Top Tips for IELTS

Writing introductions to discussion essays

This is in response to a highly intelligent thread started in the forum by one of the readers of this site. Are there particular skills you need for writing introductions to discussion essays? Here is my response!

The basics of an IELTS essay introduction

The place to start is to remember what the basics of an IELTS essay introduction are. These, I will stress, are guidelines not rules – there is always more than one way to do it:

keep if brief: it is just the introduction, you want to spend most of your time on the main body paragraphs. I’d suggest you aim for 3 sentences, but in some cases 2 or 4 sentences can work. I personally HATE one sentence introductions.

keep it clear: it is really important that the examiner knows what your essay will be about after she/he has read your introduction. Don’t try and be clever. Think clearly and aim to let the examiner know what you want say. Think is the important word in that sentence.

identify the task: all IELTS essay questions ask you to write in a particular way: this is the task. Examples of this are “Say whether you agree or disagree about x”, or “Say what the causes of y are”. For me, it is really important to put this in the intro because if you don’t your essay may not answer the question. A huge mistake.

identify your point of view: this is what some teachers call “thesis statement”. I don’t.  The idea is that what you think should be clear throughout the essay. That means you want to give your answer in the introduction and not just the conclusion.

Is writing introductions to discussion essays special?

I don’t think so. I know lots of candidates and teachers like to categorise essays. Personally, I’m not sure that this is necessary. Better I think to have one set of guidelines and answer the question in front of you. Much simpler that way. It is also much more likely to get you a good score. There are no marks for writing a “discussion essay”, there are only marks for answering the question. So focus on that.

Please avoid “In this essay I will discuss”

This is something I personally hate. Much more importantly, it is an example of tired language that almost all IELTS examiners hate too – they want to see you use your own words and not “learned language” . I will show you some examples of how to do this below.

Top tip – learn to write different introductions 

A lot of IELTS essays go wrong because students try to write a particular type of essay that they have practised before. Then they get a question in the test that doesn’t quite fit the model. They try to repeat a form of essay they have learned and fail to answer the question. To avoid this it really helps to learn different ways of doing the same thing. Learn how to write introductions that are two and three sentences long.

Two examples of  introductions to discussion essays

This is the original task posted by Rohit, read my intro:

Some people think that the teenage years are the happiest times of most people’s lives. Others think that adult life brings more happiness, in spite of greater responsibilities.

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

There are different views about whether people are happier as teenagers or in adulthood. While there is something to be said for the idea that the teenage years can be extremely happy, my view is that most people achieve greater satisfaction later in life when they have a career and a family of their own.

Notes

  1. This is only two sentences long. that can be fine. There are very few rules remember.
  2. I clearly identify the task.
  3. My point of view is clear too – I also show that I will be talking about the family and careers too. Neat.
  4. Note how I use while to connect the two different views I need to discuss. Excellent for your grammar and helpful for this task.
  5. The logical structure of the essay will be one para about how childhood can be best and another about the joys of being 40! Then when I write my conclusion I simply come back to my intro.

This is a slightly more complex question, but asked in the same way:

There is an increasing shortage of housing in many countries. Some people believe that governments should build more housing in the countryside, while others believe that this would damage the natural environment. 

Discuss both these views and give your opinion

Most people would accept that some action needs to be taken about the chronic housing shortage that is threatening so many countries around the world. One logical solution to this problem would be to create more housing in the countryside which is relatively underpopulated. My view, however, is that this would lead to serious damage to the environment and alternative options need to be found.

Notes

  1. See how this introduction is three sentences long. It is still clear and simple though. This is the situation. Here is a solution. This is what I think about the solution. I am still discussing both view and giving my opinion. Just in a different way.
  2. See how I link the different part of my introduction together with this and however. You want to make sure that your introduction is well-written. Don’t write too quickly.
  3. Just like the previous introduction, I Identify the task and I clearly state my view.
  4. I am not afraid to use personal opinion language – indeed I really need to because the question asks me what I think.

Now test yourself

If you like you can leave me an introduction as a comment to this lesson. The alternative is to pop into the forum and post there. Actually, I’d prefer that as that would allow you to share your language and ideas better. If you follow my advice, you will:

  • write 2/3 introductions – don’t bother with the whole essay – focussing on a skill is better for learning
  • write different types of introduction – this will help in the test – you can’t predict the question you will have

More advice on IELTS task 2 writing 

If you like this lesson, why not share it?

   

Get more help with IELTS preparation on the main pages of my site

Home page

Speaking Guide

Writing Guide

Essay writing guide

Academic task 1 guide

Letter writing guide

Reading guide

Listening guide

IELTS vocabulary

IELTS grammar

Keep up with me on Facebook - all the updates and even more advice there

   

Or just get all my free lessons by email

Subscribe to DC IELTS by Email

21 Responses to Writing introductions to discussion essays

  1. Rohit March 18, 2014 at 6:59 am #

    Thanks Dominic for the wonderful lesson!

    Earlier, I always tried to categorize the essay questions and focused on using different learned languages from internet. Now, after this lesson I start thinking in different direction.

    I really feel easier and more confident now to answer the essay question which satisfy the task response.

    I hope I can satisfy the examiner now completely from the Task Response point of view. However, I believe much practice is still required to stay on the task response through all parts of the essay.

    • Dominic Cole March 18, 2014 at 9:52 am #

      Excellent. I hope it works for you. Different things do work for different people. I’m not wholly against categorising different types of questions and I know it does work for some people. I’m not sure if this makes sense but I think the best way ahead is to see that there are different types of question, practise thinking and writing about those types of questions but concentrate on using good essays writing skills.

      I do have another – rather old – lesson on this that I need to review. I’ll try and post again on this in the near future.

      • MH March 18, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

        Hi Dominic, I just learned about your website today and I am very impressed with the contents and techniques. I am planning to write my IELTS on May 10th for the first time. I got 95 in my TOEFL last December with 23 in reading. My weakness is also writing. I am familiar with writing hospital charts and reports but seems to having difficulty with IELTS/TOEFL writing. I am hoping to learn more from your site to score at least 7. Thanks again
        MH

        • Dominic Cole March 18, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

          Best of luck. Do let me know how it goes.

          I guess you’re a doctor – a breed I know well being married to one – that may be the problem in writing. What I mean is that you may just be too academic/intelligent for IELTS. In a way, you need to forget academic training and go back to school. If you learn to keep it simple, then progress may be faster.

  2. saeedeh March 18, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

    hi dear Dominic,
    i receive your website address from dr Andalibi. i found it something.
    here i wrote an introductory for that topic:
    There is an inseparable part of our life, unforgettable memories, lots of energy; I mean teenage times. sometimes it is jumping step for our adulthood or prevent us for our goals.
    I am looking forward to your reply.
    best regards.

    • Dominic Cole March 18, 2014 at 9:51 pm #

      Problems I’m afraid. My best advice in this case is to keep your language simpler. Say what the issue is and then say what you think about it. Also a major problem is that you are not really writing in sentences.

  3. Sarah March 24, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

    Hi Dear Dominic,
    Last few days, i have been spending most of my free time trying to find the an answer “how to write essay” ” where to find the ideas” etc. for IELTS test as i am finding very hard the writing tasks of IELTS.
    I don’t even know where to start. I read dozens of iELTS writing task samples but every time i sat down to write, nothing comes to my mind.
    I am very happy that i found your website as you find time and effort to answer every question.
    Please, Help! Where should i start? What it would be the first step to write a successful essay.
    I really do hope for your answer.
    Thank you very much.

  4. Jonathan July 25, 2014 at 5:58 am #

    Hi Dominic,

    Why the hate for ‘In this essay I will discuss…’ sentences? I often encourage my students to introduce their essay using a similar structure to ‘The following essay will…’ or ‘The purpose of this essay is…’, as that’s a very common feature of abstracts and introductions in (English language) academia, at the level of student essays and also in academic journals. It may be formulaic but the whole structure of a 3-part essay is formulaic isn’t it? I’d welcome your comments on this.

    • Dominic Cole September 12, 2015 at 7:08 am #

      Hi Jonathan

      Apologies for the late reply but I’ve only just found this. I do say it’s a personal opinion! To expand on the reason I state above it’s a formula that I believe is overused especially in IELTS.

      1. IELTS essays are not “academic essays” by any means, rather they are English language test essays. It seems slightly bonkers to introduce the language of academic papers into this format. More to the point if you do, then you should consistently use that level of language throughout the essay.

      2. It is very often wrongly used. i.e. The formula doesn’t fit the question.

      3. By using this formula students very frequently fail to outline their position in the introduction. Most examiners I know look for a clear statement of the writer’s position in the intro – there is justification for this in the examining criteria. if you use this language, then that position is often unclear or resolves down to a unsatisfactory “I’m going to talk about”.

      4. I dislike this kind of formulaic approach. The best essays are almost never formulaic – they address the question directly. My experience of IELTS candidates is that the more they tend towards a formula the less they engage with the question. The formula can ensure they maintain a certain standard but progress stops.

  5. Nadia December 10, 2014 at 4:16 am #

    Hi,

    I have tried using your tips. Could you please comment on my introduction. Thank you

    “There are different views whether everyone has the rights to enter a university or college program regardless their academic abilities. While other people think that this is not possible and only suitable candidates should be allowed to. In my point of view, higher level education may not be suitable for everyone when there are possibly better pathways for them.”

    Thank you

  6. Ray Lee December 19, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    Hi Dominic Cole. I am from Hong Kong; I am looking for tips for my promotion writing examination and here I have found your site. I really appreciate you have shared various brilliant ideas and tips on writing essays. I found it very helpful.

    Thank you so much.

  7. Carolina March 4, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

    Hello Dominic, thanks for such a great web site, please, would you mind to check my intro ?

    ” successful sports professionals can earn a great deal more money than people in other important professions. Some people think this is fully justified while others think it is unfair”

    My intro:
    The view that sports professionals receive an income higher than other careers has generated controversy. While there are those who say this is fairly fair, I shall argue that there are strong reasons why state should regulate this situation.

    Thanks!

  8. Poonam April 9, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

    Please evaluate the below introduction paragraph for the housing topic mentioned above:

    Due to proliferation of population, there is a deficiency of homes in many countries. Some people are expecting from the government to construct homes in the countryside which would lead to serious damage to the environment. Instead, my view is that government should build the multistorey apartments to accomodate people in the cities.

    • Dominic Cole September 12, 2015 at 7:11 am #

      Sorry I simply don’t have the time to look at individual answers. But thank you for posting I’m sure others can learn from this.

  9. Duy Tran May 21, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

    Hi Dominic,

    Could you please help me check my introduction? Thanks in advance,

    Topic: There is an increasing shortage of housing in many countries. Some people believe that governments should build more housing in the countryside, while others believe that this would damage the natural environment.

    Discuss both these views and give your opinion

    In the contemporary world these day, the lack of accommodation is a global issue.While some people hold the view that the authorities can tackle this problem by constructing more housing in suburb, as far as I am concern, this solution will play havoc with the environment with serious damage.

    • Dominic Cole September 12, 2015 at 7:11 am #

      Sorry I simply don’t have the time to look at individual answers. But thank you for posting I’m sure others can learn from this.

  10. mawra June 28, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    hi diminic,i found ur website realy helpful
    hers my intro fo hapines task
    there are different views regarding the age when people feel happier themselves either childhood or adulthood.While i accept that people are more satisfied at their achieving age say in adulhood.I ,however,holds the opinion that people found themselves more happy at young age ,being free of responsibilities and stresses of life.
    intro fo house shortage snerio
    House shortage is becoming pressing issue round the globe and demands serious actions to b taken to mitigate it. Some people hold the opinion of building new houses in sburb which seems a logical soluton but in my view , in order to save our natural environment,few alternatives need to b considered.

    • Dominic Cole September 12, 2015 at 7:11 am #

      Sorry I simply don’t have the time to look at individual answers. But thank you for posting I’m sure others can learn from this.

  • Ahmed alsakhri March 13, 2017 at 4:44 am #

    First introduction about people thinking:

    the people are different in thinking of which age is the best for them.Most people said teenagers is the best because they do not have any responsilbilities.
    Others think that if you are responsible you are happy and i agree.

    Second intro:

    In the life there is part of your life is the best.Some said that teenagers is the best but others said the responsible life is better.
    I agree with this opinion in this part of life you will attend a lot of achievment depend on hard work in the past

  • Leave a Reply