Guide to planning an essay

Last Published: 27/02/22
You’re asked to write an essay. 300 words. 40 minutes. Where do you begin?

Take a question like this one:

Some people have argued for a universal basic income - where all citizens of a country receive a small annual wage. Do you support this proposal?

You might answer this question with a single word. Or you might have a lot of ideas buzzing around your mind. How do you respond in a structured way?

Every essay (for the IELTS and otherwise) must have a few standard parts: introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion.

Before you start writing, it is useful to jot down an essay plan. This can just be dot points. What is your main argument (i.e. if you had to answer the question in a single sentence, what would that be?). What are your 3-4 supporting arguments, or pieces of evidence (which might each be discussed in a body paragraph)? And what do you want to leave the reader with (your concluding statement)?

Once you have this plan, you can start writing.

In the case of the IELTS Writing Task 2, your introduction should answer the question directly and provide your opinion (thesis statement) within 30-60 words (3-5 sentences).

Your body paragraphs should begin with a topic sentence (a one sentence summary of the main point of the paragraph), provide arguments or evidence in support of that topic sentence, and then link back to the question. The PEAL paragraph structure (point / evidence / analysis / link) can be helpful (more info in this article).

Your conclusion should have a clear concluding statement (try using phrases like "In summary" or "In conclusion"), and should tie back to your overall thesis statement provided in the introduction. Ending with a quote or a rhetorical question can be a good stylistic tool.