Writing Task 2 | Essay Organisation Series

IELTS Lessons, written by Sam Morgan and Tom Speed

You know how to write a good introduction with a thesis statement. Now, let’s look at writing strong topic sentences to improve your body paragraphs. 


​Exercise 1 | Introduction Paragraph Review

Read the question below and then order the sentences in the introduction.

Remember, the first sentence of the introduction should state the topic of the essay. The second sentence should provide the writers opinion and an indication of how the essay will be organized (this is the thesis statement).
People living in the 21st century enjoy a better standard of living than people in previous centuries.

To what extent do you agree or disagree

Sentence A
It is clear that for the majority of people around the world living standards are at their highest level ever, however, there are those whose standard of living has been negatively affected by scientific development. 

Sentence B
Over the past few centuries there has been a rapid improvement in technology and science which has led to a radical change in living standards around the world. 

1. The first sentence of the introduction is
2. The second sentence of the introduction is

Open to see the complete introduction

Over the past few centuries there has been a rapid improvement in technology and science which has led to a radical change in living standards around the world. ​It is clear that for the majority of people around the world living standards are at their highest level ever, however, there are those whose standard of living has been negatively affected by scientific development. ​


​Exercise 2 | Introduction Analysis

You must analyse the introduction. Are the following statements true or false?

True or False

1. The first sentence clearly states the topic of the essay.
2. You must not use any vocabulary from the title.
3. You can copy more than a few words from the question.
4. The writer will argue in his essay that everyone has better living standards today.
5. There will be two body paragraphs in the essay.
6. The first body paragraph will be about people whose living standards are better.
7. The second body paragraph will be about people whose standard of living hasn’t improved.

Open to see the complete introduction

Over the past few centuries there has been a rapid improvement in technology and science which has led to a radical change in living standards around the world. ​It is clear that for the majority of people around the world living standards are at their highest level ever, however, there are those whose standard of living has been negatively affected by scientific development. ​

  1. The first sentence of the essay must state the topic.
  2. You can use a few words from the question. Often key words such as living standards don’t have synonyms and so must be used. Candidates often try to paraphrase everything in the question and this creates unusual sentences that often fail to give the real topic of the essay. Don’t be afraid to use some of the keywords from the question.
  3. If you copy more than a few words from the question, then the examiner will delete them from the essay. This will affect the word count and coherence of your essay. Only use one or two keywords from the question.
  4. The use of the word ‘however’ shows that the writer wants to show a contrast in this essay. Both agreement and disagreement will be shown.
  5. There will be two body paragraphs. The second sentence of the introduction the thesis statement shows us this. If the writer wanted to write a third paragraph, then he or she would have to mention the topic of it here at the end of the thesis statement.
  6. This is mentioned in the first part of the thesis statement (for the majority of people around the world living standards are at their highest level ever) and so will be the first body paragraph
  7. This is mentioned in the second part of the thesis statement (there are those whose standard of living has been negatively affected by scientific developmentand so it will be the second body paragraph.

Focus on Academic Writing

A well written paragraph should have one main topic. The first sentence of a body paragraph should start with a sentence that tells the reader the topic of the paragraph. We call this a topic sentence.
A topic sentence should…

  • clearly and simply state the topic of the paragraph
  • use vocabulary from the thesis statement and keywords from the question to further build cohesion within your essay. 

A topic sentence should not…

  • be too long
  • contain argument or examples.


​Exercise 3 | Topic Sentence Examples

​This is the introduction for the question we have already seen:
Over the past few centuries there has been a rapid improvement in technology and science which has led to a radical change in living standards around the world. It is clear that for the majority of people around the world living standards are at their highest level ever, however, there are those whose standard of living has been negatively affected by scientific development.

​Below you can see possible choices for the topic sentence of body paragraph one and body paragraph 2. Choose the best topic sentence for each body paragraph.

​Body Paragraph 1 Topic Sentence

The best topic sentence for body paragraph 1 is
a) Living standards have improved dramatically for a large proportion of the world’s population over the past century.
b) One reason people today have a higher standard of living is because of improvements in medicine.
c) Many people today have the same lifestyle or even a worse life than their ancestors.

Open to see our answer explanation

  • a) This is the best answer as it matches the statement in the thesis statement and it uses the key phrase ‘living standards’.
  • b) This is a poor topic sentence because it includes an example. Supporting ideas and examples should follow the topic sentence.
  • c) This sentence does not follow the structure indicated in the thesis statement in the introduction. The thesis indicates that the first body paragraph will be about people who enjoy a higher living standard than in the past. This sentence also fails to use the key vocabulary  – the topic of the essay – living standards.


Body Paragraph 2 Topic Sentence

The best topic sentence for body paragraph 2 is
a) People today have much better medical care than in the past and this has massively improved our quality of life.
b) On the other hand, some people today have a worse quality of life than their ancestors.
c) While it is true that for many of us living standards are better than ever before, for some they are worse and this is due to three main reasons related to globalization which are environmental degradation and pollution, sweatshop work and conflict over resources needed for the global economy.

Open to see our answer explanation

  • a) This sentence is about the wrong topic! The thesis statement indicates that the second body paragraph should be about people who don’t have a better standard of living than in the past.
  • b) This topic sentence is clear and short. The use of ‘On the other hand’ shows the reader that the content of the paragraph contrasts with the topic of the previous paragraph. The examiner will be looking for these linking phrases. Correct use of linking phrases will boost your score for coherence and cohesion.
  • c) This sentence is too long and contains too many ideas. The three supporting ideas should form the content of the body paragraph. Many IELTS candidates think that all the sentences in an essay must be long and complex but this is not true. A topic sentence should be clear and simple to understand.

Would you like to have a chance at putting this information about topic sentences into practice? If so, why not write a thesis statement and topic sentences to the question below and copy and paste it into the comment section for some free feedback. 
Many people say that punishments for people who break the law are not strict enough.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?


For more practice, we have another lesson on topic sentences here.

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