This is the next in my series of lessons with model IELTS essays. In addition to the essay to download, you will find advice on answering the question, structuring the essay, ideas for other transport essays and choosing the right vocabulary.
As ever, the first step is to analyse the question and consider what it is asking you to do – the task. the question is:
Public transport could be made free of charge. Are there more advantages or disadvantages to this change?
The task is to give your opinion about whether there are more advantages than disadvantages to the idea of making public transport free of charge. If you are to answer the question properly, you need to consider not just what the advantages and disadvantages are, but also how many of them there are. This should highlighted both in your introduction and conclusion.
Structuring the essay
To answer the question whether there are more advantages or disadvantages, you really need to look at both advantages and disadvantages in the essay. It may be possible to say in your introduction/conclusion that you can see no advantages/disadvantages and then to write about only one side of the argument. However, I much prefer a more balanced structure that considers both pros and cons.
The structure – 5 paragraphs
The structure I choose for this essay is a 5 para essay. I do this partly because I want a separate para for each advantage of free public transport. This emphasises that there are more pros than cons.
Identify free public transport as essay topic. State there are more pros than cons to such a policy (there is only one disadvantage but two advantages). This sets out the map of the essay – one disadvantage and two advantage paras.
Content 1 (the disadvantage)
Look at the one major disadvantage – cost/revenue. Explain that it is a significant practical objection
Content 2 (the first advantage)
Explain how free public transport can reduce pollution.
Content 3 (the second advantage)
Explain how free public transport can reduce congestion.
A one sentence summary is normally right in a 5 para exam essay. So all I do is directly answer the question (there are more advantages than disadvantages) and link back to the introduction (the one disadvantage is significant).
Vocabulary – transport/government/cost/environment
You will find more detailed vocabulary notes below. The one point I want to emphasise here is that one of the best ways to vary your vocabulary is to use vocabulary from different topic areas. There are only so many different ways of saying “public transport”. My solution is like this:
- public transport means talking about government – local government – councils – transport authorities
- this is a money question – fares – revenue – costs – income
- transport and the environment are often related topics – green – clean – exhaust emissions – air pollution
Ideas for public transport essays
Transport is a common IELTS essay topic and, as such, it is one of those areas that you need to have ideas for. Here are a few I use in this essay and some others you could use in other transport essays.
Advantages of free public transport
- the environment: more use of public transport means fewer cars on the road and that means less pollution
- congestion: more use of public transport would lead to less congestion
- greater public access: making public transport free would mean everyone could use it, regardless of income
Disadvantages of free public transport
- Fares are an important source of revenue for (local) governments – without them taxes would rise
- Governments need to invest in transport infrastructure and this requires revenue
- Transport workers need to be paid – where do their wages come from
- A free service may mean a lower quality service
Neutral ideas/Ideas for transport essays
- Is all public transport the same? What about long-distance routes between cities?
- Could public transport be made free for some sections of society (pensioners and schoolchildren)?
- Could some forms of public transport be made free (eg urban bus routes)?
- People could share car journeys, walk more or use bicycles. It is a personal responsibility.
- Public transport should be “privatised” – allowing private companies to provide these services in a competitive market place
The essay with notes
In many countries around the world there is considerable debate about the role of public transport. One suggestion that is commonly put forward is that it should be made free of charge. My belief is that while this policy might be difficult to implement in practice, there are at least two strong reasons for considering it.
The one significant problem with making public transport free of charge is financial. Councils and local governments need sufficient revenue not only to pay bus drivers and other ancillary staff, but also to maintain the transport infrastructure. There is a real danger that allowing people to travel for free would deprive transport authorities of much needed funds and lead to a lower standard of service.
This financial difficulty in free public transport is counterbalanced by a potential benefit to the environment. The fact that so many people use cars nowadays means that our cities suffer from rising levels of pollution from car exhaust emissions. One way to address this problem would be to encourage more people to use buses and trains by abolishing fares. If more commuters chose to travel to work on public transport, our cities would almost certainly be cleaner places to live in.
Another way in which free public transport could improve our quality of life relates to congestion. Currently, the trend is for increasing numbers of people to choose to drive to work. This means that in many cases the rush hour is several hours long and it is sometimes almost impossible to travel across a city. It is probable that this level of congestion would be reduced by making public transport free.
My conclusion is then that there are more advantages than disadvantages to free public transport, but this policy may be financially impossible to implement.
The final sentence of the intro uses some of the same language as the conclusion (“difficult to implement“) The first sentences of each content para are brief and simply outline that paras place in the argument/structure of the essay. Content para 2 refers back to content para 1 (“This financial difficulty“) Content para 3 refers back to content para 2 (“Another way“)
Transport vocabulary -simple variations
Although none of the language is very specialised (apart form ancillary staff) , I get good variety of transport vocab. I do this partly by using prepositions accurately (“travel across the city” “travel to work“) and partly by thinking of collocations/phrases (“transport authorities” and “transport infrastructure“).