Making your position clear throughout

In chapter 7 of The Key to IELTS Success, I shared the following writing task 2 question. I used the question to show you how to quickly plan your answer during the test.

Planning your answer helps you to achieve band 7 and above in Task response because it means you address ALL parts of the question. It also helps you reach band 7 in Coherence and cohesion because it means your paragraphs are logically organised.

However, another key part of reaching band 7 in Task response is making your position clear throughout your answer.  Many people believe that this means giving your opinion in the introduction and again in the conclusion.  I  discuss the problems with this approach in detail in chapter 7 and explain why it can keep you stuck at band 6 or 6.5.

Below are 3 different answers to this writing task. In the samples, I deliberately took 3 different positions: total disagreement, total agreement, and a neutral position. Read the samples to see how I made these 3 different positions clear throughout using a combination of language and ideas.  Chapters 3 and 4 of The Key to IELTS Success will help you to understand how the language you use can affect your position. You can find a link to the book below.

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Recent Comments

  • Thomas Chen
    22nd August 2020 - 2:31 pm ·

    Hi, Pauline. I revisited this blog after finishing your brilliant books (both red and blue ones) and as I tried to reproduce your essay, I found the structure a bit different from the ones in your books. Does it follow the PEEL structure? For example, the second body paragraph of your “disagreement version” seems to end with a point about a better solution, not a linking sentence. I am wondering if this is another approach in addition to PEEL.

  • Thomas Chen
    31st March 2020 - 1:54 pm ·

    Hi, Pauline, I have noticed that you have emphasized “a clear position throughout” several times. I am not clear what “throughout” exactly means here. Can you enlighten me on that? Thank you

    • Pauline
      3rd April 2020 - 7:27 am ·

      My writing book will clear it up – It involves too many different factors to explain simply here. I’d suggest you re-read the chapters about vocabulary and grammar in my free book, though there is more to say on the topic and I will be making it clear in the lessons in my new book.

  • Norah
    2nd September 2019 - 3:10 am ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I think in the version 3 essay above, your ‘neutral’ position seems to be revealed and clear from the 10th sentence only (“Nevertheless, this can also have the opposite effect and cause people to feel rebellious…”). Honestly I can’t see that position in your whole introduction, the first body paragraph and the first 2 sentences of the second body paragraph.
    Also, regarding your second body graph, reading its first sentence, I thought the whole paragraph was going to talk about laws being an ‘effective way’ to solve the problem. But from the third sentence, your main point for this paragraph becomes clearer: laws can be ‘effective’ but can have ‘opposite effects’. Would it be better if there was an opening sentence (if we don’t want to call it topic sentence) to introduce and help readers realize this main point right when we start reading the paragraph?
    Could you please clarify? Please forgive me if I don’t fully understand your approach and writing styles.

    • Pauline
      2nd September 2019 - 8:22 am ·

      Hi Norah, my aim here was to show that a position is made clear through language (throughout) not only through using certain strategic sentences at the beginning and end to explain it. My ‘position’ here is that I neither fully agree nor fully disagree. It is true that I could have signalled this with one sentence, but this is not necessary and, in fact, in my experience, when students adopt this approach their position and conclusions remain unclear because they do not pay attention to what their language is signalling. There are many ways to answer a question, and each time I write an answer it is different and could be made better, but here I was aiming to focus on language alone. I’d recommend you read my free book, The Key to IELTS Success (particularly the chapters on vocabulary and grammar, and chapter 7, where I have tried to make this clear. I hope this helps! 🙂

  • Cuong
    30th August 2019 - 3:22 pm ·

    Dear Pauline,

    Thank you so much for your dedication to us – IELTS students. I’m practicing this task:

    “The development of tourism contributed to English becoming the most prominent language in the world. Some people think this will lead to English becoming the only language to be spoken globally.
    What are the advantages and disadvantages of having one language in the world?”

    I’m having some doubts, could you please give me some advice:

    A. Could you please suggest a possible structure to have all parts/sides addressed within 250 – 300 words?

    I think this task has a lot of “parts”/”sides”: (1) The development of tourism contributed to English becoming the most prominent language in the world; (2) Some people think this will lead to English becoming the only language to be spoken globally; (3) Advantages of having one language; (4) Disadvantages of having one language.

    B. The task asks about advantages and disadvantages, which (I think) are facts, not the writer’s opinions. What does it mean by “position” in this particular task? How should I present a it while I’m not asked about my opinions? And how to make it clear through out the essay?

    C. Am I allowed to explicitly state my opinion in a essay responded to this particular task, such as by using “I believe”, “In my opinion”?

    Thank you so much for your time!

      • Cuong
        1st September 2019 - 2:25 am ·

        Hi Pauline, this task is from multiple websites. I guess this is not an authentic one, so please disregard my question A. But could you please give me some advice on question B and C:

        B. For tasks that ask about advantages and disadvantages, which (I think) are facts, not the writer’s opinions. What does it mean by “position” when responding to these tasks? How should I present it while I’m not asked about my opinions? And how to make it clear through out the essay?

        C. Am I allowed to explicitly state my opinion in a essay responded to these tasks, such as by using “I believe”, “In my opinion”?

        • Pauline
          1st September 2019 - 12:45 pm ·

          Hi Cuong, sometimes the question will contain a fact – this is usually to give you a clear understanding of the content for the issue you are asked to discuss (e.g. in case the same does not apply in your own country). You’re right to think that questions that ask about the advantages and disadvantages are more likely to do this. However, you must interpret every question according to the criteria used for ALL writing tasks. This means that there will always be a clear point that you need to make an argument for (or against) and give your own position on. E.g. you will be asked whether there are more advantages or disadvantages. Your ‘position’ will be made clear through 1) your argument (your view on what the advantages and disadvantages are, 2) whether you believe the advantages are greater than the disavtantages and 3) the language you use throughout. Read the vocabulary and grammar chapters of The Key to IELTS Success to understand the role that language plays. Read chapter 7 to understand that, which you can state ‘I believe’ etc, this alone is not enough to make your position clear throughout.

    • Pauline
      6th July 2019 - 1:17 am ·

      I didn’t write the test practice section – only the first half of the book. I am going to be writing some new models for all of the writing tests in the book though – answers that are more helpful in showing you how to answer.

  • Hamza
    3rd May 2019 - 6:32 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    The question says give examples, but none of the three essays above has any particular example. In fact the views are clearly elaborated and expanded with general examples which are mentioned without any specific opening like ‘for instance’ or ‘for example’. So could you please explain a bit about this art?

      • Anonymous
        4th May 2019 - 1:09 pm ·

        Dear Pauline,
        Page number 92 1st paragraph last line before inverted commas it says “may”, the question may ask to include any relevant example, however over here the question has asked to give example so that’s what confusing me. Kindly clear this problem.

        • Pauline
          4th May 2019 - 1:30 pm ·

          Actually, it says that YOU may include, not that the question MAY include this. You MUST support your ideas and if you have RELEVANT examples, include them. This is not at all the same as ‘you must always include examples so invent them.’ But it is important to note that not every example begins ‘for example’ or ‘for instance’. My essays do have examples and information from my own knowledge and experience which is used to support my ideas.

          • Hamza
            4th May 2019 - 2:10 pm ·

            Thanks Pauline you are helping us to a great deal. Would be happy if I could do anything in return for you.

          • Pauline
            4th May 2019 - 5:01 pm ·

            Just tell people to buy my books and apps, that would be a great help 🙂

  • carlos
    17th February 2019 - 6:20 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a question about the speaking test of IELTS. Why is it that in the questions for part 3 some words are written in the parentheses? I have heard that these are function words for examiners, but my question is whether the examiner has to phrase the questions in their own words or do they read off the booklet? I asked this question because you said that examiners use different wordings for candidates at different levels. Thank you for your help.

    • Pauline
      18th February 2019 - 10:36 am ·

      What I have said is that examiners can adapt to the level of the candidate. IN formation in brackets is usually extra information that can be used but doesn’t have to be used. Some candidates naturally give a full answer, others require more prompting e.g. by asking why?

      • Carlos
        18th February 2019 - 6:02 pm ·

        Hi Pauline, and thank you so much for the reply. I understand what you mean by prompts that examiners use to get the candidate to speak more, but I mean the words before the question in parentheses in part 3, something like this:

        (consider) whether children are born clever or learn to be clever
        (assess) how important schools are in children become more clever
        (agree/disagree) very clever children are usually happy

        These are not complete questions, so is it at the examiner’s discretion how to phrase each question depending on the level of the candidate or are these words to help the examiner know the focus of each question? I really appreciate your help.

  • Narri
    16th February 2019 - 10:29 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a question about essay writing, if I write 170 words instead of 250 words, how many marks will I lose in task response? 1 point or 2 points? I read it somewhere that between 190-245 I will lose one point from task response, but less than 190 I will lose 2 points, it explained that if my essay with 170 words gets a 6 for task response, my task response will be 4 (2 points subtracted because of underlength), is that true?

    • Pauline
      18th February 2019 - 10:38 am ·

      It’s impossible to say because it will also depend on what those 170 words say. If it is 170 words because only half of the task was completed then this is completely different to 170 words that covers all of the task, or 170 words about a completely different topic altogether, or 170 words that basically repeats the same idea.

  • P.N
    16th February 2019 - 4:54 pm ·

    I’m sorry for asking so many questions, but as I read on more questions surface, in the same version (completely agree) in the third body paragraph you have made two points 1) that doing community service could impact on student’s performance negatively 2) concerns about the effects working with poor and homeless people might have. You have refuted the second point by saying that we shouldn’t try to shield children from the harsh realities of life since these realities can teach things children may never learn in the classroom; however, you have not addressed the concern parents have about their child’s academic preformance. So I was expecting you to integrate that into your position by saying that although this concern is real you still think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, or maybe even by addressing that concern in the last body paragraph before saying you support this idea wholeheartedly.

      • Pauline
        18th February 2019 - 4:18 pm ·

        Can I ask where you found it? It may be a quick post that I did on Facebook, and yes, the repetition of the same sentence is not something I would normally write. It could equally be a rewrite of someone else’s answer that they sent me? Or an answer we produced as a group on my Facebook page. Can you send me a link? I don’t think that you need to refute all of the negative ideas – it could easily be that this is a negative you are prepared to accept as the benefits are greater.

        • N.P
          18th February 2019 - 5:36 pm ·

          Sorry I couldn’t reply earlier, I had saved the page a long time ago and I had to search for the page. This is where I found it

          However, an earlier version without conclusion at the following address was slightly different and the two topic sentences were different:

          • Pauline
            18th February 2019 - 7:21 pm ·

            As you can se from my earlier reply, there are reasons why the versions changed – my followers and I worked on them together as a page, gradually making each version better. I can see that this is only helpful for those following at the time.

        • P.N
          18th February 2019 - 5:42 pm ·

          I understand that we don’t have to refute all the negative ideas, but if we accept this shouldn’t it be specifically reflected in the conclusion (for instance by saying that “Although I agree that the parents’ concern is real, I believe that the advantages are greater).

          • Pauline
            18th February 2019 - 7:20 pm ·

            That would definitely be the ideal way to approach it. As I explained, at the time we were writing essays as a whole group and incorporating everyone’s suggestions where possible. We wrote a plan together then wrote the introduction and each paragraph together as a group. That is how my page worked – I will be doing this again once I have finished my next book (It is very time consuming giving everyone feedback). So, this is not an ideal example and was helpful only to those following at the time. I have deleted it now because I can see it would cause confusion.

        • P.N
          6th October 2019 - 5:19 pm ·

          Thanks Pauline, actually I didn’t mean that there are identical sentences in different versions, which is obviously not a problem. But rather the beginning sentences for the two body paragraphs in the same version were identical. The other thing I was saying was that the first negative argument from parents (how children’s academic performance is affected) was not actually addressed, I understand that you mentioned students can learn things that they cannot learn in the classroom, but I don’t understand how that can dismiss the concern about their academic performance. And finally I asked you to remove/delete my comment on this page, in which I had posted the whole essay if possible, especially as you said you are going to include it in your essay. My mention of your Facebook page was only because you said you had removed them from your Facebook page so I thought I should remind you that they are still there. I should say that I have learned a lot from your Facebook and I personally never want them to be removed, I was only asking you to possibly remove my own comments in here. Thank you and sorry if I caused misunderstandings.

          P.S. I will reply on the comment of mine that I asked you to remove. I appreciate it.

          • Pauline
            7th October 2019 - 11:13 am ·

            That’s ok, I am still really trying to understand the issue – I can’t see your comment on the FB page – can you send me a message on FB and I will indeed delete it. I am still confused about this comment:”But rather the beginning sentences for the two body paragraphs in the same version were identical.” All of the versions I am looking at have different initial sentences for the 2 body paragraphs – can’t you message me on FB and show me the problem version so that I can address the issue? Many thanks 🙂

      • P.N
        5th October 2019 - 1:30 pm ·

        Hi Pauline,
        I sent you this long time ago, and as you said this sample is something you only developed with your facebook followers. As you have deleted the sample from your facebook page, would you mind deleting y comment and the sample from here on your website because most of my students follow your page and whenever we get into this lesson, it causes an awful lot of confusion as you said. I would appreciate it.

        P.S. you have deleted the complete sample from your facebook page, but the sample on the main body paragraphs which has caused confusion are still available at the following address, I thought you might want to remove them too.

        • Pauline
          5th October 2019 - 3:31 pm ·

          Hello, I deleted the photo from Facebook to avoid confusion as I am including this in my new book. Can you remind me what your problem with these images is? I don’t really see why they are causing problems.

      • P.N
        5th October 2019 - 6:12 pm ·

        One of the problems was that identical sentences were used at the beginning of each body paragraph. But the main problem, I suppose, is that in the “I completely agree” version, where in the second body paragraph you have made two points against compulsory community service: 1) that parents are concerned about the negative effects this might have on their children’s academic performance, and 2) that working with the homeless and the poor might impact on students negatively. You have refuted the second point by saying that we shouldn’t try to shield children from the harsh realities of life as being exposed to these realities can teach things children may never learn in the classroom. However, you have not addressed the concern parents have, but then in the conclusion you have said that you support this idea wholeheartedly. Wouldn’t it be the right approach for a band 8 or 9 essay to take parents’ concerns into consideration and then change its position accordingly? For instance by saying “Although I agree that the parents’ concerns are real, I still believe that the advantages are greater.”

        • Pauline
          6th October 2019 - 4:08 pm ·

          Hello, I took a look at the essays you say are causing problems for your students. I’m not really sure why they believe the first sentences should be different in each of the three versions- can you explain their concerns? With the ‘completely agree’ answer, the two negative arguments from parents are both addressed and dismissed (the first by starting that I don’t believe children should always be shielded and the second by stating programmes like this teach students more than they can learn in a classroom.) I don’t want to go back and remove photos from my facebook page (many of which go back to 5 or more years) because I do believe they are useful in showing the writing process. I do not say that they are perfect (so you will probably find typing errors), or that they are the only way to answer, the aim is to show ideas and approach, and organisation, which is is what most people struggle with. I would hope that your students could come up with ways to improve the essays if they feel there are issues, but be very careful not to give the impression that there is only one ‘correct’ way to answer.

          I do think that these 3 version offer a great opportunity to think about making a position clear and how to write a conclusion that reflects the main message in the essay.

      • P.N
        7th October 2019 - 12:02 pm ·

        Hi again Pauline, I didn’t mean my comment on your facebook page, I meant my comment right here (I’m replying on the comment), if you read my comments here, you will see the one I’m talking about, it was posted on 18th of February 2019, at 3:53 pm.

        • Pauline
          7th October 2019 - 5:50 pm ·

          I think I’ve deleted the correct one – it isn’t as easy as you may think as comments arrive in a separate folder until I approve them and so I only see them in isolation – I cannot see which post they are attached to or any previous comments. It’s necessary because I receive many more spam comments than genuine questions. I hope this helps!

  • P.N
    16th February 2019 - 3:13 pm ·

    Hi again,
    I have another question about the 3 samples you wrote for unpaid community service from book 9, in the first version (I agree) you wrote the exact same sentence for paragraphs 2 and 4. It seems awkward to start 2 paragraphs in a row with the same sentence, is this a typing issue or was there a reason for it? Thanks for helping.

  • P.N
    16th February 2019 - 2:47 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I was reading your samples on recycling waste materials from book 11, in the second version (I agree), almost at the end of the second paragraph you have written “Moreover, throwing paper, plastics, and glass into the general waste means losing the chance to extract precious raw materials SO THAT they can be used again.” Isn’t “so” extra here? Doesn’t the sentence make more sense without “so”? (Precious raw materials that can be used again)

    • Pauline
      16th February 2019 - 2:54 pm ·

      Actually it makes no sense without the ‘so’ – it links back to the verb ‘extract’ and not to the raw materials. This sentence is explaining why the raw materials are extracted (i.e. they are extracted so that they can be used again). Without the ‘so’ you could not use the clause ‘they can be used. Instead, ‘that’ would be a relative pronoun and you would need to say ‘extract precious raw materials that can be used again.’ Does that make sense?

  • Kangarr
    9th January 2019 - 5:20 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a question about the development of ideas in writing task 2, my question is how immediate should my conclusion of ideas be to the main idea. For example if I talk about the advantages of doing physical exercise, can I say that doing physical exercise puts us in a good mood and this helps us sleep better, which means we will start the next day with more energy and as a result you can work more and earn more money. I know it sounds awkward to earn more as a result of doing exercise, so my question is how far we can go with this explanation? Should we only consider the immediate effects of our main ideas?

    • Pauline
      10th January 2019 - 6:00 pm ·

      Hi Kangarr, If you are including an idea that could seem to move away from your main idea or conclusion, then think about whether to include it at all. However, if you do believe it is helpful to add it, then I would show that you are aware that it is a departure from the main idea by using the word ‘even’. So, you would say ‘which means we will start the next day with more energy and as a result you can work more and EVEN earn more money.’ That would be all you would need to say about it your reasoning is evident from the fact that you have more energy and can work more. I think in this instance, your idea is a clear development and does not seem irrelevant.

      • Kangarr
        11th January 2019 - 7:39 am ·

        Hi Pauline, thanks for the reply, the use of the word “even” was very clever and now the argument is more meaningful and logical, I’m an IELTS teacher and I ran into a similar problem in my class the other day, there was something wrong with the development of the argument one of my students suggested, but I absolutely couldn’t explain it. We were writing a paragraph on the drawbacks of the fact that people are traveling more these days, and somebody said this can lead to a rise in the rate of crime in society. She went on to explain herself by saying that as people travel more these days their houses are empty and these empty houses are tempting to burglars and as a result the rate of crime can go up. Do you think this is a relevant drawback of traveling because it doesn’t strike me as a reasonable argument but I don’t know what is wrong with it. Not to mention, one can go on to talk about the effects of the rising rate of crime such as a lack of general security in society, and relate this to traveling, which sounds irrelevant, at least to me. So the real question is how far should the effect be from the cause, and in the case of my student and the negative effects of traveling, where is it exactly that she went off the rail IF you agree with me that at some point she did.

        P.s we are all praying day and night for your writing workbook to come out as soon as possible and clear these ambiguities ??

        • Pauline
          11th January 2019 - 8:06 am ·

          Hi Kangarr, Glad I could help! There is a post on my Facebook page from Feb 2016 about How Coherence Works that has an image which might help you to answer your next question. I can’t add the photo here, but you should be able to find it by looking through the photos on the page. I am planning on writing a new post so that I can add it to my blog too, so let me know if you can’t find it. Essentially, the image shows your paragraph as a series of stepping stones (each idea/sentence) that all move the argument towards a specific end (answering the question). There may be 2 useful (from a teaching perspective) problems with your students response. It demonstrates 1) what a lack of planning can lead to and 2) The need to focus on answering the test question. Authentic test question will have a very specific point (- e.g. travel harms the environment.’ If you give students a very general question then this leads to them rambling on and moving on to different topics).

          Each sentence/idea within the paragraph must move in a logical way towards answering the very specific question you are given. If this question was about travel and how this damages the environment, then you can see that introducing an idea that shifts the focus back home – this is adding a stepping stone that is going in the wrong direction. In order to bring it back, the student would need to show how this idea is relevant and related, which can mean introducing a new paragraph about crime at home and writing an overly long essay – an essay that they have less time to check and that will contain a paragraph that only exists to support an idea that probably should have been rejected when they wrote their plan). I hope this helps.

  • Mickey
    21st December 2018 - 1:55 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a question about writing that has occupied my mind for a very long time. It’s about the development of main ideas. How far should I explain my main ideas or how detailed should my explanations be? For instance, if we’re talking about the causes of obesity in modern societies, when I say one main reason is our hectic lifestyle and I can explain this by saying that most people in modern societies live life in the fast lane, which means they have little time to cook healthy meals at home, and as a result they turn to fast food products. I think this explanation is clear and speaks for itself; but the question here is do I still need to go further and explain how this leads to obesity (for example by saying these fast food products are high in calorie and often contain high levels of fat, which leads to excess weight) or is my first explanation sufficient. I really appreciate your help.

    • Pauline
      21st December 2018 - 3:04 pm ·

      Your explanation is very clear and certainly detailed enough. What is missing here is an opening statement that introduces this paragraph (the main point you are making), and a final sentence that finishes it. The best way to do that is to show how this links to the question. Think about what the actual question says (I am sure it does not say ‘Write about the causes of obesity in modern society’) and make sure your main point is clearly linked to that.

      • Mickey
        21st December 2018 - 3:46 pm ·

        I’m not sure I’m following, the question says that in modern societies obesity is becoming a major problem, what do you think are the causes for this and how can we address this problem? So I think the last sentence is clearly linked to the question. Do you mean I should add a sentence such as “therefore the busy lifestyle that we lead today is partly to blame”, and then go on to point to another cause?

        • Pauline
          21st December 2018 - 4:23 pm ·

          No, a very common problem I see is this: a paragraph where the first and the last sentence are unhelpful or do not fit logically into the paragraph. The first should tell us the main idea of your paragraph. For example:
          There are several key causes of obesity. One of these is our hectic lifestyle. Most people in modern societies live life in the fast lane, which means they have little time to cook healthy meals at home, and as a result they turn to fast food products.” (As we have said that there are ‘several causes’ you would now need to explain another. That could be something like this:”A second problem is the fact that the availability of fast food has meant that many young people no longer have the cooking skills needed to prepare healthy food themselves.”

          The final sentence of the paragraph should help to show how this paragraph fits into your essay – one easy way to do that is to link it back to the question, like this:
          ”So, modern life itself is a key cause of obesity.”

          • Mickey
            21st December 2018 - 5:09 pm ·

            That was very helpful, thanks a lot. do you also cover that in your next writing book, I mean are there activities on the development of main ideas and how to provide explanation and examples?

  • Anonymous
    13th December 2018 - 11:29 am ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a question about IELTS speaking, if I use a mix of British and American accent in the speaking test (I pronounce some words in British and others in American), am I going to lose marks? Can I still achieve a 9? Thanks a lot.

    • Pauline
      13th December 2018 - 8:50 pm ·

      I do talk about accents in chapter 9 of The key to IELTS Success – basically, your accent only matters if or when it interferes with communication. My own accent sometimes slips between British and Australian, and this is not uncommon for people who have lived in different countries – this is my accent. Make your accent your own too.

  • سپندر
    11th December 2018 - 11:35 pm ·

    Hello Pauline,
    Is using figurative language (for example a prominent scientist or to eclipse other competitors) considered as idiomatic language for high score in lexical resource? How about phrasal verbs? Thank you for your help.

    • Pauline
      12th December 2018 - 8:30 am ·

      Hello, I’m not sure I would classify your first example as figurative – prominent is an adjective that means ‘very well known and important’ so this is a literal use not a figurative one. Eclipse is a good example though and shows good awareness of style. The issue with idioms is that people often learn lists of what they are told are idioms but that are often inappropriate for the test. Read the vocabulary chapter of The Key to IELTS Success as well as the chapter on speaking to learn more about vocabulary use in the test:

  • Liana
    11th December 2018 - 4:02 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    The IELTS says that in part one of the speaking test we will be asked questions on a personal level, but in a sample test I saw a question like this in part one:
    “Why is it important to have leisure time activities?”
    Is there something wrong with this sample or could such a question appear in part one of the speaking test?

      • Anonymous
        10th December 2018 - 2:40 pm ·

        Thank you, I have read your book and I learned a lot, one more question, if I don’t understand part of the question in Speaking or a word on the card in part 2, can I ask the examiner to explain that word or change the topic card?

        • Pauline
          10th December 2018 - 4:26 pm ·

          I would only recommend doing that if you think it will interfere with your ability to answer. If so, then you need to ask the meaning before you begin your talk (so during your preparation). You can’t ask to change the topic card.

  • Sandra Che
    4th December 2018 - 1:18 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I was reading the comments and in one of them you said that you wouldn’t concede an argument by saying there are fatalities. Can you explain why? If my position is that THE ADVANTAGES ARE GREATER IN COMPARISON TO THE DISADVANTAGES and in the first paragraph I mention some of the disadvantages of contact sports; for example you could get injured or in some extreme cases you might die like in cases of brain injury in boxing. Now, in the second paragraph about the advantages I can talk about some advantages and then mention the counter argument about fatalities but say that on balance this is insignificant because these accidents happen very rarely and in just a few contact sports. To me it sounds like a good counter argument and allows me to justify my position.

    can you please explain why you think this is not a counter argument you might use? Thanks.

    • Pauline
      4th December 2018 - 5:51 pm ·

      What I meant was that I would never include this as an example in a text book because the result is likely to be people copying it without thinking and, in effect dismissing the death of several people as a minor inconvenience that can be overlooked given the advantages of being able to take part in sport. My point was that you need to be very careful when talking about fatalities in this way – I would only ever use that as a reason why the disadvantages outweighed the advantages, or to state something like this: ‘While some people worry about possible fatalities, all due precautions are taken to avoid this.’

  • Ebnori
    4th December 2018 - 6:04 am ·

    Hi pauline,
    I want to ask a question about ielts speaking part 2, if the card asks me to talk about a book that I’ve read or a movie that I’ve seen or a business person that I know, can I talk about two books or two movies or two business people, because I’ve seen this on a YouTube channel (E2) that one good strategy in part 2 of the test is to talk about 3 stories (one about the past, one about the present, and one about the future), but I’m worried that I may lose marks because the question says one book/ movie. Thank you.

    • Pauline
      4th December 2018 - 10:10 am ·

      It is fine to adapt the question so that you can talk about something related that you have actually experienced. However, this advice appears to be a way to hijack the interview so that you can try to control it. Read chapter 9 of The key to IELTS Success to see why this is not a good idea. The advice also appears to be confusing part 1 and part 2. In Part 1, the examiner will ask a range of questions to that you can show a mixture of tenses, but your focus in part 2 should be on keeping talking in a coherent way so that the examiner can follow what you are saying. The bullets on the card you are given aim to help you do this. The advice you mention here seems to be telling you to ignore the card – this is not a good idea as this is what people who learn answers will do. I’d really recommend you read the book if you haven’t already. Here is a link:

  • Layla
    3rd December 2018 - 9:39 pm ·

    Yes, most of the writers are either ESL/ EFL teachers or IELTS examiners, but the OFFICIAL Cambridge logo on the book makes it difficult to disagree with it; I actually meant to ask you how high you rate the book; it’s only fair to say that what I mentioned earlier was not part of a complete essay, but rather one way to provide support for the main idea of a paragraph (which in this case was that contact sports can have some health benefits despite the arguments against them)

    I also read the 3 versions of essays you wrote on “making recycling a legal requirement” and I thought you also used counter argument in the neutral version where you accepted that it could be a solution, but maybe not the ultimate solution, and that there are other avenues to explore before we take such an excessive measure.

    So I thought this could be one way to achieve balance if we can think of any criticism levelled at our argument

  • Layla
    3rd December 2018 - 8:56 am ·

    is it ok if I disagree with the first statement and say I think people are more environmentally aware and nowadays we recycle more than ever before, so I entirely disagree with making it a legal requirement; or should I take the first statement for granted?
    thanks for your help

    • Pauline
      3rd December 2018 - 11:23 am ·

      That would be a great way to respond – when your writing reflects what you actually know and believe, what you have actually experienced, then you will be able to write in a convincing and persuasive way, and your conclusions will be clear. In terms of the first statement, it is always fine to disagree with it by saying that it doesn’t reflect the situation in your own country. It is important to set the context for your position. In other words, you believe / feel this because of your own personal experiences in your country.

      • Anonymous
        3rd December 2018 - 4:29 pm ·

        Thanks for the reply, I also have a question about counter argument in essay. I think one way to achieve balance in essay writing is to write a counter argument and be critical of your own point of view. I have read that I can present the opposite view and then either refute it by saying it is not a real problem, acknowledge it but suggest on balance it is relatively less important, or concede and complicate our idea accordingly (in this last situation it’s better to keep our idea for the conclusion of the essay). Do you think this is a good strategy to achieve balance (of course when we can think of a possible argument against our position)?

        • Pauline
          3rd December 2018 - 4:45 pm ·

          I think you need to be careful as this is a ‘strategy’ that will only work in certain circumstances, so relying on this approach may mean that you create problems. I imagine it is only useful for questions where there is one viewpoint that you are asked to discuss. For questions such as those related to advantages and disadvantages; problems and solutions; whether a development is positive or negative; or there there are two opposing viewpoints that you need to discuss, your strategy would probably result in an answer that is very long and you are likely to either run out of time or to write in a repetitive way.

          • Anonymous
            3rd December 2018 - 6:30 pm ·

            You’re absolutely right, but by that I meant a brief look on the other side of the argument, something such as the following sentence in a paragraph on the advantages of contact sports:
            “Despite the fact that there have been many accidents, and even occasional fatalities, the vast majority of people who take part gain a high level of fitness and rarely, if ever, suffer injury.” (from the book Mindset for IELTS)

            Or what you did in one of your essays. The topic was about the fact that there are many cars on the roads and whether or not the government should encourage people to use alternative means of transport and introduce new laws on car use. In one paragraph you mentioned that these solutions COULD work. In the next paragraph, however, you said you conceded that these solutions only work if people cooperate.

            And that’s what I meant by refuting the opposite view or conceding that an argument is only valid under certain conditions.

          • Pauline
            3rd December 2018 - 7:27 pm ·

            I’m afraid I don’t rate Mindset for IELTS very highly (as you can see from the information about the book, the materials were not written by test writers). The examples you are giving here are examples of how to concede a point, which is a very nice way to show that you have looked at all sides of an argument but still consider that your position is correct. This is very great for IELTS writing task 2 questions. However, I don’t think I would ever concede an argument by saying that there had been fatalities.

  • Chau Tran
    2nd December 2018 - 6:31 pm ·

    Hi Ms. Pauline,
    I would like to ask if it is acceptable to present a neutral position like in the following outline:
    – Body paragraph 1: The possible positive outcomes of legal enforcement
    – Body paragraph 2: How legal enforcement could be ineffective and other measures that could be used.
    I mean, is it okay if I do not devote a whole body paragraph to discussing about the problem of “too many recyclables being thrown away” like you did? I prefer to go straight to the point because the question only asks “To what extent do you think laws are needed?”, which means the focus is more on the second idea of the task.
    Thank you in advance.

    • Pauline
      2nd December 2018 - 7:00 pm ·

      Yes, that would be fine – but your answer is still likely to mention the fact that not enough domestic waste is recycled because your discussion is about how to fix this problem. Making your position clear if this was a neutral position (neither agree nor disagree) would mean that your first body paragraph would need to bot be too positive about the legal benefits of legal enforcement – if it is too positive, then it will seem to the reader that you fully support this idea. It would need to fit with your next paragraph, where you discuss the negative side legal enforcement.

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