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To what extent you agree or disagree essay
This lesson will guide you how to write essays in IELTS Writing that ask you to what extent you agree/disagree . Such questions are very common for IELTS Writing task 2 . In such essays your task is to say whether you:
- completely agree with a given statement
- completely disagree with a given statement
- partly agree / disagree
and justify your opinion .
In this lesson you will see IELTS writing task 2 sample question + model answer . Also, you will learn the following points:
- how to decide on your opinion
- how to generate ideas to justify your opinion
- how to give a band 9 answer for agree/disagree question
To what extent you agree/disagree question sample
Let’s look at an example of IELTS writing task 2:
The government's investment in arts, music and theatre is a waste of money. Governments should invest these funds in public services instead.
To what extent do you agree with this statement?
Choose your opinion & generate ideas
Unlike classic agree/disagree questions, to what extent you agree or disagree questions do NOT ask you to clearly determine whether you agree or disagree with the given statement.
In fact, you have 3 major options for your opinion :
AA : You completely agree (provide 2 ideas that strengthen the statement) DD : You completely disagree (provide 2 ideas that weaken the statement) AD : You agree or disagree partly (provide 1 idea that strengthens the statement and 1 idea that weakens it)
After you’ve decided your opinion, generate 2-3 supporting points for it .
Now let’s generate supporting points for each of the opinions:
AA: Investment in arts, music and theatre is a waste of money
- Art, music and theatre don’t help to solve urgent problems of the society
- Art and music can develop as hobbies, and saved money can be directed towards urgent needs of the society
- If artists and musicians were employed at more traditional jobs, there would be a great benefit for science and industry
DD: Investment in arts, music and theatre is NOT a waste of money
- The arts and music preserve unique culture and heritage, passing nation’s cultural character and traditions to future generations
- Arts, music and theatre are an integral part of the society’s cultural and intellectual development and amusement
- A strong arts, music and theatre sector is an economic asset that creates new jobs and attracts tourism revenue
For this opinion, just combine ideas from the previous points.
For our essay, we’ll choose the last opinion - partially agree / disagree (AD).
Band 9 answer structure
There are a lot of ways to structure your essay, but we’ll use a structure that has been approved by many IELTS examiners to be high-scoring and coherent. Band-9 essay structure :
Body paragraph 1 - the 1st supporting point
- Body paragraph 2 - the 2nd supporting point
As you already know, you can write the supporting points of your body paragraphs in the following ways: agree + agree, disagree + disagree, agree + disagree. We’ll use the last option as our opinion is partially agree / disagree .
Let’s take a look at each of these sections in detail.
- Sentence 1 - paraphrase the statement (you can use ‘ it is argued/considered/thought that ’ to start):
It is often argued that the government should finance public services instead of spending its budget on arts, music and theatre.
- Sentence 2 - give your opinion :
Although I agree that government’s investments in public services play a very important role, I think that proper funding of arts sector is also crucial for the society.
- Sentence 1 - state the first reason you agree/disagree .
This sentence should contain the main idea of the whole 1st paragraph. In our case we’ll use the reason A: why it is important to finance public services. As we’ll be considering opposite opinions, it is a good idea to use a collocation on the one hand to introduce the first reason:
On the one hand, the government should definitely allocate a large part of its budget on public services.
- Sentences 2-3 - explain the reason .
To explain the reason effectively, you can imagine that your examiner didn’t understand what you were talking about and you have to explain every detail:
This economic sector determines the overall quality of life, ensuring that some basic services, like schools, hospitals and roads, are available to all citizens irrespective of their income or social status. Public services satisfy the primary needs of the society and thus need a proper funding, while artists and musicians are not curing diseases or building houses, so their role is secondary.
- Sentence 4 - example .
It’s always good to give examples in your body paragraphs, even if you’re not asked to do it (like in our case):
For example, any country can live without music concerts, but absence of medicine will create significant problems.
- Sentence 5 - a short summary of your ideas in this paragraph :
That’s why the government should adequately finance public services in the first place.
Body paragraph 2 - the 2nd reason you agree/disagree
- Sentence 1 - state the second reason you agree/disagree .
This statement should contain the main idea of the whole 2nd paragraph. This time we’ll use the reason D: why it is important to finance public services. As we are considering opposite opinions, it is a good idea to use a phrase on the other hand to introduce the second reason:
On the other hand, arts, music and theatre are not a waste of money, since they are an integral part of the society’s cultural and intellectual development and amusement.
- Sentences 2-3 - explain the reason (assume that your examiner doesn’t understand the topic at all):
Firstly, art and music draw people’s attention to diverse phenomena and represent the inward significance of things. Quite often a single drawing, piece or song can exhort myriads of people to reconsider their attitude towards some situation. This way, art serves as a major source of nation’s personal and intellectual development. Moreover, visiting museums, watching movies and listening to music are common ways of relaxation and entertainment.
- Sentence 4 - support your idea with an example :
The question doesn’t ask us to give examples, plus we’ve already written a lot in this paragraph, so we’ll skip this point.
- Sentence 5 - a short summary of your thoughts in the 2nd paragraph .
Thus, art sector is also important for the society and should not be neglected.
You can write the conclusion in one sentence that summarizes your opinion + 2 reasons for it :
To conclude, though I agree that the government should allocate a large part of its budget on such urgent needs of the society like public services, I think that arts, music and theatre should also be financed since they play an important role in people’s development and entertainment.
DO NOT write new ideas in the conclusion!
This is a full band-9 answer for to what extent you agree or disagree IELTS Writing question above:
It is often argued that the government should finance public services instead of spending its budget on arts, music and theatre. Although I agree that government’s investments in public services play a very important role, I think that proper funding of arts sector is also crucial for the society.
On the one hand, the government should definitely allocate a large part of its budget on public services. This economic sector determines the overall quality of life, ensuring that some basic services, like schools, hospitals and roads, are available to all citizens irrespective of their income or social status. Public services satisfy the primary needs of the society and thus need a proper funding, while artists and musicians are not curing diseases or building houses, so their role is secondary. For example, any country can live without music concerts, but absence of medicine will create significant problems. That’s why the government should adequately finance public services in the first place.
On the other hand, arts, music and theatre are not a waste of money, since they are an integral part of the society’s cultural and intellectual development and amusement. Firstly, art and music draw people’s attention to diverse phenomena and represent the inward significance of things. Quite often a single drawing, piece or song can exhort myriads of people to reconsider their attitude towards some situation. This way, art serves as a major source of nation’s personal and intellectual development. Moreover, visiting museums, watching movies and listening to music are common ways of relaxation and entertainment. Thus, art sector is also important for the society and should not be neglected.
How to answer a “to what degree/extent” essay question
One of the most popular question types to appear on History assessment tasks is one that starts with the phrase, “To what extent/degree...”.
Despite the fact that it appears so frequently, particularly on exam papers , some teachers and students are not sure how to correctly write a response to it.
Thankfully, "to what degree/extent" questions are relatively easy to understand and to write a sophisticated response to, as long as you know what they are specifically asking you to do.
In this blog post, I will explain what such questions are asking you to do and give you some practical tips on how to write an essay response to a “To what extent/degree” question so that you feel confident in your assessment pieces.
Watch a video explanation:
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Understanding the question
First of all, it is crucial to understand the purpose of the word “degree” or “extent” in this kind of question. Regardless of which of the two words are used, they mean exactly the same thing: they are asking you to assign a degree of importance to how influential or important a particular factor is regarding the topic at hand.
A useful way of conceptualising the degree of importance , is to think of a simple scale that you could measure it against:
Most of the time, a "to what degree/extent” question is ultimately asking you to decide a single factor’s importance in comparison to another, potentially equally important factor. In other words, you need to argue which of two things is the most important.
Therefore, you will say that one of the two factors was “ to a greater degree ” important, while the other is “ to a lesser extent ” important.
It is rare that this kind of question will require you to say that only one factor was the only important element in regards to a topic. Any event in history is a complex combination of multiple factors, and it is too simplistic to assign only one factor to any topic.
That is why this kind of question is so popular with essays about historical causation , consequences or significance in History exams. These topics acknowledge that there are multiple factors which contributed to a historical event or idea.
Example essay questions
Sometimes, the question itself will provide you with the two elements that it wants you to compare. For example:
“To what degree was political ideology more important in Hitler’s rise to power than the economic conditions in Germany in the early 1930s?”
As you can see in this “to what degree” question, it is asking you to decide whether “political ideology” was “more important” than “the economic conditions in Germany in the early 1930s”. Therefore, in your answer to this question, you need to clearly state which you think was “more important”.
Here is another example:
“To what extent did the Black Death in 14th century Europe decrease the papacy’s cultural influence in comparison to the political scandals within the curia?”
Once more, it is easy to identify what you are being asked to decide between: whether “the Black Death in 14th century Europe” or “the political scandals within the curia” was more important in causing the decline of “the papacy’s cultural influence”.
However, sometimes an essay question will only give you one factor, in which case you will need to choose the second factor to compare it against.
“To what degree was Julius Caesar’s assassination the result of his own hubris?”
In this example, the question only gives you “his own hubris” as one important element. Therefore, you will need to decide, based upon your own historical knowledge and the sources supplied, something else to compare it against.
It is still important, though, that you still come to a conclusion about which of the two elements was the most important.
How to structure your answer to the question (the hypothesis)
Once you have identified the two elements you are going to compare in your answer, you need to decide which of the two you are going to assign most importance to.
When you write your answer to the essay question (which will become your hypothesis ), you have to ensure that you clearly state which of the two options you have decided is the most important. You can use the following cues to identify the greater and lesser factors:
“[Factor 1] was, to a greater degree , more important in [the Topic] than [Factor 2] because...”
“[Factor 1] was the main cause of [the Topic] despite the role of [Factor 2] because...”
“While [Factor 2] did play a role in [the Topic], [Factor 1] was by far the most significant element because...”
As you can see in these example structures, you need to:
- clearly state the two topics you’re comparing
- mention the topic to which they relate
- have a clear decision about which of the two factors are most important to the topic
Also, don't forget to provide clear reasons for your decision after the “because” in your hypothesis.
How to structure your essay
Once you have decided which of the two factors was the most important and which was the least important, then you can start planning your essay paragraphs .
Since essays typically require you to follow the standard five-paragraph structure ( introduction paragraph , three body paragraphs , and a conclusion paragraph ), you know that you will have three body paragraphs available for arguing your decision.
- In two out of your three body paragraphs, provide two separate reasons for why one factor was the most important
- In the third of your body paragraphs, talk about the lesser contributing factor
This helps us to use a simple structure to respond to a “to what degree/extent” essay question:
Here is a visual representation of the structure to help you:
By dividing your three body paragraphs in this way, you devote two-thirds of your essay to the most important of the two factors, and then one-third to the lesser of the two factors.
At the start of each body paragraph, then, you need a clear topic sentence that provides a reason why this factor was important. Ensure that you have two separate reasons to support the factor you’ve chosen as the most important, and one for the lesser of the two factors.
Topic sentence for body paragraph 1:
“[Factor 1] was the most important element in [the Topic] because...”
Topic sentence for body paragraph 2:
“Another reason that [Factor 1] was the most important element in [the Topic] is because...”
Topic sentence for body paragraph 3:
“To a lesser degree, [Factor 2] was important to [the Topic] because...”
Some rare exceptions
The advice provided above will serve you well in replying to almost all “to what degree/extent” essay questions. However, here are some rare exceptions which you might need to watch out for, along with some quick advice for how to deal with them.
Some questions may ask you to compare three separate factors. On these occasions, the question is probably guiding you to argue that all three factors were of equal importance. Typically, you can assign each factor to a body paragraph and provide one reason why each element was a contributing factor.
Some questions may ask you to only assign a degree of importance to only one factor, without expecting you to provide a second alternative. In short, if this happens, it is probably a poorly written question.
Essay questions that require the analysis and explanation of only one factor should probably be a “how” or “why” question, rather than a “to what degree/extent” question. Firstly, check with your teacher about if they really do only want one factor considered and ask how they intend for you to answer the question.
For additional resources on how to write all the elements in a History essay, please check out the following scaffolding guide , which has examples of full paragraphs to help you out.
For advice on other kinds of exam questions, read over the exam question advice section .
Write a comment
Kim Brett ( Tuesday, 01 September 2020 23:32 )
As always, you've got your finger on the pulse, Michael. My students at Our Lady's College Annerley really appreciate your posts. Best wishes
History Skills ( Wednesday, 02 September 2020 02:13 )
My absolute pleasure, Kim. So good to hear that your students are finding the information helpful. Please say 'hello' to them for me and tell them I wish them all the best for their upcoming assessment.
Jeffery ( Friday, 18 December 2020 16:41 )
Hello, I am unsure how to formulate a thesis to this question, can you help me. "To what extent were the American colonists justified in revolting against England?"
Mutsawashe (Tuesday 15 June) ( Tuesday, 15 June 2021 15:29 )
please help me answer this question,"how far did the Germans benefit from the social policy ".My answer should start with ,the Germans benefited from the social policy to a lesser extent. So what comes next.
sharon odawa ( Thursday, 02 September 2021 01:12 )
my question is."to what extent does common and equity law a source of kenya"please help
maddison ( Sunday, 07 November 2021 03:06 )
this has literally saved me so much time on my assessments.
Karina Doherty ( Wednesday, 10 November 2021 17:26 )
It is possible to ask a well written 'to what extent' question that does not require a comparison, but only asks students to provide a judgement about a degree of success. There will naturally be a discussion about factors that limited the success or impact of a particular event or policy, but this is not really a comparison. The question could still be a perfectly valid and well-written.
Christina ( Monday, 13 June 2022 02:19 )
Great advice! Would be great if you correct the reference to a hypothesis. The correct word hers is "thesis".
Queenest ( Wednesday, 12 October 2022 17:41 )
Thank God I came across this article. It has been a blessing to me. Thank you so much
Ishmael ogechi ( Wednesday, 28 June 2023 10:59 )
Can an extent be used in questionnaire construction to elicit responds from respondents? Please may I know the firs scholar that used this term or introduced it in research work and when? Thank you.
Joy ( Wednesday, 18 October 2023 08:32 )
Can a ''to what extent'' question be used for the prevalence of the disease in two different parts of the world?
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How should I approach an essay which asks me 'How far' or 'To what extent' a statement is true?
Although questions like this may look difficult at first, writing a small list of the arguments which support the statement in the question, and writing a list of the arguments which oppose it, will make answering questions like this seem much easier. Once you have written these two lists, decide which side you agree with more. If you agree with the statement in the question, then your opening sentence should be that you agree with it to a great extent. If you disagree with the statement, then your opening sentence should be that you agree with it to a limited extent only. Once you have chosen which side you agree with more, use the first half of the essay to set out the arguments against your position. Then, use the second half of the essay to set out the arguments which support your position, as well as the arguments which show why the points made in the first half of the essay are flawed. Finally, your conclusion should acknowledge that although the arguments which oppose your position make some sense, the arguments which you have supported in the second half of your essay show that they have their limits. Let's use the question "The 1919 Treaty of Versailles was fair. How far do you agree?" as an example:Overall: The Treaty of Versailles was fair to a limited extent only. Some of the ways in which the Treaty was fair are that:1. Germany destroyed an area the size of Wales in France, so it was right that Germany paid reparations.2. The treaty supported the idea of national self-determination by creating new countries in Eastern Europe such as Poland and Czechoslovakia.However, to a greater extent the Treaty was unfair because:1. The reparations imposed on Germany were too high, and caused unfair suffering for the German people.2. National self-determination was not respected for the German people, as shown by the fact that Austria and Germany were forbidden from unifying under the Treaty.Conclusion: The Treaty was, on balance, unfair. Although Germany was responsible for significant damage and the Treaty supported the rights of nationalities, these arguments are limited by the fact that Germany's punishment was too harsh and that the German people did not enjoy these rights too.
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Complete Guide on How to Write “To What Extent” Question
- January 4, 2020
Certain types of questions require certain kinds of answers; one of such special questions are “to what extent” questions. Peachy Essay has decided to give a complete guide on how to briefly answer the “to what extent” question. To what extent questions are a specific category of questions that require a certain format when answering it. If you have to submit an essay, an assignment, paper or coursework on “to what extent” question, then there are certain things you MUST take note of, otherwise, your write-up wouldn’t meet up to expectation.
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Because we desire that you succeed excellently in your chosen career, we have created all forms of writing services, guides and tutorials to assist you in your academic pursuit. One of such is this Complete Guide on How to Answer “To What Extent” Essay Questions which is aimed at exposing reasons why students often fail such questions, while we give remedy on how you can ensure to always ace it whenever you come across such questions again.
The Type of Writing You Will Often Find To What Extent Questions
There are several types of writings: dissertations, thesis, projects, reports, essays, coursework writing, assignments/homework, research papers, articles, blogs, letters, speech, and many more. It is possible to find “ to what extent” questions in some of these types of writings, however, it is more closely associated with essay writings. Essays of “To What Extent” are commonplace in argumentative type of essay writings.
What Is An Essay?
The word “essay” derived its origin from the French word “ Essai” or “ Essayer ” which means “ Trail”. Oxford has defined it as “a short piece of writing on a particular subject”. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary prefers to define it as “an analytic or interpretative literary composition usually dealing with its subject from a limited or personal point of view”. Merriam Webster’s definition is more appropriate to our current discussion. Essays are often formal writing assignments that students across all levels and classes encounter. “To what extent” questions are peculiar to a particular type of essay – The Argumentative/ Persuasive Essay . Let us therefore consider the types of essays that exist.
Types of Essays and Why Only Argumentative Often Ask “To What Extent” Questions
There are basically four types of essays though there are more. We shall be considering only the four basic types of essays briefly though we will mention the others too. The four basic types of essays are explained in the following:
- Argumentative/ Persuasive Essay
This is the type of essay in which the writer presents arguments about both sides of an issue. It is a genre of writing which requires the writer to investigate a topic by collecting, generating, and evaluating evidence so as to be able to establish a position or take a stand with regards to the topic under evaluation. The student must build a his/her argument using facts, logic, expert opinion and sound reasoning so as to be able to convince the reader.
Therefore, it is often an argumentative essay that often ask “to what extent” questions. When it is an argumentative essay, it will often ask the question in this format: “ To what extent do you agree for the statement that…?” or it could ask the question as: “ To what extent do you agree or disagree with the statement /opinion that…?” The purpose of to what extent question in argumentative essays is to ask the student or writer to evaluate the degree or status quo of the issue or topic being discussed.
- Expository Essays
As the name implies, expository essays are purposely meant to shed light on a certain topic or issue under discussion. It is often used to describe, inform or explain a topic through the dependence on the presentation of facts and evidences that supports the information being presented.
A good expository essay is often written using the third person singular such as “it, she, he, and they”. The restriction of expository essays to just the third person is a major reason why it often does not ask “ to what extent” questions.
- Descriptive Essays
A descriptive essay is one which paints a picture through the use of words. It is often characterized by the giving of even the minute of details all of which appeals to the senses; physical, emotional or intellectual sensibilities. The descriptive essay aims at communicating a deeper level of meaning through the picture it paints. It is could chronologically, spatially or emphatically paint its description.
This feature of the descriptive essay is why it often does not ask the “to what extent” question.
- Narrative Essay
This is the type of essay that is most suitable in telling a story. The student can decide to present the story from the First Person, Third Person or what is called Omniscient Angle of narration. It often employs flashback, transitions or flash-forward technique and could present the story in a chronological linear or disjointed form. A narrative essay doesn’t often ask questions such as “to what extent” because a narrative essay often focuses on fictional stories and events (though it can also be used for non-fictional narration too). Whereas, “to what extent” questions often discuss factual, real-life-scenario issues, narrative essays are often fictional.
Other types of essays include:
- Cause and Effect Essays
- Compare and Contrast Essays
- Dialectic essays
- Exemplification Essays, etc.
What Does To What Extent Mean?
The word “extent” is defined by Merriam Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary as “the range, distance, or space that is covered or affected by something or included in something”. The phrase “to what extent” is often used when one is expected to describe the qualitative or quantitative impact or influence an issue, an object, an event or a person has on another person, object, event or phenomenon. It is a statement of valuation and an examination of the status quos of a thing.
The evaluation of the subject matter in “to what extent” questions often have two binary sides. These sides could be positive versus negative, advantages versus disadvantages, benefits versus loses, etc. When answering “ to what extent” questions therefore, you have to recognize the two sides of the coin.
Further Tips and Guide on How to Answer “to What Extent” Questions
From the foregoing, it is clear that answering “to what extent” questions require special care and attention. If you do not pay attention to the rules of answering “to what extent” questions, you will most likely fail the answer which will in turn affect your grade in that exam. We have already noted that “to what extent” questions are often asked in Argumentative essays. Let us therefore consider further tips and guide on how to answer them whenever you come across them.
- Research and Gather Your Facts
If you want to answer “to what extent” essay questions, you have to first of all recognize the fact that it is most probably an Argumentative Essay. Most times, it will take the argumentative pattern and arguments are given on the basis of facts otherwise, your argument will be thrown aside as being baseless. Therefore, the first thing to do is to research and gather together every necessary research material and data that is available on that subject matter. Do not be restricted to gather data that is limited to only the stand which you intend to take; gather data on the opposite position too, you will need it.
- Organize Your Facts
The second thing to do after your data research is to assemble the gathered data and organize them in accordance with how you intend to present them. Remember that argumentative essays are expected to be logical, cohesive and coherent. Therefore, organize the data accordingly. Since you had to gather research materials on the opposite stand also, do not jumble them up. The purpose of “To what extent” essay questions is to assess whether you are capable of demonstrating a logical reasoning capacity. Organize your points starting with the most striking to the least.
- Recognize The Two Sides
While presenting your essay, you have to recognize the fact that there exists another side to the issue other than the position which you intend to maintain. Therefore, you have to regularly refer to the other position. This you should do without undermining your own position. You could do these by using words that attributes the thoughts or opinions to other persons. Such words and/or phrases include “according to…”, “some believe that…”, “it is common knowledge among…”, “it is not strange to find that among…” etc. The recognition of the other side of the argument is a mark of scholarship .
- Balance Your conclusion
This is perhaps the most delicate part; hence, you have to be careful. All through the write-up, you have shown that you have taken a stand as required by the nature of the essay. However, upon conclusion , you will have to balance your position by recognizing the fact that though the other position has a strong point too, it’s just that your own position is obviously much stronger than the other. You do not condemn nor relegate, but be sure you recognize the significance and implication of taking the other stand.
Simple Solution to Getting your “to What Extent” Essay Questions Done Without Going through Stress
In all, “to what extent” essay questions are a peculiar kind that requires a peculiar kind of expertise. Many a time, students are unaware of the peculiarity attached to these kinds of questions. Consequently, they often score lower than their expectations.
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How to write an agree/disagree essay for IELTS Writing Task 2
01 February 2023
This article was first published on WeLoveIELTS.org (this website is now closed)
Knowing how to write an agree or disagree essay is very important because if you get this type of task question in the test and you don't know how to approach it, you might not get a very high score. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?
An agree/disagree question is very similar to the one above. Let’s look at two typical agree/disagree essay questions:
- Some people believe that nowadays we have too many choices. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?
- Living in a country where you have to speak a foreign language can cause serious social problems as well as practical problems. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?
Can you see how these are similar to my question at the beginning? Both include a statement (= a sentence expressing an opinion) and ask you to what extent (= how much) you agree or disagree with it.
OK, so what are you going to do first? Start writing? Absolutely not .
After you’ve carefully read the task question and understood the topic, the first thing to do is to ask yourself to what extent you agree or disagree with the statement. There are three possible cases:
- You agree completely
- You disagree completely
- You partially agree (which means you also partially disagree)
Next, ask yourself: ‘ Why do I think that?’ This is a very useful question because by answering it you will start generating ideas that you will then include in your essay.
How many ideas should you come up with? In all three cases the secret is that less is more, so I recommend having no more than four in total.
Let’s have a look at an example from Cambridge IELTS 11:
- Governments should spend money on railways rather than roads. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?
I’ve read the question and now I’m going to make some notes before I start writing. Here are my notes:
Partially agree - Both needs funding Why?
- Safety reasons
- Taxpayers expect government investment in both
Two main ideas. Now we have some direction and know where we are going with our essay. Should you now start writing? Not yet. You’ll need to develop these ideas, and the best way to do this is to give explanations, details, reasons and examples. Let’s add these to the notes.
- Safety reasons - Both roads and trains are widely used / all ages / need to be kept in good condition / if not, risk of crashes / example: Ponte Morandi collapse 2018 – Italy / lots of casualties / could have been avoided with more funding - maintenance / Trains are crowded at rush hour -> a railroad accident might be a terrible tragedy
- Taxpayers expect government investment in both - governments need to provide good services / citizens pay tax for this / example: train commuters pay to have efficient trains / if not – disruptions - late for work / same is true for road users / example: opening a new highway -> less traffic
Notice that I didn’t write full sentences but notes. Keep your full sentences for the essay! If you don’t do this brainstorming exercise before you start writing, the risk is that you’ll write whatever comes to your mind, and your essay will probably be confusing to read.
Top Tip: Think of how you’re going to structure your text. Keep life simple and always aim at four paragraphs: introduction, two body paragraphs and conclusion.
Two sentences are enough here. In the first sentence you should paraphrase the task question. In the second sentence say if you (partially) agree/disagree so you immediately let the reader know what you think.
Two main paragraphs
Why these paragraphs? A paragraph contains ideas about a single subject and using them will make your essay organised, structured and easy to read. When writing an agree/disagree essay there are, again, three possible options:
- You completely agree - First paragraph: reasons why you agree. 2nd paragraph: other reasons why you agree.
- You completely disagree - First paragraph: reasons why you disagree. 2nd paragraph: other reasons why you disagree.
- You partially agree - First paragraph: reasons why you agree. 2nd paragraph: reasons why you disagree.
Remember: it’s much better to have few well-developed ideas than a lot of poorly developed ones , so when you write the paragraphs make sure to give reasons, examples and details. All these must be relevant to the reason you agree/disagree.
Again, keep life simple and write one or two sentences only. You should briefly repeat and summarise your answer to the question. Don’t introduce information that you didn’t mention in your paragraphs before. We need a conclusion to conclude right? So, don’t introduce other reasons or topics at the end of your text.
- Read the topic of the question and make sure you understand it
- Ask yourself if you agree or not with the statement in the question
- Brainstorm ideas before you start righting
- State your opinion in the introduction
- Use four paragraphs
- Logically organise the main paragraphs (for example, one for reasons why you agree and the other for reasons why you disagree)
- Extend and develop your ideas with reasons, examples and explanations
- Write a short conclusion.
- Start writing immediately
- Include too many different ideas. Less is more!
- Introduce more information in the conclusion.
Hope this helps you with your writing. Good luck!
2023. IELTS is jointly owned by the British Council; IDP IELTS; and Cambridge University Press & Assessment
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IELTS To What Extent Essay Introductions
Hey! When students prepare for IELTS writing, they often learn “chunks” of language – these are groups of words or certain sentence structures that can be used in any essay. I encourage this. For example, I tell my students to always use an “although” sentence in the conclusion of an Advantages / Disadvantages essay as this is the best way to summarise both sides. In the same way, it can be great to use a cleft sentence when you are writing topic sentences for an IELTS To What Extent Essay, or to use a “while” sentence in the introduction of a Discuss Both Sides essay. Using these “chunks” will help you to write more quickly and be sure that the structure of your essay is correct.
However, whenever you learn a “chunk” of language, you have to be careful to use it in the correct way. What works in a problem / solution essay might not be good in a positive / negative development essay. The key is not just knowing what to write, but WHY you are writing it.
One area where I see many students have a problem is in the introductions to IELTS To What Extent essays. So, in today’s blog, I want to show you the TWO DIFFERENT TYPES of To What Extent questions (yes, that’s a surprise!) and how you can customise your introduction so that it 100% targets the question.
The Problem with IELTS Agree/Disagree Introductions
Let’s start by showing you the problem. I want you to read the following question and the student’s introduction and see if you can identify what they have done wrong (the question is from my 100 IELTS Essay Questions blog ).
International sporting events promote peace between countries. To what extent do you agree or disagree? There are many sporting events each year in which teams from different countries participate. However, while some people think that these events harm the relationship between countries, I agree that they help to promote peace for two reasons.
Can you spot the problem here?
Has the student introduced the general topic of the essay in the first sentence? Yes – they have done a good job here. Have they given an opinion? Yes – they have said that they agree with the statement for two reasons. Again, this is good. So, what is the problem? Well, let’s look at this part of the final sentence:
However, while some people think that these events harm the relationship between countries , I agree that they help to promote peace for two reasons.
First of all, look at the question again – where does it mention “some people”? IT DOES NOT! We have NOT been given an OPINION to agree or disagree with, we have been given a STATEMENT. What does this mean?
Well, firstly, you must not add “some people” into an introduction if they do not exist in the task (clearly this student is trying to recycle their introduction to a Discuss Both Sides essay but it does not work here).
Secondly, look at what the student has said – “some people think that these events can harm the relationship between countries “. Really? Can international sports events really “harm” international relationships? Of course they can’t!!! You can argue that they do not promote peace, but you can’t say that they “harm” it – that’s ludicrous. I see this problem all the time. A student is so desperate to use a “while” sentence that they invent an “opposite side” that makes no sense.
The lesson? If you are not given any “people” in an IELTS To What Extent Essay question, do not add them to your introduction (and definitely don’t invent an opposite position for them that makes no sense!)
How to write good IELTS Agree/Disagree Introductions
So, how should we write good introductions for this type of essay? Well, it will depend on the question. Let’s start by looking at questions like the one above i.e. that give us a STATEMENT to agree or disagree with.
Questions where we are given a STATEMENT / FACT
50% of IELTS To What Extent questions just give you a sentence or a statement to agree or disagree with. Don’t worry too much about what “statement” means, all you need to know is that these questions do not include the words “some believe”. Take this question for example:
Employers should give longer holidays to employees to help them do their job more efficiently . To what extent do you agree or disagree? = STATEMENT
The underlined part does not start with “Some believe” so we should not invent people who have the opposite view. All we have to do is tell the examiner what WE believe. If you have a question like this in your exam, I recommend you use one of these introductions, depending on your opinion:
Agree: Most people take some time off work each year to travel abroad or spend time with their friends and family. In fact, I agree that staff should be given longer holidays as it will motivate them and help them to improve their performance at work.
We cannot use a “while” sentence here as there is no contrast. Instead, we simply say “I agree” and paraphrase the statement . Note that I used “In fact” to join the sentences. I think that these are the only words that you need to transition in this sentence. Here, I have given the two specific reasons why I agree, but you don’t have to do this. If you want to keep things super simple, you can just say:
Most people take some time off work each year to travel abroad or spend time with their friends and family. In fact, I agree that giving staff longer holidays makes them more efficient in the workplace for two reasons.
OK, so that’s what you should write if you agree, but what happened if you disagree? Well, we simply switch “in fact” for “however”, and “agree” for “disagree” – simple!
Disagree: Most people take some time off work each year to travel abroad or spend time with their friends and family. However, I disagree that staff should be given longer holidays as it will cost businesses too much money and could actually demotivate the employees.
Again, if you want to, you can save the specific arguments for the body of the essay and just replace it with “for two reasons”. Please NEVER use “due to two reasons” or “because of two reasons” as “due to” and “because of” have the same meaning as “reason”. It sounds strange having both in one sentence!
OK, so now we know how to write introductions for questions that give a statement (and I am assuming that you are going to strongly agree or disagree for reasons that I outline in this blog post ), but what do we do when there ARE “some people” in a question?
Question where we are given an OPINION to agree or disagree with
I have to admit that this is a relatively new type of question (well, for somebody who has been teaching IELTS for almost 20 years, it feels new!). In the past, nearly all IELTS To What Extent questions gave just a statement, but more and more now give an OPINION. It’s easy to recognise when we are being given an opinion because the task will include the words “Some people believe” or “Some people think”:
Some people think that children should be taught how to manage money at school. To what extent do you agree or disagree? = OPINION
Again, we now have two options – to agree or to disagree. Last time, the choice didn’t make a great deal of difference to the language in our introduction, but here it does. Let’s imagine that you agree:
Agree: Being able to handle money effectively is an important life skill. In fact, I agree with those who believe that financial literacy should be taught in school for two reasons.
Can you see what I did here? I didn’t just say “I agree”, or use the silly phrase “Some people think that financial literacy should be taught in schools and I agree ” (adding “and I agree” to the end of a sentence is the weakest way to present an opinion) ! No, I used the phrase “I agree with those”. If you choose to disagree here, well, you can FINALLY use your friend the “while” sentence as you DO disagree with “some people”!
Disagree: Being able to handle money effectively is an important life skill. However, while some believe that financial literacy should be taught in school, I feel that it is better learned when people are older and already in the workplace.
This is the ONLY variant of the four introductions where we can use ‘while’ as it is the only time that we disagree with a group of people!
IELTS To What Extent Essay Introductions Summary
Ok, there is a lot of information here, but if you think about it carefully, the logic is simple, so let’s re-cap.
- If you are given a statement, never say “some people” but simply state if you agree or disagree (NO “while” sentences!).
- If you are given an opinion , use the phrase “I agree with those who feel” if you agree, or a “while” sentence if you disagree.
Trust me – if you can remember these simple rules, you are going to make a GREAT first impression. Using the right introduction shows the examiner that you are a student who can use language flexibly (and not one who uses the same introduction for EVERY essay!).
If you found this lesson useful, you are going to LOVE my video writing lessons , which contain clear and simple instructions like this for EVERY aspect of IELTS writing. So don’t delay, come and join us in My IELTS Classroom today and start getting the help you need to achieve IELTS success.
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How to answer ‘to what extent do you agree or disagree?’ questions.
By ieltsetc on March 31, 2020
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February 20, 2023 at 7:27 pm
It’s not always possible to avoid repetition. See my post about this Listening where ‘staff’ is mentioned 34 times! https://app.getbeamer.com/ieltswithfiona/en/new-podcast-hotel-staff-turnover-and-retention
December 23, 2022 at 4:23 pm
Writing “having said that” isn’t informal if one is aiming for a high band score.
January 2, 2023 at 11:29 am
Hi Sudeep. Are you asking if “Having said that” is too informal for academic writing? No, it isn’t too informal for academic writing. Best wishes Fiona
December 7, 2022 at 1:33 pm
Thank you for such an incredible resource. Just a quick query, about how long should the first/introduction paragraph be?
January 13, 2023 at 10:48 am
About 50 – 80 words, given the word limit for IELTS Task 2,
August 31, 2022 at 1:56 am
Can you recommend more sources of good model answers?
August 31, 2022 at 12:27 pm
To be honest, I don’t recommend most of the model answers that I see online apart from a few obvious ones like TED-IELTS and IELTS Liz.
There are about 100 model essays in my Members Academy, as we write one every week as part of the programme.
August 29, 2022 at 1:31 pm
In this article, are sample answers you have given good enough to learn from them?
August 31, 2022 at 12:31 pm
Sorry I don’t quite understand the question. I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to post sample answers that are not good for students to learn from.
October 2, 2021 at 6:53 am
Thank you very much for your in-depth article on IELTS writing. Please keep up your best works.
October 2, 2021 at 4:55 pm
You’re very welcome Rajib.
November 25, 2020 at 2:30 pm
Thanks a lot, your video clear to my doubt and once more thank you for the best explanation.
November 27, 2020 at 9:39 am
You’re very welcome Mohammed! Best wishes Fiona
October 17, 2020 at 1:14 am
Hello Fiona, While writing discuss both views type essays,in the second paragraph when we want to discuss one particular view,is it ok to say the supporters or proponents feel that….Then next sentence as This is because…
October 20, 2020 at 9:13 am
Hi Jincy. Yes definitely. That follows the ‘PEEL’ structure (Point – Explanation/Example – Link), so you made your point [Proponents argue that….] and your explanation [This is because…] and then you can link it back to the question in some way [Therefore…] or give your own opinion which links back to the question. Thanks for your comment, Best wishes, Fiona.
October 10, 2020 at 11:23 am
Hi Fiona, I have a couple of doubts here.
1. When they say “To what extent” should the structure be that we agree throughout the essay or we can disagree in the 3rd paragraph and conclude saying we agree?
2. When we say agree or disagree? can we just agree throughout?
October 12, 2020 at 1:09 pm
Hi Dhiraj and thank you for your question. 1. Yes, this is a perfectly acceptable way of structuring your answer (the 3rd paragraph can show the opposite opinion, but say why you think it’s wrong and then go back to your original argument in the conclusion). 2. Yes, you can adopt a one-sided opinion answer – you can say you totally agree and give 3 clear points why you agree. You might want to put some balancing arguments (e.g. in Paragraph 3, as we discussed above) but you don’t have to. The question does not ask for both sides of the argument. I hope that helps, Best wishes, Fiona.
January 6, 2021 at 5:35 am
Hi Fiona i Just came across your site and it cleared my doubts regarding “at what extent” type essays but i still have one doubt.
* In essay type ” do you agree or disagree” what should be the structure?
Kindly please help my IELTS test is on 20 January 2021.
January 10, 2021 at 11:36 am
Hi Sagar. Many thanks for your comment. The structure depends on how you choose to answer. If you totally agree, then you write a 4/5 paragraph essay on why you agree (as above). The same if you disagree. If you can see both sides, write a paragraph on each. Don’t worry so much about structure. Focus more on making your arguments clear, logical and persuasive, with relevant points and strong examples/illustrations to support your points. The structure is simply a 4 or 5 paragraph essay to organise your arguments and there is not just one correct way to do this. There are several ways. Check out more examples about structures here and find a different type of structure that still works well here. Good luck in your test!
August 6, 2020 at 11:12 am
Hi Fiona , this was extremely useful . Thank u so much for clearing the confusion regarding the types of essays. Just one query, is it okay to keep repeating the word ‘school uniforms’ throughout the essay? Kind Regards.
August 6, 2020 at 5:12 pm
Hi Aisha. You’re right – ‘school uniforms’ is repeated too much! It’s quite hard to find exact synonyms for ‘school uniforms’. I played around with it a bit and put ‘wearing the same clothes’ and ‘school outfits’. It doesn’t sound quite right, but possibly better for IELTS! Many thanks for your comment. All the best Fiona