The post will give you the 10 most common IELTS Writing Task 2 topics.
IELTS Writing Topics
A question my students keep asking, again and again, is ‘What are the most common IELTS writing part 2 topics?’ They are worried that they won’t be familiar with the topic and will not have any relevant ideas. This is especially true for students from ‘developing’ countries, because most of the questions are ‘first world’ problems and issues. Let’s turn that disadvantage into an advantage.
To answer the question I have asked my students over the last few years to send me the topics on their exams.
A big thank you, to those students, who were kind enough to send me their questions. I have built up a huge amount of questions and I think it is about time to analyse them.
Are the same Writing Task 2 topics repeated?
The answer is yes and no. There are a huge amount of topics that come up in writing task 2. At last count there were around 50 different topics (based on collecting data over the last few years) and if you would like all 50, please let me know, but I’m more concerned about the topics that come up again and again. If you have time to familiarise yourself with over 50 topics then please do, but I think must people have to be smart with their time and it therefore makes more sense to prioritise the most common topics.
I try to encourage my students to be efficient when it comes to learning. However, I don’t agree with the saying ‘Work smart, not hard’ as this implies you can do very little work and still achieve your goals. My motto is work hard and smart.
IELTS Essay Topics 2015
There are 10 general topics that come up more often than all of the rest put together. They are:
So what can I do with this information?
Now you know the common topics there are 3 things you can do:
1. Develop a vocabulary list for each topic
Having relevant vocabulary for each topic will give you a big advantage. Many students fail to provide relevant vocabulary and their band score suffers.
When looking at new vocabulary try to guess the meaning from context first and then look up the meaning to make sure your idea matches the actual meaning. Also, be sure to look at the word within a sentence to be aware of the way it relates to other words.
When recording vocabulary do it in a way that will help YOU remember it. Everyone learns in a different way and everyone learns vocabulary in a different way. Some people like to draw pictures beside the word, some people like to write synonyms or antonyms, others prefer to write a few sentences and some people like to use the phonemic chart to write the word that way. Whatever works for you, do it.
It is also very important to review words regularly. This is the most effective way to remember the words. So many people learn lots of words and a week later they can’t remember them. I would recommend reviewing them one day after learning them for the first time, then one week later and then finally one month later. After that they should be firmly stuck in your head for good.
I am developing a vocabulary list for each of the topics above which you can access here.
2. Practice reading and listening within these topics
To do well on your IELTS test you should practice at home. Even just 60 minutes per day can make a big difference. This will not only improve all four skills but familiarise you with the common topics at the same time. Why waste time listening or reading something, if it is about something that probably won’t come up on the test? Unless of course you are listening or reading for pleasure, in that case, be my guest.
If you are reading an English newspaper, look for articles on the common topics and highlight any good vocabulary.
If you like listening to the radio or podcasts, find ones on the common topics.
Please check out my 25 online language learning tools for lots of ways you can study at home for free.
3. Study within the common topics
This method is so effective that some of the best IELTS schools are starting to adopt this approach. If you are going to study or practice anything then do it within the context of one of the common topics. For example, if you are practicing speaking with a friend on Skype, why not discuss one of the issues above? If you are practicing writing essays, find a question about one of the most popular or repeated IELTS topics.
This method allows you to practice both the skills and learn about these crucial topics.
They also come up quite a lot in the speaking test.
Can I just focus on these topics and get a high band score?
Obviously, there is much more to achieving a high score than just focusing on the repeated topics but this will allow you to study and prepare in a smarter and more efficient way, giving you a huge advantage.
However, I would like to add that it is also important to study things you have a passion for. If you are genuinely interested in a topic then it is much easier to study and you are less likely to quit. Please also make time to read, listen, talk and write about your passion. If you love football, read about your team everyday on www.goal.com. Love fashion?- find some fashionista blogs. Have a passion for photography?- why not blog about it? Have a passion for astrophysics? Listen to star talk radio.
Update- September 2015
I looked at 15 Writing Task 2 papers over July, August and September of 2015 to see if the same common topics were coming up. Here are the topics:
- Traditional Culture
- Government Spending
- Traditional Culture
- International Aid
- The Environment
As you can see, Technology, Health and Education are still prominent Task 2 topics. It was interesting to see Traditional Culture popping up twice in such a short period of time, but that doesn’t mean that it will definitely feature again soon.
I still think that Technology, Health, Education and the Environment are important topics and will feature regularly in the future. Reading within these topics will help you and you will also pick up other vocabulary just by reading about them.
The important thing is to read actively. When you see a word you don’t know, note it down and find out the meaning, collocation and synonyms. Soon you will have a notebook full of new words and you review them regualelry until they become part of your vocabulary.
Here’s a live video I did on Facebook about this topic:
I would recommend looking at our IELTS task 2 page for lots more lessons, tips and sample task 2 answers.
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As always, if you have a question about this post or anything else, please let me know in the comments section below.
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Writing Task 2: Essay
- Task 2 always asks you to write an essay.
- You are given a written prompt in the form of an opinion, a question or an instruction.
- You should spend about 40 minutes on Task 2.
- You should write at least 250 words.
- Exactly what you have to do depends on the information you are given, but you might have to:
- present and justify an opinion
- evaluate and challenge an argument or idea
- compare and contrast evidence
- present the solution to a problem
- This is a formal piece of writing.
- Avoid using contractions (e.g. write There has always been not There's always been).
- Avoid using very informal vocabulary (e.g. write Young children need clear guidance not Parents should tell kids what to do).
- Avoid using very informal punctuation, such as exclamation marks.
- Use linking devices, such as In contrast, However, Moreover, Similarly, to make your logical argument easier to follow.
- Before you start writing, it is very important to spend a few minutes on planning.
- Step 1 is to read the question carefully, and make sure you understand what topic you have been given, and what you have to do.
- Step 2 is to decide what approach you are going to take to the topic. You may decide that you completely agree with a statement, or partly agree. You may decide that there are three key solutions to a problem presented. Think about the topic and decide what view or views you are going to build your essay around.
- Step 3 is to make a paragraph plan. Your plan will depend on what you are going to write about. You will also often have a choice: there is usually more than one way to structure a successful piece of writing. However, you should follow these basic rules:
- Write in paragraphs. It doesn't matter if you write three, four or even five paragraphs, but if you put everything into one paragraph, it will be difficult to read, and you will lose marks.
- Paragraphs are there to make a piece of writing easier to read. Each main point you want to make should have a new paragraph. Paragraphs usually start with a topic sentence, which states the main point of the paragraph. The remaining sentences in the paragraph then provide supporting details and examples.
- Your first paragraph should be an introduction to the topic. It should restate the situation in general, using different language from the written prompts. You may also briefly outline the argument you are going to make in your essay.
- In Task 2, you are expected to express your opinion, or reach a conclusion. For this reason, your final paragraph will often be a conclusion or a summary of your opinion.
Look at the examples to find out more about doing Writing Task 2.