There are many YouTube videos about how to write an introduction for IELTS Writing Task 2 and they usually suggest the ‘3-sentence template’, which is easy to memorise and adapt to any topic:
1) Neutral background statement:
[Any topic] is a controversial issue.
2) Paraphrase/rewrite the question.
[Some people think X while others think Y].
3) Say what the essay will do:
‘This essay will…’
- [discuss both sides]
- [examine the advantages and disadvantages]
- [explain the causes]
- [provide solutions]
While this ‘template’ is a useful guide for people who are just starting to develop their IELTS writing skills, it may not be the best option if you are aiming for a higher score (Band 7+).
To find out why, watch my live lesson below, or just keep reading.
Scroll down to watch the final Feedback Video.
The question we use in all the examples is this:
‘Some people say that cars are the best way of travelling around cities while others think that bicycles are better’. Discuss both sides and give your opinion.
Watch the lesson here
The problem with templates
The 3-sentence introduction (like the example above) is a clear and safe way to start an essay.
But it has some drawbacks.
Look at the example below. Can you see what the problem is?
Transportation is a topic of heated discussion. Some people think that cars are the best way of traveling around cities, while others have a different opinion. This essay will discuss both views and give my opinion.
- It is made up of mostly memorised language.
- It shows no original thinking or opinion.
- It simply repeats the question.
- It tells the examiner what he/she already knows.
- It tells the examiner that you NEED to rely on templates because you don’t have enough of your own language.
Of course, if you then go on to write some excellent main body paragraphs, the introduction is not the most important part of the essay.
But the introduction IS important for making a good first impression.
The problem with paraphrasing
Many websites and YouTube videos recommend that you paraphrase the question (re-write it in your own words).
There are a number of problems with paraphrasing.
Look at the example below – can you see what the problems are?
The optimum method of meandering in a metropolis is a debatable issue. Some people promote four-wheeled automobiles, but other people utilise two-wheelers. This essay will discuss both sides.
- Synonyms are rarely exact synonyms, so if you simply replace words with similar words, your language will sound unnatural.
- Your job is to ANSWER the question, not to repeat it.
- Examiners mark large quantities of the same essay – they do not need to read the question over and over again. They want to see what you can do with language.
How to write a Band 7 introduction
The best way to write an outstanding introduction is to address the question very specifically.
Look at the example below (in favour of cars) – what do you notice?
Modern cities suffer from several problems related to car use, and recently many people have suggested that bicycles are a better option for travelling around congested town centres. However, getting around by bike has some drawbacks. This essay will argue that despite the many health and environmental benefits to cycling, cars are far more practical and convenient for most situations.
- examines the issue behind the question
- gives specific examples
- gives a clear opinion
It still follows the 3-sentence system:
- Background statement = what’s the topic?
- Analysis = what’s the question?
- What’s your opinion?
- there is no band criteria for paraphrasing – it is not a skill that is assessed in IELTS Task 2
- There is a BAND 7 criteria for your opinion. It must be ‘clear throughout’, so you MUST include it in the introduction, no matter what the question is.
This 3-sentence structure can be used to address any question, and it relates more closely to what you will argue in the main body paragraphs.
See another example below (in favour of bicycles)
Modern cities suffer from several problems related to car use, because many people choose cars over bicycles as the most practical and convenient means of transport. However, people are beginning to realise that bicycles are a far better option for travelling around congested town centres, for both environmental and financial reasons. This essay will argue that more should be done to encourage this positive development.
To see more examples of how to paraphrase the question effectively, I would strongly recommend this video from Oxford Online English (watch from 9.13).
How to write the first line
- You CAN use a 3-sentence introduction, but make sure you address the question specifically and give your opinion.
- You CAN paraphrase the question, but don’t just replace words with similar meanings.