Today, I want to share with you a sample band 9 answer I have written for task 2 of the IELTS writing test. This concerns the issue of ageing populations and the so-called demographic time bomb that worries experts and government officials around the world.

First, though, you might wonder about whether sample band 9 answers are really worthwhile:

The Question

Here is our task 2 question for today:

In many countries, the proportion of older people is steadily increasing. Is this a positive or negative trend?

It is pretty straightforward, so you would not need to spend a long time answering it. You just need to think about whether it is good or bad that some countries now have an ageing population.

Once you have decided that, you need to think of some ideas to include in your answer. I have decided that there are both positive and negative aspects, so I’m going to provide a balanced answer, but you don’t always need to do that and it is fine to simply state that it is positive or negative.

Just remember to pick ideas that are realistic and easy to develop with explanation and examples. Do not pick superficial or prejudicial ideas or else you will not be able to expand upon them sufficiently for a good score.

Vocabulary for Demographic Change

When it comes to talking about ageing populations, you need to have a good vocabulary relating to both age and population. You need to know the following words, many of which are misused by IELTS candidates:

Aging/ageing(adj.) getting olderAn ageing population presents various challenges to a society.
Elderly(adj.) (of a person) old or ageingElderly people often face problems related to their health.
Elderly(noun) old people considered as a groupThe elderly often face problems related to their health.
Demographic(adj.) relating to the structure of populationsThe world is undergoing a major demographic shift.
Demographic time bombThe notion that ageing populations will cause massive problems in future.Countries around the world must plan now to avert or cope with the anticipated demographic time bomb.
Generation(noun) all of the people born and living at about the same time, regarded collectivelyYoung people tend to have more progressive views that are not shared by those from older generations.
Workforce(noun) the people engaged in or available for workA shrinking workforce is just one expected outcome of this trend.

Just remember that words must be used accurately. Taking any of the above words and using them incorrectly would not help you get a better score. You can search for these words on Google to find articles in which they are used. Here is one about demographic time bombs.

In particular, the words “elderly” and “generation” are frequently misused. You can see a short lesson on “generation” here and for elderly just note that we say “the elderly” to refer collectively to old people, but we cannot say “elderlies” as it does not refer to them individually.

I have some more vocabulary about populations here. Here is an explanation of why accuracy is so important:


Your structure for this essay will depend on what you want to say. In my case, I will structure my essay like this:

IntroductionIntroduce the topic
Give my opinion
Body paragraph #1Show why it is a negative trend (increased costs vs lower revenue resulting in economic disaster)
Body paragraph #2Show why it is a positive trend (reduce the population, increase diversity)
ConclusionSummarise my essay

Sample Band 9 Answer

In the twenty-first century, many countries are for the first time experiencing a phenomenon known as a demographic time bomb. This means that they have an ageing population and are facing a potential economic crisis as a result. This essay will explore the situation, arguing that there are both major benefits and drawbacks.

First of all, it is important to note that this is predominantly viewed as a negative trend. Countries are understandably worried about the situation because, once their demographic composition reaches a certain point, they will have vast numbers of retired people and hardly any young people to work. Without enough workers, the economy will struggle, and of course there will also be a shortage of tax revenue and a vast uptick in the amount spent on healthcare due to the cost of supporting an elderly population. For these reasons and more, many countries are determined to avoid the demographic time bomb at all costs.

However, whilst this does sound bad, it is worth noting that there are a few positives. For one thing, the world is grossly overpopulated and in places such as Asia the population has reached utterly unsustainable levels, with the result being the complete devastation of the environment. After a few decades of demographic change, the population should start to decline, which will allow people to live in less crowded places and to return some towns and cities to nature. In addition, when countries cannot find enough workers, they are forced to allow more immigrants. This can help societies to become more multicultural, and again looking at Asia, these notoriously homogenous societies can finally begin to accept outsiders. One example is Japan, which has already reached this point and is transforming into a more open and tolerant society by welcoming immigrants to solve this problem.

In conclusion, there are both positives and negatives to the issue of ageing populations. Whilst it will cause economic hardship, it may lead to a brighter future in terms of a less crowded and more multicultural world.