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!

A step by step guide.

Step 1: Understand the type of question being asked.

In an earlier post, we 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.

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Let your mind wonder 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. 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, yo will easily 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 writing topics, 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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