IELTS Writing Task 2 Assessment Criteria: What Does Position Mean?

To get a Band 7 or higher for IELTS Writing Task 2, you need to know exactly what your IELTS examiner is looking for. This means you need to understand the IELTS writing assessment criteria.

In this post, we’re going to look at one of the most important things IELTS examiners look for when they assess IELTS Writing Task 2.

Your Position.

The word “position” appears several times in the public IELTS Writing Task 2 assessment criteria.

  • Band 9: “presents a fully developed position
  • Band 7: “presents a clear position throughout the response”
  • Band 6: “presents a relevant position
  • Band 5: “expresses a position
  • Band 4: “presents a position but this is unclear”
  • Band 3: “does not express a clear position
  • Band 2: “does not express a position

So in this post you will learn:

  • what “position” means
  • what a Band 7 position looks like

What Does "Position" Mean?

Your “position” is what you think about a particular issue. It’s your view or opinion.

So if the essay question is “what are the advantages and the disadvantages” of something, your position is what YOU think are the advantages and disadvantages.

If the essay asks you to “discuss both views and give your own opinion“, then your position is your discussion of the 2 views – what you think of the 2 views – and your overall opinion.

If the essay asks you about the causes of a problem and its solutions, then your position is what you think are the causes and solutions.

In other words, your position is your answer to the essay question.

Example 1

Here is a very simple (non-IELTS) question to explain the meaning of position: 

What kind of animal makes the best pet?

Remember, your position is your answer to this question.

There are lots of different possible positions you could take.

You could argue that birds, such as budgies, make the best pet.
Your could argue that rabbits make the best pet.
Or dogs.
Or cats.
Or spiders, or fish, or lizards…and so on.

Personally, I think cats make the best pet, so that’s my position on this issue.

(In case you’re wondering, I think this because I think cats are really easy to look after, which is a big advantage for busy people, and I also think cats make great companions because they are really affectionate animals. Those are my supporting reasons.)

Your Turn

What’s your position: what kind of animal do YOU think makes the best pet?

Example 2

Here’s a real IELTS Task 2 question:

Some parents buy their children a large number of toys to play with.
What are the advantages and disadvantages for the child of having a large
number of toys ?

(Cambridge IELTS 10 General Training Test B)

What issue is this question addressing? It’s the effect of having a large number of toys on children. What advantages and disadvantages does this have for the child?

Again, your position is your answer to that question.

So your position is what YOU think are the advantages and disadvantages.

This is not an issue I’ve ever thought about, but after thinking for a couple of minutes, here’s what I came up with:

Advantages:

  • They can learn a lot by playing with certain toys
  • They can learn to socialise by playing with other children

Disadvantages:

  • They will be ‘spoiled’ by their parents
  • Their attention will be pulled in different directions

Those advantages and disadvantages are my position on this issue.

Your Turn

What’s your position? What advantages and disadvantages do YOU think having lots of toys has on children?

Example 3

Here’s another authentic IELTS essay question

Some people say that the best way to improve public health is by increasing the number of sports facilities. Others, however, say that this would have little effect on public health and that other measures are required.
Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

(Cambridge IELTS 9 Test 3)

So what issue is this essay question addressing? If you read the question carefully, you can see that it is about the best way to improve public health.

Some people say that the best way to improve public health is by increasing the number of sports facilities. Others, however, say that this would have little effect on public health and that other measures are required.

This is a “discuss both views” question, so you are presented with two different positions on this issue. One position is that the best way to improve public health is by having more sports facilities:

Some people say that the best way to improve public health is by increasing the number of sports facilities. Others, however, say that this would have little effect on public health and that other measures are required.

That’s one possible position, but according to the question, not everyone agrees; other people say that just having more sports facilities is not enough and that “other measures” are needed.

Some people say that the best way to improve public health is by increasing the number of sports facilities. Others, however, say that this would have little effect on public health and that other measures are required.

What could these other measures be? Here are some ideas.

  • Encouraging people to walk or cycle more
  • A tax on sugar
  • Encouraging people to stop smoking
  • Giving people access to clean water

I’m sure you can think of some more ideas!

So there are several possible positions to take on this issue.

Personally, I think the best way to improve public health is by encouraging people to take regular, daily exercise, such as walking or cycling to school and work. So that’s my position.

(And again, in case you’re wondering, here’s why I take this position: it’s because I think new sports facilities would mainly be used by people who are already healthy and so you actually need to focus on unhealthy people to improve overall public health. I think that encouraging people to walk and cycle more will have a big impact on overall health.)

Your Turn

So what’s your position on this issue?

What do YOU REALLY think is the best way to improve public health?
(You can disagree with me, it’s ok!)

Summary

So to summarise, your position is what YOU think about an issue.

And because IELTS wants to help you write a good essay, they give you a clear question to follow, for example:

  • what are the advantages and disadvantages?
  • what are the causes of this problem and solutions?
  • discuss both views and give your own opinion
  • to what extent do you agree or disagree?
  • what is your opinion about this?

Your position is your answer to the question (or, in a “discuss both views” essay, your response to the instructions).

And it’s one of the main things – and in my experience, one of the first things, that examiners look for when they assess your essay.

What Does A Band 7 Position Look Like?

So what does a writer’s position look like in a Band 7 IELTS essay?

To understand this, it’s a good idea to first look at the lower bands – in other words, what you mustn’t do!

At Band 4 an essay:
“presents a position but this is unclear”

This means you’ve given a position, but the examiner doesn’t understand it. This is often because the writer doesn’t know what their position is, or because of confusing language.

At Band 5, an essay:
“expresses a position but the development is not always clear and there may be no conclusions drawn”

This means you’ve given a position, and the examiner can understand it, but your main arguments don’t really support your position – they’re not relevant to your position.

At Band 6, an essay:
“presents a relevant position, although the conclusions may become unclear or repetitive”

This means the examiner can understand your position, and it answers the essay question, but there are problems with it.

Firstly, there might be points in your essay where your position becomes unclear. In my experience, this is most commonly because writers seem to change their views half-way through their essay. Or they give reasons for a view that they don’t agree with.

Secondly, you might repeat the same main ideas in the body paragraphs. You might use different vocabulary to explain these ideas, but you’re basically saying the same thing. Here’s an example of this:

Cats make the best pets for 3 reasons:
Firstly, because they are very affectionate.
Secondly, because they are very loving.
Thirdly, because they are very friendly.

These 3 ideas are basically the same idea, repeated 3 times. I often see this in essays which are over 300 words long.

At Band 7, an essay has none of these problems.

  • Your position is clear
  • Your position is consistent
  • Your position answers the question
  • You don’t repeat your main ideas

So at Band 7, an essay:
“presents a clear position throughout the response”.

In other words, your position is not only clear, but it is also consistent: you don’t change your views half-way through the essay.

What Does a Band 8+ position look like?

Once you’ve attained a Band 7 position – one that is clear and consistent – you have little room for improvement. So Band 8 and Band 9 focus more on the way you support your position by developing your ideas.

 

Final Tips

Tip #1: Think…REALLY think…about your Position

The foundation of your essay is your position. In other words, everything flows from your position: your main reasons, your supporting details, your grammar and vocabulary.

This means you need to think carefully about your position, especially if you are aiming for Band 7 or higher. And I think the best way is to say what you REALLY think.

I GENUINELY believe that cats make the best pets and I genuinely believe that encouraging people to walk and cycle more is the best way to improve public health. (I haven’t just made this up for IELTS!)

But a lot of IELTS candidates don’t think too hard about their position. They may come up with a random position quickly – one they don’t REALLY believe. I often see essays that take a “strong” position (e.g. I strongly agree with the statement), perhaps because they think they need to start writing as soon as possible.

But this can lead to an unclear or confusing position.

So take a moment to REALLY think about your views and plan your IELTS Writing Task 2 essay. Take time to generate ideas for your Task 2 essay. This will lead to a much better essay: your arguments will be more logical, your essay will be more coherent and your ideas will be more fully developed.

Tip #2: Use Authentic IELTS Essay Questions

IELTS questions will ask you to discuss issues that you can reasonably be expected to have some thoughts on. They will not be obscure ones. They will be related to topics like the environment, education, family, travel and so on.

Sometimes, essay questions you find on the Internet have been written by people who don’t know how to write essay questions. So they may be on obscure or controversial issues, and it might be difficult to come up with a clear position on any of these.

So always use authentic IELTS essay questions. This will help you to present and support a clear position, and make your practice time more effective.

Read this page for more information about authentic essay questions:
https://ieltscharlie.com/authentic-ielts-essay-questions/

You can find a list of authentic IELTS essay questions here:
https://ieltscharlie.com/ielts-writing-sample-questions/

Posted in IELTS Writing Task 2.

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