programs can have a harmful effect on children’s emotional and behavioural development. Police stories and action movies, for example, often contain a great deal of violence. People are beaten up and killed with guns, knives and even cars. Seeing this, some children might think that these things could easily happen to themselves at any time and therefore become frightened. Moreover, some might begin to think that violence is a normal, acceptable form of behaviour because they see it so often on television. As a result, they may become aggressive and may hurt both themselves and their playmates.
Second, television can impair children’s reading ability. Reading requires skills and brain processes that watching television does not. If children watch television for too many hours each day, they do not have the chance to practice the skills that they need in order to learn how to read.
Finally, television may impact on children’s schoolwork in other ways. If they spend too much time watching television, they may get behind in their homework. In addition, if they stay up to watch a late night movie, they may fall asleep in class the next day. Consequently, they will not learn their lessons and they could even fail in school.
To summarize, if children watch too much television or watch the wrong programs, their personalities can be harmed. Furthermore, their progress in school can be affected. It is vital, therefore, that parents should find out what programs their children are watching and take appropriate steps to counteract any harmful effects. This should include turning off the television so that their children will study.
Now answer the questions below. When you finish, click to compare your answers to ours.
In the introduction, Which sentence introduces the topic?
Over the past forty to fifty years...
Which sentence is the thesis statement?
I would argue that television can have a detrimental influence...
What are the topic sentences of each paragraph?
First of all, certain types of programs can have a harmful effect on children’s emotional and behavioural development.
Second, television can impair children’s reading ability.
Finally, television may impact on children’s schoolwork in other ways.
In paragraph 3, what is the supporting idea?
Reading requires skills and brain processes that watching television does not.
In paragraph 3, what is the example given?
If children watch television for too many hours each day, they do not have the chance to practice the skills that they need in order to learn how to read.
What conclusion signal is there in the final paragraph?
Does the writer summarize his/her main points?
Yes. In the sentences '...if children watch too much television or watch the wrong programs, their personalities can be harmed. Furthermore, their progress in school can be affected.'
What comment does the writer add to the conclusion?
The writer advises that parents should control what their children watch:
It is vital, therefore, that parents should find out what programs their children are watching and take appropriate steps to counteract any harmful effects. This should include turning off the television so that their children will study.
Give your opinion with a concession paragraph
You could use the structure below if you want to introduce an opinion you disagree with (in what is called a concession paragraph).
Lets have a look at an example of this. Can you find the sentences that are related to the bullet points of the structure above?
Almost every home has a television and, as a result, children may spend a great deal of their time watching it. Obviously this must have some effect on them. Is this effect harmful? In my opinion, the effect of television is at best neutral and often negative, so wise parental guidance is essential.
One of the main arguments in favour of television is the role it can play in educating children. For example, programs broadcast on channels such as Cbeebies and BabyTV, which are dedicated to pre-school education, can help young children learn to speak, count and read and are very popular. Although educational programs may be beneficial I think that it is better to educate children through books or, these days, through interactive computer games designed for the purpose. Both of these examples are more active and encourage deeper use of cognitive abilities than passively watching the TV.
A major cause of concern among parents is the amount of violence on television. Even so-called “children’s entertainment” programs frequently involve battles between the “goodies” and the “baddies”. This has a very harmful effect on children’s moral, social and behavioural development, because it teaches them to label people as “good” or “bad” and condones the use of violence as a way of resolving disagreements. Such programs simply encourage hatred and aggression instead of promoting tolerance and conciliation. The danger is even greater if children watch violent programs that are meant for adults, such as crime stories, action movies and the like.
Another danger with television is the impact of advertising. Children are bombarded with advertisements for snacks and toys. As a result, they are likely to demand a diet of junk foods high in MSG, and clamour for toys which their parents cannot afford to buy.
In conclusion, certain television programs are beneficial for children while many others are harmful. It is vital, therefore, that parents supervise their children when watching television and take appropriate steps to counteract any harmful effects.
Use the example essay above to answer the questions. Then check your answers against ours.
What is the writer's opinion?
The writer believes that television often has a negative effect on children:
In my opinion, the effect of television is at best neutral and often negative...
How do we know the second paragraph is a concessional paragraph?
It begins: One of the main arguments in favour of television is the role it can play in educating children.
Then adds: Although educational programs may be beneficial I think that it is better to educate children through books...
The first argument is against the writer's opinion, so it is a concession.
What is the topic sentence of paragraph 3?
A major cause of concern among parents is the amount of violence on television.
Does paragraph 3 support the writer's view, or is it concessional?
It supports the writers view, as it states that violence on television 'is a major cause of concern'.
Concessional paragraphs are more often found in higher band responses as they demand a good control of complex language (we can see that here with the sentence Although..., I think that...). It's up to you if you wish to include a concessional paragraph, but make sure you practice this style of writing before you try it in the real test.
Write a response to the question below. If you would like some free feedback, copy and paste your essay into the comments section below, and we'll get back to you with our ideas. Happy writing!
Some people think the government are responsible for the rise in childhood obesity, while others think it is the fault of the parents.
Discuss both sides and give your opinion.
The next post on Writing Task 2 'Types of Task' is about how to structure an essay to describing a problem and its solutions. Follow the link to keep studying.
We are going to look at how to deal with all the different types of reading questions which can be found on the reading paper (taken from takeielts.britishcouncil.org). First you will see tips and then the questions themselves. Follow the tips and see if you can answer the questions for yourself, then use the guided answers to see what you did right and wrong.
If you haven't done the other passages in the test, try those first.
Now let's begin passage 3.
This passage contains the question types:
Helium's Future up in the Air
A) In recent years we have all been exposed to dire media reports concerning the impending demise of global coal and oil reserves, but the depletion of another key non-renewable resource continues without receiving much press at all. Helium – an inert, odourless, monatomic element known to lay people as the substance that makes balloons float and voices squeak when inhaled – could be gone from this planet within a generation.
B) Helium itself is not rare; there is actually a plentiful supply of it in the cosmos. In fact, 24 per cent of our galaxy’s elemental mass consists of helium, which makes it the second most abundant element in our universe. Because of its lightness, however, most helium vanished from our own planet many years ago. Consequently, only a miniscule proportion – 0.00052%, to be exact – remains in earth’s atmosphere. Helium is the by-product of millennia of radioactive decay from the elements thorium and uranium. The helium is mostly trapped in subterranean natural gas bunkers and commercially extracted through a method known as fractional distillation.
C) The loss of helium on Earth would affect society greatly. Defying the perception of it as a novelty substance for parties and gimmicks, the element actually has many vital applications in society. Probably the most well known commercial usage is in airships and blimps (non-flammable helium replaced hydrogen as the lifting gas du jour after the Hindenburg catastrophe in 1932, during which an airship burst into flames and crashed to the ground killing some passengers and crew). But helium is also instrumental in deep-sea diving, where it is blended with nitrogen to mitigate the dangers of inhaling ordinary air under high pressure; as a cleaning agent for rocket engines; and, in its most prevalent use, as a coolant for superconducting magnets in hospital MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanners.
D) The possibility of losing helium forever poses the threat of a real crisis because its unique qualities are extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible to duplicate (certainly, no biosynthetic ersatz product is close to approaching the point of feasibility for helium, even as similar developments continue apace for oil and coal). Helium is even cheerfully derided as a “loner” element since it does not adhere to other molecules like its cousin, hydrogen. According to Dr. Lee Sobotka, helium is the “most noble of gases, meaning it’s very stable and non-reactive for the most part … it has a closed electronic configuration, a very tightly bound atom. It is this coveting of its own electrons that prevents combination with other elements’. Another important attribute is helium’s unique boiling point, which is lower than that for any other element. The worsening global shortage could render millions of dollars of high-value, life-saving equipment totally useless. The dwindling supplies have already resulted in the postponement of research and development projects in physics laboratories and manufacturing plants around the world. There is an enormous supply and demand imbalance partly brought about by the expansion of high-tech manufacturing in Asia.
E) The source of the problem is the Helium Privatisation Act (HPA), an American law passed in 1996 that requires the U.S. National Helium Reserve to liquidate its helium assets by 2015 regardless of the market price. Although intended to settle the original cost of the reserve by a U.S. Congress ignorant of its ramifications, the result of this fire sale is that global helium prices are so artificially deflated that few can be bothered recycling the substance or using it judiciously. Deflated values also mean that natural gas extractors see no reason to capture helium. Much is lost in the process of extraction. As Sobotka notes: "[t]he government had the good vision to store helium, and the question now is: Will the corporations have the vision to capture it when extracting natural gas, and consumers the wisdom to recycle? This takes long-term vision because present market forces are not sufficient to compel prudent practice”. For Nobel-prize laureate Robert Richardson, the U.S. government must be prevailed upon to repeal its privatisation policy as the country supplies over 80 per cent of global helium, mostly from the National Helium Reserve. For Richardson, a twenty- to fifty-fold increase in prices would provide incentives to recycle.
F) A number of steps need to be taken in order to avert a costly predicament in the coming decades. Firstly, all existing supplies of helium ought to be conserved and released only by permit, with medical uses receiving precedence over other commercial or recreational demands. Secondly, conservation should be obligatory and enforced by a regulatory agency. At the moment some users, such as hospitals, tend to recycle diligently while others, such as NASA, squander massive amounts of helium. Lastly, research into alternatives to helium must begin in earnest.
Matching Information / Headings to Paragraphs
Each paragraph of the text has a letter A-F. There is a numbered list of information contained in the passage. You have to match the information to the paragraph.
Sometimes you must match a heading to a paragraph. If you must do this then the heading must present the main focus of the paragraph.
Try these steps on the questions below, then check your answers with us.
Questions 27 - 31
Reading passage 3 has six paragraphs, A–F.
Which paragraph contains the following information?
27) a use for helium which makes an activity safeR
The text states ‘helium is also instrumental in deep-sea diving, where it is blended with nitrogen to mitigate the dangers of inhaling ordinary air under high pressure’. The activity in the question must be deep sea diving.
28) the possibility of creating an alternative to helium
The text says ‘The possibility of losing helium forever poses the threat of a real crisis because its unique qualities are extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible to duplicate (certainly, no biosynthetic ersatz product is close to approaching the point of feasibility for helium’. The writer is pessimistic about a replacement for helium being produced any time soon.
29) a term which describes the process of how helium is taken out of the ground
The text tells us that helium is ‘commercially extracted through a method known as fractional distillation’. Method is a synonym of process (found in the question).
30) a reason why users of helium do not make efforts to conserve it
The text tells us ‘the result of this fire sale is that global helium prices are so artificially deflated that few can be bothered recycling the substance or using it judiciously’. This suggest companies see no point recycling as it is so cheap to buy helium. Here using judiciously means conserving (using carefully/in small quantities).
31) a contrast between helium’s chemical properties and how non-scientists think about it
The text says ‘Helium – an inert, odourless, monatomic element (what scientists think) known to lay people as the substance that makes balloons float and voices squeak (the perception of this element by non-scientist) when inhaled’. Lay people are non-scientists in this context.
Yes/No/Not Given (Identifying the Writer's Views)
There are a number of statements. You must choose if these statements agree with the writer's views or disagree with them. The statements follow the same order as the information in the passage.
It is often easy to understand the writer’s view when it is stated directly, but sometimes it is implied (suggested). Careful! The writer’s opinion might not be the same as the facts. Also, the writer’s opinion might be different to yours.
Let's try out these tips on the following questions.
Questions 32 - 35
Do the following statements agree with the claims of the writer in Reading passage 3?
Answer Yes, No or Not given to questions 32-35.
if the statement agrees with the claims of the writer
if the statement contradicts (is the opposite of) the claims of the writer
if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this
32) Helium chooses to be on its own.
33) Helium is a very cold substance.
34) High-tech industries in Asia use more helium than laboratories and manufacturers in other parts of the world.
35) The US Congress understood the possible consequences of the HPA.
Remember to only look at the answers after you have tried the questions yourself.
32) Helium chooses to be on its own.
From paragraph D: ‘it’s very stable and non-reactive for the most part … it has a closed electronic configuration, a very tightly bound atom. It is this coveting of its own electrons that prevents combination with other elements’. The use of the word coveting makes it sound like helium makes the choice itself.
33) Helium is a very cold substance.
We are told about the boiling point of Helium but there is no other information about temperatures.
34) High-tech industries in Asia use more helium than laboratories and manufacturers in other parts of the world.
High Tech industries in Asia are mentioned but there is no explicit comparison of the amount of helium they use compared to laboratories and manufacturers in the rest of the world.
35) The US Congress understood the possible consequences of the HPA.
In Paragraph E we are told ‘Although intended to settle the original cost of the reserve by a U.S. Congress ignorant of its ramifications, the result of this fire sale is that global helium…’ This is intended to convey the writer thinks Congress didn’t understand the consequences (ramifications).
We are on to the last part of the IELTS reading test now.
There is a summary of a part of the passage or maybe all of the passage. All of the information in the summary is contained in the reading passage but the words used in the summary will be different. The summary contains gaps and your job is to fill in the gaps with the appropriate word(s) EITHER from a list OR from the passage.
If you are given a list of words, there will be more words than gaps. Only one word choice will be suitable for each gap (the answer) but other words may appear suitable to distract you.
If you are asked to complete the gaps using words from the passage, you must find the appropriate word(s) in the passage. The instructions will tell you how many words you can write in each gap.
Questions 36 - 40
Complete the summary below.
Choose no more than two words from the passage for each answer.
Check these after you have tried the questions on your own.
...look after helium stocks because (36) ……………….. will not be encouraged...
In paragraph paragraph E we are informed ‘This takes long-term vision because present market forces are not sufficient to compel prudent practice’.
Richardson believes that the (37) ……………….. needs to be withdrawn...
In paragraph E the writer states ‘For Nobel-prize laureate Robert Richardson, the U.S. government must be prevailed upon to repeal its privatisation policy as the country supplies over 80 per cent of global helium’.
...people have (38) ……………….. to use the resource many times over.
The final sentence of paragraph provides the answer ‘For Richardson, a twenty- to fifty-fold increase in prices would provide incentives to recycle’. Incentive here means 'a reason to do something'.
People should need a (39) ……………….. to access helium...
Paragraph D offers suggestions from the writer on what he considers to be the correct policy in regard to helium extraction and use. He writes ‘all existing supplies of helium ought to be conserved and released only by permit’.
Furthermore, a (40) ……………….. should ensure that helium is used carefully.
In paragraph D the writer states ‘conservation should be obligatory and enforced by a regulatory agency’. Used carefully is a paraphrase of conservation.
Academic Reading Test IELTS Band Scores
These scores should only be used as a guideline, as the values can change depending on the difficulty of test.
Now that you've learned our tips to answer these types of reading questions, practice to build up your speed and confidence. These practice tests from ieltsonlinetests.com can help you out.
Remember you only have 60 minutes to answer the questions so use your time carefully; spend only 20 minutes per passage.
Leave a comment below if you have found this reading test helpful, or send us a suggestion. IELTSTutors are always happy to hear from you.
Note: If the interactive exercises aren't giving you a score, try refreshing the page.
It takes us a long time to make these lessons. If you would like to support us then we would greatly appreciate a donation. This will ensure we continue to help students like you everywhere!
IELTSTutors.org - All these IELTS lessons are completely free, so enjoy studying and let us know if you have any questions or suggestions!