In this episode, Eliot and Naomi talk about how to understand and respond to an IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 essay question. They'll cover:
Episode resources and links:
Episode 26 Transcript - 3 Example Agree-Disagree Questions
Welcome to the Magoosh IELTS Podcast! This is Episode 26. In this episode, you’re going to learn how to understand and respond to an IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 essay question that is formatted as an Agree-Disagree question. First Eliot and I will explain the Task 2 requirements, and then we’ll walk you through the different ways you can write responses to three Task 2 Agree-Disagree example questions.
And don’t forget to visit us at IELTS.Magoosh.com for more great resources to improve your IELTS band score. Use coupon code “ieltspodcast” to save 20% off your IELTS test prep!
Okay, let’s get started!
Naomi: Today Eliot and I are discussing IELTS agree-disagree questions. You may run into this type of essay question in the Academic IELTS Writing Task 2.
Eliot: In this episode, we’re going to go over three example agree-disagree question prompts, and show you the ways you could structure your response to each of them.
Naomi: Before we get started with the example questions, let’s talk a little more about Academic Writing Task 2. Eliot, what do you think students should know about this section of the IELTS?
Eliot: Well, IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 is the second of two writing tasks on the IELTS. In Task 2, you’ll be asked to respond to an open-ended essay prompt. If the prompt ends with the phrase: ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree’, you’re dealing with an agree-disagree essay question.
Naomi: Task 1 definitely isn’t easy, but most students find IELTS Writing Task 2 even more challenging. Would you recommend that students spend more time on Task 2 than on Task 1?
Eliot: Yes, definitely. You’ll have a total of 60 minutes to complete both tasks. I suggest that you spend only 20 minutes on Task 1 and use the remaining 40 minutes for Task 2.
Naomi: Ok, so what makes Task 2 more difficult than Task 1?
Eliot: Well, first of all, Task 1 just asks you to transfer information from a visual into writing. But Task 2 requires you to answer an open essay question. There’s no clear or “correct” answer.
Naomi: And Task 1 has a lower minimum word count, right?
Eliot: Exactly. Task 1 requires that you write 150 words or more, but for Task 2 you will be expected to write at least 250 words.
Naomi: So are the two Tasks weighted equally in terms of points?
Eliot: That’s a great question, and the answer is no! Task 2 is worth twice as many points as Task 1, so it’s a really good idea to spend a bit more time on Task 2.
Naomi: So to recap: you recommend that students spend 20 minutes on Task 1 and 40 minutes on Task 2. How should students break down those 40 minutes?
Eliot: Writing speed varies a lot from student to student, so how you’ll want to break down that 40 minutes will depend a lot on how fast you can write.
Naomi: Can you give us a rough guideline?
Eliot: Sure...I suggest you spend between 2 and 10 minutes planning your essay, 25 to 32 minutes writing, and the remaining 5 (or more) minutes editing your work.
Naomi: Great, anything else students should know?
Eliot: Well, the more you practice Task 2 responses, the quicker you will become, so don’t worry too much if you're not hitting your timing goals right away. You just need to keep practicing!
Naomi: Before we hear the agree-disagree sample questions, let’s pause for a word from Magoosh.
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Now back to the show!
Naomi: So Eliot, let’s talk about the agree-disagree essay questions. What are some examples of this type of prompt?
Eliot: An agree-disagree prompt would be something like: “The leaders or directors of organizations are often older people. But some people say that young people can also be leaders. To what extent do you agree or disagree?”
Naomi: And how would you answer a question like that?
Eliot: Before writing anything, you should have a clear point of view. Notice how the question asked “to what extent” do you agree or disagree? Make sure your answer responds to that part of the question.
Naomi: What do you mean?
Eliot: I would suggest that you choose one of the three following positions: Either, “I completely agree…”, “I completely disagree…”, or “I partly agree and partly disagree…”.
Naomi: Oh, I see...So let’s start with the “I completely agree” answer. How would you structure a “completely agree” essay response to the prompt from earlier?
Eliot: So remember the prompt was “The leaders or directors of organizations are often older people. But some people say that young people can also be leaders. To what extent do you agree or disagree?”
Eliot: Begin with an introduction stating that you completely agree that young people can be leaders.
Naomi: Okay, sounds like a good start. You’re writing a five-paragraph essay...that means that after the introduction there will be three body paragraphs, followed by a conclusion. What should you write for the body paragraphs?
Eliot: Use each of the first two body paragraphs to state one reason why you agree with that young people can be leaders. You can use the third paragraph either to state a third reason why you agree, or to explain why the opposite view is wrong.
Naomi: Okay, and what about the conclusion?
Eliot: For the concluding paragraph, restate your position one last time, in this case, that you completely agree that young people can be leaders.
Naomi: Okay great, thanks Eliot! Let’s look at another example question, and talk about how to respond if you “completely disagree”.
Eliot: So here’s our second example question: “Maintaining public libraries is a waste of time since computer technology is now replacing their functions. To what extent do you agree or disagree?”
Naomi: Okay, so where should you start?
Eliot: It’s really the same format as for our last example. You’ll just be giving arguments as to why you think the view is wrong rather than right.
Naomi: Okay, so start with an introductory paragraph stating that you completely disagree that maintaining public libraries is a waste of time?
Eliot: Exactly! Then you’ll write your three body paragraphs. And in each one, give one reason that you think that computers aren’t a substitute for public libraries.
Naomi: And then for your conclusion, should you quickly summarize your body paragraphs, and restate that computer technology hasn’t replaced public libraries, and therefore, we should still maintain them?
Eliot: Yes, that’s perfect. You see how similar the “completely agree” format is to the “completely disagree” format?
Naomi: Yes, it’s the same basic structure. You’re just arguing in the opposite direction.
Eliot: Right. But if you decide you’re going to argue for “partly agree and partly disagree”, things will look a little different.
Naomi: How so?
Eliot: Well let’s look at one more prompt. Here’s the example: “People’s shopping habits depend more on the age group they belong to than any other factor. To what extent do you agree or disagree?”
Naomi: Okay. So how do you answer?
Eliot: In the introduction you’ll want to say that you partly agree and partly disagree that age group is the most important factor in determining shopping habits. Then state a few points you agree with and a few points you disagree with.
Naomi: Okay, what about the body paragraphs?
Eliot: You only really need two body paragraphs, but they’ll be a little longer than the body paragraphs in the “completely agree” or “completely disagree” answers. In the first body paragraph, explain the points you agree with. Then in the second body paragraph, explain the points you disagree with.
Naomi: And then in the conclusion you’ll restate your view?
Eliot: Exactly! And those are the three examples of how to answer agree-disagree Task 2 questions on the IELTS!
So what did you think? If you need more practice, check out the show notes for a transcript of this episode so that you can follow along and listen again.
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