Here is an IELTS Task 2 task:
“Some people say that computer technology has been an extremely valuable development. Others disagree.
Discuss both sides of this issue and give your own opinion.”
The very first thing to understand here is that the wording: “Discuss both sides of this issue and give your own opinion.” DOES NOT tell you the order in which the essay should be written. That is, I DO NOT have to discuss the issue FIRST and then give my opinion.
First, the candidate must decide where they stand on the issue. MAKE YOUR LIFE SIMPLE! Write the essay in the simplest way that will get you a high score and this DOES NOT mean saying ‘I partly agree and partly disagree’. To write an essay like that well, is quite difficult.
I will take the side that computer technology is a good thing.
Now the question tells me I MUST do THREE very important things to answer the question fully:
1 write about WHY some people think computer technology is bad
2 write about WHY I think it is good
3 show my opinion throughout the essay i.e. IN EVERY PARAGRAPH
This is easier than it sounds. Here is one structure that could be used:
Introduction (all sides addressed, clear opinion given)
Body paragraph 1 (other side)
Body paragraph 2 (my side)
Conclusion (restate my opinion)
There is, of course, no rule about the number of paragraphs in the essay. Candidates could write 4 body paragraphs if they wanted … BUT … you have 40 minutes and only 250 words, so this is not really a great idea.
The word length for this essay would be:
Introduction (40 words – 2 sentences)
Body paragraph 1 (90 words)
Body paragraph 2 (90 words)
Conclusion (40 words – 2 sentences)
We have already discussed introductions. I will put my opinion right there IN THE INTRODUCTION so the reader is VERY CLEAR about what I think. I WILL NOT SAY “I think” or “in my opinion” because this is not allowed in academic writing BUT, if you look carefully at the IELTS Public Band Descriptors, they DO NOT say you cannot do this in an IELTS exam. Nevertheless, I want to write a good essay by ANY STANDARD so I won’t do it because it is not acceptable in high level writing.
To introduce the topic I need a general sentence that raises the issue of computer technology. There are tens of thousand of ways to write such a sentence. Here is one way:
“Over the past 50 years computer technology has exploded into every part of modern life.”
This sentence stands alone. It does not carry on into another sentence. Its only purpose is to raise the issue of computer technology so the reader has an idea about what this essay is about.
The second sentence of the introduction will give my opinion on this issue but it will also raise the other side of this issue because I was asked in the task to address both sides of the issue AND give a clear opinion. I will do all of this in the next sentence:
“While some people may argue that computer technology has a number of drawbacks, it is very clear that it has far more advantages than disadvantages.”
Can you tell which side I am on? I have not said “I think” or “I believe” but it is very clear that the writer is in favour of computer technology. It is also clear that the writer might recognise some of the disadvantages (“far more advantages the disadvantages”) but that for the writer these disadvantages are not nearly as important as the advantages. This is a very clear opinion and it is right here in the introduction.
PLEASE NOTE that NOTHING in the way the question is asked REQUIRES that I discuss this topic and THEN give my opinion. It is absolutely fine to give my opinion and justify it later – this approach also makes for a very clear essay.
The entire introduction is therefore:
“Over the past 50 years computer technology has exploded into every part of modern life. While some people may argue that computer technology has a number of drawbacks, it is very clear that it has far more advantages than disadvantages.”
I can write this in a better way but this is quite simple and yet still does what is required at Band 7 in the IELTS Task 2 Writing Band Descriptors for Task Response;
“gives a clear position”
Note that one important way I have achieved this is because I used the expression: “While some people may argue …” because this shows the reader clearly that this IS NOT the writer’s opinion – this is what OTHER people say. In an indirect way, this phrasing gives the writer’s opinion.
FIRST BODY PARAGRAPH
In this paragraph I will present the other side of the argument, the side I DO NOT agree with. So I begin with a paraphrase of the first clause above: “While some people may argue that computer technology has a number of drawbacks, …”
One way to begin might be:
“To begin with, IT IS ARGUED BY SOME that computer technology causes several problems.”
(I will discuss the structure of good paragraphs next time.)
SECOND BODY PARAGRAPH
The second body paragraph presents THE WRITER’S SIDE and it is achieved very simply.
“Nevertheless, despite these arguments, computer technology has so many more advantages than disadvantages that its use is imperative.”
Note that this word “Nevertheless” carries a lot of meaning – while it is similar to “although” or “however” it carries more meaning than either of these words. It essentially means that what I have said is true but what I am about to say is still true regardless of what I said before.
(I will discuss the structure of good paragraphs next time.)
We really need to develop the second body paragraph to know exactly how to write the conclusion but we can give a general idea here and then we will come back and revise it in a couple of days time:
“In short, although computer technology may have some disadvantages, it has far more advantages especially for xxxx and xxxxx.”
Notice that I have had to leave the two aspects of computer technology that I should have discussed in the second body paragraph blank because we have not written the paragraph yet. BUT … we will – tomorrow.
We will also add an extra sentence to the conclusion then as well.
Nevertheless, you can see that even this one sentence conclusion gives a very clear opinion. So we have achieved something very important here: in every paragraph of this essay we have been able to express a very clear opinion and it really wasn’t that hard to achieve.