What Are The Two Types Of An Essay

It is a bit of a myth that there is a ‘one size fits all’ structure for IELTS Writing task 2 essays. Whilst the exam task criteria is the same each time, ie. you must write a minimum 250 words in approximately 40 minutes, there are actually 5 different types of Task 2 essays and each has a slightly different structure.

Many IELTS websites will suggest that you organise your essay in a specific way. It will probably look something like this:

  • Introduction
  • Paragraph 1
    • Main idea
    • Supporting ideas
  • Paragraph 2
    • Main idea
    • Supporting ideas
  • Possible Paragraph 3
    • Main idea
    • Supporting ideas
  • Conclusion

If you are aiming for a Band Score of around 5 or 6, then this kind of generic structure will probably be enough in each case. However, if you are aiming for a higher score, it is crucial that you familiarise yourself both with the different variations of essay types you might be given and the most effective way to organise your response.

The 5 most common types of Task 2 essays are:

  • Opinion (often Agree or Disagree)
  • Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Problem and Solution
  • Discussion (Discuss both views)
  • Two-part Question

Opinion essays:

In an Opinion essay, you need to clearly express what you personally feel about the given topic. If you are asked direct questions like in the task below, then it is up to you how balanced or one-sided you choose to answer. You can address both parts of the question equally or focus mainly on one side, depending on your point of view.

Have newspapers become a thing of the past or do they still have an important role to play in people’s lives today?

In a task like the one below, where you are asked to what extent you agree or disagree, it is very important that you state this explicitly at the beginning and then again at the end of your essay. Do you agree fully, mainly, partly or not at all?

Computers have made it possible for people to work from home  instead of working in offices every day.This should be encouraged as it good for both workers and employers. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Remember: this is also considered an ‘argument’ essay and you should try to convince the reader that your opinion is right. In this case, I suggest that your essay structure should look something like this:

  • Introduction
    • Paraphrase the question (your own words)
    • Thesis statement (state your agreement or disagreement)
    • Essay overview (optional)
  • Paragraph 1 and 2
    • Topic sentence (state a position)
    • Explain this further (maybe give a reason)
    • Give an example
    • Summarise paragraph
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise main ideas
    • Reiterate your opinion

Simon at www.ielts-simon.com, a former IELTS examiner, explainshere how to structure an opinion essay depending on the extent to which you agree.

Advantages and Disadvantages essays:

In an Advantages and Disadvantages essay such as the one below, you need to discuss the positive and negative perspectives equally and to clearly explain why you think something is an advantage or a disadvantage.  It is common to start Paragraph 1 with the advantages, however this is optional.

Nowadays many students have the opportunity to study some or all of their course in a foreign country. What are the advantages and disadvantages of studying abroad?

A possible structure for this type of question is:

  • Introduction
    • Paraphrase the question
    • Outline your main ideas
    • State your opinion (if the question asks)
  • Paragraph 1
    • State one advantage
    • Explain the benefits of this advantage
    • Give an example or a result
  • Paragraph 2
    • State one disadvantage
    • Explain the negative aspect of this disadvantage
    • Give an example or a result
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise your main ideas
    • Give your opinion (if asked)

Problem and Solution essays:

In a Problem and Solution essay, such as the one below, you need to think carefully about how to respond to the questions posed. It is also important that you address all parts of the task. The first question will refer to the problem or cause and the second question will refer to the solution. Try to limit yourself to answering these questions only and don’t introduce any further questions/points of your own otherwise you might stray off task.

Overpopulation is a major problem in many urban centres around the world. What problems does this cause? How can we solve the issue of overpopulation?

Try this structure to organise your essay:

  • Introduction
    • Paraphrase the question
    • Outline your main ideas
  • Paragraph 1
    • State the problem
    • Explain the problem
    • Explain the consequence (result) of this problem
    • Give an example
  • Paragraph 2
    • State the solution
    • Explain the solution
    • Give an example
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise your main ideas

Discussion essays:

In a Discussion essay, such as the one below, you will be presented with two sides of an issue and you will need to examine both perspectives equally before giving your own conclusion.

In today’s competitive world, many families find it necessary for both parents to go out to work. While some say the children in these families benefit from the additional income, others feel they lack support because of their parents’ absence. Discuss both sides and give your opinion.

In this case, your essay structure could look like this:

  • Introduction
    • Paraphrase the question AND/OR state both points of view
    • Give your thesis statement (which view you prefer)
  • Paragraph 1
    • State first point of view
    • Discuss this perspective
    • Give a reason why you agree or disagree with this viewpoint
    • Give an example to support your view
  • Paragraph 2
    • State second point of view
    • Discuss this perspective
    • Give a reason why you agree or disagree with this viewpoint
    • Give an example to support your view
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise your main ideas
    • Restate your opinion

Two-part esssays:

In a Two-part question essay, such as the example below, you will get two questions. You must answer both questions fully otherwise you risk getting a low score for Task Achievement.

In today’s society, success is often measured in terms of wealth and possessions. Do you think these are the best measure of success? What makes a successful person?

So, in this case, I suggest organising your ideas in the following way:

  • Introduction
    • Paraphrase the question
    • Briefly answer both questions
  • Paragraph 1
    • Answer the first question directly
    • Explain your reason(s)
    • Expand your argument (evidence, examples, personal experience)
  • Paragraph 2
    • Answer the second question directly
    • Explain your reason(s)
    • Expand your argument (evidence, examples, personal experience)
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise your main ideas

Please bear in mind that these structures are my suggestions; they are not fixed in stone and you can adapt them to fit what you want to say. However, I highly recommend using these templates to practise organising your ideas into paragraphs then developing them into an essay, in preparation for the writing exam. Having a clear idea of these essay structures will help you stay on task in the exam, manage your time more efficiently and express your ideas clearly.

Remember too to use linking words and phrases to connect your sentences and paragraphs together to improve your scores in Coherence and Cohesion. Stay tuned for a blog post on this topic very soon!

We will soon be launching IELTS Write, where you can supercharge your writing score! Sign up to IELTS Write to access a variety of exclusive IELTS Writing tasks. Our experienced IELTS tutors will give you quick, detailed feedback on your writing. Sign uphere and you’ll be the first to know when we launch!

You may also want to read:

Filed Under: Writing Task 2

5 Different Types of Essays – It’s All about Purpose

June 12, 2015 - Posted to Education

Generally, students either love or hate to write – there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. It’s rather like anything in life. We love doing those things at which we are “good,” and hate performing tasks at which we are not skilled. Housecleaning and mowing the lawn are probably somewhere in between. Loving or hating to write essays is really a moot point for students anyway, because they have to write, and by the time they reach college, essay assignments have permeated every. single. course. Understanding the types and purposes of essays, moreover, is pretty important, if assignments are going to meet instructors’ expectations. So here is a quick rundown which may help to understand exactly what it is an instructor might want.

Not everyone agrees that there are 5 essay types. Some say 4; others say 6-7. It doesn’t really matter so long as all of “sub-types” are addressed. For purposes of this explanation, however, we’re just going to accept the number 5.

 

The Expository Essay

Of all the different types of essays, this category is the largest, so we’ll dispense with it first. The whole point of an exposition is to explain something. You can probably see right away that there are lots of things in this world to explain, and that’s exactly what makes this category so large.  Broken down, however, the sub-categories are pretty self-explanatory, and in assigning this type of essay, instructors will always refer to the sub-category (at least we hope they will).

  1. Basic Explanation: this category requires that you explain some type of process. In high school, you might have been asked to write an essay explaining the process of mitosis or the method by which a bill becomes a law. These are pretty straight-forward topics, and the approach will be pretty objective – you probably wouldn’t be able to present a subjective argument that mitosis is bad or good.
  2. Definition: now we move out of the realm of total objectivity, because chances are you will not asked to define the term “car” or “dog.” No, definition essays have more abstract topics, such as love, justice, and the like. Because we all have our own experiences, definitions of abstract terms will vary, and such an essay may include both a dictionary definition and then a more personalized one.
  3. Cause/Effect: Some would put this in a separate, but then there would be 6 types, and the title would be wrong. Remember, in a cause/effect essay, you are still explaining something. Suppose, for example, your instructor said, “Discuss the causes of the Vietnam War,” or “What were the causes and effects of the economic meltdown in 2008?” You will need to list and explain each cause and/or effect.
  4. Personal Response: now, we’re really in the realm of subjectivity, but we are also still explaining. Suppose you read a journal article or heard a speech. Now, your instructor wants you to write a response essay. Here you will take the author’s points, one by one, briefly describe them and then insert your reaction to those points. Do you agree? Why or why not?
  5. Analysis: These essays will require that you read and really understand what you have read. Now, you will have to dissect the piece and speak to its parts, analyzing them for validity, importance, etc. You might be asked to analyze a soliloquy in one of Shakespeare’s plays. You will go line by line, provide an explanation of the meaning, and then speak to its importance in terms of understanding the character’s personality, flaws, and so forth, or to the play as a whole.

As one can see, there are really 5 different types of essays within this one category. And we still have 4 more to go. Onward!

 

The Descriptive Essay

This type of essay is in a category of its own, because it is rather unique. Think of the last piece of literature you read – a short story or a novel. Within all of the action and dialogue, there are descriptions – descriptions of scenes, sunsets, physical appearances of characters, storms, and so on. If you take a look at those descriptions, you will see that they are written so as to appeal to the reader’s senses. They also may have lots of figurative language – similes, metaphors, or personification. These things give the reader a “picture” of what is being described. Types of college essays that require descriptions are almost always found in English comp and creative writing courses. So if you are not an English major, and your required coursework is finished, you are not likely to be writing another descriptive essay before you graduate.

 

The Narrative Essay

Certainly a favorite of English teachers, you will be telling a story. It might be fictional or it might be a tale about something in your own life. “Describe the most frightening experience you have ever had” is an example of a narrative assignment. The other time you encounter these types of essays is when you apply for college, graduate school, or for a scholarship. You will receive essay prompts from which to select your topic, and away you go. You will take a little slice of your life and prepare an essay that is compelling, engaging, and hopefully creatively written!

 

The Comparison/Contrast Essay

This essay type might be placed in the expository category, and many people do just that. You will be presenting the similarities and differences between people, places, things, situations, or perhaps views on an issue. Occasionally, more than two things will be compared or contrasted. Consider, for example, this essay topic. “What are the similarities and differences among the various groups that are found in a typical high school?” Here you would need to organize your groups into intersecting circles, so that the space where all circles share in common are those things that are similar. Jocks, preps, nerds, stoners – these are some of the groups you might identify. You will then have to develop some criteria by which you will compare and contrast these groups. What types of clubs would each group join? What would each group do on the weekends? How does each group dress? How about language? You probably get the point.

 

The Persuasive/Argumentative Essay

The terms say it all. You will need to take a position on an issue and support that position, using factual data (yes, that usually means research). Generally, the difference between these two essay types is this: In a persuasive essay, you state your position and then you defend it; in an argumentative essay, you must also include the opposing viewpoint and attempt to discredit as best you can. The other difference is that the argumentative essay is more difficult to organize.

All essays have the same basic structure – an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Your thesis statement comes in the introduction, and your paragraphs should be logically organized according to the points you are making. Types of essay formats, then, do not vary much, except perhaps in the case of the narrative, if you have characters and dialogue. But once you understand the purpose of each essay type, it really does make it a bit easier to choose a topic, a thesis, and to write something that will meet instructor expectations.

0 Replies to “What Are The Two Types Of An Essay”

Lascia un Commento

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *