Today, I’m going to share with you a really difficult IELTS writing task 2 question. I wanted to share it because I’ve seen many people struggle with it. The problem is that they incorrectly analyse the question, so I’m going to explain the problem and then give you my answer.

Analysing the Question

Here is our question for today:

In the modern world, the image (photograph or film) is becoming a more powerful way of communicating than the written word.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

On the surface, this looks easy, right? It is a matter of which is more powerful – images or film? However, it is actually much harder than that! Note the specific wording of the question:

In the modern world, the image (photograph or film) is becoming a more powerful way

These bold words show that we need to deal with the question of change over time. This is essential, but most of the people whom I have seen answer this question failed to note those key parts.

If you just talked about images being more powerful than words (or vice versa), you could not get a high score for Task Achievement.

By the way, last week I made a video that dealt with a very similar issue in another tough IELTS question:

How to Answer this Hard Question

For my answer, I want to present this basic idea:

  • Images may seem as though they are now more powerful, but actually they are probably not. They have always been powerful and in that past not many people could read, so it is untrue to suggest images have surpassed them.

To do this, I will take this basic structure:

IntroductionIntroduce the idea (images now more powerful than words)
Say it’s true they’re more powerful, but not true that it is a modern development
Body paragraph 1Say why images are so powerful and show how they were powerful throughout history
Give examples of social change brought through images – highlight comparative power over written word
Body paragraph 2Talk about issue of time – this is not a new development
In the past, people could not read Images seem new, people had cave paintings long ago
ConclusionSummarise main ideas – images are more powerful but not modern change

Now here is my sample answer:

Sample Band 9 Answer

It has been suggested that in the twenty-first century images have become more powerful than written words. This essay will argue that it is probably true that they are more powerful, but that this is not necessarily a recent change.

To begin with, it should be quite obvious that images are more powerful than written words because they are easier to understand. For a few centuries, people in the Western world were largely reliant upon written accounts of news or adventures in books and newspapers. However, with the advent of photography, it became possible for vivid and realistic images to be widely disseminated. After this came video. Many of the great social changes that occurred in this part of the world in the last century were due to the impact of photographs and videos. For example, American public opinion against the Vietnam War was hugely impacted by depictions in the media that showed the raw human suffering that went on there, and this has been true of subsequent military actions and situations like natural disasters, where the written word seldom captures the pain and suffering of average people in the same way that a visual image could.

However, the question of whether this a recent and ongoing change is unclear. Certainly, throughout history people have relied upon visual aids because they simply could not read. Only in very recent times has literacy become the norm throughout most of the world, and so the written word held almost no value for the majority of humans. While photos and video are modern inventions, even ancient humans were able to draw pictures of animals on cave walls and understand them, so it seems that the impact of such images is not a new phenomenon.

In conclusion, it is true that images probably have a greater impact than the written word and that they are likely becoming very important, but whether this is a new situation or not is less clear.