In this post, I’m going to write an IELTS sample essay in response to a task published in Cambridge IELTS 15 General Training. It’s a question about the popularity of crime novels and crime dramas on TV.
- Step 1: Understand Task
- Step 2: Decide Position
- Step 3: Plan
- Step 4: Write
- Step 5: Check
Here is the task:
You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.
Write about the following topic:
In many countries today, crime novels and TV crime dramas are becoming more and more popular.
Why do you think these books and TV shows are popular?
What is your opinion of crime fiction and TV crime dramas?
Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.
Write at least 250 words.
Step 1: Understand Task
First I need to make sure I understand the task fully.
So my task is to discuss why crime novels and TV crime dramas are popular, and what my opinion is of them. It’s NOT asking me to discuss documentaries about crime, or news stories about crime. Only novels and TV dramas. So I think this perhaps means not movies.
Discuss: novels, TV dramas about crime
Don’t discuss: news stories, documentaries (movies about crime?)
There is a slightly confusing thing in the task:
- The topic statement says: “becoming more and more popular”
- The question says “are popular”
So am I being asked to discuss why they are becoming more popular (i.e. a trend over time) or why they are popular (i.e. a situation today)? I think it’s better to go with the question: “why…are [they] popular”.
So a re-worded task might be this:
- Why are crime novels and TV crime dramas popular?
- What do I think of them?
This helps me to understand the task more clearly (assuming my re-wording is accurate!)
Step 2: Decide Position
Ok, so I understand my task. Next…what’s my position on this topic? What’s my answer to this question? What do I think?
I don’t like this task at all! I rarely watch crime shows on TV and I almost never read crime fiction. I have little interest in them, and so I’m not sure why other people read and watch them. I had to really think hard to come up with some reasons why.
I eventually thought of 2 reasons:
- People love stories where good people overcome bad people, and crime stories fit into this kind of story well: the good detective overcoming the evil criminal
- People are fascinated by the lives of criminals, because criminals often have extreme lifestyles: violent, wealthy, etc.
I thought of a 3rd reason, but discarded this: crime stories are gripping. That’s a bit harder to explain, so I went with the fascination with the lives of criminals.
However, I must be careful with my 2nd reason – my task is to discuss TV crime drama (as well as novels), not documentaries or movies, so I would have to make sure I discussed TV drama that’s based on real life stories. As you will see from the essay, I mentioned a movie (Legend) as an example of crime drama – strictly speaking, it’s not TV crime drama, so it’s risky. However, I worded this carefully, mentioning that I watched it on TV, and I called it a dramatisation, so I think an IELTS examiner would see it as relevant to the task. (It’s a little risky, but I think it’s the only crime drama I’ve watched in 10 years!)
Then I have to answer the question: “What is your opinion of crime fiction and TV crime dramas?” What do I think of them?
Not much, to be honest! I don’t really watch them. But this is a perfectly fine opinion to present. I do, however, like watching crime dramas that are about real life stories.
Ok, so that’s my position, and it’s helped me to generate my main ideas. Next I need to plan out my ideas. This will help me do 2 more things: (1) develop these ideas (i.e. extend and support them), and (2) organise my ideas.
Step 3: Plan
Here’s a photo of my essay plan. (I hope you can read my handwriting!) I’ve also annotated the plan with BP1, BP2 and BP3 to indicate which body paragraphs to write each idea in.
(By the way, I kept changing my example of the good detective – in my plan I crossed out Hercule Poirot and changes it to Sherlock Holmes. While writing, I realised Miss Marple was a better example!)
Step 4: Write
So I’ve got a clear plan – I’ve got a map of my essay. My next step is to turn this plan into an essay. Here is my essay for this question:
Stories about criminal activity, both fictional and real-life, have become increasingly popular over the last few decades. There are many possible reasons for this, but the two primary ones that I can think of are the underlying desire of people to see good overcome evil, and a fascination with criminal lifestyles.
Almost all stories about crime, whether in print or on TV, are about good people, such as detectives and law-abiding civilians, triumphing over bad people, namely criminals. We often see this in fictional detective stories, where an otherwise ordinary person uses their intellect and skill to identify evil criminal masterminds. A good example of this is Miss Marple, an elderly woman who always manages to track down and apprehend evil criminals.
A second reason is that people have a fascination with the lives of criminals. Perhaps this is to do with people’s need for escapism. One of the most popular crime dramas in the UK of the last 20 years was ‘Legend’, a dramatisation of the lives of the Kray Twins, two violent London gang leaders of the 1960s. The film, which I watched on TV, portrayed their violent behaviour, along with their opulent and chaotic lifestyles, and I do feel that people find this compelling viewing, despite how it shows evil people succeeding.
Personally, unless it is related to real-life stories, I have little interest in either crime fiction or crime drama. I find their plots too repetitive. With true crime stories, however, I can learn something about social history and psychology. Why, for example, do people turn to lives of crime? Is it simply for money, or are they motivated by power as well? And what causes people to join gangs and follow people like the Krays? These are all interesting questions.
In summary, a desire to see good triumph over evil, along with a fascination with evil, are two reasons I think underlie the popularity of crime stories, but my interest in them is mainly limited to dramatisations of real lives.
Step 5: Check
Step 5 would be to check your essay. Because I’m writing a blog post, I checked and edited my essay before publishing!
Comments on Vocabulary
I’ve used a wide range of phrases which have a clear, precise meaning, for example:
- criminal activity
- a fascination with criminal lifestyles
- law-abiding civilians
- an otherwise ordinary person
- evil criminal masterminds
- manages to track down and apprehend
- people’s need for escapism
- their opulent and chaotic lifestyles
- compelling viewing
“crime” and “criminal”
I used the word “crime” 7 times and “criminal” 6 times. It’s almost impossible to avoid repeating these words as they have no exact synonyms.
Some IELTS test takers might change “crime” to “offence”, e.g. they would change:
- “Almost all stories about crime” to
- “Almost all stories about offences”
But “offences” has a more general meaning than “crime”, so it makes the writing less precise. It also makes the writing less natural
Or test takers might change:
- “Stories about criminal activity, both fictional and real-life”, to
- “Stories about illegal activity, both fictional and real-life”
But “illegal” has a more general, less clear meaning than “criminal”.
So you often have to repeat words which have a precise meaning. The alternative is to use imprecise, unnatural vocabulary, which will limit your band score for lexical resource.
I hope you found this useful. If you have any questions or thoughts about my essay, please add them in the comments below. Thanks for reading! And don’t forget to read my other IELTS sample essays.
Read More About This Topic
If you would like to read more about the popularity of crime novels and TV crime drama, here are some interesting articles. (I wish I’d read these before I tried to write my essay!)