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IELTS Preparation Series 3, Episode 6: Question Tasks and Topics in Writing


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Hello, and welcome to Study English, IELTS Preparation. I'm Margot Politis.

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Today we'll look at question tasks and topics in the essay section of the IELTS test.

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Both IELTS tests - the academic and the general - require you to write a short essay.

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What are the questions likely to be about?

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Media: censorship; privacy;

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or the influence of advertising.

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Education: testing; computers;

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public and private education.

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Environment: eco-tourism; global warming;

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pollution.

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Health: obesity; alternative medicine; exercise;

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diet.

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Communication: the internet; mobile phones.

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Society: youth issues; juvenile delinquency;

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ageing populations.

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There are two parts to an essay question.

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First, there is the question topic, a statement like this:

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Internet access should be under government control to avoid any potential harm to children.

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And second, there is the question task, which will be something like:

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

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OR

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Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of government controlling Internet access.

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OR

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What are the reasons for government control? What other measures could be taken to deal

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with this problem?

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The purpose of the different question tasks is to test a range of writing skills.

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They can test your ability to identify causes and effects. You could be asked "What are

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the causes …" or "What are the effects …"

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Or they are designed to see how well you can present a solution to a problem. For example:

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What measures could be taken to deal with this problem?

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Here you would need to say what can be done to stop children being harmed by material

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on the internet, such as using software that prevents children accessing harmful sites

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or keeping computers out of children's bedrooms where they are not supervised by a parent.

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Often the question task tests whether you can present two sides of an issue, compare

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opinions and justify your view, such as these:

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

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OR

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Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of government control.

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OR

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What is your opinion?

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Here's the question topic again:

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Internet access should be under government control to avoid any potential harm to children.

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Let's look more closely at some question tasks for it. First:

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

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Here you would need to decide how much you agree or disagree with the issue of governments

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controlling Internet access and give your opinion.

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Your ideas would need to be supported with reasons and appropriate examples.

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Why should the government control the internet? Try to think of situations that support what

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you think.

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A very similar style of essay would be required if you were asked:

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What is your opinion?

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With this question task you must still consider other points of view. And remember the instruction

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to give reasons and provide examples still applies.

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What about this question task?

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Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of government control.

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Here you're not required to directly give your opinion, but to present and explain both

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sides of the issue. But by saying what you think is good and bad; your view of the issue

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should be obvious.

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The question task can be more direct, like this:

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What are the reasons for government control? What other measures could be taken to deal

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with this problem?

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You should give reasons why governments need to control the Internet and then suggest what

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else could be done to protect children. This task tests how well you can identify causes

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and suggest solutions.

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Let's look at some more sample questions.

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In some countries there are fewer doctors and teachers taking up jobs in rural areas.

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As a result, communities in these remote areas are being poorly served.

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What are the effects of this and what measures could be taken to improve it?

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The main topic is teachers and doctors not working in remote areas. Here you would need

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to write about the negative effects that a community experiences when there aren't enough

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teachers and doctors.

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For the second part of the task - what measures could be taken - you should suggest some ways

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of improving the situation. This question tests your ability to write about the effects

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of something and provide some solutions.

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Let's look at another question.

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Children's eating habits and lifestyles today are more likely to be harmful than beneficial.

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Discuss both these views.

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The main topic is what children eat and how they spend their time.

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The task asks you to discuss two views - both these views.

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What are the 2 views?

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The question topic says "more likely to be harmful than beneficial", so the 2 views are:

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The more likely, according to the statement, that children's eating habits are causing

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harm.

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And the opposite, that "children's eating habits" are beneficial.

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The task requires you to compare the negative effects of what children eat these days with

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the positive effects. So it's the sort of question task that tests if you can compare

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2 sides of an issue. And it gives you the opportunity to challenge the question topic.

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You could argue that children these days eat very well and exercise a lot and that the

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idea that they don't is exaggerated. Remember though that you can't do this without giving

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good reasons and providing examples.

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Computers have changed the way children are taught. Some believe this means that children

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are missing out on a well-rounded education.

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What is your opinion?

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Here the main topic is the use of computers in children's education.

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You need to decide what you think about computers in classrooms and whether they might stop

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children getting a well-rounded education. In forming your opinion, you should also write

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about what other people might think.

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So we've looked at questions in the general areas of education, technology, society and

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health.

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The essay question consists of a statement called the question topic, which can be about

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any topic of general interest and a question task, which determines the style of essay

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you need to write. Remember that the same topic can be looked at from different perspectives.

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Include not only causes, effects and solutions but also advantages and disadvantages when

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building a bank of ideas for a topic.

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That's all for now.

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Go to our website if you want to watch any episode of Study English again. You'll also

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find plenty of extra material there to keep you busy. The address is: australianetwork.com/studyenglish

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I'll see you next time on Study English.

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