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Sample IELTS refugees essay

This is one of my model IELTS essays lessons where you can

  • read the essay
  • do a vocabulary exercise
  • get a full lesson on how to write the essay

Read the IELTS refugees essay

One of the major problems facing the world today is the growing number of refugees. The developed nations in the world should tackle this problem by taking in more refugees. To what extent do you agree with this opinion?

There is little doubt that the issue of refugees is a global problem. While it most immediately affects developing nations, there is a strong argument that industrialised countries should help by allowing higher levels of immigration. This is certainly not an easy issue though, because historically  immigration has caused as many problems as it solves.

The principal reason why developed nations should help is that we now live in a global village and it is no longer possible to ignore what happens on the other side of the world. This is partly a moral issue and partly because it is in the economic self-interest of industrialised nations to ensure that developing nations continue to progress. A practical way of achieving this would be to accept more immigration, particularly when it is caused by natural disasters or civil war.

I would argue, however, that this is not an open and shut case, as there is a negative side to mass immigration. The multi-cultural experiments in Europe have not always succeeded and immigrants have often suffered badly from racism and other prejudices. On a practical level, refugees are sometimes better off receiving aid in their native land than begging on the streets in a country where they cannot speak the language. Many so-called economic migrants end up returning to the country of their birth.

My personal conclusion is that developed nations should agree to take in more refugees, but only in restricted numbers and in extreme cases. I also believe that there needs to be a global effort to provide aid to solve the problems that cause emigration. Prevention is as they say better than cure.

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Understanding the question

One of the major problems facing the world today is the growing number of refugees. The developed nations in the world should tackle this problem by taking in more refugees. To what extent do you agree with this opinion?

This is a proposal type question where you are given a proposed solution to a problem and asked whether you agree with it or not. It is important to make sure that you write about the proposed solution and you do not just talk about the problem. One sensible approach in this type of essay is to look at both sides of the argument and then give your opinion. You can also provide your own alternative solution as I do here.

Vocabulary issues

Before you start writing I suggest  in the planning process you try and think of alternatives for words in the question. Normally it is much easier to do this before you start writing than as you are writing.


This is one of those essays where you are asked to talk about a problem. The word is given to you in the question so you need to be careful about repeating it too much. In this essay, I do repeat it, but I also use different collocations as well as the close synonym “issue”.

  • a global problem
  • not an easy issue
  • a moral issue
  • solve the problems
  • caused as many problems as it solves


This is another word given in the question that you want to try and avoid overusing. Some of the variants I use are:

  • immigrant
  • immigration/mass immigration
  • economic migrants
  • emigration

Developing countries etc

This is a tough one.  You are going to need to talk about developing nations and countries in general a lot. Again you want to try and look for some alternatives. The one I don’t use is “third world” as it is slightly politically incorrect nowadays. Try some of these:

  • developing nations
  • industrialised countries/nations
  • native land
  • country of their birth

Ideas and essay structure

If you plan your vocab well, you should come up with plenty of ideas for this essay. The problem is more likely to be what to leave out than to put in. My essay structure looks something like this

Introduction: rephrase the problem and mention the proposed solution. The state that it is an argument with two sides to lead into a pro/con type essay

Content 1: Arguments in favour of accepting refugees = moral responsibility/global village/economic self-interest. Use brief example of natural disasters

Content 2: Problems caused by immigration – prejudice and racism etc. Mention possibility of aid in own countries

Conclusion: Yes and no! Up to a point it’s a good idea but there are difficulties (refer back to introduction). Suggest alternative of aid (refer back to content 2). Easy.


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24 Responses to Sample IELTS refugees essay

  1. KC July 14, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    amazing essay, love the intro and conclusion.

  2. Lana August 1, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Dear Dominic, thanks a lot for your great site. I am really admired for your excellent teaching. I wish you every success.
    I`d like to ask you about one sentence – “This is certainly not an easy issue though, because historically has immigration caused as many problems as it solves.” It is not clear for me is “has caused” relevant to “immigration”?

  3. TED August 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    I have a question about the sentence “I also believe that there needs to a global effort to….” Can the phrase “needs to” followed by a noun(a global effort)?

  4. Dominic Cole August 7, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    Sorry. That was a typo. i have now corrected the mistake. It now reads “there needs to be a global effort”

  5. Lana August 8, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    I’d like to ask you the part of sentence “because historically has immigration caused as many problems as it solves”,is it the same as “because historically immigration has caused as many problems as it solves” ?

    • Dominic Cole August 8, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

      No. It should read “immigration has caused”. If it was “has immigration caused” then it would be a question.

  6. Samuel mathon August 23, 2011 at 2:21 am #

    you guys are awesome. i have exam on 23 sep and this is helping me a lot. i hope i will get 7 in writing this time. thanks for your efforts and wonderful thoughts.

  7. Dinaz September 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    I am greatly indebted to you for all the material you have provided in this website – I have to get a 8 in writing and though I got a 8 in all the rest – writing remained at 7.
    I have a feeling the tips here can go a long way it getting me that 8 score I so sorely require!

    Many Thanks Dominic

    • ehsan March 5, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

      hello there,
      I have looked for amongst many sites and I found this extremely invaluable!thanks alot colin!!!

  8. vibinu November 27, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    Congrats sir,,,i just love this site…..u r doing a wonderful job….gr8……hats off 2 u…

    I have a question sir: u have given a long list of sample essays……..are these the topics which are usually asked in the IELTS exams?

    • Dominic Cole November 27, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

      They are versions of questions that have appeared. I try to keep them as close to exam format as possible.

  9. vibinu November 27, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    thanks n regards

  10. farshid January 20, 2012 at 6:38 am #


  11. farshid January 20, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    I want to know in A/D essays like this I should tell my opinion and it’s reasons in introduction briefly then expand them in bodies or not I should tell some reasons of in opposite in a body paragraph and some in agreement in another body.
    Please inform me.

  12. amrinder July 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    hi sir spelling of principle or principal?which one correct

    • Dominic Cole March 8, 2013 at 6:46 am #

      Both. “principle” is something you believe in, while “”principal” is normally used as an adjective meaning “main”

  13. mz August 11, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    hi there,can i have try on answering writing questions on this website and then get some feedback from any one interested? thanks

  14. Paul November 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    It’s been an honor to read this beautifully written essay. You’ve created a masterpiece from the question I found extremely tough. Your techniques are amazing and I wish my girlfriend will learn and use them on her up coming test in the next 2 weeks.

  15. Paul November 11, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    It’s been an honor to read this beautifully written essay. You’ve created a masterpiece from the question I found extremely tough. Your techniques are amazing and I wish my girlfriend would learn and use them on her up coming test in the next 2 weeks.

  16. mazen April 7, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Many many thanks for thanks for this site I saw it very useful and is helping me a lot specially in writing section
    My feeling that in this essay there is a misconception between refugees and immigrants, whereas there is a big difference between them.
    the first is related to political or humanitarian issues.
    in contrast the latter is more related to economic problems.
    would be better to clarify this point in the essay??

    and thanks again

  17. Dominic Cole April 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    Really interesting question. And the points you make are good ones.Though I am not sure the distinction is quite as clear as you believe.

    When I wrote this essay (around 5 years ago I think), there was much debate about “economic migrants” in the EU. This was a category of person who left one country (often illegally) to seek a better life elsewhere. In many cases, the countries they were fleeing had very repressive regimes. It was a political question as to whether they were “refugees” or “immigrants” – the boundary between the two is not exactly clear cut. The people leaving the country would consider themselves “refugees”, while the countries receiving them would term them “illegal immigrants” or “economic migrants”. Which phrase you used depended on where you stood. I should also point out that there is another term here “asylum seeker” – this is perhaps the best word for people fleeing from dangerous regimes and is more specific than “refugee”.

    Is it possible to refer to refugees as part of “immigration” as I do in this essay? I think it is. Just did a quick internet search. Take a look at this fact sheet from the Australian Government headed Australian Immigration Fact Sheet 60 on the internet – it discusses refugees.
    Also read this headline: “Australia Increases Refugee Quota in Broad Immigration Reform”. Immigration, in my view, can be taken as a very broad term. And refugees still come under immigration law.

    All that said, having re-read this essay for the first time in a while, I’m not sure how good a model it is and you are right it would be better to clear about the terms and I think it needs review. I shall get a new one posted.

  18. Dave May 10, 2014 at 1:42 am #

    Hi Dominic I confused about reply to agree/disagree question. Don’t we have to clearly say “I agree” or “I disagree”. And with ‘to what extent’ do we have to say how much eg I completely agree ….

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