There are various types of essay that you may be asked to write in task 2 of the IELTS writing test, but one of the most common ones is the “agree or disagree” question. This will provide some kind of statement and then ask you whether (or to what extent) you agree or disagree.

In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about writing an agree or disagree essay.

agree or disagree

What is an “Agree or Disagree” IELTS Question?

There are various kinds of questions in IELTS writing task 2, and one of them is called “agree or disagree” because that is precisely what you are asked to do. The question will normally contain those words although there are slight variations:

  1. Do you agree or disagree?
  2. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

This question will follow a statement and your task is to give your reaction to that statement. As long as you can understand the precise nature of the statement, this question is quite to understand.

How Should I Answer an “Agree or Disagree” Question?

The important thing about this sort of IELTS question is that you answer the question directly. In other words, you should state whether you agree, disagree, or neither agree nor disagree.

Some people wonder whether it is possible to give a balanced answer and others seem to think that you must always give a balanced answer, but the truth is simple:

You can agree, disagree, or neither agree nor disagree. Any of these is acceptable.

Just pay attention to the exact wording of the question. If it asks “to what extent…?” then you should clearly state the extent to which you agree/disagree:

  • Completely agree
  • Partially agree
  • Neither agree nor disagree
  • Partially disagree
  • Completely disagree

If it just says “Do you agree or disagree?” then you don’t necessarily need to give the degree and you could just say “I agree” or “I disagree.” However, it is better to provide more explanation and detail.

If you want a more in-depth discussion of the issue of balance, you can read this article.

agree or disagree essays

Structuring “Agree or Disagree” Essays

Some kinds of IELTS essay are easy to structure. For example, “Discuss both views” and “Advantages and disadvantages” questions can easily be answered with a predictable four-paragraph structure. However, “agree or disagree” questions require a little more thought. Sometimes it can be a little difficult to find the right structure.

Generally, I always recommend writing four or five paragraphs and preferably just four. As such, here are two possibilities for structuring your “agree or disagree” essay:

IntroductionIntroduce the topic
State your position
Body paragraph #1Main argument #1
Support with explanation and example
Body paragraph #2Main argument #2
Support with explanation and example
ConclusionSummarise the essay and reaffirm position

Or:

IntroductionIntroduce the topic
State your position
Body paragraph #1Discuss the first position
Mention any weaknesses or counterpoints
Body paragraph #2Discuss the second position
Mention any weaknesses or counterpoints
ConclusionSummarise the essay and give your position

As you can tell, the second structure is more complicated and thus there is more scope for mistakes in terms of Task Response or Coherence and Cohesion. However, if you do this right it can provide a more interesting and developed answer.

In any case, the important thing to know is that your structure should be coherent and logical. Your reader should never feel confused. If you make a plan before writing, this will really help you to stay on topic and deliver your views effectively.

Let’s look at an example:

Some people argue that the government should give every unemployed person a mobile phone and should make sure they have access to the Internet. They believe this is the best way of using public money to reduce the problem of unemployment.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

To answer this question, I would firstly decide the extent to which I agree or disagree. I disagree that it is the best use of public money, so I would structure my essay thusly:

IntroductionIntroduce the topic
Say it is a good idea but not the best idea
Body paragraph #1State why is a good idea – help with finding jobs
Counterpoint: phones are not ideal
Recommendation: computers instead of phones
Body paragraph #2State why it is not a good idea – not realistic
People already have phones, so this wouldn’t help much
Suggest other methods of investment
ConclusionReiterate main idea: it is a good idea but flawed and therefore not the best idea

Now let’s look at how I would write that essay:

Sample Band 9 Answer

It has been suggested that governments should give jobless people phones and internet access to alleviate the unemployment problem. This essay will argue that, whilst this may be a good idea, it is certainly not the best way of using public money to solve the problem.

To begin with, it could be seen as a positive step to give unemployed people phones and internet access. This would certainly help improve their lives in a small way and may give them the ability to hunt down job leads. However, it is a not a guaranteed method of finding employment. For one thing, phones are severely limited in comparison with computers, which would be far more useful for jobseekers. A computer is more appropriate for writing CVs and scrolling through lists of adverts. As such, perhaps public funds would be better spent on computers rather phones.

In addition, the idea of just giving unemployed people technology in order to solve their problems seems a little wishful. The fact is that most people have phones and internet access in 2021, suggesting that this is not what prevents them from finding work. Perhaps the money would be better spent on job fairs, counselling, benefits, or even investment in local businesses to spur the hiring process. Indeed, whilst none of these are a perfect solution, they all seem rather more realistic and preferential than buying thousands of phones and internet contracts.

In conclusion, while it may be a good idea to give all jobless people a phone and internet access, it is almost certainly not the best use of public funds in terms of tackling unemployment.

Language for Agreeing and Disagreeing

Once you have figured out the structure for your essay, you need to have the right language to accurately and effectively express your ideas. Most of the grammar and vocabulary you need will be dependent upon the topic, but there are some useful words and phrases to know for all “agree or disagree” essays.

Giving Purpose and Position

In your introduction, you need to clearly state your position vis-à-vis the question. You can also state what you will do in this essay.

Here are some great phrases:

This essay will…

To avoid being overly personal or informal, you can speak as though your essay is writing itself. This might seem a little strange, but it is perfectly normal. It is a great idea to use this for the overview section of your introduction to say “This essay will argue that…” or “This essay will agree with the idea that…”

Alternatively, you can include yourself:

In this essay, I will…

The use of the personal pronoun is a little informal but these questions are directly asking for your opinion and so there is nothing really wrong with it. This is a good way of stating your intentions clearly from the offset.

Just be careful to avoid redundant phrasing here, like “In my opinion, I think that…” It is not necessary to say both “In my opinion” and “I think” because they both express the same basic meaning.

It is also worth making sure that you completely understand how to use the words “agree” and “disagree.” This probably sounds very easy, but many people make mistakes. I have a full article on it here.

One of the biggest mistakes is saying, “I agree to the idea.” Instead, you need to say “I agree with the idea.” The preposition here is a huge difference and completely changes the meaning of “agree.”

agree with or agree to?

Language for Structuring your Ideas

You can use some cohesive devices when explaining your ideas but be careful not to over-use them and make sure that each one is used accurately. For example, the phrases “On the one hand” and “On the other hand” are really useful here but many people make mistakes by saying “On one hand” or “One the other hand.”

You can also use words like “Firstly” and “Finally” to order your ideas but remember that having every sentence start with the same sort of word sounds repetitive, so don’t use these too much. You read more about cohesive devices here.

Some other useful phrases are:

The first reason why I think/believe that [summarise view] is…”

In this case, we are directly communicating to the reader that this is the first (and therefore most important) reason to support our opinion. To remember the personal pronoun, simply change to:

The first reason why [summarise view] is…

Here are two examples:

  • The first reason why I think that families should take care of their elderly relatives is that it allows more freedom for the individual.
  • The first reason why families should take care of their elderly relatives is that it allows more freedom for the individual.

Should You Totally Avoid Personal Pronouns?

personal pronouns for agree/disagree essays

For IELTS, some people say that you should always avoid personal pronouns but other people suggest that they are acceptable. It is true that they are acceptable because some questions directly ask for your opinion and experiences. However, it is also true that an advanced writer can answer these questions without personal pronouns, thereby increasing the level of formality.

Take a look at this question:

Rich countries often give money to poorer countries, but it does not solve poverty. Therefore, developed countries should give other types of help to the poor countries rather than financial aid.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

It is clearly asking for your personal opinion, so it would be fine to say “I think…” or “I believe…” However, we could definitely answer it in a more detached, formal sense.

To give my opinion, I will say:

this essay will argue that giving money is not simply enough and that more nuanced, long-term solutions are necessary

Later, in the conclusion, I will use similar language to affirm my view:

whilst it may seem reasonable to donate money to poor countries, it would be far better to help them through education

Here is the full essay:

Sample Band 9 Answer

The topic of international aid is incredibly controversial and there are no simple solutions. However, this essay will argue that giving money is not simply enough and that more nuanced, long-term solutions are necessary.

To begin with, it is important to acknowledge that poor countries need some form of aid and that money is better than nothing. Wealthy countries give vast sums of money, but there are numerous problems that emerge. Firstly, this money usually has strings attached, meaning that the poor countries often end up owing favours or debts, which exacerbates their problems. Secondly, poor countries are typically poor because of endemic corruption, and money donated is usually embezzled immediately after receipt. As such, giving money is understandable but problematic, and other forms of aid are thus preferable.

Nowadays, many people realise that it is better to provide poor countries with the means to help themselves. This can be done through various ways, including education. As such, perhaps the best way to help these nations is to provide them with teachers and educational facilities. This can allow them to raise a generation of intelligent, motivated people who will shape the future. It can clearly be seen that the education of women is of particular importance, as this lowers the fertility rate, further stopping other problems that contribute to poverty. Therefore, the education of young women should be made a top priority.

In conclusion, whilst it may seem reasonable to donate money to poor countries, it would be far better to help them through education.

Conclusion

Writing an essay for an IELTS “agree or disagree” question is probably a little more difficult than writing one for other question types. However, it is not much more difficult and if you follow the advice above, you can definitely create a wonderful essay that will get a high score. Just remember to answer the question directly and also to use appropriate language throughout.