How to structure Task 2
A lot of IELTS tutors give students a basic ‘structure’ to follow for IELTS Task 2.
This is great. I totally believe in structures.
But when examiners mark 100 essays a day, seeing the same old formulaic, mechanical structure can get a bit boring.
I found this essay in a very old Cambridge First coursebook and it breaks the IELTS Task 2 rules in many ways.
It’s still marvellous and a Band 9.
What do you think is so good about it?
‘Prisons are an expensive way of making bad people worse’
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
There are several generally accepted beliefs about prison. Firstly, that prison is a social defence against anti-social people. In short, it keeps us safe. Secondly that prison punishes wrongdoers through their loss of freedom. Thirdly that it teaches convicts the error of their ways, so that when they are released, they can enter back into daily life as law-abiding citizens.
However, there is growing evidence that prison is not always the best solution to the problems of crime that we face. Several scientific studies have shown that prison is not nearly as beneficial to society as we might imagine. There are several explanations for this.
The difficult conditions in most prisons mean that criminals rarely receive a positive education. Rather, they spend their time inside with other prisoners who teach them the tricks of their trade. Also, when they are released, it is very difficult for them to find a job, so they often feel that they have no choice but to reoffend. It’s the only thing they know. So the truth is that they are more likely to commit crimes again when they are released than if they hadn’t been sent to prison in the first place.
As a society, we have to pay attention to the results of these findings. In practice, we may be a lot safer if we give criminals the ability to gain the practical skills they need to get a job and live successful, productive lives, rather than just locking them away. There is little proof that prison works. Perhaps now is the time for us to take important decisions regarding our system of punishment. At the very least we need to give it more thought. It could be a matter of life and death.
Essay adapted from an old First Certificate book about Use of English.
This essay is Band 9 because…
- It outlines the background to the question very clearly in the first paragraph ‘There are several generally accepted beliefs about prison’ (though it does NOT show the writer’s opinion).
- It discusses two simple facts – in prison, prisoners learn how to commit more crime and they have no option but to reoffend because they can’t find a job.
- It structures the essay by dividing it into clear ‘opinion vs evidence’ paragraphs (People believe THIS, but evidence shows they are WRONG).
- Each point has an implication – the ‘so what?’ (they can’t get a job SO they reoffend)
- It answers the question directly and keeps answering the question (…there is little proof that prison works.)
- It uses a variety of linking words (Firstly, secondly, thirdly, However…)
- It has a powerful ‘call to action’ (recommendation or suggestion) at the end: ‘As a society we have to’, ‘Perhaps now is the time to’, ‘We need to give it more thought’.
- It uses powerful and persuasive arguments, based on fact: ‘There is growing evidence that…’, ‘Several studies have shown that…’, ‘..the results of these findings…’, ‘There is little proof that…’
- It uses lots of synonyms (wrongdoers, convicts, criminals) and vocabulary related to crime (punishes, loss of freedom, law-abiding citizens, spend time inside, to reoffend)
- It uses NOUNS to sound academic and authoritative (a social defence, loss of freedom, the ability to gain skills) and adds adjectives to be more precise (growing evidence, terrible conditions, a positive education, successful, productive lives, important decisions).
Watch my video about Crime vocabulary here:
Listen to the podcast here:
The topic of CRIME is included in my 28-Day Vocabulary Course (Day 14).
Each Unit of the course includes at least one
- Reading text
- Listening lesson
- Speaking practice
- Writing model
- Sentence Checklist
- Glossary of terms
- List of key expressions
- Learning Link
Why don’t you try out the Quizlet from this Unit? (have a play around, try out the different Study Modes, change the Options to suit your learning style e.g. with/without audio).
Want more writing tips?
- 14 simple ways to improve your IELTS Writing Score.
- How to plan and structure a Task 2 essay.
- How to use different types of structures effectively.
- How to make your writing more complex – 10 ways and a YouTube 10-minute tutorial.
- How to refer to research articles in Task 2.
- How to write a Band 9 Essay
- Task 2 structures that strengthen your argument.
- The ultimate guide to the best online Writing Help for IELTS