Problems with the IELTS Essay Topics

by Chris

Will my grade get lowered in IELTS writing for going off topic?


I took the IELTS Academic today and I have some questions regarding the Writing test.

I think I have made a mistake because at part II, I think I went a little off topic.

I mean I wrote something related to the given subject, but I panicked because I was running out of time and I just wrote down what popped into my mind (somehow related to the subject).

Do you think this will lower my grade too much?

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Sep 25, 2014
IELTS writing going off topic
by: IELTS buddy

Hi Chris,

It's really difficult for anyone to tell you if your specific essay was off topic without seeing it.

But yes, a persons score will be lower if they do go off topic. If you take a look at the IELTS Task 2 band descriptors (available online or from your local IELTS centre) you can see that you are graded on this for 'Task Response'.

There are things like 'the answer is tangential' or 'addresses the task only partially'.

If you go badly off topic your vocabulary could also be wrong i.e. not related to the task.

So you could get penalised with these if you do go off topic, but it really depends how off topic you go so it is not possible to generalise. Someone would need to look at the essay you did to be able to tell you.

If what you wrote was related then you may not have gone off topic.


Feb 20, 2016
Off topic
by: Anonymous

Hi there

I did my test today, I was writing very fluently, and when I re-read the assignment in the last few minutes, I noticed that I didn't fully answer the question.

The topic was something like this:

Wild animals should be protected. But some people believe that some wild animals should be protected more than others.

Write about these two views.

I wrote an introduction to this by talking about how I think it is true that some animals should be kept safe.

Then I wrote two paragraphs on why some animals are in danger and in need of protection (human interference - climate change)

I wrote one paragraph on how to keep them safe.

I was able to fix my conclusion to match the task more and wrote that some people might consider it unfair to only focus the protection on the endangered animals but due to what I have written in the paragraphs above, that is not my opinion.

Do you think I will be marked poorly because of this mistake?

Feb 21, 2016
Protecting animals question
by: IELTS buddy


It's difficult to tell you if you answered correctly as the essay question you posted did not really make sense. You must have remembered it incorrectly. I'd really need to see the proper question to assess your answer.

May 21, 2016
Need an answer
by: Anonymous


I made a big mistake in my ielts writing task2. The question was about if it's better or not for you countries to spent their money on children sport. I understood the question, but the problem is that instead of writing about countries I wrote about companies.. how much will the examiner going to deduct marks from it??

May 23, 2016
Need an answer
by: IELTS buddy


If you look at what I wrote below, you will see that if you write about the wrong topic it can bring the score down quite a bit for 'task response', maybe to a 4 or 5, but it is difficult to say for sure without seeing what you actually wrote.

Aug 13, 2016
Social Skills and Good Education
by: Navi


Today I was asked to write on social skills and good education:

Why do employers hire people with good social skills along with education.

I have written a decent essay, but I got confused in the middle, I was going good with communication and interaction skills, but suddenly i went of the topic and I also included about computer skills too........... I mentioned along with good communication skills an employee should also possess good computer skills too.

Please let me know your opinion.

Aug 14, 2016
Social Skills and Good Education
by: IELTS buddy

Hi Navi,

It really is too difficult to comment on a point like you make without actually seeing your essay.

You can get knocked down to a band 5 for task response for providing 'irrelevant detail' but I don't know if what you did would cause it to come down to a 5.

It could also affect coherency.

But it depends on the context and how it fits in with the overall essay.

So you really just have to wait for your result and hope it is ok.

Oct 10, 2016
Writing task 2
by: Anonymous


I did my IELTS exam last day. I got writing task 2 about successful life can be achieved by university education only and some thing that it has changed nowadays.

But what I wrote as response was going to community college can also make an individual successful if he has true desire. And then the teaching quality has also increased to a good level in community college now than earlier times.

I compared university education with community college education.

But I have a doubt whether I misinterpreted the question. Whether the question was about higher education.

Will my score get affected by this?? Please reply.

Oct 10, 2016
Writing task 2
by: IELTS buddy

Unfortunately it's really too difficult to answer your question without seeing what the actual question you had to answer was.

You explained the question, but knowing EXACTLY how it was worded is important to know if you answered it or not.

Really you will just have to wait for your result.

Nov 19, 2016
Ielts general writing 2
by: Anonymous

Writing task 2 was:

Some people say that during vacation in other countries visitors should not stay in hotels as they will not meet the local people.

Discuss your opinion.

Unfortunately my response was about advantages of hotel stay versus in the tent. I added some discription about cultural effect and economical effect.

What would you say regarding my essay?


Nov 20, 2016
Problems with the IELTS Essay Topics
by: IELTS buddy

To be honest you must have remembered the essay question wrong because what you wrote does not really make sense.

You said 'hotels will not meet the local people', but hotels can't meet people. Only people can meet people.

I'm not quite sure what you mean.

So with not being able to understand the essay question it's a bit difficult to be sure if you went off topic.

However, if staying in a tent was a main part of your essay and it was nothing to do with the question, then your score could be reduced for Task Response i.e. answering the question properly.

For example, someone would get a band 5 for TR if they only answered the question 'partially', band 4 if it was answered in a 'minimal' way, and 3 if the whole essay was absolutely nothing to do with the question (you can see all that in the IELTS public band descriptors).

Without seeing your answer and the proper question it is really too difficult to know, so you will just have to wait for your score.

Good luck

Dec 10, 2016
Was I off topic?
by: Anonymous


Thank you for the great help I got from this website and the IELTS made easy writing books, they are the best and have improved my writing significantly.

I had this question in my test:

Many people believe that the world’s most urgent problems can only be solved by international collaboration.

Do you agree or disagree?

I had a health problem which compelled me to leave the test room for 10 minutes, so I was extremely nervous because I was running out of time thus I couldn't think of any relevant ideas.

- My thesis sentence was:

I strongly agree with this idea and I therefore suggest solutions.

- 1st paragraph:

I mentioned that people are responsible for most of the world's problems such as global warming, and I expanded on its causes and I suggested solutions.

- 2nd paragraph:

Was horrible!

I started it with:

Another example is the widespread of health problems like obesity and how it becomes an alarming issue worldwide.

I expanded on its consequences and how to prevent it. For instance, I said all the world should be avoiding fast food and ban its adverts because they are manipulating our thinking and forcing us to buy it.

In addition, I said we should encourage exercise.

- Conclusion:

I paraphrased the introduction.

Was I off topic, and approximately what band should I get?

Thank you

Dec 11, 2016
Was I off topic?
by: IELTS buddy

Firstly it's completely impossible to tell you what band you could get without seeing your essay.

As regards to being on topic, again, it's always difficult to tell when someone explains briefly what they wrote instead of actually seeing the essay.

They key thing to write about is why countries should work together (international collaboration) if you agree, or why they should not (if you disagree), or both as of course you can discuss both sides of the argument.

As an example, you could in your first paragraph explain why some problems are international. Like you say, obesity as a world wide problem for instance, but other things that come to my mind more readily as clearly international problems are things like global warming (you mention this) and terrorism - they clearly affect everyone.

Then in the next paragraph you could explain how international collaboration helps to solve these problems (as opposed to countries working alone.

For example in the case of terrorism there is the need to share information between intelligence agencies or in the case of global warming for scientists to share their research or for countries to agree levels of CO2 reduction.

From what you said about your essay, you may have answered the question as you discussed those kinds of things, but my concern is that it's not clear in what you said whether you focused on the aspect of international collaboration and why it's necessary.

For example you said you suggested solutions to global warming but you didn't explain whether you related this to international collaboration.

As I said I'd really need to see your answer to be sure.

Good luck anyway.

Jan 12, 2017
off-topic answer
by: Anonymous

Hi my essay task 2 was:

Some people think that governments should act to change the individuals way of living to make a more healthy lifestyle whereas others think that individuals can decide their own way of life.

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

But I understood the question in the wrong way and answered it, will I be receiving scores.

Jan 13, 2017
off-topic answer
by: IELTS buddy

Without seeing your essay answers it's impossible to predict how your score may (or may not) have been affected.

But generally speaking, yes your score will be reduced for Task Response Criteria if you go off topic.

But it could be reduced to 3, 4 or 5, depending on to what extent it was off topic so it's difficult to say.

May 25, 2017
go wrong
by: baljinder

My topic was:

In some societies the father stays at home to look after the children while the mother goes out to work.

Why and is this is a positive development?

But I wrote about parents. Like if one is going out another one stays in the house for care. How many marks can I get?

May 28, 2017
go wrong
by: IELTS buddy

It's really impossible to give you any indication about your score without seeing your essay and you gave very little information to explain what you actually wrote about.

You said you wrote about one parent staying at home while the other goes out. That's the topic so I'm not sure what your concern is.

Jun 08, 2017
Attempted on wrong sheet.
by: Anonymous

I have attempted Task 2 on task 1 sheet and task 1 on task 2 sheet. Will my paper get disqualified?

Jun 09, 2017
Attempted on wrong sheet.
by: IELTS buddy

They should still mark it.

Jun 19, 2017
Off topic
by: Anonymous

Hi good day.

I took the ielts exam last saturday and the question in writing part 2 was "the emergence of space exploration can lead to the possibility that space tourism is possible in tje future. Do you think it is a positive or negative development?"

My anwer was it is a positive development for some reasons:

1. It will allow us to see a fascinating beauty of other heavenly bodies
2. It can strengthen relationship ties with other nations. Since only developed countries have the capacity to send people to space, third world countries can invest and establish relationship with them to allow their citizens to visit space as well.
3. It will allow us to check if other planets are habitable and ideal for survival.

My concern is with my 3rd reason. Do you think it is a little bit off topic? Since we're talking about space tourism? Thank you for any response.

Jun 28, 2017
Off topic - Space Tourism
by: IELTS buddy


It does seem a bit off topic. They must all be directly related to space tourism.

But it's difficult to say for sure without seeing your actual essay because it depends how you worded it and whether you somehow linked that point into space tourism.

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How can I have knowledge on all the possible IELTS Writing Task 2 topics?

by stuti goyal

Essay may come on any of the various topics such as crime, education, food.

how can i have knowledge about each so as to write precisely about any kind of topic that may come

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Nov 07, 2015
Knowledge on IELTS essays
by: IELTS buddy

Hi Stuti,

To have knowledge on anything you need to read and learn.

So you need to firstly make sure you know about the kind of topics that come up in IELTS (for example you won't get questions on things like politics or religion).

You have already shown you have an idea of the types of topics that can come up - crime, education, food etc.

So you then need to find some sources, such as on the internet, and then read about those topics.

However, they are very broad topics so you want to narrow them down to make sure you don't have too much to read.

So the next thing is to make sure you know what kind of questions will come up that refer to the topics, look at IELTS writing questions.

Also look at model essays.

These again will give you an idea of what you will need to write about and study.

Ideally you should also make notes as you read on the key points otherwise you will forget what you have read.

You are often asked to discuss opinions on the topics, problems, solutions, causes etc. (you will see this if you look at essay questions).

So make notes to answer these types of questions.

This will also help with your speaking as the speaking is around similar topics.

Good luck

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What do we do if we don't know anything about the IELTS essay topic?

by jugojyoti kar

Hello Everybody,

Wish You all a very warm Afternoon.

I do not have prior experience in appearing IELTS exam. So I am not fully aware of the way to write essays.

How to proceed specially in that cases where a topic is given in the exam for which we have to write at least 250 words including all valid points inside that and more over if we have minimal or no idea about that topic then what should be our approach?

I am asking this question as in IELTS We can expect any types of subjects to be a part of our assignment. Please do me a favor on that.


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Feb 06, 2015
IELTS Task 2 Topics
by: IELTS buddy


The essays are based around current topics that you are expected to have some knowledge of given that you are intending to study at a university.

For example, this is what it states on the official IELTS site:

"Topics are of general interest to, and suitable for candidates entering undergraduate and postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration".

So you do need to be reading as much as you can about the kinds of topics that appear in IELTS, and you can find out about these topics on sites such as this or other IELTS sites.

Look at past IELTS writing questions for example, then do some reading around those kinds of topics.

Of course a topic may come up that you do not know much about. If that happens then you really do just have to do your best to brainstorm some ideas that are relevant to the question.

Remember it is not necessarily the quality of your ideas that will let you down. Even if the idea is not great, if it is relevant to the question and you support it with evidence and/or examples and present it coherently then it will still likely be a good answer.

In order to learn more about writing IELTS essays, check out Task 2 section in the IELTS Lessons and also take a look at IELTS Essay model answers.

The model answers will also give you an idea of which type of topics arise in the test.

Oct 29, 2016
hi guidance needed
by: Anonymous


Today my topic was that people should get a job in multinational companies in order to learn the culture, and I answered unfortunately different type of cultures employees have to interact and have to manage, and if they manage well companies appreciate that and even employees get an appraisal, and spoke about few cultural aspects with examples.

Oct 30, 2016
hi guidance needed
by: IELTS buddy

To be honest it's too difficult to really understand from what you have said how you answered the question. You'll really just have to wait for your result.

Feb 11, 2017
Gone off topic task 2 - writing
by: Anonymous

In task 2 - writing, the question asked to write cause and effect essay (which I misunderstood and ended up writing a problem solution essay). To what extent will it affect my scoring??

Feb 14, 2017
Gone off topic task 2 - writing
by: IELTS buddy

I'd really need to see they essay to be sure, but if you look at the IELTS public band descriptors for Task Response in Task 2 you'll see for a band 5 it says:

"addresses the task only partially".

If you only addressed half the question it may be a partial answer which could limit your score for this criteria to 5 (there are three other criteria of course and you get an average across them) so it doesn't mean you would get a 5, you could get higher if you did well in the other criteria.

But as I say it's impossible to know for sure without seeing your answer so really you just have to wait for your result.

Good luck

Jun 17, 2017
Off-topic writing task 2
by: Anonymous

What to do if the topic was about space tourism but I wrote about overseas tourism? What band scores can I get?

Jun 18, 2017
Off-topic writing task 2
by: IELTS buddy

It's not possible to know your score as your final writing score is a an average of four criteria that you are marked on.

But writing about the wrong topic comes under the 'Task Response' criteria. If you answered the question in a minimal way your Task Response could come down to as low as 4. But it's not really possible to know for sure without seeing your essay.

Jul 08, 2017
How many scores will I be punished
by: Anonymous

My task 2 topic is Everybody should stay at school until the age of eighteen. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Everybody writes about the schooling and dropouts, but I thought it was about staying at dormitories or home. I know I will get penalty for being off-topic but how many scores?

Jul 11, 2017
same question
by: Anonymous

Even I misinterpreted the question, but in another way. Being from India, I was under the assumption that school literally meant school, just up to grade 10.

As we have a 10+2+3 year education system in India, I went on to justify the benefits of leaving school at the age of 16 and moving to junior college (typically 16-18 years) in India.

So my whole essay was like a comparison between a sheltered life in school and a more rigorous and holistic learning atmosphere in college.

I concluded that students should move from school to college at the age of 16, as opposed to 18.

Not sure what to expect but this ambiguity is frustrating!!

Jul 14, 2017
Misunderstanding the ielts essay topic
by: IELTS buddy

It's never possible to say for sure how off-topic an essay is without seeing it, but according to the scoring, for Task Achievement you could get around a band 3 if it is completely off-topic and nothing to with the question.

You may get a 4 if it's connected to the topic, say education, but you wrote about the wrong thing, but a 5 if you partially answered the question.

Jul 17, 2017
Off topic or not
by: Anonymous


So first this is the ielts writing task 2 question:

The animal species are getting extinct due to human activities in land and in sea. What are the reasons and solutions?

So my writing had 2 main ideas:

First, i wrote that it was because of the lack in people's awareness about natural preservation and the solution for this is to add more schooling programs to raise the awareness.

Secondly, it was because the animal species has some precious value when it comes to medication as some parts of its body can help to cure some severe diseases. And the solution is to create more strict laws and build national parks.

So i was wondered whether my essay was off topic or addresses the task only partially. Because I didn't mention anything about the sea. And how much my score will be lowered. Thanks

Jul 20, 2017
Off topic or not
by: IELTS buddy

I'm not really sure if you answered the question.

I don't know what you mean by "the lack in people's awareness about natural preservation". It depends how you explained it.

And it's not really clear how "animal species has some precious value when it comes to medication as some parts of its body can help to cure some severe diseases" is a reason. It could be related if you went on to explain how people are killing animals for experimentation which is leading to extinction, though animals are specifically bred for experimentation so I can't see how this relates to extinction.

So it may be that your ideas did not clearly answer the question but really it is very difficult to say without seeing your full essay.

There are several things you could discuss to answer that essay question.

For example on land the destruction animal's habitats through deforestation or hunting (such as has been the case with elephants for their tusks).

For sea you could talk about over-fishing, the hunting of wales, or maybe climate change as the heating of the oceans kills off marine animals.

Jul 20, 2017
Off topic or not
by: Anonymous

Well to classify my writing, i'd like to add some more details:

- the first reason is because of the lack in people's awareness about natural preservation. Then I support this idea by showing that nowadays a lot of people have nefarious needs as they want to make a fortune by hunting for animals. This is the consequence of poor education because many schools don't teach their students about protecting endangered animals species.

- Secondly, some animals body part has precious values when it comes to medication. For instance, deer's horns can cure a lot of severe diseases when it's grounded and mixed with some herbs ingredients. So people try to hunt animals as it can help humans to cope with diseases.

I'm really afraid that my writing is so off topic :( please help me to answer the question whether my score get lowered if I wrote like this?


Jul 20, 2017
Don't know anything about the IELTS essay topic
by: IELTS buddy

Now you have explained further it does look like you were on topic, though like you say you did not mention anything about the sea.

It is possible it could be viewed as partially answering the question by an examiner, in which case Task Response could get limited to a band 5 (but you are marked on 3 other criteria as well).

But I really can't prejudge what another examiner might do or know for sure as I've not seen your essay. I mean your first point about hunting could refer to wales as well which are hunted for their meat. So this would cover sea.

So you really just have to wait for your result unfortunately. It's too difficult to predict any kind of score or penalty.

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