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Public transport – sample IELTS essay

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.

The question

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 governmentcouncilstransport authorities
  • this is a money question  – faresrevenuecosts income
  • transport and the environment are often related topics – greenclean – exhaust emissionsair 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

  1. the environment: more use of public transport means fewer cars on the road and that means less pollution
  2. congestion: more use of public transport would lead to less congestion
  3. greater public access: making public transport free would mean everyone could use it, regardless of income

Disadvantages of free public transport

  1. Fares are an important source of revenue for (local) governments – without them taxes would rise
  2. Governments need to invest in transport infrastructure and this requires revenue
  3. Transport workers need to be paid – where do their wages come from
  4. A free service may mean a lower quality service

Neutral ideas/Ideas for transport essays

  1. Is all public transport the same? What about long-distance routes between cities?
  2. Could public transport be made free for some sections of society (pensioners and schoolchildren)?
  3. Could some forms of public transport be made free (eg urban bus routes)?
  4. People could share car journeys, walk more or use bicycles. It is a personal responsibility.
  5. Public transport should be “privatised” – allowing private companies to provide these services in a competitive market place

The essay with notes

See the essay - read the 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.

Coherent structure

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“).  

The essay to download

Public transport - sample essay (6282)

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11 Responses to Public transport – sample IELTS essay

  1. mahmud January 9, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    I have nothing except your inestimable gratitude ,,,, Thank you indeed.

  2. Valentas January 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    Wow, what band would you get for this magnificent essay? 🙂

  3. alia January 9, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    Dear Cole,

    Thank you a lot for this subject, really it is useful for all of us .

    Thank you again

  4. jiss January 9, 2012 at 2:11 pm #


  5. jiss January 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm #


    • Dominic Cole January 10, 2012 at 2:31 am #

      In general, my preference is for a 4 para essay on the grounds that it is normally more effective to write more about less than less about more. There are times, however, when 5 paras can make sense:

      you have a variety of different arguments but not so much to say about each of them
      you want to emphasise the number of different arguments (as in this essay)
      you want to write more about one side of the argument than the other
      you want to write about one side, the other and then give your own opinion in a separate para

      Really, my suggestion is that you take it on a case by case basis. It is wise to be able to write both a 4 and a para essay for just in case. I don’t really suggest that you say this is an argument essay so i am join got write 4 paras etc. I shall try and post more about this soon – it’s an important question.

      • jiss January 10, 2012 at 3:41 am #

        I am really indebted to you sir………………

  6. ziaul huda January 10, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    Mr. Dominic. It goes without saying that It is profoundly academic essay. If, i response to this question only stating benfits of the free public transportation. What is your view about it? I have written my essay as follows.
    Now a days, many cities provide numerous public transportation means available to inhabitants for a free. Whether these options without fare is advantageous is one of the most controversial topic today. This essay will be looking at how a free transportation system will be more environmentally positive to the society and provide accessibility to low earners.
    First point to make is that encouraging people to use free public transit services has many advantages to environment. For instance, If more people use transport services without charge, many big cities that are experiencing congestion on the roads would considerably reduced. By making free transpot services avalable to general public, there would be fewer vehicles on the road and as a result of it, the carbon footprint of various cities would slow down. Thus, it is understandable that eleminating charges from public transport has more pros than cones.
    In addition to this, providing access to use a city’s transit services wihout fare can be helpful to low income people. For example, any city with this service would provide opportunities to its residents to live and work in any part of the city, regardless of their financial position. This would then help the low-income indiviuals of earning huge revenue for their future generations. Thus, it is clear that making free transport means available to a city’s residents has more merits than downsides.

    After looking at above, It is clearly seen that eradicating fare from public transport has more benifts than drawbacks. Thus, it is expected that the idea of free public transit would be consideed as an option for future growth for most of the emerging cities.
    Kindly comment on my piece of writing.


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