In IELTS writing task 2, you might find that you need to include a concession paragraph. In today’s lesson, I will tell you everything you need to know about this feature of academic writing. We will explore:
- What concession means
- What a concession paragraph is
- Why you might need one for IELTS
- Some examples
What Does “Concession” Mean?
The word “concession” is the noun form of the verb to “concede.” This means “admit or agree that something is true after first denying or resisting it.” Thus, “concession” can mean the admission of something contrary to your belief.
An example is this:
A man believes that capital punishment is wrong, but he admits that some extreme crimes, such as genocide, might warrant its use. This is his “concession.”
In that example, the man understands that his belief has some limitations. By admitting those limitations, he is making a concession.
What is a Concession in Writing?
In an academic essay, you are supposed to show your ability to think logically and critically. Even when you are not required to show balance, it is a sign of intelligence that you can acknowledge opposing ideas and arguments. Therefore, making concessions is quite useful.
In an essay, then, we might include a concession such as the above example. That would involve stating our own opinion but admitting that in some instances it is not 100% true.
Whilst I firmly believe that laws should be implemented to require people to recycle more of their household rubbish, it is important to note that not all people have the facility to do so. In rural areas, for example, there may be no local recycling centre, and so punishing these people would be unreasonable.
Here, we can see that the writer’s belief is that these laws should be implemented. However, they concede the point that those laws cannot be applied to all people. This is an example of how a concession could be made in writing.
What is a Concession Paragraph?
A concession paragraph is the part of an essay that shows an awareness of opposing ideas. Although this does not entirely concede the main point of the author’s essay, it provides an acknowledgement of the validity of other ideas, thereby demonstrating maturity and complexity of thought.
There are essentially two reasons that you might include a concession paragraph:
- To provide balance to your essay to show the degree to which you agree/disagree
- To acknowledge an opposing idea even though you don’t fully agree with it
As you can see from the use of the words “agree” and “disagree” here, concession paragraphs are quite useful in IELTS essays that ask you whether you agree or disagree with something.
The degree to which a concession paragraph actually acknowledges the other side of the debate as valid also entirely depends on your purpose. For example, you might want the whole paragraph to show a valid opposing argument for the purpose of balance or else you might just show the opposing argument and then refute it.
There are no set rules to the use of concession paragraphs, so they could appear almost anywhere in the body of an essay. For IELTS, you would typically have four paragraphs, and it is quite possible to include the concession as either the second or third. It depends on your focus and purpose.
How to Start a Concession Paragraph
The most important thing about writing a concession paragraph is making it clear to your audience that you are conceding a point rather than making a point. What I mean is that the reader needs to understand that this is not your main idea, but rather you are admitting something contrary to your viewpoint.
For example, if you want to argue that zoos don’t belong in the modern world because of animal rights issues, but you do admit that they can serve some positive function, then you might include a concession paragraph. You should start it in a way that makes clear to the reader that these ideas are contrary to your main point.
Here are some examples of how to start a concession paragraph:
- While I am generally opposed to the idea of zoos, I admit that they have some value…
- Although zoos should probably be outlawed for the sake of animal rights, there are some admittedly reasonable arguments in favour of them…
- In spite of my previous arguments, I must concede that there are some positive aspects to zoos…
- However, there are several reasons why perhaps zoos should be allowed to exist.
You can see that three of these sentences begin with subordinating conjunctions and one begins with a conjunctive adverb. (Learn about the difference here.) The meaning in each case shows contrast. In other words, the paragraph that follows will present ideas contrary to your personal ones.
Another way to start a concession paragraph is to invoke the idea of the people who generally hold that opinion:
- Some people believe that zoos are beneficial…
- Many people think that zoos are good places…
- Supporters of zoos think that…
Whatever you use to start your concession paragraph, it is important that you make it clear that this is not your main idea. If you fail to make it clear, you will not score highly for Coherence and Cohesion.
Do You Need Concession Paragraphs for IELTS?
Concession paragraphs can be useful in IELTS writing task 2 essays, but they are by no means essential. There is nothing in the marking rubric to say that you absolutely must use them.
However, as I have previously mentioned, they can be quite useful, particularly for agree or disagree type questions. They show a depth of thought, telling the examiner that you are a mature thinker by conveying more complex ideas than a straightforward essay with no concessions given.
Let’s say that you are given an agree or disagree question that asks you whether this is the best era to be alive. You might think, “It is probably the best, but there are some parts of the past that were pretty good, too.” Whilst it is easier to give a straightforward answer that totally agrees or disagrees, it can be useful to provide balance and so you might want to include a concession paragraph.
Your structure could look like these:
|Why the past was better||Why the present is better|
|Why the present is better||Why the past was better|
As you can see, there is only a slight difference in structure here. However, you need to think carefully about how to present these ideas. Remember that your overall position needs to be consistent, so you cannot say in your introduction, “I completely agree…” and then later decide to include a concession paragraph.
Ok, now let’s look in more depth at the question I alluded to above:
Advances in science and technology and other areas of society in the last century have transformed the way we live as well as postponing the day we die. There is no better lime to be alive than now.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion?
My viewpoint here is that the present is probably the best but that it is a difficult question because it is not the best for everyone and certain points in time may have been better for certain groups of people, or indeed for the planet as a whole.
My structure will be:
|Introduction||Overview of topic |
State position (present probably best)
|First idea||Say why the present is better for many people|
|Concession paragraph||Say why other the past might be better|
|Conclusion||Summarise my overall idea|
Many people believe that this is the best time to be alive, but others suggest that there were better times in history. This essay will suggest that it depends on many factors, but that today might be the best time for some people.
To begin with, it is important to acknowledge that the idea of a best time to live is dependent on many factors, including your location, gender, and the things in life that are important to you. Throughout much of human history, there has been great inequality, particularly affecting women and homosexuals. Due to sudden advancements in human rights over the past century, the modern era would surely be the best because it allows more opportunities. However, not all of the world agrees upon human rights and so it depends entirely where these people live. Similarly, it has always been difficult to be part of a racial or religious minority, but in the modern era there is more tolerance than ever before. As for those who do not fall into these categories, such as men of the dominant majority, there are many benefits also, such as being unlikely to be sent to war now.
However, this overlooks some of the important and positive parts of the past. For one thing, humans have utterly destroyed the planet over the past century, and for those who care about nature, it might be better to have lived at a time when it was still thriving. People who love mystery and romance also would have been better living in the past, for nowadays knowledge can be found easily on a smartphone, taking the joy of discovery out of life. In the past, these people could have travelled the globe in search of unknown places, but now none exist. As for the diversity of human culture, this has also vanished, leaving a sterile world ravaged by globalisation, where people of all nationalities seem to listen to the same dull music and possess the same greedy dreams of wealth.
In conclusion, there are major arguments for and against the present being the best time to live and it would totally depend on a person’s personality, and for most people the present is probably the best.
The body paragraphs present a complex view. In my second paragraph, I argue in favour of the present and in the third I argue in favour of the past. This is a good structure to use for a concession paragraph.
In terms of internal paragraph structure, I have attempted to also include elements of concession, meaning that even within a paragraph that says “the present is the best” I refute this to some extent by saying “it is not the best for 100% of people.” Again, this shows the writer as a mature thinker capable of expressing complicated ideas.
Let’s look at another sample question and answer to better understand how and why we can use concession paragraphs for IELTS.
Here is the question:
The most important consideration when choosing any career or job is having a high income.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
Basically, to this question I would want to say “having a high income is really important but it is not the most important thing.” To show this, I will give a paragraph that says money is important and then another paragraph that emphasises other things.
My structure would be:
|Introduction||Overview of topic |
State position (money not the most important)
|Concession paragraph||Say why money is so important|
|Main idea||Say why other things are MORE important than money|
|Conclusion||Summarise my overall idea|
When thinking about a new job, salary is certainly the first thing that comes into most people’s heads. It is, in many ways, the ultimate reward for a job, and also a significant part of our life and self-worth. However, this essay will argue that it probably should not be the most important consideration.
Firstly, let us look at why salary is so highly regarded. It is a fact that money makes our modern societies tick. Without money, we cannot have a home, cannot eat or drink, and cannot pay our taxes. We would simply not be able to get by without money, and so we need at least some income. There are many luxuries available to those with high salaries, and a great deal of social status. These things encourage people to seek higher salaries. Ultimately, money can give us a far better life, and even ensure the quality of life for our descendants, and so for most of us, salary really is the foremost consideration when seeking a job.
However, perhaps this should not be the case. After all, many people who spend all their time working to earn a high salary have a very low level of contentment, high degrees of stress, and die at a younger age. If money has done that to them, can it really be so important? Perhaps it is better to seek a job that can give you purpose or satisfaction. The people who report the highest levels of happiness are not those with high salaries, but those whose jobs contribute to the wider society, and who get to communicate with more people on a daily basis. Their life has meaning and interaction, which are far more valuable than money.
In conclusion, although money is undoubtedly important and can bring great benefits to our life, it probably should not be the most important consideration in finding a new job.
This example answer is different to the first because here I have placed the concession paragraph before the main idea. This allows me to present those opposing ideas clearly and then refute them intelligently. It shows a great depth of thought and a mastery of logic.
Conclusion – How Important are Concession Paragraphs for IELTS?
We have seen in this lesson that concession paragraphs are very useful for IELTS, but of course they are never truly necessary. If you have to answer an agree or disagree question, you could definitely put them to good use, but there is nothing in the marking rubric that explicitly says you must do this.
As such, I would recommend concession paragraphs to those students looking for a band 7 or higher in their test. Honestly, if you are routinely scoring band 6 or lower, you probably would struggle to employ this method of writing effectively and it could pose more problems than benefits for you.