In this lesson I show you two different ways to approach a neighbours and community essay for IELTS. I also talk you through
different ways to structure the essay
language for cause/effect and problem/solution essays
ideas for neighbours and community essays
how to improve your vocabulary, cohesion and grammar skills
One of the main ideas here is to show you that there is always more than one possible way to structure an IELTS essay. To choose the right structure for you you need first to decide what you know about that topic/question.
Thinking about the question – task response
In many cities an increasing number of people do not know their neighbours and there is a lack of a sense of community. What are the causes of this problem? How can it be solved?
You should see that for this question you need to write about:
both neighbours and loss of community spirit in cities
the causes of this problem
and solutions to it
Any essay that writes about neighbours generally and not in cities or does not discuss both causes and solutions will have problems with task response.
Neighbours and community essay – 5 paragraphs
This essay adopts a 5 paragraph structure with 2 content paragraphs explaining the problems and one paragraph explaining possible solutions.
It is certainly true that the more people nowadays do not have a close relationship with their neighbours and that this has weakened communities in our cities. This is probably due to a combination of our more mobile society and the nature of new building developments and is a problem that will require better planning policies.
One main cause of this change is the trend for people to move home to find work. This mobility means that there is less chance for people to put down roots in a community and establish relationships with their neighbours. If, for example, a person moves city once every five years then it is most unlikely that they will form lasting relationships where they live.
Another important factor is that when people move into a new area they often live in apartment blocks and not houses. This matters because these blocks do not have common social areas where people can meet each other in the same way as is possible in more traditional housing estates. It is possible for people who live in these new high rise buildings never to see each other, still less get to know each other well enough to form a bond.
Any solution to this problem will probably involve local government adopting planning policies that are focused on the community. While it is unlikely that anything can be done about social mobility, it is possible for local authorities to encourage a greater sense of community by ensuring new building developments have social spaces where people can meet each other regularly. These could include green spaces where children can play together, local markets and community halls.
My conclusion is that there may be nothing to be done about social mobility but it is possible for local government to foster a greater sense of community by ensuring new developments are more community friendly.
Neighbours and community essay – 4 paragraphs
This essay uses a 4 paragraph structure with each content paragraph explaining one cause of the problem and also setting out a possible solution.
One disturbing trend nowadays is the weakened sense of community in our cities. The two principal causes of this are in my view how our schools and shopping habits have changed. In this essay I discuss these problems and also how they might be solved to ensure we once again know our neighbours.
There is a clear connection between education and community. In the past people got to know their neighbours through their children and formed close bonds watching them play sport together or just helping out with childcare. Unfortunately, this connection has been broken in cities by allowing children to go any school and not the one in the neighbourhood with the effect that local children do not necessarily go to the same school. The easy solution to this problem would simply be to make sure that children in cities went to the local school in their district.
The change in shopping habits has also had a profound effect on community relations in cities. In the past people would shop at their local market or main street, but now they increasingly use supermarkets that are located on the edge of cities. This means that people no longer meet people who live in their neighbourhood as they go shopping and it has also led to a loss in community identity. The best way to solve this problem would be for the government to raise taxation on the large supermarkets and to reduce it for local businesses in order to bring back local markets and shops.
In conclusion I believe that the best way for governments to address the problem of loss of community spirit in cities would be to introduce measures that encouraged people to educate their children locally and to help more local businesses and shops to flourish.
Notes on essay structure and task response
You should note that both essays establish a clear position in the introduction which is reflected in the conclusion and that each content paragraph clearly relates to the question. You can see the overall structure of the essay by looking at the words in red.
Each introduction clearly identifies the task and topic and sets out the position/view. One uses a 3 sentence model which also says “In this essay”, the other doesn’t. Both approaches work equally well.
Different content paragraph structure
Each essay takes a different approach. In the first essay I use 3 content paragraphs with each one focusing on either a cause or a solution. In the second essay I use each content paragraph to discuss a cause and its solution. Either approach can work equally well. Note
Separate causes and solutions: It is perhaps clearer to show that you are writing about both halves of the question
Causes and solutions together: It is a more coherent approach as it is easy to see how the solution fits the cause/problem
5 paragraphs: probably better if you have more “little” ideas that you can’t develop at length
4 paragraphs: better for developing ideas more completely
Note that there are also other approaches possible to this essay. You could easily, for example, write a 4 paragraph essay where you discuss causes in one paragraph and solutions in another.
I discuss 4 and 5 paragraph essays more in this lesson.
Notes on vocabulary and ideas
For this essay question you need a good range of problem/solution and cause/effect vocabulary. I have highlighted this language in blue in both essays. You should see that I use a wide range of words/phrases and often use different word forms and word combinations:
Cause and effect language
Here I use a wide range of different words and phrases:
probably due to
This matters because
two principal causes of this
with the effect that
had a profound effect on
This means that
Here I simply vary the word forms and word combinations – this works:
a problem that will require
solution to this problem
problems and also how they might be solved
The easy solution to this problem
The best way to solve this problem
to address the problem of
There were ideas I didn’t use in these essays. You can also think about:
increased sense of the individual and not community – people look after themselves more nowadays – city people at most risk – needs a educational programme by governments to help – more funding of street parties and other local events
21st century popular culture and entertainment – people spend time on computers and not talking to neighbours – more evident in cities?
work patterns- city people work long hours and often commute – never at home to talk
Coherence and cohesion notes – think this/these
One of the most effective ways to link your writing together is using this/these. See how often I use these words in the essays – highlighted in green. It works well as it is a natural link between what you have written and what comes next.
You should see that almost every paragraph has a this – that’s a good model for you.
I use a good range of grammatical structures in these essays. Note in particular:
If clause for an example
You can often introduce an example by using if.
If, for example, a person moves city once every five years then it is most unlikely that they will form lasting relationships where they live.
Range of tenses and verb forms
One way to change your grammar around is to think about different times. This is a smart thing to do as it also gives you more to write about. Look at this example where I talk about the past, the present and a conditional future. This allows me to use different tenses:
In the past people got to know their neighbours through their children and formed close bonds watching them play sport together or just helping out with childcare. Unfortunately, this connection has been broken in cities by allowing children to go any school and not the one in the neighbourhood with the effect that local children do not necessarily go to the same school. The easy solution to this problem would simply be to make sure that children in cities went to the local school in their district.
You learn to write by writing but you don’t need to write whole essays. Here are some ideas for you to help you improve your skills.
write the same introduction twice – once in 2 sentences and once in 3 – use the introductions here as a model
write a content paragraph using the ideas above. Write it in 3 ways. This will really help you write more flexibly about more topics:
Once just focusing on the cause of the problem
Once focusing just on the solution
Once focusing on both the cause and the solution.
Feel free to post your paragraphs here for me and others to look at.
More connected lessons and resources
More sample IELTS essays
Cause and effect vocabulary
You’ll find a lesson here to show you how to vary this area of language with useful word lists
Using if for examples
I have a separate lesson on this: