Do The Advantages Outweigh the Disadvantages? Posted on March 24, 2012

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Three things about the wording of this essay question:

  1. You do not necessarily have to write on both sides of the issue because it didn’t specifically tell you to – it just asks do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

  2. It is asking for an opinion. It is asking if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages – that is asking what the candidate thinks about the issue.

  3. Don’t try to classify questions according what teachers have told you. Read the question and answer the question you have been asked. (A recent survey of IELTS Task 2 questions available on the internet revealed that questions can be asked in over 25 different ways with each one requiring a distinct approach. Nobody can teach you all of these and few of us would remember how to do them all anyway.)

As already stated, this question actually doesn’t make it mandatory for you to discuss both sides of the issue (although this would be expected in a university essay). I could therefore answer this question without giving the opposing view.

For example, I could begin my essay:

“Many students are attracted to the possibility of studying overseas these days. Although it has been suggested that studying abroad has a number of drawbacks, the advantages it provides in relation to educational and personal development are clear and overwhelming.”

I would then go on to write a body paragraph on the educational benefits and another on the personal development benefits.

Sometimes the IELTS Task 2 question will say:

Discuss both views and give your opinion”

In this case, if you do not give both views you will lose marks for not completely answering the question.

For candidates who are trying to obtain band 7 it is essential that you make your position clear throughout your essay. Therefore the idea of writing a balanced essay is really quite dangerous if it is not asked for. It can be done, but the danger is that the reader will be confused about which side you are on. (There is terrible advice current in Bangkok at the present time on this issue which basically tells candidates to say something to the effect:  ” …  ’name of topic’ is a controversial issue which has both pros and cons and the individual should make up their own mind on this issue.”)

When asked to give an opinion, as in this essay, take a side and present your argument.

If you do put the opposing view to the one you will take, put that paragraph first and give the side you agree with the second body paragraph (or second and third if you write three body paragraphs). Do not attempt to give the side you do not agree with a strong case. Make your opinion clear in the introduction and again in the conclusion.

Here is an introduction and conclusion that make the writer’s position clear for the essay topic given above. (The body paragraphs gave a negative paragraph about the cultural problems faced and problems with visas and the positive paragraph talked about the things summarized in the conclusion below.)

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