How to answer ‎‘To what extent do you agree or disagree?’ questions.

How should you answer ‪‎IELTS writing task 2 questions that ask ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree?’

A lot of people have asked me about this recently.  Here are two typical questions:

1) ‘When the writing task question says ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree?’ Do I have to discuss both of the views in the question? So, one body paragraph for ‘agree’ and other one for the ‘disagree’? Or can I choose to just either agree or disagree?’

2) ‘In “To what extent do you agree or disagree” type questions, will I lose marks if I write only the points in the body paragraphs that I agree or disagree?’

These questions are basically asking – ‘is it ok to only give only one opinion or do I have to mention both opinions?’

Let’s take a look at an authentic example of this type of writing task. It is very important that the writing tasks you use for practice are authentic and reflect the real IELTS test. I find that it is test questions that are NOT authentic (the ones that advertise themselves as ‘free!” or ‘cheaper than Cambridge!”) that often cause problems and confusion.

Here is an image showing an authentic writing task question that comes from Cambridge Practice Tests Book 9.  I’ve added notes to show how you should approach this type of question. Click on the image to see it larger.  If you have any questions or if this is not clear then please let me know – you can message me easily on my Facebook page.Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 7.02.47 PM


Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 7.42.27 pm

Apple version on iTunes

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 7.42.27 pm

Android version on Google play

If you want to improve your vocabulary for IELTS and improve your chances of scoring Band 7 and above, why not try my new vocabulary teaching app?   Click on image 1 to see it in iTunes and image 2 to see it in the google play store.


These videos will help you to understand how the IELTS test works and give you helpful tips about how to improve your score. 

Webinar: How to improve your IELTS Scorethis video looks at every part of the test. 

Webinar: How to score well in the IELTS writing Testthis video looks at the writing test

Video: How to score IELTS Band 7this video focuses in particular on the writing test

Video: How to manage your time in the IELTS reading test – this video looks at the reading test

Video: My Vocabulary teaching app – this video shows how my vocabulary app works

Video: Why is there so much confusion about True/False/Not Given? – This video explains the confusion and shows you how to answer these questions. 

Should I write a conclusion in Academic Writing Task 1?

People often ask me: “Should I write a conclusion in writing task 1?”

In writing task 2, your conclusion is the place where you summarise your argument and then give your own personal response.  In writing task 1, you must NOT give a personal view or personal response to the information you are given.  Writing task 1 is where you show you can write in an impersonal and academic way.  If it helps, try to see the ‘overview statement’ as a form of ‘conclusion’ because it neatly summarises the main points or trends. It can come either at the start or at the end. Personally, I recommend putting it at the start simply so that you don’t run out of time and forget to put it in!

I’ve now put together our complete writing task 1 question and also chosen an introductory sentence and an overview sentence from the examples people sent in on my IELTS Weekly Facebook page. These are both essential in your writing task.  Look at the writing task question below and the beginning of our answer.   So far we have written 34 words.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 7.00.42 pm

Our task now is to ‘summarise the main points and make comparisons where relevant’. This means we should not simply start be describing the data for ‘food’, then ‘housing’, then ‘transport’ (and so on).  In the test, you should spend a few minutes, before you start to write, deciding what to include.

Send one or two sentences to my Facebook page that you think we should include in our essay. I’ll give feedback on them tomorrow and we will choose the most relevant to include.

If you’re interested in improving your vocabulary for the IELTS test, and feel stuck at IELTS band 6 or 6.5, why not try my Vocabulary teaching app?  Click on image to see it in the app store or watch the video hereScreen Shot 2015-09-12 at 7.42.27 pm


IELTS Academic Writing task 1 practice

On my IELTS Weekly Facebook page we are working through a writing task 1 together.  I posted the following image without any specific writing task question (this is a good way to sort out any vocabulary problems that people have).

Task 1 no Q

I asked the followers of the page to try to write one or two sentences that describe what the table shows. I also asked them not to use any of the words in the table.

The images below show their answers (the originals are in the boxes) followed by a corrected version with comments. The yellow highlights show language problems that will have the most impact on your score.
Task 1 corrections image 1

Task 1 corrections image 2

Task 1 corrections image 3

Task 1 corrections image 4

Task 1 corrections image 5

Task 1 corrections image 6

Task 1 corrections image 7

Why not try my new IELTS Vocab teaching app to help achieve your Band 7 goal?   Click on the image below to see it in the app store. Or watch a video about the app here.Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 7.42.27 pm

How should I manage my time in the reading test?

Time is a key part of the reading test.  A Band 8 or 9 candidate can skim read or speed-read a passage a lot faster than a Band 4 or 5 candidate.  Your ability to quickly read the passages and locate the relevant information to answer the questions is one of the reading skills being assessed.  So it is important to have a strategy for the test and to practice the skills of skim reading and scanning a passage.  

Remember also that you need to transfer all of your answers onto a separate answer sheet within the 60 minutes that you have.  You are NOT given any extra time for this at the end. It is very important to make sure that you don’t make any mistakes when you are transferring your answers and that you don’t make any spelling mistakes.  

One question I’m often asked is whether you should start by reading the questions first.  My advice is to only very quickly look at the questions just to satisfy your curiosity and no more.  You will absolutely NOT be able to ‘guess’ any answers or answer the questions without reading the passage.  This is a common problem with practice tests that aren’t written by trained exam writers.  In the IELTS test, you will have to read the passage to find out the information you need, so reading the questions in detail first will be confusing and may make you feel anxious about what you don’t know.  It is also a waste of very valuable time.  

The images below show what I think is the best way to use your time in the reading test.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 4.33.43 pm

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 4.38.26 pm

Why not try my new Vocabulary teaching app?

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 7.42.27 pm