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Opinion and argument essays

Saturday, May 30, 2009 Posted by Dominic

There are of course more ways than one of writing an essay. In practical terms, however, in the IELTS exam there are two main types of essay structure available. These are the:

argument essay
opinion essay

You need to be familiar with and practise both types of essay for the exam so that you can answer any question.

How are they different?
The two essay types both use many of the same writing techniques such as coherence and cohesion. The differences are found in how they are structured, with differences in the introduction, main body and conclusion.

The argument essay:
The introduction restates the question as a problem to be discussed and solved in the course of the essay.

Typically, it will summarise both sides of the argument and then state that both these positions will be discussed in the essay with a view to drawing a conclusion.

There are typically two balanced paragraphs stating, explaining and exemplifying both sides of the argument.

The conclusion comments on both sides of the argument and gives the writer's personal opinion about the topic and reasons for that opinion.

The opinion essay in summary:
The introduction restates the question and then gives the writer's personal opinion and the main reason for holding this opinion.

There may be two or three content paragraphs, each stating, explaining and exemplifying a different reason for the writer's opinion.

The conclusion typically summarises the reasons for the writer's personal opinion.

Two sample essays
Read through the two sample essays and note how one main difference between them is that the opinion/answer comes in the introduction in the opinion essay, whereas in the argument essay it comes in the final paragraph as a conclusion.

Why choose an argument essay
Argument essays can often easier to write because
  1. you already have the two ideas you need to write your essay: "I agree" and "I disagree" - all you need to do is find some reasons for and against together with examples to illustrate.
  2. the second content paragraph can mirror the language of the first paragraph and so make the writing process more efficient
  3. the conclusion is easy to write: you give your personal opinion and comment on the arguments on both sides - it is the answer to the essay task
Choose this type of essay if the question tells you to discuss both sides of an issue.

Why choose an opinion essay
These tend to be more challenging to write because
  1. you may need more ideas and it is easy to start repeating ideas and language in your content paragraphs
  2. there is also a danger of repeating yourself in the conclusion if you use it to summarise your arguments
Sometimes, however, you cannot think of any reasons on the other side of the argument, but only for or against. In this case, it makes sense to choose an opinion based essay.

Choose this type of essay if the question does not contain a contentious issue.

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