Brainstorming Essay Topics for IELTS Writing Task 2

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One of the most common mistakes students make when approaching their IELTS Task 2 Writing test is to just start writing. If you start to write before you think about what you are going to say, your essay may be incoherent and irrelevant—and your band score will suffer. The best way to fix this? Brainstorm IELTS Writing Task 2 topics before you write! In this post, we’ll take a look at how you can come up with essay topics for a variety of IELTS Task 2 Question Types to create the most coherent and relevant opinion essays possible.

Getting Started with IELTS Task 2 Essay Topics

Remember: on IELTS Academic Task 2 and the IELTS General Training Task 2, you’ll be writing a formal essay about an important issue facing the modern world or affective people’s lives. You won’t have outside resources with which to research the topic, so you’ll be relying on your own opinion. Because of this, factual accuracy is less important than the overall main ideas, cohesion, vocabulary (complexity, synonyms), and grammatical range (complex sentences) you show in your essay.

The biggest problem when students don’t brainstorm in IELTS essay writing is that it can make their essay choppy and off-topic. Together, coherence and relevance make up 50% of your score on the essay! (Vocabulary/lexical resource and grammar are the other 50%.) 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 two body paragraphs, I recommend that you start your essay by first brainstorming what ideas you will write about and what relevant examples you will include to back up your own knowledge. Let’s look at how to do this in IELTS writing Task 2. First, here’s the overall process that you’ll use.

  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!

With that in mind, let’s look at each of these steps in greater detail.

Step-by-Step Guide to Brainstorming IELTS Writing Task 2

Step 1: Understand the type of question being asked.

In another post, we examined the 5 main types of questions that you might see in the IELTS exam. Classifying IELTS questions into one of these categories according to common topics 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?

Many large cities around the world lack affordable housing. What problems does a lack of affordable housing cause? How can these problems be overcome?

Write at least 250 words.

This is a Problem + Solution question type, so keep that in mind as you start to brainstorm!

Step 2: Brainstorm ideas.

Let your mind wander for 30 to 60 seconds with all the possible ideas that instantly come to your mind. There is no need to make notes here, just mentally explore as many ideas as possible. These can be the negative effects or a negative impact of the problem, with a solution about how to avoid negative development of the situation—or they can be a positive suggestion, coming up with better ways to address the issue through a more positive development of the topic.

As you’ll see, these are the same types of ideas, just framed differently. The main point? Be sure you come up with examples in response to the direct questions the prompt is asking you.

Below, I have written out some of the thoughts and IELTS Writing Task 2 topics that initially came to my mind when I read the questions above.

Q1: Homes unsold/apartments unrented; very high property taxes; higher costs of living; difficulty attracting workers to city; homelessness

Q2: Use unoccupied housing for other purposes; limit rent prices; government support for the poor; tax breaks for charging less rent; workers telecommute/live outside city

Step 3: Choose the idea.

Whilst brainstorming ideas, several ideas should come to your head. 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? (It is better to choose an idea that you can explain clearly over your best idea.)
  • Is it a simple idea? (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.

Q1: Expensive housing causes homelessness.
Reason: People cannot afford housing, higher cost of living hurts whole budget
Example: Store rent higher>> goods cost more for everyone >> landlords must charge more

Q2: Limit rent prices, government support for poor
Reason: Rent limits = more affordable hosing, support for poor = poor have more money for living/rent
Example: Food subsidy = less money spent on food = more money for housing

Step 5: Start writing!

Now that you have the main ideas confirmed, your essay is practically written. The Q1 and Q2 notes can form two body paragraphs! And you can have a similar two body paragraph outline for other question types. For Advantage/disadvantage, for instance, you might have one body paragraph for advantages and one for disadvantages.

Just follow this simple formula for constructing your essay and you will complete Task 2 within 40 minutes. And to see how this formula worked for a full essay based on the outline above, check out a full sample response based on the question and notes above. I would also encourage you to look at similarly structured responses for common IELTS Writing Task 2 question types.

Again, brainstorming and prewriting a brief outline serve as the foundation for all of those model essays. Brainstorming may seem like a lot of work to start, but trust me, by brainstorming and planning your ideas first, you will save time and energy in the long run. By building this strong foundation, your essays will actually become easier to write, and you’ll be able to write them more quickly!

IELTS Essay Topics with Answers: Let’s Practice!

Practice makes perfect! Work with a variety of essay topics for IELTS to brainstorm the types of ideas that would best answer the questions. Here are just a few IELTS writing topics with answers (IELTS Academic) to get you started!

  • You may wish to write your own response for each topic before you read the sample essay/model answers.

A Final Word on IELTS Task 2 Topics

The more you practice English writing topics for the IELTS, the easier it will be to brainstorm and find essay topics for IELTS! This will take a lot of the pressure and stress off of you as you focus on IELTS essay questions.

As you practice, keep in mind that you should stick to one idea and one example per paragraph! On the IELTS test, too many ideas and examples complicate your essay. By separating your IELTS Writing Task 2 topics into a clear, efficient organizational structure, you’ll show the IELTS examiners exactly how great your ideas actually are!

By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

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