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Brainstorming Ideas for the IELTS Task 2 Essay

One of the most common mistakes students make when approaching their IELTS Task 2 writing is to just start writing. If you start to write before you think about what you are going to say there is a high probability that your essay will be incoherent and not relevant to the task response, and together these two marking criteria make up 50% of your score.  Therefore, it is 100% essential that you spend 3 to 5 minutes planning your IELTS Task 2 writing—before you begin writing. As the bulk of your points will be picked up in your 2 body paragraphs, I recommend that you start your essay by first brainstorming what ideas you will write about and what examples you will include to back up the ideas.  Let’s look at how to do this in the IELTS writing Task 2. Get an even better, more in-depth idea with our IELTS prep. In this blog post, we’ll first go through an overview of the steps, before going into greater detail describing how to accomplish each one.

How to plan your IELTS Writing Task 2

  1. Understand the type of question being asked.
  2. Brainstorm ideas.
  3. Choose an idea/ideas.
  4. Take short notes about your ideas.
  5. Start writing!

Ready for a little more detail? Let’s do it!
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A step by step guide.

Step 1: Understand the type of question being asked.

In an earlier post, I examined the 3 main types of questions that you might see in the IELTS exam.  Have a look at these.  Classifying the question, will help you make sure that you are answering the task response correctly. Look at the example Task 2 question below.  How would you classify it? (Answer: Problem + Solution)

IELTS Task 2 writing Example Question

Step 2: Brainstorm ideas.

Let your mind wonder for 30 to 60 seconds with all the possible ideas that come to instantly come to your mind. There is no need to make notes here, just mentally explore as many ideas as possible. Below, I have written out some of the thoughts that initially came to my mind when I read the Task 2 question above.

IELTS writing Task 2 Brainstorming Ideas

Step 3: Choosing the idea.

Whilst brainstorming ideas, several ideas should come to your head. After you’ve thought about a few you need to choose one for each question you need to answer. However, before you decide to go with an idea, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my idea relate exactly to the question?
  • Can I explain this idea with reasons and examples? (Note: it is better to choose an idea that you can explain clearly over your best idea.)
  • Is it a simple idea? (Note: You have limited time and words to explain your idea. If the idea is too complex you will not be able to develop it fully and this will cost you points! A simple idea can still impress the examiner as long as you develop it well and provide relevant reasons and examples.)

Step 4: Write down short notes around your chosen ideas.

In the ‘Problem + Solution’ type question in IELTS Task 2 writing, there are usually two questions that need to be answered.  You must first come up with an idea that answers the first question, and then provide an example that backs up that idea. Then you must come up with an idea for the second question and provide and example that backs up the second idea. Below are the ideas I went with and the examples I created on the above IELTS writing Task 2 question.

IELTS Task 2 Writing Idea and Example Generation

Step 5: Start writing

Now that you have the main ideas confirmed, your essay is practically written.  Just follow this simple formula for constructing your essay and you will easily complete Task 2 within 40 minutes.

This may seem like a lot of work to start, but trust me, by brainstorming and planning your ideas first, your easy will relate to the task response, be more coherent and cohesive and will actually be easier to write as the hardest part is now practically written!

Practice! Practice! Practice!

Like all things in life, “Practice makes perfect!”  So as part of your IELTS preparation, find a list of example Task 2 questions, and practice brainstorming ideas and examples for each.  After some practice, you will notice that it gets easier to generate ideas and your planning and brainstorming stage will become quicker, leaving you plenty of time to complete your IELTS Task 2 writing!

Final Tip:

Stick to one idea and one example per paragraph!  Too many ideas and examples complicate your essay.

Good luck!

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7 Responses to Brainstorming Ideas for the IELTS Task 2 Essay

  1. sunil January 17, 2017 at 8:06 am #

    How get eassly 6 band in ielts .when you have only one month time only.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 17, 2017 at 9:58 am #

      That depends a lot on what your current IELTS performance is. Your exact one-month study plan should focus on your weaknesses while building on your strengths.

      It definitely is possible to get a good score on the IELTS in a month though, and many students have gotten a 6 or higher with just one month of study. Here on the blog, we have a few posts about one month IELTS study plans. See Kuangyan’s weekly IELTS study template, and her general advice for one month of IELTS study. Then, if you want more detailed guidance, take a look at Trisha’s detailed sample 4-week study plan for the IELTS (linked in PDF at the very end of her post).

    • Seerat February 16, 2018 at 8:02 am #

      I got 5.5 score bt i wanna got each 6 score then how can i get 6each score plz tell me

      • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
        Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 18, 2018 at 2:09 pm #

        There’s no simple answer to that question, Seerat. After all, the best way to improve depends on your own strengths and weaknesses in IELTS Writing Task 2. Fortunately, Magoosh now offers a complete guide to IELTS Writing Task 2. That guide should have some tips that will work for you personally as you boost your IELTS score by a half-band. 🙂

  2. M August 30, 2017 at 10:58 am #

    Hey There,

    I’m wondering, if “one idea and one example per paragraph” is enough, and you could lose points for that?

    I often see in most blogs or essay examples, they suggest to provide a few ideas and examples per paragraph.

    Also, could I generally stick to this template (https://magoosh.com/ielts/the-best-ielts-task-2-writing-template/) EVERY TIME and for ALL type of task 2 questions for a 8+ score?

    By the way, I enjoyed reading this blog, very nice work!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 7, 2017 at 10:57 am #

      I generally do recommend sticking to one idea and one supporting detail per paragraph, because it keeps the essay simple. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the essay will have fewer ideas and details. It can simply mean that the essay has more paragraphs, since each paragraph can only have one idea and one detail.

      If you want to write more complex paragraphs, that’s certainly alright… provided you can do a good job writing them. Use more complicate paragraphs carefully, as they are– of course– a bit more difficult to write.

  3. Salil November 7, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

    Hi Gwendolyn, thank you for helping out all those who are aspiring to take IELTS exam. I would appreciate if you could please give feedback on below attempt for writing task 2. Thank you in advance 🙂

    “Prevention is better than cure”. Researching and treating diseases is too costly so it would be better to invest in preventative measures.
    To what extent do you agree?

    “It is better to be safe than sorry”, treatment of diseases is not affordable in today’s world, rather being precautious and opting for spending on measures to stay healthy is ideal option. In my opinion, it is important to maintain good health than spending on expensive treatments later on.
    Though, we cannot ignore the importance of science and research to cure deadly diseases. For instance, tuberculosis, heart attack, kidney transplant etcetera. People suffering from above mentioned diseases can only be saved by the access of medical science, surely the treatment is expensive, but when it comes to life, nothing is too pricey.
    However, cost involved in taking preventative measures is much cheaper than curing the disease. To illustrate, diseases like malaria, dengue, typhoid are very easy to catch, especially, in rainy season. Curing such diseases is not affordable, it is therefore, best to invest in precautionate devices such as mosquito killing machines, maintaining hygiene in and around house, wearing clothes to cover body areas that are prone to mosquito bites.
    Furthermore, the pain of treatment and the side effects of medications is far more adverse. For instance, treating an ankle that got fractured in the gym is more painful than wearing personal protective equipment during exercise, which could avoid such injuries, so it makes more sense to invest in ppe than to pay for treating injuries, which occur due to failure of taking prevention.
    To conclude, I agree that being cautious about our health and well-being is very important but the progress made by science and research in treating serious illness is invaluable too. People should enforce safety, to keep healthy, or else, they have no option but to go for dearer treatments which don’t come without side effects.


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