IELTS Opinion Essay: tips, common mistakes, questions & sample essays

In this lesson we are going to look at how to answer an IELTS Opinion essay, also known as an Agree Disagree Essay.

You will learn about this IELTS Writing Task 2 essay, using authentic IELTS essay questions, plus the most common mistakes. And I will finish with an IELTS model essay written by me in response to a sample IELTS essay question. So let’s get started!

Table of Contents

What Is Your Task?

In this IELTS question type, you are presented with someone’s opinion. Your task is to explain whether you agree or disagree with this statement. 

In some tasks, you may be asked to explain how much you agree or disagree with the opinion. These “to what extent” questions are more common in the IELTS Academic Writing Test, but they can also appear in the IELTS General Training Writing Test. Here is an example of one of those “to what extent” essays:

In the future, nobody will buy printed newspapers or books because they will be able to read everything they want online without paying. 

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement? 

The question in an opinion essay can be worded in lots of different ways, including:

  • to what extent do you agree or disagree?
  • do you agree or disagree?
  • what is your opinion about this?

How To Plan An IELTS Opinion Essay

If you are aiming for a high band score (Band 7 and above) it is absolutely vital that you plan your essayA good plan will help you to see if you have answered the question, developed your ideas and organised them BEFORE you start writing.

Let’s plan an essay using my 4 Step Planning Process.

4 Step Planning Process

Step 1: Understand The Task

First, you need to make sure you understand exactly what you need to write about. So you need to read the question carefully, not quickly!

Think about these three questions:

  • What is the topic about?
  • What is the topic NOT about?
  • How should you respond to the topic?
Let’s go back to this essay question, and answer those 3 questions:

In the future, nobody will buy printed newspapers or books because they will be able to read everything they want online without paying. 

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement? 

What is the topic about?

The topic is about the future of printed media, specifically newspapers and books. Will people read printed media in the future? Or will online media replace printed media completely?

An important phrase at the end of the topic statement is “without paying”. This means the topic statement is also referring to free information online, rather than information that you have to pay for. 

So you could reword the topic statement like this: “will free online information replace printed media in the future?”

What is the topic NOT about?

The topic is not just about the convenience of online media, but about the fact that it is free. So you need to address the issue of free information online, at least some of the time.

How should you respond to the topic?

The question “to what extent do you agree or disagree?” tells you how to respond to the topic. In other words, you need to say how much you agree or how much you disagree with the topic statement.

I think it’s difficult to agree fully with the opinion statement because it says that in the future “NOBODY” will buy printed newspapers or books. Personally, I think that some people will want to read printed media, at least some of the time. 

ielts-opinion-essay

Step 2: Decide Your Position

Next, you need to decide your position. In other words, you need to decide what you think.

In an opinion essay, your position is simply your opinion. It’s your answer to the question “to what extent do you agree or disagree?”

So in our example essay question above, my position is the extent to which I agree or disagree.

Step 3: Extend Your Ideas

When you decided your position, you may have started thinking about the reasons for your position, the reasons for your answer. In other words, WHY are you taking this view?

Giving reasons for your view is essential in an IELTS essay. In fact, all IELTS questions tell you to give reasons for your answer”. So in Step 3, you need to think about your reasons a little more.

However, just presenting your  reasons is not enough. You need to develop them.

The two best ways of developing your ideas is by:

  • giving explanations of what you mean
  • giving specific examples which illustrate what you mean

Together, these add more detail to your answer. 

You MUST do this to get Band 7. If you fail to develop your ideas in detail, your band score for Task Response may be limited to Band 6. 

Step 4: Structure Your Essay

The final step in the planning process is to structure your essay. This simply means deciding which main ideas to put in which paragraphs.

 

A 4 paragraph structure for an IELTS opinion essay could look like this:

  • Paragraph 1: introduce essay and briefly state your views
  • Paragraph 2: give a 1st reason for your view
  • Paragraph 3: give a 2nd reason for your view
  • Paragraph 4: summarise your views.
If you have a 3rd reason for your view, you could add an extra paragraph:
  • Paragraph 1: introduce essay and briefly state your views
  • Paragraph 2: give a 1st reason for your view
  • Paragraph 3: give a 2nd reason for your view
  • Paragraph 4: give a 3rd reason for your view
  • Paragraph 5: summarise your views.

How To Write Your IELTS Opinion Essay

Let’s go through how to write the different parts of the essay.

How To Write The Introduction To An IELTS Opinion Essay

In the introduction to an IELTS Opinion essay, you need to do two things:

  1. briefly introduce the topic of the essay
  2. briefly present your opinion

Introduce The Topic

You should begin with a background sentence which introduces your reader to the topic of the essay. The best way to do this is to paraphrase the opinion statement.

How To Paraphrase

Think about the meaning of this topic statement, and briefly rewrite it using your own words. Try not to use the same grammatical structures as in the essay question. In other words, be flexible. This is important if you are aiming for a Band 7 or higher. 

In the example essay question above, the opinion statement said: 

“In the future, nobody will buy printed newspapers or books because they will be able to read everything they want online without paying.”

Here is one way of paraphrasing this:

“It has been suggested that paid print media may disappear completely in the future due to competition from free sources of information online.”  

This sentence has the same overall meaning as the original sentence, but uses different vocabulary and different grammatical structures.

How NOT To Paraphrase

When you paraphrase, do NOT just change individual words with synonyms, or you will get some very strange sentences, e.g.

“In the days to come, no people are going to purchase paper news or literature since they can consume all they wish on the Internet with no need to buy.”

DON’T DO THIS!

Present Your Opinion

Next, you should briefly present your opinion. Just state clearly whether you agree or not. For example:

“In my view, this is unlikely to happen.”

If you are a confident writer, and if you have a very good plan, you could also, very briefly, include your reasons:

“In my view, this is unlikely to happen because people will always want to use print media and since much online material is going behind a paywall.”

But be brief!

There’s little point in adding a “scope” sentence: “This essay will discuss the reasons for my view.” 

Just move on to the body.

How To Write The Body Paragraphs

In an IELTS Opinion essay, you need to present the reasons for your view. WHY do you hold your opinion?

Write each of the main reasons for your view in a separate paragraph. So if you have 2 reasons for your view, write 2 body paragraphs. If you have 3 reasons for your view, write 3 body paragraphs.

Each main body paragraph should contain:

  • A reason for your opinion (your main idea)
  • A more detailed explanation of this reason
  • An example which illustrates your ideas

This structure is what is meant by developing your ideas, and it is essential for a Band 7.

You can read more about developing your ideas here.

How To Write The Conclusion to an IELTS Opinion Essay

In the conclusion to an IELTS Opinion essay, you need to do one thing:

  • restate your opinion
Do NOT write any new ideas in your conclusion. If you think of new ideas while writing your conclusion, forget them! It’s too late.

Common Mistakes in IELTS Opinion Essays

These are the most common mistakes made by Test Takers when writing an IELTS Opinion essay:

  • changing your opinion during the essay (e.g. your opinion in the introduction is different to your opinion in the conclusion)
  • giving reasons that don’t support your opinion
  • presenting too many reasons for your view: you MUST develop ALL of your ideas to get a high band score, so it’s best to present 2-3 reasons and explain them al.
  • Writing an overly general statement about the topic in the introduction (e.g. “Education is a topic of hot debate.”)
  • The reasons for your view are not explained and illustrated. You need to develop all of your ideas to get a band 7 and higher.
  • Not fully understanding the topic of the question. This is often caused by reading the question quickly, not carefully.
  • Using memorised phrases (e.g. “a hot topic”, “in a nutshell”, “my considered opinion”)
  • Using “research studies” as examples: examples should illustrate your ideas, not prove them. Read about how to use examples in IELTS essays.
  • Trying to use rare or “novel” language: examiners are looking for groups of words used naturally, not rare words.

Sample IELTS Opinion Essay Questions

Many manufactured food and drink products contain high levels of sugar, which causes many health problems. Sugary products should be made more expensive to encourage people to consume less sugar. Do you agree or disagree?

(Cambridge IELTS 16 Academic Test 3)

Some people say that now is the best time in history to be living. What is your opinion about this? What other time in history would be interesting to live in? 

(Cambridge IELTS 16 General Training Test 4) 

In the future, nobody will buy printed newspapers or books because they will be able to read everything they want online without paying. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement? 

(Cambridge IELTS 15 Academic Test 2) 

Some people believe that nowadays we have too many choices. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement? 

(Cambridge IELTS 13 Academic Test 2)

Some people say it is important to keep your home and your workplace tidy, with everything organised and in the correct place. What is your opinion about this? 

(Cambridge IELTS 13 General Training Test 4) 

 

Model IELTS Opinion Essays

Here is an IELTS Opinion Essay that I wrote in response to this task:

Some people say that music is a good way of bringing people of different cultures and ages together.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion?

Cambridge IELTS Book 14 Test 3 (Academic)

Almost everyone seems to like music of some sort and perhaps listening to music satisfies a basic human need. Some people go further, arguing that music can actually bridge cultural and generational divides, and I broadly agree with this.

Music is rightly seen as a universal language, that regardless of the language of the lyrics, the underlying melody triggers the same emotional reaction in listeners, whatever their background. The distinctive sound of a love song, for example, or a lullaby will instantly be recognised regardless of the words being sung or the culture in which it came.

Moreover, some music enjoys almost universal appeal. Classical music is a good example of this. The work of composers as diverse as Mozart, Shostakovich and Gershwin is popular the world over, and to these instrumental compositions you could also add the music of famous popular music acts such as Abba and The Beatles.

Large music festivals are also able to bring people of different backgrounds and ages together. The famous summer festival at Glastonbury in the U.K. always has a wide variety of acts, encouraging a remarkably diverse audience in terms of age and ethnicity. Therefore it is clear that such events help bring people closer together.

However, there is one important caveat. Certain types of music seem almost designed to appeal to only the younger generation. Genres like hip-hop, punk and rock ‘n’ roll have each been embraced by teenagers at different times over the last seventy years, almost as a rebellion against their parent’s generation. So to some extent, it could be argued that some music can actually widen generational divides.

On the whole, however, music is certainly a force for unity. People the world over share music as a language and have tastes that transcend their differences, and thus I would agree that music can bring people closer together.

(309 words)

Read my full plan and comments for this essay.

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Posted in IELTS Writing Task 2.

Charles Cornelius is a PGCE and CELTA-qualified teacher and former IELTS Examiner with 25 years' teaching experience all over the world. He has worked for some of the major English language schools including International House, IDP and The British Council. He holds a MA in Education from the University of Bath. His courses, for both English language learners and teachers, have been taken by over 70,000 students in over 160 countries around the world.

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