I was asked this question elsewhere on the blog today:
“More and more students are choosing to study at colleges and universities in foreign countries. Do the benefits of studying abroad outweigh the drawbacks?”
The candidate asked the following question:
“From what I understand, this is a discussion essay that we need to write two body paragraphs which talk about advantages and disadvantages of studying abroad. I’m not sure how to conclude it. I mean, is it good to tell which side is outweighed or do I need to balance ideas as the question didn’t ask for an opinion.”
ANSWERING THE ESSAY QUESTION
Three things about the wording of this essay question:
- You do not necessarily have to write on both sides of the issue because it didn’t specifically tell you to – it just asks do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
- It is asking for an opinion. It is asking if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages – that is asking what the candidate thinks about the issue.
- Don’t try to classify questions according what teachers have told you. Read the question and answer the question you have been asked. (A recent survey of IELTS Task 2 questions available on the internet revealed that questions can be asked in over 25 different ways with each one requiring a distinct approach. Nobody can teach you all of these and few of us would remember how to do them all anyway.)
As already stated, this question actually doesn’t make it mandatory for you to discuss both sides of the issue (although this would be expected in a university essay). I could therefore answer this question without giving the opposing view.
For example, I could begin my essay:
“Many students are attracted to the possibility of studying overseas these days. Although it has been suggested that studying abroad has a number of drawbacks, the advantages it provides in relation to educational and personal development are clear and overwhelming.”
I would then go on to write a body paragraph on the educational benefits and another on the personal development benefits.
Sometimes the IELTS Task 2 question will say:
“Discuss both views and give your opinion”
In this case, if you do not give both views you will lose marks for not completely answering the question.
For candidates who are trying to obtain band 7 it is essential that you make your position clear throughout your essay. Therefore the idea of writing a balanced essay is really quite dangerous if it is not asked for. It can be done, but the danger is that the reader will be confused about which side you are on. (There is terrible advice current in Bangkok at the present time on this issue which basically tells candidates to say something to the effect: ” … ‘name of topic’ is a controversial issue which has both pros and cons and the individual should make up their own mind on this issue.”)
When asked to give an opinion, as in this essay, take a side and present your argument.
If you do put the opposing view to the one you will take, put that paragraph first and give the side you agree with the second body paragraph (or second and third if you write three body paragraphs). Do not attempt to give the side you do not agree with a strong case. Make your opinion clear in the introduction and again in the conclusion.
Here is an introduction and conclusion that make the writer’s position clear for the essay topic given above. (The body paragraphs gave a negative paragraph about the cultural problems faced and problems with visas and the positive paragraph talked about the things summarized in the conclusion below.)
Nowadays, studying abroad has become a very popular trend with students. Although study in a foreign country has some disadvantages, the advantages are overwhelming and make it essential for a very high level education which will maximize the future possibilities for our people and nation.
In conclusion, although there are some disadvantages, studying in a foreign country provides significant and unquestionable advantages in giving access to knowledge that is unavailable in the students’ home country, cultivating the qualities of independence and responsibility and improved understanding of and tolerance for people who are different. If we are to maximize the opportunities education provides, studying in a foreign country should be encouraged for all who are interested in it.