Common mistakes IELTS opinion essay

Common mistakes IELTS opinion essay

Unclear opinion
In the example below the candidate fails to fully make clear their opinion in the introduction. The examiner can only guess that the candidate agrees, and has no idea of the extent. In this case, this is not a good introduction, and this has a negative effect on task response and also cohesion and coherence.

Television has brought great changes to the way many children spend their leisure time. Many people believe these changes have been beneficial.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?

The candidate writes:
Nowadays, children spend a lot of time watching television. It seems that there are a wider variety of television shows and many more channels.

Choosing the wrong side to argue
For opinion essays I don’t think you should think about what you really believe, you should think which side is easier to argue and use high-level language. In other words, the best side to choose is the one that you can maximize your score for the four grading criteria.

Contradicting your opinion
The example below shows how an opinion can easily be contradicted in the conclusion of an essay. The writer contradicts the opinion stated in the introduction that they somewhat disagree with the widespread use of technology, by stating in the conclusion that technology needs to be learnt.

Today, more and more young children have electronic gadgets such as computers and mobile phones. Some people say that this is a positive development. Do you agree or disagree?

 The candidate writes a contradicting opinion
In summary, although it is necessary for children to learn to use these devices at a young age I somewhat disagree that the widespread use of computers among children is a positive development.

 Errors when making concessions
Essays that ask for your opinion have words in the question such as “to what extent do you agree;”  “what is your opinion;” “do you agree or disagree.” My advice to students is always to say that you totally agree/disagree and only focus on one side of the argument. I would only write “somewhat agree/disagree” if I didn’t have enough things to say about one side of the argument. I have three main reasons for this.

First, it is more persuasive to totally agree/disagree and therefore leads to a higher score for task response. This is because when the examiner thinks about the extent you have convinced them of your opinion it is more powerful when you have just argued about one side.

The second reason is because it is much easier to structure an essay this way and it is easier to write it. In this case you are more likely to have fewer issues with cohesion and coherence and it will take less time to write the essay.

The third reason is because it is less likely you will end up arguing against yourself. I have read many essays where the writer says they “somewhat agree” but then they have gone on to write the body of the essay and less has been mentioned about agreeing than disagreeing. In this case, your score for task response will be limited to 6 because your opinion does not match the main points of your essay. As well as this your score for cohesion and coherence may be lowered because confusion may be created in the mind of the reader.

Finally, concessions (where you argue against your main position) can lead to total confusion when the candidate makes errors with grammar and vocabulary. In other words it is risky to write a concession because if you make errors with vocabulary and grammar the meaning can be totally unclear and then your score will go spiralling down for all four criteria.

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