Opinion in IELTS Task 2 Introductions

Some people argue that taking a year break causes hesitation to continue study permanently. However, many people claim that taking a gap year between finishing high school and starting university studies is beneficial.

If you want a good score for Task Response in IELTS writing (see public band descriptors) then you need to make sure your opinion is clear in every paragraph – including your introduction.

Most of the time in academic writing we try to make our own opinions look strong and other people’s appear weak. We can achieve this in 3 ways:

1. Positioning

Position other people’s ideas before your own and add a contrasting signal to show that your own idea is coming next.

In our opening example, our writer uses effective positioning, beginning with someone else’s idea before giving us her own, and she uses a contrasting signal – however – to confirm that it’s her idea next.

2. Evaluative language

Use negative evaluative language to talk about other people’s ideas and positive evaluative language to talk about yours.

Our writer does not use particularly negative language to describe opposite opinion, but that’s OK – she has already put opposite opinion in ‘weak’ position. She then strengthens her own idea with an extremely positive evaluative adjective – beneficial.

3. Problematising

When introducing other people’s ideas, use problematising phrases to show that there might be something wrong with their ideas.

Our writer uses a problematising phrase – some people argue that – to introduce opposite opinion and make it appear weak. Great! But then..

sinking ship
..she uses another problematising phrase – many people claim that – to introduce her own idea!? This is supposed to be your opinion, not many people’s!

Summary

If we take out that second – confusing – problematising phrase, then we’re left with a nice introduction to this argument about gap years. The writer’s opinion is now obvious, and the reader can look forward to some supporting arguments in the following body paragraphs.

  • Some people argue that taking a year break causes hesitation to continue study permanently. However, taking a gap year between finishing high school and starting university studies is beneficial.

Two chill pills for writers

Students experience stress when they enter university because college life is tough and tiring.

In my opinion this writer needs to take a chill pill. The claim he or she is making about university seems highly subjective and emotional.

The first problem is that there are plenty of students – myself included – who do not experience stress when they enter university. Secondly, college life is not always tough and tiring. College life includes fun social activities with friends, holidays, and leisure activities on and off campus. Both of these ideas can be incorporated into the original statement after taking two chill pills:

  • Students often experience stress when they enter university because college life can be tough and tiring.
  1. (Pill 1) The adverb often tells us two things:
    • the frequency of stress (not always!)
    • the number of students who experience stress (not all!)
  2. (Pill 2) The modal can tells us about the possibility that college life is not always tough and tiring (It’s possible, but maybe not.)

Why is it a good idea to weaken claims like this?

  • it makes claims easier to defend
  • it makes your writing appear less subjective and more objective
  • it shows that you are confidently uncertain. 
  • it sends a message to your reader that you might be wrong, and you welcome feedback and corrections

When you’re reading journal articles, look for other strategies writers use to weaken (or strengthen) claims.

Worthy (of) worth?

Taking a break between school and university is worthy of their time.

OK so here it would be better to write:

  • Taking a break between school and university is worth doing.

And so why, in this situation, is it better to write worth rather than worthy (of)?

Worth

Use worth when you want to evaluate a thing, person, or action:

  • Exercise is worth doing. (positive evaluation of ‘exercise’)
  • Smoking isn’t worth it! (negative evaluation of ‘smoking’)
  • That guy’s worth a million dollars. (positive financial evaluation)

This is particularly useful when you want to evaluate claims in IELTS Task 2 writing.

Worthy (of)

Use worthy (of) when you want to say that a thing, person or action deserves attention, effort, or respect. The key word here is deserve:

  • He’s not worthy. (= He doesn’t deserve our respect.)
  • Two incidents are worthy of mention here. (= Two incidents deserve our attention.)
  • The poem is worthy of deep reflection. (= The poem deserves our effort.)

Note that worthy (of) is now considered quite old fashioned. These days it is used more often to refer to people rather than things. The last two examples would now more likely be written:

  • Two incidents are worth mentioning here.
  • The poem is worth reflecting upon.

Unfortunately there are some grammar and collocation issues relating to the word worth. Lucky for you, these are described with examples in a previous post.

I love you because I love you

Yes, I like my job because it matches my education.

In IELTS you will often be required to express opinions about topics that you may not have thought about very deeply or discussed in daily conversation with friends. Not only do you have to give opinions, you also have to give reasoned support for these opinions.

The opening statement can be expressed:

Claim: I like my job.
Support: My job matches my education.

Fine. But let’s say you studied chemistry at university and you now work as a chemist. Then you could say:

  • I like working as a chemist because I studied chemistry at university.

OR

  • I studied chemistry at university because I wanted to work as a chemist.

But then it is possible to say:

  • I enjoy working as a chemist because I studied chemistry at university because I wanted to be a chemist because I was studying chemistry because I wanted to be a chemist.

This is known as a circular argument. You say you like your job, and since you chose to study chemistry, we assume that you like that, too. So we still don’t know why you like chemistry (your job)! You might as well say “I like it because I like it!

circular argument

There are much better reasons why a person might like their job:

  • the job pays a good salary
  • the job involves travelling (which you enjoy)
  • the job involves meeting interesting people
  • the job presents opportunities for career development
  • the workplace is situated conveniently close to your home
  • (other reasons here)

So, when you’re preparing for IELTS, think – more deeply than usual – about the things you like (or don’t like). And then think about why you like (or don’t like) them.

Let’s practice right now. Here is a list of things people either like or don’t like. Choose one item and add a comment below, saying why you either like or don’t like the item. Try to give two reasons, and avoid those circular arguments!

  • travelling
  • shopping
  • reading
  • listening to music
  • preparing for IELTS

Opinion in topic sentences

A student recently asked what is the difference between..

  • the topic sentence of a body paragraph
  • the main claim of the paragraph

Many students have read about topic sentences and believe that it’s essential to make a separate sentence to introduce the topic before making any kind of argumentative claim:

(sample body paragraph #1)

The first issue to discuss relates to the use of police time in the enforcement of marijuana laws. If marijuana is legalised then valuable police time will be saved. First of all, supporting idea one blah blah blah blah blah. In addition, supporting idea two blah blah blah blah blah. Furthermore, supporting idea three blah blah blah blah blah. Finally, supporting idea four blah blah blah blah blah.

  • sentence 1: topic only (saving police time), no opinion
  • sentence 2: topic (saving police time) plus opinion (valuable police time will be saved)

This is unnecessary repetition. The second sentence already contains the topic AND the main claim of the paragraph, and so it already behaves like a topic sentence:

(sample body paragraph #2)

If marijuana is legalised then valuable police time will be saved. First of all, supporting idea one blah blah blah blah blah. In addition, supporting idea two blah blah blah blah blah. Furthermore, supporting idea three blah blah blah blah blah. Finally, supporting idea four blah blah blah blah.

In academic writing it is generally a good idea to get to the point as quickly and concisely as possible. This kind of writing is much easier to read and is more likely to result in a good score in IELTS Task 2 for task response (TR) and coherence and cohesion (CC).