How to structure IELTS essays

This lesson shows you a simple way to structure IELTS essays. Below I show a very simple method I use myself and also show my students in class.

Read and understand the question

One key to it is understand the question and to be clear about what you want to say in your response. Clear thinking leads to clear writing.As ever, the first step is to read and understand the question. Here is the question today:

Despite advances in medicine there are concerns that certain diseases such as diabetes are increasing and some people believe future generations will face greater problems with health and die younger than we do today.

What is your opinion?

This question asks you to:

  1. give your opinion – this must be clear in the introduction and the conclusion
  2. about whether health will be better in future – this means that you need to talk about the future and now – there must be some comparison
  3. about whether people will live longer – this needs to be mentioned to

All these things must be included.

Think about the examiner – make your opinion and structure clear – give your essay a backbone

IELTS essays get marked quickly. You don’t want to allow the examiner to make a mistake. So make life easy for him/her by showing the structure of your essay as clearly as possible. There are 4/5 places you do this – what I think of as being the spine of the essay. (your spine is your backbone – it’s what keeps you upright and gives you your structure).

  1. the introduction – that’s the first thing they read and where you make your first impression and first impressions count
  2. the first sentence of each paragraph (x2) – examiners are taught that each paragraph should have one main idea – show them what it is in the first sentence
  3. the conclusion – that’s the last thing they read and the first thing they remember!

The key is link these things together so that

  • the introduction matches the conclusion – the opinion/point of view is the same: you just need to change the language
  • the two body paragraphs link to the opinion/point view in the introduction

To do this try this simple essay structure plan. It may just look like 4 or 5 boxes on a blank piece of paper , but it might save your life!

essay-structure

Think clearly about your opinion/point of view

You want your point of view to be clear. My basic rule is that if you can’t say in 2 sentences, it’s too complex. So part of the planning process may be deleting ideas that are too complex or that you can’t express clearly in English.

See my example

I’m going to go for a balanced type essay with an argument that it health and longevity (living for a long time) will get worse in the West but better in developing nations. Before I start writing I make sure I can say this simply

I think health will get worse in the west but better in developing countries and this will affect how long people live.

Build the spine of your essay – see my example

All you need to do now is build the spine of the essay: the intro, first sentences and conclusion. I really do do this using my essay structure plan above. I ended up with this. Take a look at it. See

  • how simple it is – that’s good, you do want a simple structure
  • how things repeat – that’s good too
  • I crossed out my idea about stress and mental health. It’s a good idea, but would make the essay too complex

health-essay-structure

Now get the words

This lesson wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t show you the “end-product”. Your plan is only good if it helps you write well. Take a look at my opinions (in red) and the balance between developing countries (in green) and the industrialised nations (in blue).

Introduction

There is no question that medicine has progressed dramatically over the last century, but this does not mean that all our medical problems have been solved. Indeed, my belief is that the average life span in the Western world may actually fall in the 21st century. This is in contrast to the situation in developing countries where I expect health provision to improve and longevity to increase.

Paragraph 1

The main reason why overall health may become worse in the industrialised nations of the West relates to modern lifestyles there.

Paragraph 2

The situation in the developing world is, however, quite different and overall health is likely to improve.

Conclusion

My conclusion is therefore a mixed one. While it is true that people may face greater problems with their health in the future, this only applies to industrialised nations and not to the developing world where life expectancy may increase.

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31 Responses to How to structure IELTS essays

  1. zara February 25, 2014 at 6:53 am #

    Hi Dominic
    I believe you are such an inspiration for so many people and a ray of light for them to help them achieve their goals. You are really a life saver who ‘s doing a selfless service at no cost. Thanks heaps and this is the first time i’m posting on your webpage. I look forward to your reply and would you mind having a glance at my essay below? I’d be really grateful as your feedback means a lot to me. Kind regards.

    Over the past few decades, the medical field has witnessed enormous progression. However, this development has not prohibited certain health problems to occur. In my opinion, health concerns are likely to reduce in the developed countries in the 21st century. This is in contrast to the Western world where people will experience more health related hazards, which will negatively affect their longevity.

    The principal reason for the decline in overall health in the industrialized nations of the West relates to modern lifestyle there. This change in people’s way of life has led them to adapt unhealthy food habits and lack of exercise. As a result, increasing number of population (involving both adults and children) are becoming victims of obesity and other related diseases such as diabetes and cardiac problems. If governments of the developed nations do not take necessary measures, the average life span in these countries would experience a downfall in the foreseeable future.

    The developing nations are more likely to see improved health provision standards and better life expectancy. This is due to the fact that many less advantaged countries are striving hard to improve their infrastructure and provide better facilities to its public. Funding from the richer nations is also assisting them to improve health facilities and build more hospitals. Improvements in health provision services has reduced mortality rate by controlling epidemics like cholera. Therefore, inhabitants of the poorer nations are expected to have better health and will live longer.

    In conclusion, despite much advancement in the medical field, several heath problems still exist. However, it is more likely that the western countries might face these issues due to their inadequate living styles. I opine that the third world citizens will have fewer health problems in future due to raised health standards.

    • Dominic Cole February 25, 2014 at 9:18 am #

      I smile. I’m about to post exactly this essay later today – or almost exactly the same essay. V impressed by your writing. Hate “opine” as a verb – avoid. A very few spotty little mistakes but generally really excellent. One way to improve the essay would be to link the two content paras more explicitly. But, while I am no examiner, 8.0 is well within your grasp.

    • Anonymous January 12, 2015 at 5:17 am #

      I love this lesson! The explanation on structuring essay is so transparent . Thank you Dominic so much!

  2. zara February 25, 2014 at 6:59 am #

    I forgot to mention that my target band is 8 in writing so i really want to see whether i am able to achieve that with this standard of writing. If not, what should i do to better my writing and improve the standard. Thanks

  3. zara February 25, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    Thanks a lot for your feedback. I feel more motivated now:-)
    I recently attempted the academic version of IELTS and managed to get 8 and above in all of the modules except writing. I have my test on 8th of the next month now. I’m in desperate need to get my desired score. I am taking the General Training this time and know nothing about letter writing. It would be great if you could post some lessons about letter writing as well.
    In regards to this essay, i don’t want to take much credit as it’s written based on your ideas and took way more time than is available in the exam. But i hope with practice and by following your lessons, i’ll be able to write up to this standards.
    But i really want to acknowledge your utmost contribution to the lives of so many people. You are helping people improve their futures, so well done and keep it up!

    • Dominic Cole February 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

      I do have a few lessons on letters that you can find on the writing page or here: http://www.dcielts.com/writing-2/sample-questions/

      The key – as always with IELTS – is to focus on the question. There is a slight danger with the letter that you take it too casually. You still need to do the same things as you do with the other types of writing – organise, get the grammar right and use a range of vocab.

      This, you will understand is a guess, but I suspect you fell down in your writing because of either Task response or Coherence and cohesion. The core language (grammar and vocab) look very solid to me.

  4. zara February 25, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    Sure I’ll have a look and try to learn the strategies you’ve mentioned. The best thing about your website is that you focus on teaching skills and not only the exam techniques. That’s what’s required if you are after a high score. Being a non native speaker, it’s very easy to miss the knowledge of some basic rules and i often get confused especially with determiners and articles. Another issue with non native speakers is they struggle with simple writing. At least i face this acute issue.

    With my essay, can you suggest how can i link the two paragraphs in a better way?

  5. Dominic Cole February 25, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    The link can be a simple one. “The situation in developing countries is quite different because….”

    You do have the comparison in there anyway I know, but it I think it never harms to make the obvious obvious!

    • zara February 25, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

      Thanks. A great tip. From now on, I’ll try to make the obvious “obvious” 🙂

  6. ghanshyam February 25, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    please tell me how to write a post essay here…

    • Dominic Cole February 25, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

      You can post an essay here any time you like. Sadly though I won’t be able to comment on it properly. I simply don’t have enough time.

      • Mayuri patel February 28, 2014 at 7:15 am #

        Hi sir help me how to write essay I have exam on 5th of April

  7. Mayuri patel February 28, 2014 at 7:08 am #

    There is enormous changing in the medical field as compared to past, which helps to reduced certain health related problems. In my opinion the life span of the 21st century people has increased in contrast to western world where they faces many hazardous disease. The principle reasons for health problem is modern lifestyle they adapt due to industrialization. The people eating habit is also changed on fixed time for lunch and dinner. They consume unhealthy food and not doing regular exercise. For example, whenever they get time in office they adapt fast food during lunch time. In contrary, the developing nations have better health due to progress in health standards and healthy lifestyle. More and more hospitals are established with advance technology instruments to detect the disease. Due to this the ratio of spreading epidemic disease is also decline. To sum up, that modern technology has revolunized not only the style of person to wear and eat , but also help to fight with disease.

  8. M March 2, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    Hi Zara,

    I’d like to way in which you are preparing for. Id really keen on have a chat with you to ask some questions about your experience. Id be glad if you send me an email ( master.degree.projects@gmail.com)

    Regards,

  9. soni March 5, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    Dear sir,

    My concern on cant we write Proverbs in the essay, i haven’s seen a single proverb written by anyone. pls let me know. my exam on march15th.

  10. St. Anne April 2, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

    Hi sir, can you please give more examples of essay and some tips in writing a good paragraph.

    • Dominic Cole April 2, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

      Sure more essays will be coming. Next week I will be concentrating most on essay writing skills.

  11. rahul June 29, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    hi sir , could you please give an essay as an example for the type “how extent do you agree ” in this website along with explanation . i very much thankful to you for this website sir..

  12. Sweta August 18, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

    Hi Dominic , I appreciate your endeavour in helping students with essays. Can I post essays here for correction?

  13. Lyndun September 2, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    Good day, Dominic!

    Your tips in the writing helped me a lot, particularly for the essay.
    the night before I took my IELTS, I had a last minute cramming reading all your tips and sample essay. This website really served its purpose, in turn I achieved higher that what I’m aiming for.
    Thank you so much and more power. Keep it up.

  14. Umair Hashim September 26, 2014 at 11:55 pm #

    Dear sir my English is not well but I’ll be try to improve my English because next month my IELTS exam I need some essay writing pertain if you possible you help out me thanks

  15. mohammed Almusawi October 15, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

    The great advances in the medical services in the recent years, although it found treatments for many diseases , but the overall health situation does not look to be improved significantly.

    The achievements in the management of the chronic diseases, through most are congenital conditions , lead that the people carrying those illnesses will live longer , developing bigger families , so transmitting the disease to more siblings, for example , diseases related to allergy like asthma , so the increase is apparent rather than real adverse effect.

    On the other hand , the effect of the modern life style like food habits, pollutions, excessive alcohol consumption, causes the up rise of the so called modern life diseases , so we are recently seeing diseases like diabetes and certain cancers , dementia appearing in younger age groups the it should be.

    In conclusion, I believe that the medical progress helps the people to long living , although some with hereditary conditions will live long but they still can work and help the community , a healthy habits should be encourage to improve the over all health state .

  16. reet October 24, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    hi,
    i really liked the way speaking topics are given, i have been looking from a long time for such type of material which can help me out with different speaking topics as i m targeting to score 7 in speaking .most importantly we need not to buy anything you are such a help thanks!!!!!!

  17. medinat November 30, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    Thanks so much for this work may GOD reward you in abundance. Iam also preparing for my academic IELTS I need you in my journey to success .

  18. Rob February 4, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

    Hey Dominic.
    I always send my students to your blog. Thanks for posting so much useful content. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this here …. http://everestlanguageschool.com/ielts-discuss-both-views-task-2/ … but I was really hoping for some feedback from you and your readers. It’s an essay structure for IELTS writing task 2. Thanks, Rob

  19. Asmita February 10, 2015 at 1:56 am #

    Hi,

    I am really finding your website helpful. Will really appreciate if you can provide your feedback on below essay.

    Medical Science is a blessing for Human community in all sense. However, emphasis is more on curing of problem than avoidance. This is leading to a situation where more people are becoming victim of diseases. Considering present situation, we can’t expect any change to this trend in foreseeable future.

    Revolution in medical science has helped saving many lives.In olden days, there was no relief to life threatening diseases such as Cancer or Kidney problems. Because of invention of Chemotherapy, Cancer is not fully curable. There are possible solutions like Dialysis and transplant to Kidney related issues. This is all possible due to Medical innovations.

    On counter part, we also have to admit that number of people getting these diseases are increasing day by day. According to one of the research published in US Times, Count of people diagnosed with heart diseases at young age has significantly increased to that of in the year 2000.There are many factors contributing to this, principal being life style. Busy life is refraining individual from exercise and workouts.Fast foods have nearly zero food value and has worsen situation. We are unable to breath in fresh air due to pollution. All these things are making human beings vulnerable to disease and exposes to risk of life.

    It is high time we all realize the importance of healthy life style. Prevention is better than cure. Early we digest this is better for us to live a happy life. Many diseases puts one’s life at risk. We can notice a great decline in average human life span in last three generations. It has come down to 60 to 70 years of average life span whereas earlier it used to 80 to 90 years. High Nutrient food, regular exercise, balanced work life will play a key role for having good health.

    I strongly believe, that suffering out of health will increase. People will face lot of issues related to health by ignoring key to healthy life.After all one has to remember the limitation of Medical science. Medicines can only address the problem, but can’t developed immune in our genes. This responsibility is solely on us.

    Thanks.

  20. jojo April 17, 2015 at 10:46 am #

    I WILL JUST WRITE THE INTRODUCTION BELOW (not include in essay)

    Nowadays,the medicine has improved increasingly but unfortunately the figure of diseases spread over a past decades .Personaly,i think the health of people will be worse in developed countries ,while it will be better in western world.

  21. Rahma April 20, 2015 at 5:57 am #

    Hi academic:
    I will have an ILETS exam on Thursday 23.4.2015 and this will be the fourth trying for me :'( and the last chance from my college
    I don’t write well in english because my basic language is Arabic..

    I want to achieve at least 4.5 score 🙁
    What can I do ?

    And can you give me another topic? I want to try writing and send it for you to check 🙂

    Thank you 🙂

  22. Mariana May 27, 2015 at 5:57 pm #

    Hi Dominic

    I have found this site very helpful and one of the best ones for preparing for the IELTS writing task.

    I look forward to your reply. Would you mind having a quick look at my essay below? I’d be really grateful, your feedback means a lot to me. Kind regards.

    Nowadays, food has become easier to prepare. Has this change improved the way people live? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer

    It is claimed that the fact that food has become easier to prepare has improved people lives. While there are grounds to argue this statement, I believe that the tools and variety of products we have today for cooking have brought many benefits to daily life.

    It is true that in the past people relied on nature and seasonal products for cooking and that had some advantages, such as eating fresh products. For example, inhabitants of an island fished what the ocean offered them and lit a fire to cook the catch of the day. Then, as dessert, they had the fruits from the island trees. Although they didn´t have the variety we have nowadays, people could still feed themselves but only with the products from their environment.

    However, nowadays life has change and if we consider the fast pace we currently lead and the little time we have for cooking, we have to admit kitchen tools and devices such as microwaves, freezers, and electric barbecues have made our lives easier. For example, many nights I arrive late at night after long hours of working and commuting to and from work. If I were to turn on the oven and heat the meal, that would take me at least half an hour. Instead, I can heat yesterday’s spaghetti in the microwave and in just five minutes I have my meal ready.

    Additionally, today we have access to products from all around the world and our meals have become more varied. With globalization, someone in the South of Argentina can buy the local lamb but a spicy tandoori chicken as well.

    My conclusion is that all these advancements in the kitchen have helped us save time when cooking and improved our meals, hence making our lives much easier.

  23. Chandra September 2, 2015 at 7:34 pm #

    Hi Cole, I have a different view for this essay, in my opinion this essay focus whether young people die sooner in future than now because of growing incidence of non communicable disease among them than before.

    Comparing developing vs developed countries looks little bit out of track to me.

    Please suggest me.

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  1. Two IELTS health essays - focus on the question |Dominic Cole's IELTS and Beyond - February 25, 2014

    […] both essays? To see how it can be done, take a look at Zara’s essay added as a comment to this lesson on essay structure.  I just can’t promise to comment on […]

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