This is the next in my series of sample IELTS essay lessons. The idea is that I don’t just give you an essay, I talk to you about how to write it. In this lesson, I show you a youth crime essay and focus on how to get the right vocabulary.
Thinking about functional and not just topic vocabulary
There is a skill in reading IELTS essay questions. One step is to see that you need to use particular vocabulary to write the essay. The next step is to see that not all the vocabulary you need is topic vocabulary. That is what this lesson is really about – a large part of the vocabulary you need in your essays is not about the topic of the essay itself.
Read and understand the question – finding the vocabulary you need
You should see that as you read this youth crime essay question that it does not simply ask you about crime and young people, it also asks you about: causes, solutions, explanations and suggestions. These are the areas where a good range of functional vocabulary will help you.
In recent years, there has been a considerable rise in crimes committed by young people in cities.
What has caused this? What solutions can you suggest?
One obvious area is topic vocabulary. Here we have:
- young people
More functional vocabulary
What other language do you need? Sometimes it can be easy to forget this part.
- Problem/solution vocabulary: the question asks you to discuss a problem.
- Cause and effect vocabulary: you need to think about why it is happening
- Explanation vocabulary: you are asked to explain something.
- Suggestion vocabulary: again, you are asked to make suggestions.
The big idea – vary the vocabulary you use
Once you have identified what types of vocabulary you need, the next step is to understand that you want to vary the language you use. That much is clear. It is worth understanding that there are different ways to do this:
1. Changing the word itself
One obvious thing to do is just change the word you use. For example, all these words are related and can be used to discuss causes:
- lead to
2. Varying your word combinations
A slightly different idea is to keep the main word, but change the words you use with it. This can be a sensible approach as keeping the same word is good for cohesion, while changing the combinations helps show off your range of vocab. For example, all these phrases use “problem” in different ways:
- a pressing problem
- an urgent problem
- deal with a problem
- a problematic situation
Look at my IELTS youth crime essay and see how I use this vocabulary
When I say “look at”, I really mean look. I have highlighted the different functional language in different colours. You should see these words are a huge part of the essay:
The rise of crime among young people is an urgent problem in many cities that needs to be addressed. However, in order to find a solution, it is first of all necessary to understand what has led to this happening. In this essay, I first of all examine the reasons for the rise in youth crime, then I suggest how this problem may be resolved.
Perhaps the principal cause of this rise in youth crime is the increased use of drugs and alcohol among young people. Many cities suffer from the phenomenon of binge drinking by teenagers who lose control under the influence of alcohol and commit crimes. For instance, it is a common sight on the streets of Britain to see fights breaking out outside pubs and clubs. Similarly, there is a clear connection between drug abuse among the young and crime. It is still unfortunately the case that young people frequently see drugs as cool and become addicted. It is a common occurrence for these addicts to resort to petty theft in order to pay for their habit.
There are a variety of potential ways of combatting this problem. One possibility that is sometimes suggested is a much stricter system of penalties and punishments to deter young people from a life of crime. That might work, but it would also be sensible to improve the system of education so that young people were better informed about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. This should have the effect of dealing with the issues that cause youth crime in the first place.
In conclusion, alcohol and drug abuse are among the primary reasons for the rise in young offenders and if the authorities wish to tackle youth crime, one approach would be to educate the young more effectively.
Notes on vocabulary
an urgent problem… to be addressed
find a solution
how this problem may be resolved
combatting this problem
dealing with the issues
to tackle youth crime
Cause and effect
has led to
the primary reasons for
the reasons for
the principal cause of
a clear connection between
have the effect of
issues that cause youth crime
the primary reasons for
examine the reasons
then I suggest how
There are a variety of potential ways of
One possibility that is sometimes suggested is
it would also be sensible to
I haven’t highlighted these in the essay, but you might want to look at:
fights breaking out
binge drinking (not a crime really)
life of crime
Download the essayIELTS youth crime essay (3333)
An exercise and different ideas for the essay
There are of course different approaches to this essay. I decided to focus on the link between crime and young people’s use of drugs and alcohol. Two other ideas I didn’t include were
- poverty – does poverty lead to crime
- families – should families be more responsible in the way they bring up children
The exercise is just to write one paragraph about what causes crime among young people and to try and use a variety of the cause and effect language in my essay. It sometimes help to focus on one thing at a time, so you need not write the whole essay.