• christopherianwils

IELTS Essay Planning


The most important skill when writing your IELTS Writing Task 2 essay writing is to plan your essay properly. Writing an IELTS essay without a plan is like setting out for a new destination without a map. You might get to your destination eventually, but it will take a long time because you will take lots of wrong turns on the way. IELTS essay planning is the key to getting a band score of 7 or above in the IELTS writing test.


Good planning leads to better language

IELTS essay planning means you do not need to think about your ideas while you write. This means you can think about vocabulary and grammar instead. Consequently, you will get a higher band score for Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range and Accuracy.

If you do not plan you have to think about the task, the ideas, the structure, linking phrases, vocabulary, grammatical structures all at the same time. This is impossible to do well


Good planning leads to a more relevant answer

IELTS essay planning means your essay will answer the question properly. Your writing is less likely to include irrelevant ideas and examples because you thought about your ideas in advance. This means you will get a higher band score for Task Response.


Good planning leads to a better structure

IELTS essay planning means you can put your ideas, explanations and examples into a clear structure before you start to write. This means you will get a higher band score for Coherence.


Good planning saves you time

IELTS essay planning means you can write faster because you already know what you’re going to write. Without a plan, you frequently have to stop and think about your ideas while you are writing.


IELTS essay planning: A 4 step guide

To help you to understand this guide, let’s look at an example question for IELTS writing task 2:


Step 1: Analyse The Question


In the first step of my 4 step planning process, you need to analyse the question. This means you need to fully understand the topic, and what the question asks you to do.

So look at the question carefully. What is the topic? To help you identify the topic, identify some important content words (keywords) in the question.

Women and men are commonly seen as having different strengths and weaknesses. Is it right to exclude males or females from certain professions because of their gender?

The keywords here are “women and men”, “different strengths and weaknesses”, “exclude” and “certain professions”.

Incidentally, the word “professions” is a bit unclear. The word can be used to mean professional jobs, such as doctors and lawyers, but it can also be used as a synonym for ‘jobs’. I think it is safe to assume the second definition.

So the topic is concerned with the different strengths and weaknesses of men and women working in specific professions. However, the task is not to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of men and women in a general sense. You also need to clearly understand your task.

In Task 2 questions, the topic statement is always followed by a question or a task. In our example, this is the question:

Is it right to exclude males or females from certain professions because of their gender?

Make sure you understand the language used. Here, the phrase “is it right..?” means the same as “do you agree..?” The question could be worded:

Do you agree that males or females should be excluded from certain professions because of their gender?

And, of course, do not forget this part of the task:

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience. Write at least 250 words.

So your task is to state whether you agree or disagree with this idea, to explain your opinion, and to give examples to support your opinion.

When you plan your IELTS essay, always remember your task. If you write irrelevant ideas, explanations and examples, you will get a low band score for Task Response.


Step 2: Decide My Position


In the second step, you need to ask yourself this question: “What do I REALLY think about this issue?” Try to think about your genuine opinion, as it’s much easier to explain than an invented opinion.

Let’s look at the question again:

Women and men are commonly seen as having different strengths and weaknesses. Is it right to exclude males or females from certain professions because of their gender?

Personally, I think it’s wrong to exclude men and women from certain jobs because of their gender, but there might be a few exceptions to this. For example, men may be more suited than women to jobs involving heavy physical.

So what do you think? Perhaps you agree with me, or perhaps you think that it’s ok to exclude people of a particular gender from certain jobs.


Step 3: Generate My Ideas


So you have your position. But why do think this?

IELTS questions always tell you to “Give reasons for your answer”, so why do you hold this position on this issue? Why do you think this? In the third step, you need to come up with ideas to support your position.

Here are some possible ideas that support different positions:

  • I think it’s right that men and women should be excluded from certain jobs. I think this because men and women have different strengths and weaknesses and are therefore suited to different jobs.

  • I think it’s wrong that men and women should be excluded from certain jobs: I think this because men and women are able to do most jobs equally well and because opening up different professions to both men and women means they can bring different qualities to the same job.

  • I think that, in certain situations, it’s fine to excluded men and women from certain jobs. I think this because different genders are better suited to different jobs.

Essentially, you’re just trying to explain why you think what you think. You’re trying to provide the main reasons for your position.


Step 4: Develop My Ideas


To get a band score of 7 or above in Task Response, you must extend and support your main ideas with explanations and examples. If these explanations and examples are relevant to the main idea and are clear and focused, you can get a band score of 8 or 9.

You also need to put these ideas into a logical structure in order to get a high band score for Coherence and Cohesion. The key to a good structure is using paragraphs effectively. Paragraphs give a clear structure to a piece of writing and they help the reader understand your message. Each paragraph should be organised around one main idea.


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