Two ways to write discussion essays for IELTS

This lesson shows you two different discussion essays for IELTS. Part of the idea is to show you that there is always more than one way to approach an IELTS essay. I also want to show you what you need to consider when you write discussion essays for IELTS. This means first looking at some basic ideas about essays and then thinking about what “discuss” means.

Two basic principles

When you write discussion essays for IELTS you need to understand 2 basic principles that apply to all IELTS essays:

your essay must answer the question fully

your essay must be coherent

To get both of these right you need to think clearly about your essay structure before you start writing.

Identify discuss questions

The question can be asked in different ways the usual format is typically:

Discuss both these points of view and give your opinion

If the question asks you to discuss, you do just that: discuss.

Discuss can mean two things

In fact, the question never ever says “write a discussion essay”. The reason for this is that different teachers have different ideas about what a discussion essay is. The idea is not to write a model “discussion essay”, rather it is to discuss the topic in the question – something quite different.

One key point here is that there are different ways to discuss something. Discuss includes both these ideas:

stating what people think (perhaps saying why they believe this – this is a more objective approach)

commenting on what people think (perhaps saying what the pros and cons of their view is – this a more subjective approach)

For me, the better type of discussion essay is one that both states and comments on the different views – if you do this you will discuss better.

Get a logical and clear essay structure

There is absolutely no one structure for a discuss question in IELTS. You simply have to find a structure that is logical and allows you to answer the question. You will find 3 different examples of how to do this below in my essays. Whichever structure you choose, you need to decide first:

what is my introduction?

how am I going to write two/three clear topic paragraphs?

what is my conclusion?

do all the parts of my essay fit together?

See two different ways how to write a discussion essay

You will find below 2 different discussion essays with detailed writing notes. What you should see is that:

both essays answer the question: they discuss the issue and give an opinion

one essay keeps the opinion to the end and discusses only objectively

the other establishes the opinion in the introduction and comments on the issues throughout the essay

See a more objective discussion essay

Almost everyone agrees that we should be training children to recycle waste to save the Earth’s natural resources. Some believe that it is parents who should teach their children to recycle waste. Others argue that school is the best place to teach do this. Discuss both views and give your own opinion

Most people would agree that young people need to be taught about the importance of recycling waste products and packaging. There is a difference of opinion, however, whether this should happen at home or in schools. In this essay, I will examine both points of view and then state my opinion.

The argument in favour of teaching children at school about recycling is largely based around the idea that schools and other educational establishments are the best environment for training children. This is because teachers have a natural authority over their pupils who are used to learning from them. Additionally, the need for recycling could easily be included in biology and geography classess.

There are two main reasons why people think parents taking responsibility for this training could be more effective. The first is that the majority of recycling takes place in the home and parents can therefore more easily control the recycling habits of their children.  If, for example, parents see their child put a recyclable bottle in the wrong bin, they can explain that it needs to go in another bin. The other very practical point is that often children spend more time at home than at school and so parents may have more effect.

My own view is that the best solution is for children to learn about recycling both at home and at school. In this way, they would learn about both the theory and the practice.

(277 words)

 Notes

Overview

This is a much more objective discussion essay.

  • you separate out your opinion from what other people say. Your opinion only comes at the end.
  • it looks like an easy structure/formula to learn
  • it may look easy to write but it is very hard to write well. The introduction uses some dangerously formulaic language and is a very weak thesis statement
  • the conclusion is usually more difficult to write well as you need to refer to the main body paragraphs to make the essay coherent. It is not really enough jus tot say “this is what I think”. Rather, you need to link that conclusion with the main ideas of the paragraph and that means giving reasons that are found in the body paragraphs (both of them).
  • be very careful about balance. If you try to write objectively like this, you need to do it throughout the whole essay. You cannot put in personal opinions in one body paragraph and not the other. If you do, your essay will become incoherent. Your point of view must remain consistent. This means that if you start out neutrally, you must continue neutrally.

Structure

 Introduction – 3 sentences normally

  • Here is the issue.
  • Here are the two views
  • Here is what I’m going to say

Main body 1

  • This is why people think school is the best place (i.e. main idea = one point of view)
  • Reasons with examples (support)

Main body 2

  •  This is why people think home is the best place (i.e. the other main idea = the other point of view)
  • Reasons with examples (support)

Conclusion

  • Your opinion – also summarizing the main points of the essay to make it coherent.

See a more subjective discussion essay

Almost everyone agrees that we should be training children to recycle waste to save the Earth’s natural resources. Some believe that it is parents who should teach their children to recycle waste. Others argue that school is the best place to teach do this. Discuss both views and give your own opinion

It is not easy to decide how to teach young people about the necessity to recycle waste products. One school of thought is that they should be taught this in school. Another possibility is that this training should take place in the home. While teachers may have some part to play, my view is that parents are more likely to be effective in achieving practical results.

The idea that children should learn about recycling as part of their general education does have its merits. One reason why people propose this is that recycling could easily fit in with other subjects on the curriculum such as geography and biology. The general idea is that if children understand about the effects that not recycling has on the environment, then they will naturally choose to recycle waste and packaging themselves. The drawback is that children frequently do not  apply what they learn as theory to life itself.

The alternative suggestion of giving the primary responsibility to parents seems more likely to be effective in practice. This is partly because the majority of recycling actually happens in the home where parents and teachers are present. Parents can, for example, ensure that their children get into habit of sorting waste and packaging and putting it into the correct bin. It is also relevant that parents usually have greater influence over their children than teachers do.  A child is typically going to listen to the advice of a parent than a teacher, simply because their relationship is closer.

My conclusion is therefore that while it may seem better for children to learn about recycling at school, in practice that training would be more effective when given by parents.

(282 words)

Notes

Overview

This is a much more subjective/comment discussion essay.

  • the point of view of the writer is clear throughout the essay
  • it follows a logical structure
  • the introduction avoids formula language and so requires more thought. It has a strong thesis statement where you say exactly what you think.
  • You must make sure that you also cover both points of view and not just give your own opinions in the body paragraphs
  • the conclusion matches the introduction almost exactly and is therefore easier to write: you simply look back at the introduction before you write the conclusion
  • the point of view needs to be consistent all the way through the essay. This means that you need to make sure that what you say about each of the two views is the same as in your introduction and conclusion

Structure

 Introduction – 3 sentences normally

  • Here is the issue.
  • Here are the two views
  • Here is my opinion [contrast this with the first essay where you do not give your opinion in the introduction]

Main body 1

  • This is why people think school is the best place (i.e. main idea = one point of view)
  • comment on whether you think it is a good idea or not
  • Reasons with examples (support)

Main body 2

  •  This is why people think home is the best place (i.e. the other main idea = the other point of view)
  • comment on whether you think it is a good idea or not
  • Reasons with examples (support)

Conclusion

  • Your opinion – reflecting the introduction and the main points of the  body paragraphs

Which is better?

I have a very strong preference for the second type of essay particularly if you are aiming for a high score of 7.0 and above

it is typically more intelligent – by adding comments on the points of view you get more to say and you are able to “discuss” the views both objectively and subjectively – this is likely to help you give a much more complete answer by discussing the points of view fully and not merely stating objectively what people think

it is typically much more coherent – your point of view is clear throughout the whole essay and not just the conclusion

it allows you to avoid some very tired formulaic language

Some people prefer the other structure. Here is why it may help

it is perhaps quicker to learn – it often includes more formula language

it allows you to treat the two parts of the question separately: first their views and then your opinion – this can seem simpler especially at lower levels

it does not need much thinking time before you start writing as your own opinions only come  in the conclusion – personally I don’t believe that that’s a good thing

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16 Responses to Two ways to write discussion essays for IELTS

  1. zara March 30, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    Thanks for putting this up Dominic! It’s really useful.
    Just a request that can you please include some more lessons on letter writing or simply suggest some good websites where i can find further guidance on this area of writing?
    Thanks

    • Dominic Cole March 30, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

      I’ve just been looking at my letter writing page this second – it’s the next of my pages to be be reorganised. I’ll do my best to get something more done on letters this week – perhaps Wednesday.

      Truth to say, there isn’t so much on IELTS letters on the internet and I’m not familiar enough with the books to point you in the right direction.

      • zara March 30, 2014 at 11:36 pm #

        Thanks for your reply!
        Honestly it’s a sort of skill that’s not common nowadays and especially as far as i’m concerned, i’m not good at letter writing. I’m finding it really challenging. But i’ll be looking forward to your lesson!
        Regards

  2. Rayhan March 30, 2014 at 11:12 pm #

    This is partly because the majority of recycling actually happens in the home where parents and child/children are present.

  3. Rohit March 31, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    Hi Dominic,

    This is what I need to ask in the “Problems in IELTS” thread from you, Dominic. Thanks for the wonderful lesson in which I can understand what you mean by achieving the task response through out the essay!

    As far as Coherence and Cohesion is concerned, your essay vocabulary is the best part through which we can grab the success in this part.

    Thirdly, my vocab is not so high. Neither in writing nor in speaking. However, on Simon’s website, I learnt that Band 9.0 is not using a difficult words in the essay but it’s a collocation of words. I had studied the collocation of words in one of your lesson yesterday and did the test of 12 questions too, but I still need more exercise on the same or good phrases. Please suggest any other lesson or website for this.

    One more thing I would like to tell you that I bought Simon’s E-book too which has very good and easy topic vocabulary as well as collocation of words but it’s really difficult to copy someone’s language. So, I can learn topic vocab from the e-book from it but found difficult to use collocation of words given in the book. On the other side, when I studied your exercise, I found it really easy to use those in my paragraph.

  4. Rohit March 31, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    Hi Dominic,

    Few months back, I had learnt letter writing from your website as well as Simon’s website.

    Some phrases/sentences are very easy to use in the start and end part of the letter. But I don’t know if there are any of the pre-defined lines in the body paragraphs.

    Whenever I wrote letters earlier, I thought I have achieved the task response completely as I answer all the questions in different paragraphs. But still whenever I have given my letter to someone for checking, which are obviously not IELTS examiner or teacher, has pointed out that it’s okay and is of approx. Band 7.0.

    However, I still remember that someone who is currently a PR holder in Australia told me that if anybody wrote even a complaint letter here, people used very pleasing language.

    I don’t know how to proceed further to achieve Band 8.0.

    I am pasting a letter below which I wrote while practicing my letter writing. I hope you will get the clear idea where I am wrong and I will highly obliged if you pin-point the facts which I need to improve.

    There have been some problems with the bus service, especially its reliability, in your area over the last two weeks.
    Write a letter to the manager of the bus company. In your letter
    – describe what the problems are
    – explain how these problems are affecting you
    – suggest what you would like the company to do

    Dear Sir or Madam,

    I am writing to bring to your attention some issues to the bus service from mid of June.

    I take your bus number 103 from High Street every morning at 7:00am. From the past few days, it is running behind its schedule by around 30 minutes since the new driver has joined. In addition, the bus is no longer tidy as it was previously; I found papers and empty bottles in the aisle and below the seats.

    Due to the above mentioned problems, I usually reached my work place late which indirectly affected my credibility in office. Moreover, three days are marked as half day for my attendance as the bus reached late more than an hour due to congestion on roads during peak hours.

    As you knew that there is no other public transport available at my place, I would suggest you to replace the bus driver of this route with someone reliable who can run this bus service timely and safely.

    I hope you will address these concerns at the earliest.

    Yours faithfully,

    Paul Smith

    • Dominic Cole March 31, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

      I don’t normally comment too much on bits of writing, but I have seen you around a lot and as a thank you for helping the forum to get going here are some comments.

      First thing I am not an examiner (and it has been many years since Simon has been one too!) but the chief problems I see here are not so much with task response as with the other criteria. Briefly

      Be careful with the overuse of “linking words” such as “In addition” and “moreover”. The higher the score you need, the less obvious these phrases should be. The trick is to link in other ways.

      There are probably one or two too many grammar mistakes. Here is a few of them – they are small things by themselves but they do add up:

      “would suggest you to replace” should be “suggest that you”
      “is no longer tidy as it was previously” you need a second “as” to make “as tidy as”
      From the past few days” should be “For”
      “I usually reached my work”. Don’t you mean “I usually reach”? The bus is still running late.

      Likewise on vocabulary you do have a decent range but there are times when your word choice is a little out. Here are a few:

      “no other public transport available at my place” here you want something as simple as “where I live”.
      “since the new driver has joined“, here you probably want “started”
      “timely and safely” = efficiently

      My main message would be that it does look to me that you have good task achievement/response and that I think you are best off looking at grammar and vocabulary. Your problem is that band score 8.0 is tough – it’s a high standard. But one suggestion is that you don’t try and overdo the language – try and make it complex – to get band score 8.0. Sometimes simpler words do work better. I’ll do a lesson on this for you Wednesday/Thursday.

  5. Sevinj April 1, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    Dear Mr. Cole, let me ask something that is not completely clear for me. You wrote:”For me, the better type of discussion essay is one that both states and comments on the different views – if you do this you will discuss better.” Does it mean that we should use several points at once? (In questions normally is said to give our own opinion. Could we have several thoughts about one issue? Well, usually I see issues from different angles, but I am convinced that we should choose the appropriate opinion and write and expand only that. Am I right? I am going to write essays, so it is vital for me now. Thank you very much!

  6. Thang April 11, 2014 at 7:42 am #

    I write an essay based on your lesson (310 words). Could you please give a mark for this ? Thank you very much

    Question:
    Some people think that parents should teach children how to be good members of society. Others, however, believe that school is the place to learn this.
    Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

    Answer:
    It is important nowadays that children should be taught ethics as well as academic knowledge. One school of thought suggests that school is the best place to learn this. Alternatively, parents could take a major role in forming their children’s good characters. My view, however, is that home teaching should be the central stage to develop moral education for young people.

    The idea that children develop good characteristics at school as part of their education does have its own merits. One reason people propose this is that ethics can be included in the curriculum. The idea is that children understand about the set of good behaviours, then they will involve in a lot of activities organised by schools to demonstrate what they have already studied in class. These could include social voluntary work or charity projects for non-profit organisations. Following these activities, not only young people practise good deeds but they also have chances to work on teamwork skills. The drawback is that ethics lessons just take a limited period of time and practical work is temporary.

    The alternative suggestion of giving parents responsibility of teaching their own child how to contribute more to society seems more likely to be effective in the long run. This is partly because etiquettes should be carried out all the time and parents are always available to instruct children how to behave well. Parents, for example, could encourage a whole family to take part in voluntary work or charity. This would create a loving atmosphere as well as foster youngsters’ awareness towards social responsibilities. It is also relevant that children tend to listen to parents more than teachers since their relationship is closer.

    My conclusion is therefore that while it may seem better for children to learn about social contribution at school, in practice that training would be more effective when given by parents.

    • Dominic Cole April 11, 2014 at 11:21 am #

      Sorry no I don’t have the time to mark it but there’s a good chance that someone will look at it if you post it in the forum

  7. mira November 30, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    hi

    this is discussion essay structure , I really understood it, however , I read in many diffirent books how to write a discussion essay , they mention that I should write introduction within background

    here , if you could see the instructire , it did not mention background

    could you explain it

    Structure

    Introduction – 3 sentences normally
    Here is the issue.
    Here are the two views
    Here is what I’m going to say

    Main body 1
    This is why people think school is the best place (i.e. main idea = one point of view)
    Reasons with examples (support)

    Main body 2
    This is why people think home is the best place (i.e. the other main idea = the other point of view)
    Reasons with examples (support)

    Conclusion
    Your opinion – also summarizing the main points of the essay to make it coherent.

    Read more: Two ways to write discussion essays for IELTS | http://www.dcielts.com/ielts-essays/discussion-essays-for-ielts/#ixzz3KXXBohj2
    Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives

    • Dominic Cole September 5, 2015 at 7:52 am #

      There really are no rules about “types of essay”. The only important point is if you answer the question fully. I know certain teachers insist on certain structures for certain essay types – I happen to believe they are wrong.

  8. Soroush January 28, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    Hi Dominic,
    I’m writing to ask a question about discussion questions. Sometimes the question topic provides two opinions and then asks you to discuss them, and sometimes in addition to this, it requires you to give your own opinion as well. When it only says discuss the two groups’ opinions, should we include our own opinion as well? And what do we write in the conclusion?
    Thank you very much in advance.
    Soroush

    • Dominic Cole September 5, 2015 at 7:55 am #

      Good question. You can add your opinion as you discuss the two points of view. But you shouldn’t make your personal opinion the focus of the essay.

  9. fs August 3, 2015 at 10:50 am #

    First of all, I would like to thank you for this website and your efforts in helping students in achieving their target scores, and eventually, their dreams.

    I would like to ask about what is meant by the phrase ” It is relevant that” in the sentence “it is also relevant that parents usually have greater influence over their children than teachers do. ”

    I know that the word relevant to means pertinent to or connected to.

    Thanks and best regards.

  10. Way Young October 16, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

    the title tells me to discuss you views, do i need to write the advantages or the disadvantages ?

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