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How to Identify & Answer Advantage & Disadvantage Question Types in IELTS Writing Task 2

Ron Ross September 5th, 2019

In this article, we'll discuss Advantage & Disadvantage question types and look at how to identify them and what essay structure you should use to answer them. After learning about this question type, you'll get a chance to look at some practice questions and a complete sample essay.

How to Identify IELTS Writing Advantage & Disadvantage Question Types

Whenever you see a question that asks you to discuss the positive and negative aspects of a situation and give your opinion regarding the matter, you know you're dealing with a Advantage & Disadvantage question type. Let's look at an example of this.

As a result of tourism and globalization, English has become the most widely spoken language in the world. Some people think this will lead to English becoming the only “global language”. What are the advantages and disadvantages to having one global language? Do you believe that it could have a positive or negative effect on society?

As you can see, this question is asking you to describe the advantages and disadvantags to having one global language and your opinion on whether it could have a positve or negative effect on society. So, it is is a Advantage & Disadvantage question type.

Now to do well on this question type, it is essential to learn how to use the words "advantage" and "disadvantage" correctly. The videos below teach you how to use the words "advantage" and "disadvantage" with proper prepositions and common collocations.

 

 

To learn more, check out the following blog posts:
TOEFL & IELTS Writing Essential Words - advantage and advantageous
TOEFL & IELTS Writing Essential Words - disadvantage and disadvantageous

IELTS Writing Task 2 Essay Structure - Advantage and Disadvantage

There are three main essay structures for this question type. In order to fully understand the various question types, we will look at examples of each along with the specific outline:

Question 1: In some countries young people are encouraged to work or travel for a year between finishing high school and starting university studies. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages for young people who decided to do this.

Simple structure (Outline A):
In this case, the question asks you to simply discuss both advantages and disadvantages; that’s all you have to describe in this case. You do not need to discuss your opinion. This is the most simple question for the Advantages and Disadvantages question type, and you will need to use a simple structure. Let’s call this Outline A. It looks like this:
  1. Introduction
  2. Advantages (1&2)
  3. Disadvantages (1&2)
  4. Conclusion

Question 2: In some countries young people are encouraged to work or travel for a year between finishing high school and starting university studies. Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for young people who decide to do this?

Opinion Version (Outline B):
While the question is similar to Question 1, you would need to take a different approach. This question is not asking you to simply list off the advantages and disadvantages, nor is it asking you to say whether there are more advantages. This question is asking you whether or not the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Therefore, you will need to discuss your opinion and write about the importance (or unimportance) of the advantages.

First off, you will need to decide which side is stronger for you to write about. In other words, you will need to decide if it is easier for you to write about how the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, or vice versa. This is where your own opinions come into play and depend on the topic.
In this case, if you are more comfortable writing about how the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, stick with that, even if you personally do not agree with the topic.

After you decide, this the structure you would need to use:
  1. Introduction
  2. Stronger Side
  3. Weaker Side
  4. Conclusion

Question 3: Many young people are encouraged to work or travel for a year between finishing high school and starting university. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages and give your own opinion.

Discussion Opinion (Outline C):
This third question is a combination of Question 1 and Question 2, as it requiresyou to discuss the advantages and disadvantages while also giving your opinion. Keep in mind that your paragraphs may need to be a bit shorter than usual, since you have to add three different main paragraphs in your essay. In this case, you would want to combine both outlines for the following:
  1. Introduction
  2. Advantages (1&2)
  3. Disadvantages (1&2)
  4. Opinion
  5. Conclusion

Now, let’s take a closer look at how to plan each paragraph.

We will use Outline B from the previous section, as it tends to be the most unique and most common question type of the Advantages and Disadvantages type essay.

Introduction – In general, you will need two sentences for this paragraph. Since this is the first paragraph of your essay, you should paraphrase the question that was given to you. In other words, rewrite the question in your own words using synonyms. The second sentence will introduce the specific topics that you plan to discuss in your main body paragraphs. Therefore, your introduction paragraph should look like:
  1. Rewritten Question – This will be a paraphrased version of the question.
  2. Thesis Statement – This will be your opinion – state which outweighs the other.
Stronger Side – This paragraph should be about 4-5 sentences long. In this paragraph, you will describe why a specific side is stronger by using explanations, details, or examples. Since this is your main argument, it will be longer than the following paragraph (Weaker Side), because you are using two examples. The paragraph should look like this:
  1. Topic Sentence – This will introduce the stronger side.
  2. First Explanation of Stronger Side
  3. Example of Stronger Side
  4. Second Explanation of Stronger Side
  5. Example of Stronger Side
Weaker Side  - This paragraph should be about 4-5 sentences long. In this paragraph, you will describe why this side is weaker with explanations, details, or examples. This paragraph is shorter than the preceding paragraph (Stronger Side) because it is not your main argument, and you will only use one example for the explanation. The paragraph should look like this:
  1. Topic Sentence – This will introduce the weaker side.
  2. Explanation of Weaker Side
  3. Example of Weaker Side
Conclusion – This paragraph will wrap everything up, and it is not the time to add any new information into your essay. This paragraph should be around 3-4 sentences, and include the following information:
  1. Summary of the Main Points
  2. Restate Your Position

In short, here is what the final Paragraph Planner would look like for Outline B:

I. Introduction
         A. Rewritten Question (1 sentence)
         B. Thesis Statement (1 sentence)
II. Stronger Side
         A. Topic Sentence (1 sentence)
         B. First Explanation of Stronger Side (1 sentence)
                      C. Example of Stronger Side 1 (1 sentence)
         D. Second Explanation of Stronger Side (1 sentence)
                       E. Example of Stronger Side 2 (1 sentence)
III. Weaker Side
         A. Topic Sentence (1 sentence)
         B. Explanation of Weaker Side (1-2 sentences)
                      C. Example of Weaker Side (1-2 sentences)
IV. Conclusion
         A. Summary of the Main Points (1-2 sentences)
         B. Restate Your Position (1-2 sentences)

Now we’ve learned the paragraph outline, let’s look at an example. For our example, we will use the following question:

IELTS Writing Cause and Effect Sample Question and Model Essay

Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin learning a foreign language at primary school rather than secondary school. Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?
Model Essay
Topic sentences are in bold.
Explanations and details are in red.
Examples are in blue.  

Introduction:

Traditionally, children have begun studying foreign languages at later stages in their educational careers, but some believe that it could be beneficial to introduce them earlier. While there are both advantages and disadvantages associated with this topic, the positive aspects take precedence over the drawbacks. (45 words)

Paragraph 1:

Young children are better able to learn languages for a variety of factors. First off, studies show that young children pick up languages better than teenagers. The younger brains are, the more they are able to retain information in the long-term. It has also been proven that young brains absorb material at a faster rate. Additionally, implementing language lessons in primary schools would allow for more flexibility within the school system. Younger children will be able to engage with the material more frequently through shorter sessions, thus maintaining their enthusiasm and progress.   (92 words)

Paragraph 2:

However, there are some disadvantages when it comes to learning languages at an earlier age. Primary teachers may not be qualified to provide lessons in foreign languages, resulting in inadequate teaching.  This could demotivate younger students and give them a negative experience in language learning.  Further, school districts may not be able to carry on foreign language teaching from primary to middle schools. In this case, students would not only lose their progress, but they would also be demotivated due to the lack of consistency throughout their educational careers. However, these issues can be effectively addressed through consistent support in the school district, and pose only a minor threat to the advantages. (112 words)

Conclusion:  

Although there are a few disadvantages regarding the study of a foreign language during primary school, there are a plethora of advantages that outweigh the negative aspects. Young children’s innate abilities should be appreciated and fostered to their full advantage. (40 words)

Total Word Count:  289 words

Note: It is normal for this specific essay to be longer than 250 words. Due to the topic and question type, 30 words over the limit would definitely not count against you.


IELTS Writing Task 2 - Advantage & Disadvantage Questions

This section presents a list of common IELTS Writing Task 2 - Advantage & Disadvantage questions. If you want to prepare for the IELTS Writing Test, these questions are a must study.

Question 1: Some people advocate the death penalty for those who committed violent crimes. Others say that capital punishment is unacceptable in contemporary society.Describe the advantages and disadvantages of the death penalty and give your opinion.
[Practice and View Model Answer]
Question 2: It is becoming increasingly popular to have a year off between finishing school and going to university.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of this?
[Practice and View Model Answer]
Question 3: With the rise of e-books come the decline in paper books. Some people see this as a good step forward while others do not. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this trend?
[Practice and View Model Answer]
Question 4: There seems to be an increasing trend towards assessing students through exams rather than continual assessment.  What are the advantages and disadvantages as a form of assessment?
[Practice and View Model Answer]
Question 5: Many elderly people are no longer looked after by their families, but are put in care homes or nursing homes.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of this trend?
[Practice and View Model Answer]
Question 6: It is often considered that change is more beneficial to people than trying to avoid it and have everything remain the same.  Do you think the advantages of change outweigh the disadvantages?
[Practice and View Model Answer]
Question 7: People now have the freedom to work and live anywhere in the world due to the development of communication technology and transportation. Do the advantages of this development outweigh the disadvantages?
[Practice and View Model Answer]
Question 8: Nowadays governments are investing more in public transport such as buses and trains rather than in building new roads. Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?
[Practice and View Model Answer]
Question 9: One of the consequences of improved technology is that many jobs that used to be done by people can know be completed by robots or computers. Do you think the advantages of this development outweigh the disadvantages?
[Practice and View Model Answer]
Question 10: Some parents believe that extra private lessons outside school hours, where students work alone with a teacher, can help them do better at school.  Others disagree.What are the advantages and disadvantages of private tuition?
[Practice and View Model Answer]
Question 11: A lot of places in the world rely on tourism as a main source of income.  Unfortunately, tourism can also be a source of problems if it is not managed correctly.Describe the advantages and disadvantages of tourism in the modern world.Do you think that the benefits of tourism outweigh the drawbacks?
[Practice and View Model Answer]
Question 12: Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin learning a foreign language at primary schools rather than secondary school. Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?
[Practice and View Model Answer]
Question 13: Computers are becoming an essential part of education. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages and give your own opinion.
[Practice and View Model Answer]
Question 14: Many people in society believe that having fixed punishments for all crimes is a more efficient way of dealing with criminals in the justice system. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a fixed punishment?
[Practice and View Model Answer]
Question 15: In some countries, governments are encouraging industries and businesses to move to regional areas outside the big cities. Do the advantages of this trend outweigh the disadvantages?
[Practice and View Model Answer]



 
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