No matter how good your writing skills are, if you don’t answer the question fully and directly, you might only get 5 for Task Achievement in IELTS Writing Task 2, and your excellent vocabulary may be considered irrelevant to the topic, so that will also lower your score.
This lesson gives you a strategy to help you ensure that you’re answering the question directly.
How to answer the question: 3 steps
Look at the task below:
Some people believe that there should be fixed punishments for each type of crime.
Others, however, argue that the circumstances of an individual crime, and the motivation for committing it, should always be taken into account when deciding on the punishment.
Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.
1. Turn the statement into a question.
If you struggle to think of ideas when you see a Task 2, turn the statement into questions:
Should there be fixed punishments for each type of crime?
Option 1: YES. Why?
- This is the only way to keep punishment fair and objective. What would happen if the judge could just choose any punishment?
- Fixed punishments act as a deterrent – if people know the punishment, they might not commit the crime (so society will become safer)
Option 2: NO. Why not?
- Every circumstance is different – the individual’s circumstances and motivation need to be taken into account (see next point).
Should the individual’s circumstances and motivation be taken into account?
Option 1: YES. Why?
- Extenuating circumstances e.g. domestic abuse cases, a homeless person stealing food
- Consequences of NOT doing this – harsh punishments can force people into poverty and into committing further crimes.
Option 2: NO. Why not?
- Subjective decisions may lead to unfair judgments.
2. Decide which opinion you agree with
Ask yourself: why are they asking this question? Why is this an issue?
Because the law is complicated and at times seems unfair.
So how can we make the law fairer?
- By imposing fixed punishments?
- Or by showing compassion towards the individual?
What do you think?
The question asks you to discuss both views, so now you have plenty to say.
Address both parts of the question in the introduction, and also give your opinion.
- A general statement – state the context of the question (e.g.The law is complicated and often seen as unfair).
- Some people argue...However others/I believe…
- Your opinion (very important)
3. Show your understanding of both arguments
In the introduction, you showed both sides of the argument.
Do this again in the conclusion: show concession (click for more on info): show that you can see both sides but stick to your opinion, and leave the reader with a ‘final thought’.
IELTS Task 2 Model Answer
Deciding on what punishment fits the crime is an incredibly complicated task. In order to simplify the legal process and to ensure fairness, fixed penalties for each crime have to be agreed on. However, there are certain circumstances when an individual’s background must be considered when deciding on the punishment. In my opinion, this is the only way that a legal system can operate fairly, and I will outline my reasons below.
Having fixed punishments for each type of crime is preferable for several reasons. Firstly, it allows criminals to be treated fairly and ensures that no one will be discriminated against. Fixed penalties are entirely objective and have been carefully regulated over many years and by a number of legal experts. Furthermore, a fixed punishment can act as a deterrent, discouraging would-be offenders from committing crimes and leading to a safer society.
However, there are cases when the decision-makers should show compassion and consider extenuating circumstances. Many criminals are people who have not been given the best chances in life and there may be cases when people are forced into criminal activity because of poverty or simply for being young and vulnerable. Punishing such people harshly will only have negative consequences, for example, if a homeless person is made to pay a fine for stealing, it will push him further into poverty or even more serious crimes. In such cases, the judge has to show leniency and to consider how the punishment will affect the criminal and society in the long term.
In conclusion, although it is hard to argue against the fairness of a system which has fixed penalties for every crime, I firmly believe that considering the reasons why people commit crimes and punishing them accordingly will ultimately lead to a fairer, safer and more caring society.
How to get ideas for IELTS Writing Task 2
Ideas come through preparation beforehand.
- Read widely around each IELTS topic
- Listen to news articles related to current issues like the environment, science, education and health (see my links here)
- Keep a list of Task 2 writing questions and make ‘skeleton’ plans for each one.
- Try using my ‘Discussion clock’ or ‘Thinking Tree’ method to look at different aspects of a topic (watch from 16:31 below)
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