IELTS Writing Task 2 Body Paragraph Structure

ielts writing paragraph - image by Magoosh A paragraph is a group of sentences that support a single, main idea. The main idea itself is expressed in the paragraph’s topic sentence, usually the first sentence.

The IELTS Writing Task 2 body paragraph structure follows this basic pattern. But it’s also like a miniature version of the essay. The essay as a whole states, supports, and summarizes the writer’s main position; each body paragraph states, supports, and summarizes the paragraph’s main idea. You’ll see what I mean when I show you the IELTS paragraph writing sample later in this article.

The Writing Task 2 essay can be completed in four paragraphs (introduction, two body paragraphs, conclusion), the body paragraphs themselves can be completed in four parts too:

  • a topic sentence,
  • an explanation of the position taken in the topic sentence,
  • an example to illustrate that explanation,
  • and a fourth, final part of the paragraph that summarizes the first three parts.

Table of Contents

Click on a section in the table of contents to skip directly to that part of our guide, or simply start reading to learn all about IELTS Writing Task 2 Paragraphs from beginning to end.


 

IELTS Writing Task 2 Body Paragraph Structure

The structure of an IELTS Writing Task 2 body paragraph flows naturally from the topic sentence. The topic sentence leads to the explanation, the explanation leads to an example, and then all three of those initial sentences flow together into a summary. In greater detail, here is how all four parts work together:

  • Topic sentence (states a position)
  • Explain why (gives a reason the position in the topic sentence is true, can be 1 or 2 sentences)
  • Give an example (provides an example that illustrates the “explain why” part, can be 1 or 2 sentences)
  • Summarize the IELTS Writing paragraph (in a single sentence, summarizes the main message of the topic sentence, explanation, and example combined)

Why does IELTS Writing Task 2 body paragraph structure matter?

So why is this four-part structure so important? To answer this, let’s look at the official IELTS Writing Task 2 rubric PDF.

In that rubric, take a look at the “Task Achievement” category. Note that a top score “fully addresses all parts of the task.” And the task instructions themselves say to “Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.” This paragraph structure addresses the “reasons” and “examples” part of the task and helps ensure that the ideas in the essay are “fully extended” and “well supported,” another Band 9 Task Achievement requirement.

In addition, making sure that each sentence flows from the previous one and tying all of the sentences together at the end of the IELTS Writing paragraph makes for a clear, well-organized paragraph. And the rubric indicates that a top-scoring essay “skillfully manages paragraphing.”

It’s also important to remember that most of the essay is contained in the body paragraphs; this will generally be more than half of the word count. So if you can get a good structure in those paragraphs, that will greatly influence your score.

So, do you absolutely need to adhere to this four-part IELTS Writing Task 2 body paragraph structure to satisfy the rubric and get a top score? Not necessarily. But this structure is a very simple, fast way to put together the body portion of a high-scoring Task 2 response.

 

How many body paragraphs should you have in your essay?

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, a successful IELTS essay can have just two body paragraphs. Two paragraphs are enough to satisfy the rubric’s standards for a well-developed response. And since there is an IELTS Writing time limit, I don’t recommend trying to do more than two. To see what two full-body paragraphs might look like, and how the body fits into the essay as a whole, check out Rachel’s IELTS Writing Task 2 template.

 

Quick Tips: Common Mistakes with an IELTS Writing Paragraph

Even with this handy four-sentence structure as your guide, it can be easy to make mistakes when you write these body paragraphs. Here are a few common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Overusing “lofty” vocabulary. It can be tempting to try to impress the scorers with advanced vocab. But using tons of hard words can make your writing harder to understand, and increases your risk of making mistakes.
  2. Forgetting the example sentence. It can be easy to rush and skip the third sentence in the structure of your body paragraph. But a lack of examples can take multiple bands off of your IELTS band score!
  3. Inadequate reasons or examples. Once you explain why you hold the position in our topic sentence, think carefully and put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Would someone else reading this really understand how your reason and example explain your position in the topic sentence? Remember that while you understand your position, other people might not!
  4. Sentences that are run-on or overly long. Your ideas are clearest when divided into separate sentences. Don’t combine any of these four sentences!
  5. Lack of variety in vocabulary or grammar. Using the exact same sentence structure over and over or repeating the same words and phrases makes your writing sound dull and makes it seem as if you have limited English ability. Make sure you keep things varied!


 

IELTS Paragraph Writing: Topic Sentences

The topic sentence in your IELTS Writing paragraph is the main idea you’ll build on in the paragraph. But the topic sentence itself also builds on the larger main idea of the whole essay. You can think of it as a more specific opinion that supports the broader opinion you expressed in the introduction for your essay.

Strong IELTS Writing paragraph topic sentences are very important because they impact the clarity of your entire paragraph. If the topic sentence itself is unclear, the sentences that follow will also be harder to understand. After all, how can the reader follow an explanation and example for your position, if the position itself is not understandable to begin with?

With that in mind, let’s look at an example prompt and some example topic sentences.

Topic Sentence Samples

Sample Task 2 Prompt

In modern times, casual clothing has become much more acceptable in formal situations. How people dress is simply not as important as it used to be.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion? Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

Agreeing vs. Disagreeing

The big ideas in your body paragraphs will come from some initial brainstorming on what you might write. (For more info, check out our tutorial for brainstorming your IELTS Writing Task 2 essay.) Here are a few reasons to either agree or disagree with the idea that casual clothing is more acceptable, and the way we dress is less important:

  • Agree: formal clothes = less commonly required at work
  • Disagree: workplaces still have dress codes
  • Agree: casual wear far more popular than in past
  • Disagree: brand names of causal wear = socially important
  • Agree: in daily life, people can wear what they like
  • Disagree: in many special situations formal wear is still required

Once you’ve completed this kind of brainstorming, you can pick the side you want to write about. You could go with your own opinion, but it’s most useful to go with whichever side you think you can explain the most easily. For the example sentences in this article, I’m going to take the “disagree” position. Once you’ve gone through this whole tutorial though, feel free to go back and write “agree” sentences for extra practice!

I think that ultimately, society still places a lot of importance on how people dress, even if fashion trends have changed.

Possible Body Paragraph Topic Sentences

If you use the thesis statement above as your starting point, what are some more specific opinions that would support that main position? Here are a few possible ones:

Even in situations where people can dress casually, the specific fashion choices they make are still important to others.

Actually, many people are under the false impression that casual clothing is truly more acceptable.

No one should become too lazy in their approach to fashion, as it is still necessary to dress formally in many important contexts.

What we wear is still important to others, but the definitions of formal clothing are different than they used to be.

Note that these examples all contain distinctly different supporting ideas for the thesis. Each one could be the basis for a very different paragraph.

 

IELTS Paragraph Writing: “Explain Why”

The “explain why” portion of the IELTS Writing Task 2 body paragraph structure makes a generalization that demonstrates why the topic sentence is true. Just as the topic sentence directly supports the essay’s main idea, the “explain why” sentence (or pair of sentences) directly supports the topic sentence itself. Remember though—keep this general. The purpose of this second part of the paragraph is to provide broad evidence for the statement made in the topic sentence of the IELTS Writing paragraph, not to provide specific supporting examples. (The example comes in the third portion!)

“Explain Why” Sample Sentences

We’ll write these explain why sentences as support for one of the example topic sentences I just showed you. Here’s the one we’ll go with:

Even in situations where people can dress casually, the specific fashion choices they make are still important to others.

And here are some IELTS paragraph writing sample sentences explaining why the position in this topic sentence is true:

First impressions are based partly on how someone looks, since what someone looks like is the only thing we can know for certain when we first meet them. The way a person dresses is a significant part of that.

Even within the realm of casual clothes like tee shirts or sports shoes, certain brand names are considered to be more prestigious or stylish by others.

Even in relaxed workplaces and other settings that permit casual attire, there are still rules about what people can and can’t wear.

The clothes that one puts on in the morning are a matter of choice, and people are judged by their choices.


 

IELTS Writing Task 2 Body Paragraph Structure: Give an Example

At this point, you’ll give a specific example. This is more specific than the generalizations you’d make in the “Explain Why” part. A specific example should be a single instance of something, something that happened and is real… or sounds like it happened and is real. (It’s actually OK to make up examples on the IELTS if you can’t think of a real one on the spot.)

Before we look at some examples, let’s look at language that can be used to introduce examples in an IELTS Writing paragraph. There are a number of common words and phrases that are useful in this third sentence. Here are a few transitional phrases:

  • for instance
  • for example
  • an example would be
  • as evidence of this
  • as reported by
  • such as
  • consider
  • to illustrate this

Now, let’s look at some actual sentences that use this kind of language.

“Give an Example” Sample Sentences

The “Give an Example” sentence is meant to support a specific “Explain Why” sentence. So for these IELTS paragraph writing sample “Give an Example” sentences, we’ll use this “Explain Why” from the previous section:

First impressions are based partly on how someone looks since what someone looks like is the only thing we can know for certain when we first meet them. The way a person dresses is a significant part of that.

Here are some possible ways to give examples of that explanation:

If someone chooses to wear clothing such as cutoff jeans or a faded tee-shirt to a funeral, for instance, they might be seen as disrespectful.

Consider the way you might dress for a job interview, especially for a particularly important, well-paying job. Even if you were told you could dress casually, you would likely pick out your clothes very carefully.

As evidence of this, someone wearing motorcycle clothing (dark leather jacket, steel-toed boots, etc.) might be seen as tough or even scary by a stranger.

To illustrate this, the majority of people surveyed say that they have at times chosen not to talk to someone new because of how they were dressed, as reported by a recent study.

IELTS Paragraph Writing: Summarize the Paragraph

Now it’s time to tie everything together! It’s important to remember, though, that the “Summarize Paragraph” sentence does not have to directly mention every idea from each of the first three sentences. Instead, as you write your body paragraphs, think of this final sentence as a “send-off.” What message do you want the readers to remember now that you are ending the paragraph? In just a few words, what is the paragraph truly saying?

Because the summary sentence is based on the preceding three sentences, before we go on to some example sentences, I’ll give you the first part of the paragraph:

Even in situations where people can dress casually, the specific fashion choices they make are still important to others. First impressions are based partly on how someone looks, and the way one dresses is a significant part of that. If someone chooses to wear clothing such as cutoff jeans or a faded tee-shirt to a funeral, for instance, they might be seen as disrespectful.

Here are some models for how to cap off the above paragraph with a nice summary idea:

In these modern times, people should still take care to dress in a way that doesn’t make people feel upset or uncomfortable.

Because there are many ways to make a bad first impression through clothing, it’s clear that the way we dress continues to matter today.

A good first impression is important for making friendships and connections, and clothes are absolutely a part of that now, just as they were in the past.

From that example and many others, clearly, there are many situations where clothing still has the same importance it had in the past.

IELTS Writing Task 2 Body Paragraph Structure: Full Sample

Now that we’ve put together one IELTS Writing Task 1 body paragraph, piece-by-piece, let’s look at a full example body paragraph, all in one place. I’m going to base this IELTS paragraph writing sample on a new essay question. I’ll also give you a thesis statement for the response to the question, which the model body paragraph will support.

Sample IELTS Writing Task 2 Question

Some people feel it is best to decide on your field of work while you are still in high school. Others feel it is better to wait until later in adulthood to choose a career. Discuss both of these views and give your opinion.

Sample Thesis Statement

For this example, instead of brainstorming, I’m going to simply directly show you a possible thesis statement; the thesis statement is the sentence from the introductory paragraph that states the position you’re taking. Body paragraphs support that position, so the example paragraph below will build on this statement:

I believe it is better to make career decisions as an adult, when one has more education and life experience.

Review of Body Paragraph Structure

Before I show you this full example, remember the structure we discussed. This paragraph will have these four sentences:
(1) topic sentence
(2) “explain why” sentence
(3) “give an example” sentence
(4) “summarize the paragraph” sentence.

These sentences will be numbered in the example below.

Model IELTS Writing Task 2 Body Paragraph Structure

(1) Adult-level education is particularly important when it comes to making good career decisions. (2) In fact, most good-paying jobs require completion of high school and possibly college education, both of which are not completed until adulthood. (3) To give a few examples, common careers such as police officer, teacher, electrician, nurse, and bus driver all require either a high school or college diploma. (4) Clearly, it’s very difficult for children to choose a career before they’ve even completed the minimum training for most careers.

The Takeaway

As I mentioned at the beginning of this tutorial, IELTS Writing Task 2 body paragraph structure really is like a miniature 4-paragraph essay: you introduce your paragraph topic in the first part, you then support your topic in parts 1 and 2, and finally, in the last sentence, you have a conclusion that reviews everything. Not only that, but the second and third parts of the paragraph contain the building blocks of strong writing: logical reasoning (the “explain why” part), and concrete examples (the “give an example part).

As a result, following this recommended four-part structure will really help you practice the right approach to creating the entire essay. And it will help you practice the kind of idea development that is so important when you write for a class or for a work assignment in an English-speaking country.

This IELTS Writing Task 2 body paragraph structure is especially important to your writing score for another reason: your body paragraphs actually take up most of the essay. Think of these paragraphs as the “backbone” of the essay; the body is the main support for the ideas in the introductory paragraph, and it’s the basis for the conclusion.

For even more assistance with Writing Task 2, you can go to our complete guide to IELTS Writing Task 2.

By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

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  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he's helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master's Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he's presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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