Cambridge recently released the 17th instalment in their IELTS series and I wanted to give you my sample answers for four of the essays in this book. I’ll also make some comments on the questions where I think it’s important to discuss the meaning, potential problems, or anything else that might arise. These are all task 2 essays because I don’t want to break any copyright laws by posting images from those books.

Below, you can find my sample band 9 answers to the task 2 questions from Cambridge IELTS 17.

Test 1: Taking Risks

Here’s the first task 2 question in the book:

It is important for people to take risks, both in their professional lives and their personal lives.

Do you think the advantages of taking risks outweigh the disadvantages?

First of all, I’ll say that this really reminds me of several older questions, which is not a surprise because the IELTS test makers like to recycle topics and ideas. It is most similar to this question:

Some people prefer to spend their lives doing the same things and avoiding change. Others, however, think that change is always a good thing.

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

Although the words and even format of the question are totally different, it is almost the same in terms of its general meaning. Still, you always need to read very carefully and respond directly to the question rather than previous, similar questions.

Sample Band 9 Answer: Tasking Risks

People differ in their attitude towards taking risks, with some people seemingly born to be risky and others rather risk averse. This essay will look into the advantages and disadvantages of an adventurous attitude and conclude that taking some risks is a positive thing.

First of all, it should be noted that taking risks is necessary for success. History is full of such examples in all fields, from science to war and from sport to literature. Those who simply continue tradition and never try anything new are doomed to repeat the past and typically content themselves with mediocrity. However, when people try new things, they may risk failure, but they also bring about the possibility of tremendous success. Looking at literature, for example, we can see great writers like James Joyce and William Burroughs, who completely redefined what a novel could be by breaking all the rules. They could easily have wasted their time and become mired in failure, but their risks paid off and they are today considered giants in their field.

Of course, that is not to suggest that taking a risk always results in success. Naturally, for every great success there are countless failures. To continue the idea of literature, one can only begin to imagine the number of writers who attempted to do something entirely new but failed because they were misunderstood. Taking risks in everyday life can be an even bigger problem because the consequences can be more severe. Young men often hurt themselves in foolish stunts because they took a risk to impress their peers. In such cases, it would clearly have been better not to take that risk at all.

In conclusion, whether it is better to take risks or not depends entirely upon the risk. In some scenarios, it is best to take a chance and see what happens because the potential outcome could be immensely rewarding, but in many cases it is rather pointless. Still, overall it is better to take some risks than avoid them altogether.  

Notes and Language

I started this essay with a nice general statement but without being too random. I’ve tried to avoid clichéd IELTS language like “There is a hot controversy about…” This is neither true nor is it appropriate.

Although I mostly wanted to show that taking risks is a good thing, I split the essay into two body paragraphs and tried to show both sides of the issue. You don’t need to provide a balanced answer in IELTS writing task 2, but in this case I thought it was for the best. The main thing was to make sure that my position was clear throughout. This began with a clear and precise outline sentence. I also gave some interesting and appropriate examples and I stretched one theme (literature) over two paragraphs for continuity.

In terms of language, I used words like “risky and “risk averse,” which are obviously very topic specific. I did, however, have to use more vague terminology like “adventurous attitude” because I didn’t want to repeat “risk” too much. I also used phrases like “break the rules” and “attempt to do something new.” This also helps to avoid repetition.

Test 2: Smartphones

The next question is also similar to some previous ones, but because it’s 2022 it has been specifically written to include smartphones rather than computers or other types of technology:

Some children spend hours every day on their smartphones.

Why is this the case? Do you think this is a positive or a negative trend?

This is a two-part question that includes a positive or negative question! This might seem weird, but actually it’s become fairly common in recent years to include positive/negative questions inside a two-part question, so you should be ready to answer something like this. The key is not to go at length about the positive/negative aspect and instead squeeze it into just one paragraph.

Sample Band 9 Answer: Smartphones

It can be seen nowadays that young people, including small children, spend a lot of time on their phones. This essay will explain why and then argue that it is an overwhelmingly negative development.

To begin with, children use their phones a lot because they are enjoyable to the point of being addictive. Indeed, numerous studies have shown that phones are as addictive for children as sugar or drugs, and this makes it hard for them to moderate their behaviour. The apps on most phones are designed to appeal to people by rewarding them with dopamine and children are particularly susceptible to this. In addition, the bright images, simple games, and immersive experience make phones thoroughly appealing for young users.

This constant usage brings various problems, with perhaps the most alarming being the impact on people’s health. Using a phone is something that the human body has not yet adapted to and there are various risks. The most obvious one is neck damage. Doctors often warn that the postures people use when using their phones lead to neck strain, which can also trigger problems in the back and head. Some people worry about eyestrain, too, though this is unproven. Then, of course, there is the fact that for children almost the entirety of their entertainment comes in the form of these phones and so they no longer go outside to play games in the fresh air, getting necessary exercise and socialising. They are stuck indoors, staring at their phone and becoming overweight, fragile, and unsociable.

In conclusion, the current situation with children using their phones a lot is utterly negative. Even if there were any possible benefits, they would be grossly outweighed by the damage that these devices cause.

Notes and Language

Again, my introduction is clear and precise. It starts by explaining the topic and then gives an explicit outline. There is nothing clichéd or confusing here. A reader would be well prepared for the next parts.

The structure is simple. One body paragraph deals with the first sentence and the next deals with the second sentence. It was a challenge to keep this simple because the questions certainly raise a lot of ideas. I could have written a thousand words on why children like smartphones so much! However, keep it short and to the point. Don’t waste time.

Important vocabulary here included “addictive” and “dopamine.” I also needed to talk about health (you can learn about health vocabulary here), so I mentioned various issues, including “neck strain.”

Test 3: Professionals

Here’s the third writing question from Cambridge IELTS 17:

Some people believe that professionals, such as doctors and engineers, should be required to work in the country where they did their training. Others believe they should be free to work in another country if they wish.

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

Interestingly, this question has also been asked in different ways over the years! I have seen it written as a problem and solution question but now it is a “discuss both views” one. It is also frequently shared on websites and social media with various mistakes because people saw it in a test and misremembered it. (Read about the dangers of fake questions.)

Anyway, it’s a fascinating topic that hopefully everyone has something thoughts on. I know I did. 😉

Sample Band 9 Answer: Professionals

A small number of people think that highly trained professionals should be required to work in the same country where they did their training, but most people disagree with this. This essay will also disagree, suggesting that they should be free to work where they want.

To begin with, it is understandable that people might argue in favour of professionals working in the country where they trained because in some cases that country has paid for their training. Take, for example, a doctor who received medical training at the government’s expense in a relatively poor country. If they moved to another country, perhaps in order to earn a higher salary, then the government’s investment would have been wasted.

However, there are a few problems with that viewpoint. First of all, professionals of this nature usually pay for their own education, and so if they were required to stay in that country then it would be unfair. A lot of people invest in their education purely to gain the chance of moving to another country for a better life. Then, of course, there is the argument that all people should have some freedom of movement. Particularly in the case of highly trained professionals, who can bring value to different societies, it is beneficial to have them move around the world, sharing their skills and increasing diversity. Perhaps they ought to give something back to the society in which they were trained, but they should not be restricted by any law because that would be a violation of their fundamental rights.

In conclusion, people who have important skills should be free to move to other countries if they wish. They should not have a legal obligation to stay in the nation where they earned their skills, but perhaps for the sake of decency they might consider staying a short while and giving back to that society.

Notes and Language

You might be curious about my first line: “A small number of people think…” Why did I say that? Well, the question says “Some people” and honestly I don’t think that many people share this view, so I used my words carefully to reflect that. Remember: Don’t just paraphrase blindly! Use your own language and ideas to express a clear and intelligent point.

I began my concession paragraph by saying “it is understandable that people might argue…” I want to show the opposing view so that I can do a better job of arguing against it. I went on to argue convincingly in favour of the opposing view.

Note: You don’t need to talk about doctors and engineers! IELTS candidates often read the question, see these examples, and think that they are the main idea. However, they are not. These are purely examples. You don’t need to mention them at all.

My language here is related to the topic of work and migration. I also tried to avoid repetition. I used some great phrases like “at the government’s expense” and “a violation of their fundamental rights.” These are descriptive and specific.

Test 4: Alternative Medicine

Finally, we come to a question about a controversial issue:

Nowadays, a growing number of people with health problems are trying alternative medicines and treatments instead of visiting their usual doctor.

Do you think this is a positive or negative development?

Here, we have a question about alternative medicines vs conventional ones. This is a difficult subject to talk about and people will have different opinions on the matter, but don’t worry too much. Whether you support or oppose the use of alternative medicines, the examiner should not be prejudiced against you. Just make sure to explain your position clearly and convincingly.

Sample Band 9 Answer: Alternative Medicine

It has been claimed that more people are now using alternative medical practices rather than using proper doctors. This essay will argue that it is a dangerous development.

To begin with, there is simply no good argument for using alternative medicines. Any alternative treatment that works will be incorporated into conventional medicine, so to go outside of the mainstream is to take a pointless risk. The vast majority of alternative medical practices, no matter how they are marketed, are at best useless and at worst highly dangerous.

Using any alternative treatment has two potential outcomes. The first is that nothing will happen because most of them are in fact fake. Take acupuncture, homeopathy, or folk medicine, for example. These are simply archaic or idealistic ideas that mostly rely upon the placebo effect. In most cases, they do nothing and any genuine use that they could pose has or will be incorporated into conventional medicine through the scientific method and peer review. In such cases, a patient with an illness will not recover and will waste time in seeking real treatment. In severe cases, these fraudulent practitioners will actually harm their patients because their treatments are dangerous. These alternative medicines are unregulated and used by people who have no proper training, which means that they will not only fail to help but may even introduce new health problems.

In conclusion, the trend of people seeking alternative forms of medicine is massively problematic and puts people at serious risk of illness and death.

Notes and Language

You will notice that there is not much balance to this essay. I have taken a very firm position here and that’s just fine. It actually makes it easier to write an essay when you have a firm belief. That’s why I started paragraph two with a strong statement: “there is simply no good argument for using alternative medicines.”

Of course, if you make a statement like this, you need to be able to back it up with explanation or evidence. I explained my position in the second paragraph and then gave more detail in the third.

Questions relating to medicine can be hard because they might require you to draw upon difficult vocabulary. Here, you can see I have done that, although not all of it is medical in nature: archaic, idealistic, placebo, fraudulent, practitioner, etc. In terms of Lexical Resource, you shouldn’t strive for difficult words, but rather aim for accuracy.

Final Thoughts

I hope that you have found these sample band 9 answers to Cambridge IELTS 17 questions useful. You should not try to copy my words or ideas, but rather view them as inspiration for your own essays. There is no perfect formula for an IELTS task 2 essay, and so you should figure out your own ways of directly addressing the question and developing your answers thoroughly.

If you found this useful, maybe you will enjoy my sample answers for Cambridge IELTS 16 and Cambridge IELTS 18.