IELTS Task 2 – How to analyze the essay question

Question Mark by Horia Varlan via Flickr (creative commons)

The most important thing you must do first when you approach the essay for Task 2 is to read the question carefully and to understand what the question is asking you to write about. Yes, that’s obvious, but I’ve seen countless essays where the students have worked so hard on brainstorming, organizing and supporting their ideas only to later realize that they didn’t answer the question AT ALL.

So, get it right from the beginning. Make sure you:

  1. Read the question carefully. Reread it if you have to.
  2. Underline key words. These words will be about the topic and issue – the focus of your essay.
  3. Identify what the call-to-action part of the question is. Usually, the Task consists of 2 parts: the first is a claim about an issue and the second is the call-to-action question – asking you to do something specific in your essay. Call-to-action questions include: agree/disagree; cause/effect; problem/solution; advantages/disadvantages; discussion; etc.

Let’s look at an example.

Task Question:

It is inevitable that as technology develops traditional cultures must be lost. Technology and tradition are incompatible – you cannot have both together.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion?

Your steps:

1) Read carefully, then reread if you have to. 

2) Underline key topic words:

Technology, traditional cultures, incompatible, lost

What does the statement say?  That technology and traditional cutures cannot coexist at all. The more technologically advanced our society becomes, our traditions will disappear.

3) What are you supposed to write about in your essay? This is what the call-to-action question tells you: “To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion?”

  • Do you agree or disagree with the notion that technology and traditional cultures can’t coexist? How far? Completely? Somewhat?
  • Your essay will be structured on what your answer is here. Once you’ve decided on your answer (which you should do quickly), you should then begin to organize your ideas. (More on this later!)



Analyse the following Task 2 questions. Identify the claim (underline key words) and the call-to-action parts.

  1. The number of elderly people in the world is increasing. What do you think are the positive and negative effects of this trend
  2. Differences between countries become less evident each year. Nowadays, all over the world people share the same fashions, advertising, brands, eating habits and TV channels. Do the disadvantages of this trend outweigh the advantages?
  3. People naturally resist making changes in  their lives. What kind of problems can this cause? What solutions can you suggest?
  4. Advances in  science and technology and other areas of society in the last 100 years have transformed the way we live as well as postponing the day we die.  There is no better time to be alive than now. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion?
  5. In most countries disabled people are not catered for adequately, e.g. buildings are often inappropriately designed. Governments rely too heavily on charities and voluntary organisations to provide assistance and funding. What further measures could be taken to assist disabled people? Discuss.

See my post on the answers: Analyzing Task 2 Essay Questions – Examples