Did I answer this IELTS essay question correctly?

by Dmr


Please, help me to analyze my failed attempt to get an 8 band for my writing, since I'm not sure where it went wrong. I had my exam two weeks ago and there was this question for the writing task 2:

More houses are needed in many countries to cope with increasing populations.

Would it be better to build houses in existing towns and cities, or to develop new towns in rural areas?

The phrasing was a little bit different, but the structure and the topic of the question was exactly the same.

My question is what should be the structure for the answer to this kind of question? I identified it as a discussion question, which, I presume now, was a mistake.

Comments for Did I answer this IELTS essay question correctly?

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Mar 17, 2017
discussion question
by: IELTS buddy

How you identified it does not tell me anything about how you actually answered it, and that is the important thing.

For this question you are given two possible scenarios / opinions so it is best to consider them both.

Here are the two:

1) build houses in existing towns and cities

2) develop new towns in rural areas

So you could have two body paragraphs discussing the benefits of each and then in your conclusion state which you think is the best choice and why (or you could have that as a third body paragraph).

I'm not though saying that that is the only possibility.

You could for instance have a first body paragraph discussing the problems growing populations are having on housing in cities, then another paragraph discussing what you think the best solution is and why by choosing one of the opinions i.e. the best solution is to build houses out of town (explain why) and say why that is better than in town.

But as I said, you didn't explain exactly how you answered it so it's difficult to know for sure whether you addressed the question fully or not.

But remember that not getting an 8 may not be to do with the way that you answered the question as there are various other criteria that you get graded on, such as grammar, vocabulary and coherence.

So it's never going to be possible to say for sure why you did not get the score you wanted.

Mar 18, 2017
Details of my answer
by: Dmr

Thank you for such a quick answer!

Okay, some more details then. I went with the following structure, which I consider kind of a classic one for discussion essays and that's why I decided not to describe it in the opening post:

- Introduction: Rephrased question, stated opinion (went with building new houses in the countryside)

- Body 1: Described benefits of developing existing cities. I tried to use some words for uncertainty like "it will [probably] allow for..", "it will [likely] lead to..." to highlight that this isn't what I'm convinced of.

- Body 2: Went over the advantages of constructing new houses in rural areas

- Conclusion: Restated my opinion with a short summary of points from the second body paragraph.

From what you say, it turns out that this structure should've been good enough if I'd written it correctly.

My next exam is in three weeks. I guess I need to focus on working hard to improve my lexical resource and coherence.

Thanks again!

Mar 19, 2017
Details of my answer
by: IELTS buddy


Your ideas and general answer do look fine, but as I say it could be a number of other things bringing your score down.

We don't know how you presented or supported them and as you say there are other factors like grammar, coherency, lexis etc.

It's really impossible to judge someone's answer without actually reading it.

Good luck with your next attempt. Let us know here how it goes.


Jun 15, 2017
by: Fast Track IELTS

Hi there,

We find that a lot of students panic when a question is worded in a way that they feel they cannot immediately identify the 'type' of. It sounds like you did well to identify it as a Discussion question but maybe you felt stressed at the beginning as to how to structure your essay and that this compromised your band score? If so, make sure you take a deep breath in future and have confidence in your abilities!

As I'm sure you are aware, the best way to prepare is past papers, so you can be knowledgable about all the ways they may ask questions in the exam. Lots of past papers are available at www.passmyielts.com.

Good luck next time,
Fast Track IELTS

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