Writing Task 2 | Essay Types Series

IELTS Lessons, written by Sam Morgan and Tom Speed

In our last class we looked at how to write a one-sided opinion essay. In this class you will learn how to structure and write an effective two-sided discussion essay, building on the skills you developed in that last class.

Exercise 1

Read the following IELTS task 2 essay question
Some people think that money is the best gift to give to young people, while others think other types of gifts are better for young people. 

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

Before we start planning our essay, we need to make sure we understand the task.
Are the following statements about the question above true or false?
1. The general topic of the essay is what young people enjoy doing for their birthdays.
2. The general topic of the essay is gift giving.
3. The specific topic of the essay is what type of gift is more appropriate for young people, money or something else.
4. The specific topic of the essay is why money is an inappropriate choice of gift for a young person.
5. The specific topic of the essay is why money is a more useful gift than other possible gifts for a young person.
6. The phrase young people refers only to children.
7. The phrase young people refers to children and teenagers.
8. It is only necessary for the writer to give his/her opinion to answer this question.
9. The writer must discuss both opinions which are presented in the question.
10. The writer may have to present ideas which he/she disagrees with.
11. The writer must make his/her opinion clear for the reader.
12. The writer should aim to write an introduction paragraph, two body paragraphs and a conclusion paragraph. That is, four paragraphs in total.

Before we continue the activities below, spend 5 minutes brainstorming arguments that you might use in your essay. You can later compare your arguments to the ones in exercise 3.


Exercise 3

Two students have written introduction paragraphs for the essay question found in exercise 1. Match the introduction paragraphs with the teacher’s comments.

Introduction 1

It can be a struggle to select an appropriate gift for a young relative or the child of a friend. While some believe that money is the best type of gift, I agree with those who suggest other gifts are more suitable.
 
(42 words)

Introduction 2

Nowadays, one group of people believe that cash is the best type of present for young people while, on the other hand, others believe that other types of present are actually better. In this essay I will deliberately discuss both opinions and formulate my own opinion which I will present in the conclusion.
  
(53 words)

Teacher’s Comment 1

  • Avoid using ‘Nowadays’ to start the essay unless the topic is particularly specific to the current time. Some IELTS candidates think it is a good idea to start all essays with ‘nowadays’ even when it is not appropriate. It makes their writing appear formulaic and amateur.
  • In the first sentence of the introduction, the writer has tried to paraphrase the question. Instead of ‘some people’ he/she uses ‘one group of people’, instead of ‘money’ he/she uses the word ‘cash’, to give just two examples. This sentence seems formulaic and doesn’t read well. Paraphrasing by simply substituting synonyms results in unnatural sounding sentences.
  • The second sentence of the introduction paraphrases the instructions for the question. The writer has made an error by repeating the instructions, the examiner already knows the instructions and doesn’t need the writer to restate them. This sentence wastes words and adds nothing to the essay.
  • The position of the writer is not clear from the introduction. This is a major error on behalf of the writer. Without the writer’s opinion being clear from the introduction, he/she will be unable to receive a high band for task achievement.

TEACHER’S COMMENT 2

This is a strong introduction.
  • The first sentence of the introduction states the topic of the essay without being too close to the wording of the statement in the question. The writer has correctly identified that the topic of the essay should be the most appropriate type of gifts for young people.
  • In the second sentence of the introduction, the writer correctly suggests that people have different opinions about the topic. This is necessary as this is a discussion essay which must look at one topic from a number of perspectives or views.
  • The second sentence of the introduction is the writer’s thesis statement. It states the writer’s personal opinion about the topic. This is important in order for the writer to achieve a high band for task achievement. In an essay in English, the writer’s position must always be made clear in the thesis statement which is found in the introduction.

Which introductions are these comments referring to?
1. Teacher’s Comment 1 is a response to
introduction 1.
introduction 2.
2. Teacher’s Comment 2 is a response to
introduction 1.
introduction 2.


Exercise 3

​To successfully write the essay for the question which you saw in exercise 1, you need to write about why some people believe that money is the best gift for young people and why other people believe that other gifts are better.

Below are 12 arguments. For each one, decide if it is an argument for money being the best gift, for other gifts being the best, or if the argument is irrelevant. 
Which introductions are these comments referring to?
1. In today’s materialistic world, young people generally don’t need more things, such as gadgets or toys.
Money is the best gift.
Other gifts are better.
Irrelevant argument.
2. Giving money may make the gift giver look lazy because he or she did not select an actual gift.
Money is the best gift.
Other gifts are better.
Irrelevant argument.
3. Money is impersonal whereas a carefully selected gift such as a piece of jewelry shows a closer bond or relationship between the giver and the receiver.
Money is the best gift.
Other gifts are better.
Irrelevant argument.
4. Using the money himself/herself may teach the young person the value of money, which is an important lesson that everyone in the modern world needs to learn.
Money is the best gift.
Other gifts are better.
Irrelevant argument.
5. In certain cultures, giving gifts of any type for birthdays is uncommon.
Money is the best gift.
Other gifts are better.
Irrelevant argument.
6. The process of choosing to spend it or save it may help to make the young person more independent.
Money is the best gift.
Other gifts are better.
Irrelevant argument.
7. Giving money may make the young person view adult relatives or friends in terms of how much they give rather than seeing the value of the relationship itself.
Money is the best gift.
Other gifts are better.
Irrelevant argument.
8. A gift such as a toy or a day out at an interesting or fun place is more memorable and will be more appreciated than money.
Money is the best gift.
Other gifts are better.
Irrelevant argument.
9. The process of spending or saving the money can be controlled by a parent to make sure the young person doesn’t do anything inappropriate with it.
Money is the best gift.
Other gifts are better.
Irrelevant argument.
10. An educational gift such as a book or useful gift such as a watch allows the young person to develop or improve their skills.
Money is the best gift.
Other gifts are better.
Irrelevant argument.
11. If the young person chooses to spend the money he/she will buy something that they really want rather than what an adult thinks they may want.
Money is the best gift.
Other gifts are better.
Irrelevant argument.
12. Most young people enjoy trying new things, such as, trying new foods or playing new games that they haven’t played before.
Money is the best gift.
Other gifts are better.
Irrelevant argument.

Now Select the Position below to see the arguments together.

Don’t forget to compare the ideas that you brainstormed earlier to our ideas here. Are there any that you strongly agree or disagree with? Are there any ideas that you would include that we haven’t mentioned here? 
Money is the most appropriate gift for young people

  • In today’s materialistic world, young people generally don’t need more things, such as gadgets or toys.
  • Using the money himself/herself may teach the young person the value of money, which is an important lesson that everyone in the modern world needs to learn.
  • The process of choosing to spend it or save it may help to make the young person more independent.
  • The process of spending or saving the money can be controlled by a parent to make sure the young person doesn’t do anything inappropriate with it.
  • If the young person chooses to spend the money he/she will buy something that they really want rather than what an adult thinks they may want.
Other types of gifts are more appropriate for young people

  • Giving money may make the gift giver look lazy because he or she did not select an actual gift.
  • Money is impersonal whereas a carefully selected gift such as a piece of jewelry shows a closer bond or relationship between the giver and the receiver.
  • Giving money may make the young person view adult relatives or friends in terms of how much they give rather than seeing the value of the relationship itself.
  • A gift such as a toy or a day out at an interesting or fun place is more memorable and will be more appreciated than money.
  • An educational gift such as a book or useful gift such as a watch allows the young person to develop or improve their skills.
Irrelevant Arguments

  • In certain cultures, giving gifts of any type for birthdays is uncommon.
  • Most young people enjoy trying new things, such as trying new foods or playing new games that they haven’t played before. 


Exercise 4

Read the sample essay below. The sentences for each paragraph are jumbled up. Order the sentences. The Introduction has been done for you.
Introduction Paragraph (example):
[Sentence 2] While some believe that money is the best type of gift, I agree with those who suggest other gifts are more suitable.
​[Sentence 1] It can be a struggle to select an appropriate gift for a young relative or the child of a friend.


​Body Paragraph 1:
​​
Proponents of this view may suggest that young people already have what they need in terms of toys and gadgets and so giving them more will not be of benefit.
This could make them more financially mature and independent.
Many people believe that money makes an excellent present.
For example, if the young person chooses to spend the money, they will learn the value of things that they wish to buy and what they can or cannot afford.
They also argue that the young may actually learn valuable skills from the process of choosing to save or spend their money.

Body Paragraph 2:
An important reason is that money is quite an impersonal gift since it shows no understanding of the interests of the receiver.
Furthermore, an educational gift, such as a book, or a useful gift, such as a watch, allows the young person to develop or improve his/her skills and so will be directly beneficial.
It is therefore more appropriate to give something that shows the adult understands the desires of the young person, such as a piece of jewelry or the shirt of his/her favourite sports club.
On the other hand, I agree with those who believe that actual gifts are better than money.

Conclusion:
In conclusion, whereas many believe that financial gifts may increase independence and be popular, I agree with those who suggest gifts showing an understanding of the young person or which are educational are more beneficial.
It is clearly important to consider the needs and interests of young people when selecting gifts.

Open to view the complete essay

It can be a struggle to select an appropriate gift for a young relative or the child of a friend. While some believe that money is the best type of gift, I agree with those who suggest other gifts are more suitable.

Many people believe that money makes an excellent present. Proponents of this view may suggest that young people already have what they need in terms of toys and gadgets and so giving them more will not be of benefit. They also argue that the young may actually learn valuable skills from the process of choosing to save or spend their money.  For example, if the young person chooses to spend the money, they will learn the value of things that they wish to buy and what they can or cannot afford. This could make them more financially mature and independent.

On the other hand, I agree with those who believe that actual gifts are better than money. An important reason is that money is quite an impersonal gift since it shows no understanding of the interests of the receiver. It is therefore more appropriate to give something that shows the adult understands the desires of the young person, such as a piece of jewelry or the shirt of his/her favourite sports club. Furthermore, an educational gift, such as a book, or a useful gift, such as a watch, allows the young person to develop or improve his/her skills and so will be directly beneficial.

In conclusion, whereas many believe that financial gifts may increase independence and be popular, I agree with those who suggest gifts showing an understanding of the young person or which are educational are more beneficial. It is clearly important to consider the needs and interests of young people when selecting gifts.

(296 words)


Exercise 5

Are the following statements about the structure of the essay true or false?
1. All four paragraphs in the essay are roughly of equal length.
2. The introduction is much shorter than the body paragraphs.
3. The second (final sentence) of the introduction includes the opinion of the writer.
4. The opinion of the writer is not included in the introduction.
5. The writer agrees with the position given in the first body paragraph (that money is the best type of gift for young people).
6. The writer disagrees with the position given in the first body paragraph.
7. The writer agrees with the position given in the second body paragraph (that other types of gift are better).
8. The writer disagrees with the position given in the second body paragraph.
9. The conclusion is much shorter than the body paragraphs.
10. The conclusion paragraph is too short.
11. The writer restates his/her opinion in the conclusion.
12. The writer finishes the conclusion with a strong suggestion based on his/her argument from the body paragraphs.

Notes on the structure of discussion essays

Notice how the position (opinion) of the writer is clear throughout the essay.

Notice how the writer of this discussion essay chooses to include opinions which he disagrees with in the first body paragraph. In the second body paragraph, he provides the opinions which he agrees with. This is a common and effective way of structuring a discussion essay and you should follow a structure like this when you do the IELTS writing test for high task achievement and cohesion/coherence scores.

Notice that the writer doesn’t use strong modal verbs such as will and must but rather chooses politer, softer modals such as can and could when he writes about a point of view which he disagrees with. This makes it harder to disagree with what the writer is arguing. 

For more practice on two-sided essays, have a look at this class.

Take a break, you have earned it. Up next, we will learn how to write Problem/Solution essays.