Difference between opinion and discussion essay IELTS writing task 2

Lots of IELTS test takers are quite intimidated by the IELTS writing task 2- an essay, especially the differences in essay types. As a rule, the main differences between opinion vs. discussion essay IELTS writing task 2 are as follows:

That said, many of the test-takers whom I taught realised writing an essay is not that difficult once you know and understand the IELTS essay structure, basic rules and vocabulary which you need to include. Only then successfully writing an IELTS essay can be quite easy.

What is IELTS writing task 2? 

As a general practice, you should spend 40 minutes on the IELTS writing task 2 and you need to write 250 words. The main objective of this task is to provide a response to an essay question. Here are the most frequent types of IELTS essay questions:

  • advantages or disadvantages essays, 
  • opinion essays, 
  • discussion essays, 
  • problem solution essays,
  • direct question essays.


There are about 11 common topics for IELTS writing Task 2: 

  • Education
  • Environment
  • Business
  • Health
  • Leisure
  • Family & Children
  • Tourism
  • Society
  • Work
  • Media & Advertising
  • Sports & Entertainment 


IELTS test-takers need to keep themselves updated on various current topics and issues as these frequently come up as essay questions. For that reason,I usually advise my students to watch the news, read articles and newspapers to become aware of the current events happening in the world. That helps to realise various viewpoints and opinions and exposes you to vocabulary related to a particular topic. 

When improving your writing skills and overall IELTS score you can’t forget writing assessment criteria.  Being aware of the assessment criteria and following them helps you score a higher band in your writing.


There are four writing assessment criteria for the IELTS writing exam:

  1. Task achievement 
  2. Coherence and  cohesion
  3. Lexical resource
  4. Grammatical range and accuracy

If you want to have a good mark and pass with a high band, you need to make sure you cover all four criteria. These criteria are shared with everyone on the official IELTS website. 


What is IELTS writing task achievement criteria? 

The task achievement criteria refers to the content of the essay. Achieving the task means that we are able to answer the question by providing enough evidence, examples and other relevant content. The structure of the essay also falls into the task achievement category. 

Let’s focus on the structure of opinion and discussion essays because they have some common features and common rules that we need to follow when we write. 

Here’s an example essay talking about computers 

Sample opinion essay topic:


You should spend no more than 40 minutes on this task.​

Write about the following topic:​

Computers are being used more and more in education and so there will soon be no role for the teacher in education.​

To what extent do you agree or disagree?​

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge and experience.​

Write at least 250 words.​


How many paragraphs are there in an opinion IELTS essay? 

There are usually between four to six paragraphs in an opinion IELTS essay. First paragraph is the introduction and the last is called the conclusion. Paragraphs in between are called the main body.


In which paragraph do we need to state our opinion or if we agree or disagree  in an opinion IELTS essay? 

In an IELTS opinion essay we need to share our opinion in the introduction. 


What is the best essay structure of an IELTS opinion essay? 

There are four main points in the structure of an opinion IELTS essay:

  1. Write an introduction to the topic which clearly states your opinion on the subject. ​

(either ‘yes, I think there will be no role for the teacher’ or ‘no, I don’t think the teacher’s role will be affected’). In the introduction you say what the main topic is about. You also provide some background information and then state your opinion.

  1. Main body: include two main points/reasons to support your opinion and write about them with examples. In the main body we have to provide the main points to justify our opinion with supporting evidence (examples).
  2. Main body: Think of one alternative opinion (However, some people argue that…) and give examples. You need to provide another paragraph where you will present an alternative opinion in order to achieve balance in your essay. ​
  3. Write a short conclusion to summarise your main points and restate your opinion​


Sample Discussion essay topic: 

You should spend no more than 40 minutes on this task.​


Write about the following topic:​

Computers are being used more and more in education. Some people say that this is a positive trend, while others argue that it’s leading to negative consequences.​

​What is your viewpoint?​

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge and experience.​

Write at least 250 words.


Opinion and discussion essays are relatively similar yet there are some differences which might be tricky to spot to some IELTS test-takers. 

In this discussion essay topic there are two points: 

Computers are being used more and more in education. Some people say that this is a positive trend, while others argue that it’s leading to negative consequences.




Opinion essay: 

Computers are being used more and more in education and so there will soon be no role for the teacher in education.​

What is the difference between the opinion and discussion essay topics? 

The main difference is in the wording. In the opinion essay we have one statement/opinion and then the question is asking whether we agree or disagree. In the discussion essay it’s clear that we have two different opinions, opinion 1, opinion 2 and then we have to say whether we agree or not. It’s really important that we cover both of the opinions, which makes it a balanced essay, and then say what our opinion is. 

Why do you have to mention the opposite view in an IELTS opinion essay?

The reason you mention an opposite view is because you need to have a balance. Imagine you have an opinion essay and you say your opinion only and that’s it. This way your essay is not balanced. In an opinion essay you need to present some general facts that you know about others who believe in something different than you to keep your balance in your essay. 

And of course, in the conclusion you can restate your opinion. 


What is Coherence and cohesion in the IELTS writing task 2?

Essay coherence is about the structure, it means your IELTS essay is divided into clear paragraphs, each paragraph includes a clear topic and there is progression and logic going through all your essay. Cohesion relates to the flow of what you have written; including a range of appropriately used linking words throughout the essay improves your cohesion. 


Some examples of expressions you can use, especially in opinion essays:

Expressing opinion​:​

  • Personally, I think….​
  • In my view…​
  • In my opinion…​
  • From my point of view…​
  • I am in favour of the idea of…​
  • I am completely against the idea of (+ verb + -ing)…​
  • I think/admit/believe that…


Other linking expressions:

What is Lexical resource in the IELTS writing task?

Lexical resource in your IELTS writing exam relates to vocabulary. The wider range of vocabulary you use correctly and appropriately, the better you score in the IELTS writing exam.The IELTS examiner will also look at how well your words help you to express your thoughts.

You are encouraged to use less common lexical items, consider adding collocations and write in an appropriate style and register of the essay. It’s really important you do not repeat the same words and phrases over and over again in the essay. 


What phrases to use to express someone else’s opinion in a discussion essay? 

Expressing someone else’s opinion in a discussion essay​:

  • A growing number of people claim/argue/believe/feel that…​
  • There is a common belief that…​
  • Many people hold the view that…


How to expand your vocabulary range and write better essays? 

The best way to develop and expand your vocabulary is by reading the news and articles in journals and websites such as The Guardian, The Economist, the National Geographic. Watching TV series and documentaries which provide more technical information rather than everyday lexis, is another way to learn new words. Lastly, look into word class and collocations (see below).

What is word class and how to learn new words with it? 

When building the vocabulary range with word class you research different types of categories of words that are used. Instead of always using the same noun, find out what is the verb that comes from a noun. Or what is an adjective that comes from a specific noun.

A great practise is to start to get into this habit of thinking what is the noun, the adjective, the verb. For example:

employee ->  employment

dramatic -> dramatically ->drama

government-> govern 


What are collocations and how to improve writing with collocations? 

A collocation is two or more words that often go together. Collocations make your writing more stylish, formal and academic, for example:

Because it is necessary to speak good English for work, more and more people are studying in English-speaking countries.


As a result of the need to speak .good English for work, more and more people are studying in English-speaking countries.


Job security has declined dramatically in recent years.


There has been a dramatic decline in…


This verb expression, something that has declined dramatically, can be turned into a noun there has been a dramatic decline. This is a great way of making your essay very stylish. 

You might already know that using passive is great to focus on the action, whereas an active voice is great when you want to focus on who is doing the action -the doer. 

You might have heard that in IELTS writing task 2 you need to use the passive more, but it’s not really necessary that we only need to use the passive and this also connects to the grammatical range and accuracy that we have to cover. 


Use both active and passive voice in your IELTS essay:

Computers are being used more and more in education. (passive : action)

People are using computers more and more in education. (active : doer)


What is Grammatical range and accuracy in the IELTS writing task?

Grammatical accuracy in your IELTS writing task relates to correct use of grammar, whereas the grammatical range refers to a variety of grammatical structures you use. Overall, you need to include more complex grammar structures in a correct way to score high in this task achievement. You also need to pay attention to punctuation.


What complex grammar structures should be included in your IELTS essay? 

When writing an IELTS essay you should avoid simple grammar structures and instead use more sophisticated forms like present perfect tense, passive voice and relative clauses.


What are relative clauses? 

There are two types of relative clauses: 

Defining relative clauses provide essential information

e.g. Some people work at home. They often miss discussing ideas with colleagues.

          People who work at home often miss discussing ideas with colleagues.


Non-defining relative clauses include non-essential information / in commas

e.g. Some museums are free to enter in my country. This is a good idea, because it allows everyone to have access to culture.

          Some museums are free to enter in my country, which is a good idea, because…

These grammatical points are very important also for coherence and cohesion because we use relative sentences to link our phrases or words or ideas in a better way, and then we achieve better coherence. 


What’s the best book to prepare for writing for IELTS? 

If you’re preparing for the IELTS writing exam you should equip yourself with some good resources. There are plenty of books about IELTS and choosing the best might be tricky. My students and I tested over a dozen of IELTS books for writing and here are our favourite IELTS books: