- Not answering the question is probably the easiest way of losing points!
No matter how good your language is, if you don’t answer the question fully and directly, you will only get 4 or 5 for Task Achievement, and your excellent vocabulary may be considered irrelevant to the topic, so that will also lower your score.
My simple 3-step guide to answering the question in IELTS Task 2
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? YES. Why?
- This is the only way to keep punishment fair and objective. What would happen if the judge could just choose any punishment? (people could get away with crimes)
- Fixed punishments act as a deterrent – if people know the punishment, they won’t commit the crime (so society will become safer)
Should the individual’s circumstances and motivation be taken into account? YES. Why?
- Extenuating circumstances e.g. domestic abuse cases, homeless person stealing food
- Consequences of NOT doing this – harsh punishments can force people into poverty and into committing further crimes e.g. if a delivery driver lost their driving licence, they wouldn’t be able to earn a living.
2) Decide which opinion you agree with.
At some point you have to make your opinion clear, and this could come in the first paragraph.
Why are they asking this question? Because the law is complicated and at times seems unfair.
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.
Try to address all parts of the question in the introduction.
The introduction must show
- A General Statement – state the context of the question (e.g.The law is complicated and often seen as unfair).
- The other point of view (use However…)
- Your opinion.
3) ‘Yes but…’ Consider what the opposite argument could be.
In the conclusion, your opinion will be clear to the reader by now, so summarise it and re-state it.
Agree that the law is not perfect, but state what you think is the best option.
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.
There is no doubt that having fixed punishments for each type of crime brings a number of benefits. 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 reasonable this all seems, 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. There may be cases when people are forced into criminal activity because of poverty, lack of education 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.
Need more vocabulary to help you talk about crime and punishment?
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