How to Plan & Write
IELTS Opinion Essays

IELTS opinion essays, also known as ‘agree or disagree’ essays, come up frequently in the writing exam. In this lesson, I’m going to show you how to plan and write them step-by-step.

Here’s what we’ll be covering:


Click the links to see lessons on each of these Task 2 essay writing topics. 

Once you understand the process, practice on past questions. Take your time at first and gradually speed up until you can plan and write an essay of at least 250 words in the 40 minutes allowed in the exam.


The Question

The first part of the question for an IELTS opinion essay will be a statement. You will then be asked to give your own opinion about the statement. Here is some typical wording that might be used:


  • What is your opinion?
  • Do you agree or disagree?
  • To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Want to watch and listen? Click on this video.

Here's a question from a past test paper.

A big salary is much more important than job satisfaction. 

Do you agree or disagree? 

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

Write at least 250 words.

I’ll be using this question to guide you through the process of planning and writing an IELTS opinion essay.




3 Common Mistakes

These three errors are common in IELTS opinion essays.

  • Not stating an opinion.
  • Giving arguments for both views.
  • Not supporting your opinion with clear reasons.


The most common mistake that students make is not giving an opinion. The question will clearly state that you must choose one side of the argument. If you fail to do this, you will get a low score for task achievement.

It doesn’t matter which side of the argument you take or even, that you agree with it. Choose the one you can develop the best argument for.

Make sure that you don’t change your opinion part way through the essay, and don’t give reasons for the opposing view.




Essay Structure

Now let’s look at a simple structure you can use to write opinion essays. It’s not the only possible structure but it’s the one I recommend because it’s easy to learn and will enable you to quickly plan and write a high-level essay.

1) Introduction

  • Paraphrase the question
  • Give your opinion
  • State two supporting reasons

 2) Main body paragraph 1

  • Topic sentence – outline 1st reason for supporting this view
  • Explanation – explain this idea
  • Example – give an example

3) Main body paragraph 2

  • Topic sentence – outline 2nd reason for supporting this view
  • Explanation – explain this idea
  • Example – give an example

 4) Conclusion

  • Summarise opinion and key reasons

This structure will give us a well-balanced essay with 4 paragraphs.

We now need some ideas to add into the structure and we’ll have everything we need for our essay.




How To Plan IELTS Opinion Essays

# 1  Decide on your opinion

The question I've chosen to work on is quite straightforward and easy to understand so we don’t need to spend time analysing it. The first task, then, is to decide on our opinion.

Here’s the question again:

A big salary is much more important than job satisfaction.

Do you agree or disagree?  

For this essay, I’m going to disagree with the statement and argue that job satisfaction is more important than a big salary.




# 2  Generate ideas

The second task is to generate some ideas to write about.

Since I‘m going to argue that job satisfaction is more important than a large salary, I need ideas to support this view.

There are several different ways to think up ideas. I cover them fully on the IELTS Essay Planning page.

With this particular question, I immediately thought of a couple of examples of situations where job satisfaction did prove to be more important than a high salary, so I’m going to use the ‘example method’ of generating ideas.

Once you’ve thought of an example or two, ideas to include in your essay should come to you easily.

You might want to try this yourself before reading on for my ideas.

 

Here are my examples and some ideas they generated.

Both the examples are partly true but I've adapted them to better fit the essay. It's fine to do this as the examiner won't check your facts.

Examples:

  • Uncle Barry – boasted about high salary but hated his job. Nervous breakdown – lost job & can’t work.
  • Me – gave up teaching. Now enjoy my work and am much more relaxed and happy even though I earn much less money.

Ideas:

  • High-salary jobs are generally more stressful
  • Stress leads to ill health, both mental and physical
  • 40 hours a week at work – a third of the day


  • Money doesn’t bring happiness
  • Better quality of life
  • Sense of fulfilment
  • Less stressed – healthier and happier

I’ve got more ideas here than I need so I’m going to pick two to develop in the essay – one for each of the main body paragraphs.

Idea 1 – High-salary jobs are generally more stressful and can lead to ill health.

Idea 2 – Job satisfaction gives a sense of fulfilment.


We’re almost ready to start writing our IELTS opinion essay but first, we have one other small task to do.




# 3  Vocabulary

In an IELTS essay, it’s important to be able to say the same things in different ways, either by paraphrasing and/or using synonyms. During the planning stage, quickly jot down a few synonyms of key words you could use to save you having to stop and think of the right language while you’re writing.

For example:

satisfaction – fulfilment, achievement, sense of accomplishment, content, sense of well-being

salary – income, wages, pay, earnings

important – significant, valued, has more meaning

job – work, employment, position


With that done, we can focus on the first paragraph of the essay – the introduction.




How To Write an Introduction

A good introduction has a simple 3 part structure:

1)  Paraphrased question

2)  Thesis statement

3)  Outline statement


An introduction should:

  • Have 2-3 sentences
  • Be 40-60 words long
  • Take 5 minutes to write


1)  Paraphrase the question

Start your introduction by paraphrasing the question.

     Question: A big salary is much more important than job satisfaction.

                       Do you agree or disagree?  

Paraphrased question: 

It is argued that earning lots of money has more significance to people than being content in their work.


Note that I’ve used some of the synonyms I listed, although it’s fine to repeat one or two words if you need to. Above all, your language must sound natural.




2)  Thesis statement

In IELTS opinion essays, the thesis statement is where you state your opinion. For example,

   Thesis statement: 

   This essay totally disagrees with that statement.


That’s all you need to say.

If you decided to agree with the statement, you would write:

'This essay completely agrees with that statement.'




3)  Outline statement

Finally in the introduction, you must outline the two main points (ideas 1 and 2 above) that you’ll cover in the rest of the essay. Do it in one sentence, or you can add them onto the end of the thesis statement if appropriate.

Outline statement: 

I believe that people are increasingly concerned about the risk of stress-related ill-health frequently experienced by people in highly paid positions and they care more about feeling fulfilled at work.

So, let’s bring the three elements of our introduction together.


     Introduction


This introduction achieves three important functions:

  • It shows the examiner that you understand the question.
  • It acts as a guide to the examiner as to what your essay is about.
  • It also helps to keep you focused and on track as you write.


The two ideas in your introduction will become your two main body paragraphs.

Main body paragraph 1 – concerns about the risk of stress-related ill-health

Main body paragraph 2 – a sense of fulfilment at work




How To Write Main Body Paragraphs

The structure of a good main body paragraph has 3 parts:

  • Topic sentence
  • Explanation
  • Example

If you can’t think of an example, you can add further supporting ideas but we already have our two examples so that’s not an issue here.

A common problem when writing main body paragraphs for IELTS opinion essays is having too many ideas. Again, we have already chosen the two ideas we are going to develop, so we are all set to start writing.

You can see how important the planning stage is and how it make the actual writing of the essay far quicker and easier.


Main Body Paragraph 1

The topic sentence summarises the main idea of the paragraph. That’s all it needs to do so it doesn’t have to be complicated.

It plays an important role in ensuring that your ideas flow logically from one to another. It does this by acting as a signpost for what is to come next, that is, what the paragraph will be about.

If you maintain a clear development of ideas throughout your essay, you will get high marks for task achievement and cohesion and coherence.

We’ll now take the idea for our first main body paragraph and create our topic sentence.


Main idea 1 – concerns about the risk of stress-related ill-health

Topic sentence: 

Employees earning a large income are generally under significant mental and emotional pressure to perform well and achieve targets.


Next, we must write an explanation sentence. This explains to the examiner what we mean. It expands on our first idea.

Explanation sentence: 

This causes many individuals to suffer high levels of stress which can result in both mental and physical health problems.


Finally, we add an example to support our main point. I thought of this in the planning stage so I have it ready to use.

If you can’t think of a real example, it’s fine to make one up, as long as it’s believable. The examiner isn’t going to check your facts.

Example sentence:

This happened to my uncle. He used to boast about his huge salary but the boss kept increasing his sales targets and in the end, the stress became too great and he had a nervous breakdown. Now he regrets being driven by the money.


That’s the 3 parts of our first main body paragraph complete. Here’s the finished paragraph.


We now follow the same process for our second main body paragraph.




Main Body Paragraph 2


Main idea 2 – Job satisfaction gives a sense of fulfilment.


First, we write the topic sentence to summarise the main idea.

Topic sentence:

Having a job that they enjoy doing, and in which they feel valued, is a major concern for most of the modern workforce.

Now for the explanation sentence to explain this idea..

Explanation sentence:

A significant number of people are giving up well-paid positions to do jobs which pays less but that they find more enjoyable and less stressful.

Finally, an example to support our main point. As before, I thought of this in the planning stage so just need to form it into a couple of sentences.

Example sentence:

I am an example of this myself. A year ago I left the teaching profession because the workload had become too great and I am now a gardener. I feel really fulfilled in this work and I am much more relaxed and happy even though I earn far less money.

That’s the 3 parts of our second main body paragraph complete. Here’s the finished paragraph.

Now we need a conclusion and our IELTS opinion essay is done.




How To Write a Conclusion


Conclusions to IELTS opinion essays should do two things:

  • Summarise the main points
  • State your opinion


This can generally be done in a single sentence.

If you are below the minimum 250 words after you’ve written your conclusion, you can add an additional prediction or recommendation statement.

Our essay currently has 233 words so we’re on target and don’t need this extra sentence but you can learn more about how to write a prediction or recommendation statement for IELTS opinion essays on the Task 2 Conclusions page.


The conclusion is the easiest sentence in the essay to write but one of the most important.

A good conclusion will:

  • Neatly end the essay
  • Link all your ideas together
  • Sum up your argument or opinion
  • Answer the question

If you achieve this, you’ll improve your score for both task achievement and cohesion and coherence which together make up 50% of the overall marks. Without a conclusion, you’ll score below band 6 for task achievement.


You can start almost any final paragraph of an IELTS opinion essay with the words:

  • In conclusion

        or

  • To conclude


Now all you need to do is briefly summarise the main ideas into one sentence.

Here’s a top tip. Go back and read the introduction to the essay because this is also a summary of the essay. It outlines what you are going to write about.

To create a great conclusion, you simply have to paraphrase the introduction. Let’s give it a go.


Introduction:


Here is the same information formed into a conclusion:


That’s it. We’ve completed our essay. Here it is with the 4 paragraphs put together.

   Question:

   A big salary is much more important than job satisfaction.

   Do you agree or disagree?

Finished IELTS opinion essay.

 

Go through this lesson as many times as you need to in order to fully understand it and put in lots of practice writing IELTS opinion essays from past exam questions. Practice is the only way to improve your skills.



More Help With IELTS Opinion Essays
& Other Task 2 Essays

Task 2:

IELTS Writing Task 2 – The format, the 5 question types, the 5 step essay writing strategy & sample questions. All the key information you need to know.

The 5 Types of Task 2 Essay – How to recognise the 5 different types of Task 2 essays. 15 sample questions to study and a simple planning structure for each essay type.

Understanding Task 2 Questions – How to quickly and easily analyse and understand IELTS Writing Task 2 questions.

How To Plan a Task 2 Essay – Discover why essay planning is essential & learn a simple 4 step strategy, the 4 part essay structure & 4 methods of generating ideas.

How To Write a Task 2 Introduction – Find out why a good introduction is essential. Learn how to write one using a simple 3 part strategy & discover 4 common mistakes to avoid.

How To Write Task 2 Main Body Paragraphs – Learn the simple 3 part structure for writing great main body paragraphs and also, 3 common mistakes to avoid. 

How To Write Task 2 Conclusions – Learn the easy way to write the perfect conclusion for a Task 2 essay. Also discover 4 common mistakes to avoid.

Task 2 Marking Criteria – Find out how to meet the marking criteria in Task 2. See examples of good and poor answers & learn some common mistakes to avoid.



The 5 Task 2 Essay Types:

Step-by-step instructions on how to plan & write high-level essays. Model answers & common mistakes to avoid.

  Opinion Essays

  Discussion Essays

  Problem Solution Essays

  Advantages & Disadvantages Essays

  Double Question Essays


Other Related Pages

IELTS Writing Test – Understand the format & marking criteria, know what skills are assessed & learn the difference between the Academic & General writing tests.



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