You're preparing to take the IELTS exam, but you're not sure how to plan for writing task part 2. Barney Rubble from The Flintstones scratching his head.

Understanding how you should answer and lay out your essay is important for you to get a good mark (or band score as they're called in the IELTS) on IELTS Writing Task 2 questions.

What do you need to do?

Task 2 is an essay task and the amount of time you should spend is about 40 minutes. You should write at least 250 words, although you can go a little over this amount. The style should be formal as if you're writing an academic essay.

A person writing on a sheet of paper. Photo by Unseen Studio on Unsplash

Your essay is marked on:

  1. Task response: How relevant and well supported your ideas are

  2. Coherence and cohesion: Is your writing clear and easy to understand?

  3. Vocabulary: Variety of words used

  4. Grammar: Different grammar used and its accuracy

Know the different types of questions

It is a good idea to understand the different types of questions that can be asked. The questions cover universal topics such as family, health, education, and work.

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Here are some examples of common IELTS Writing Task 2 question types:

  • Discussion: Some people think...Discuss both views and give your opinion.

  • Opinion: To what extent do you agree or disagree about...?

  • Problem and solution: What measures could be taken to prevent?

  • Two-part question: Some people believe that...Discuss both views and give your opinion.

Essay structure and timings

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Essay structure

You should break the essay down into four or five paragraphs:

  • Introduction

  • Two or three main paragraphs

  • Conclusion

In total, you should write roughly fourteen sentences. The introduction uses two sentences. Then two or three main paragraphs of five sentences each (90-100 words per paragraph) to support your ideas. The conclusion can be one or two sentences to finish.

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Timings for planning and writing

  • Planning = 10 minutes

  • Writing the introduction = 5 Minutes

  • Writing the main paragraphs = 20 minutes

  • Writing the conclusion = 5 minutes

Structuring your paragraphs with the PEEL method

The PEEL method is a four-point approach used to write essays. It helps with clarity, coherence,and effectiveness in presenting arguments or ideas.

Diagram of PEEL and the different parts of the approach (audio description available below): Image created by the author via Google Slides. To hear an audio description of the text in the image, press play on the audio player below:

For example:

The Importance of Exercise for Overall Health

(P) Physical exercise is central to maintaining good health and well-being. (E) Firstly, exercise helps to improve cardiovascular health by strengthening the heart. It also plays an important role in controlling a person's weight, as it helps to burn calories. (E) For example, a 30-minute walk every day can greatly improve overall health, providing both mental and physical benefits. (L) In conclusion, the importance of having regular exercise is fundamental, as it is essential for maintaining great health and vitality.

Why is planning your essay important?

Planning your essay is an excellent strategy for answering the question, as it helps you organize your ideas.

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What to think about when planning to answer IELTS Writing Task 2 questions:

  • What is the main point of the question?

  • Brainstorm some main ideas to answer the question.

  • Brainstorm supporting points to the main ideas.

  • Place your ideas into paragraphs.

Like any skill, planning takes practice, so you should try to practice as many past paper questions as you can.

With 10 minutes of planning time, take 4 minutes to plan the whole essay and 3 minutes to plan the main paragraphs.

Use a variety of words

Using a mixture of different vocabulary is very important to get a higher mark. Show off how good your English is. Like an Olympic skater, skate to impress the judges.

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  • Adding information: Furthermore, In addition, Similarly, Furthermore

  • Contrasting ideas: Nevertheless, Nonetheless, In contrast, Whereas

  • Giving examples: For instance, Such as, Namely

  • Emphasizing: Undoubtedly, In fact, Particularly

  • Summarizing: In summary, Overall, To conclude

  • Sequencing: Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly, Finally

  • Providing cause and effect: Consequently, Therefore, As a result

  • Clarifying: In other words, To clarify, Put another way

  • Comparing: Similarly, Likewise, In comparison

  • Adverbials: so that, although, even though, as though

  • Idioms: the bottom line, best of both worlds, cutting corners


Which words would be good to fill the blanks? "______, many argue that rural areas provide safer environments for children to grow up in. ______, the slower pace of life can have benefits, ______ better emotional well-being and health."

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