Top Tips for IELTS

The introduction – the link between the question and the essay

The idea behind this lesson is that as you sit down to write your introduction in the exam, you focus on two things that all good intros do: identifying the question and explaining your position towards it. There may be other things you might include in your intro, but these two points are key and if you focus on them, then you should be able to write an introduction that is clear and clarity is essential in an essay introduction.

Overview – the introduction – looking backwards and forwards

A good place to start is to understand the introduction’s role in the essay. One possible way of doing this  is just to see it as the link between your essay and the question – it looks both backwards to the question and forwards to what you will write in the essay. If you understand that the question always asks you to write an answer saying “what you think” about that question (whether in opinion/argument/discussion format), then you should see that the intro should:

  1. explain the question
  2. outline your position in relation to it

Identifying the question – looking backwards

The next step is to be aware of two problems that you may face when identifying the question. A problem known is a problem at least half-solved.

Complex questions

Disruptive school students have a negative influence on others. Students who are noisy and disobedient should be grouped together and taught separately.
Do you agree or disagree?

If you look at this question, you should see that it is complex – as are most IELTS questions. It is complex because it contains different parts. There is the background info Disruptive school students have a negative influence on others, the proposition Students who are noisy and disobedient should be grouped together and taught separately and the task Do you agree or disagree?
My best suggestion is that with questions such as these you should make sure that your intro identifies both what I call here the background and the proposition. This may mean your introduction is slightly longer, but it should ensure that you answer the complete question. If you don’t, you may lose on Task Response and Coherence.

Repeating the question

A second problem you may face is that you simply “repeat the question”.  This is serious because if you use the same wording as the question, the examiner may simply delete those words. You think you have written 260 words, but in fact it is only230 words. There will be penalised on Task Response – heavily.

Tip: learn the skill of summary writing

A useful (perhaps necessary) skill here is the skill of summarising. To do this, you need to understand that you can use words from the question – sometimes you have no choice as the word used is simply the correct word and it would be a mistake to change it. What you should not do is repeat whole blocks of words. How can you do this in an exam? Try this technique.

  • Read the question
  • Note key words – think of any synonyms
  • Rewrite the question from those words without looking at the question (if you do, it is much harder not to repeat things)
  • Look back at the question to see if you have covered all the main points

You may find this easier, if you have “planned vocabulary”earlier.

Exercise – test your summary skills

Look at this question and then read my summary notes. Can you write an introduction using those notes – or your own words.

Disruptive school students have a negative influence on others. Students who are noisy and disobedient should be grouped together and taught separately.
Do you agree or disagree?


My own version uses some original words from the question and some phrases of my own.  I wrote it looking at these notes. Some words I use, some I don’t and some others I change. These are just notes.

  • disruptive – [create disturbance – synonym]
  • school children – [school children  – can’t think of another word – pupils(?)]
  • do not pay attention to the teacher  [noisy and disobedient]
  • bad effect – [negative influence on others – synonym]
  • by themselves – [separately – synonym]
  • have own class – [grouped together – similar idea ]

See my introduction

A serious problem is caused in many schools by children who not only do not pay attention to their teacher but also disrupt their classmates. One proposed solution is to place these children in separate classes to minimise disruption. While there is something to be said for this, I do not believe that it is practical.

Exercise – write the question

Here’s an exercise you can try with one of your own essays. Read the essay introduction and then write the question. If you have written the intro well,you should also be able to rewrite the question.

The introduction

There is some dispute whether the best method of assessing students is to use examinations or some form of continuous assessment. This is a complex issue and my belief is that there is probably no one method that applies to all educational systems.


See the question

Some people believe that exams are an inappropriate way of measuring students’ performance and should be replaced by continuous assessment. Do you agree or disagree with this view?

Outlining your position – looking forwards

My other very strong suggestion for the introduction is to outline your position. This is the part that looks forward to the rest of the essay. The reason for doing this is that to get a high score for Coherence and Task Response, you need to have a consistent position throughout the essay and that includes the intro.

Two different approaches

There are different ways of outlining your position in an introduction. Broadly, these fall into two categories – either you give your answer/opinion or you simply say how you will approach the question. Both can work.

1.Give the answer at the beginning

Here you state  what you think in the intro. For example:

Some people believe that parents should teach children how to be good members of society. Others,however, believe that school is the place to learn this. Discuss both views and give your opinion

A child’s education has never been about learning information and basic skills only. It has always included teaching the next generation how to be good members of society. Therefore this cannot be the responsibility of the parents alone. (Cambridge IELTS 8 – model answer)

More complex examples may also include reference to the reasons for the point of view. This adds coherence to the essay by linking forward to the main paras. Though if you want to do this you should normally try to use only a few words. The content is for the main paras.

2.Say how you will approach the question

Here you don’t give your opinion up front, you just say how you will approach the question:

Some believe museums should entertain people, while others believe their purpose is to educate.  Discuss both views and give your own opinion.

Museums often represent different things to different people.  On the one hand, many people feel a museum’s primary purpose is to entertain.  However, others feel they function to house an educational resource.  The merits of both arguments will be analyzed before a conclusion is decided upon. IELTS Writing Blog

Which is better? Neither – though my preference is for the first type. You might note that both these questions are “Discuss” questions. There is always more than one approach available.


How many sentences?

There is no answer to this. It is perfectly possible to write a good intro to an IELTS essay in 2 sentences. It is also possible to write 4 sentences. Two points to note though are:

  1. the introduction is a map to the essay – you want to spend as much time writing the content of the essay as as possible. The more time you spend on the intro, the less you have for the content
  2. some questions are more complex than others and have 2 parts. These questions may need longer introductions

Further reading

An excellent introduction to introductions is to be found at Writefix. You may need to decide to adapt the advice there for exams.

You may also want to play with the Essay Map at readwritethink: it’s an interesting tool that shows you how the different parts of an essay fit together.

Try the next lesson in this series

The content paragraphs – some checklists for before you write





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14 Responses to The introduction – the link between the question and the essay

  1. Robert July 26, 2012 at 7:46 pm #


    Thank you for your hard work!

    One article, one tutorial, one lesson, sometimes can change a person’s whole life.

    I am serious.

    • Charles July 28, 2012 at 5:21 am #

      I am totally agree with Robert.

    • Beth February 1, 2014 at 12:42 am #

      That is absolutely true.

  2. ZIAUL HUDA July 28, 2012 at 7:41 am #

    Some people believe that parents should teach children how to be good members of society. Others,however, believe that school is the place to learn this. Discuss both views and give your opinion?
    Can this introduction be written as follows?
    Many people contest that parents are responsible to educate their children how to be the best citizen of the nation. However, others think that educational organisations are thought to be the most effective venues for learning the skill. This will be proven by looking at both sides of the arguement before a well drawn conclusion is drawn.

  3. zahid ali July 29, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Aoa. Thank you for your help . Its nice working with you .i need grand help in essay writing to achieve above 7 band. some believe museums should entertain people, while others believe to educate.Discuss both views and give your opinion? . can you assess my intro according to bands. Ans.Museums are established mainly to acknowledge people with history.But the built up of museums are always in such an interesting manner that entertainment and education play their role side by side.

  4. Johnson February 6, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    School children who often create disturbance in the class are considered to cause negative effects on others. Some suggests that those less cooperative and inattentive children need to be categorized into a specially designed class and educated with a suitable discipline. While there are some considerable disputes on this proposed solution, it seems the idea is firm and highly effective to me.

    One this i was not sure of was….the use of
    “Specially designed class, suitable discipline” – is it too much information to include? or does it sound better this way?

    any suggestion guys?

    • Dominic Cole February 21, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

      This is, for me, rather over-written and could be expressed more simply.In particular, “categorized” seems like a long word for its own sake. Note also how I have used the relative “where” instead of “and” and deleted “the idea” which is already included in “it”

      Some suggest that those less cooperative and inattentive children should to be placed in classes where they can be educated with discipline appropriate to their needs. While there is some considerable dispute about this proposed solution, it seems both firm and highly effective to me.

  5. Azza March 4, 2013 at 6:05 am #

    Thank you for your amazying work,i’m very lucky that i’ve found your website and all your valuable advices in Ielts,i need your advice please,i have problem in writing essay,i can find it difficult sometimes to come up with ideas to help me in writing essay,i feel i’m stuck.What can i do to overcome this problem?

  6. Opciones Binarias July 5, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    Very good article. I am dealing with some
    of these issues as well..

  7. blabla November 12, 2013 at 1:33 am #

    According to many people the parents of a child are responsible for the development of the child in the field of being good members of the society while others think in contrast. Both ways according to me are equivalent to each other . In this essay I shall put forward my point of view from both sides.

  8. Gloria March 6, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    Thank you a lot for such helpful articles!

    I have wandered around many Ielts blogs but I have to say yours is the best! Keep up the good work!

  9. Osama May 8, 2014 at 11:07 pm #

    Am I being repetitive writing the following intro? I badly need your valuable remarks!

    It is certainly the case that the bad behaviuor of noisy pupils could severly affect their classmates and even spoils classes. One suggestion to cope with such a phenomenon is to seperate such students from others and teach them in special classrooms. Tough this might appear to be a reasonable solution, I deeply believe that other procedures could work better.

  10. Mariella February 10, 2016 at 9:53 am #

    Thank you so much sir DC. You are superb and passionate on what you do. With that, I am very much inspired. Bravo.

  11. erguevo peluo June 14, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

    thanks very much sir

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