Today, I want to give you some advice about an interesting IELTS writing task 2 question. It concerns the tricky topic of “elder care” and I think this is a great chance to talk about some important aspects of writing for IELTS.

As usual, I will divide this lesson into parts, including an analysis of the question, some thoughts on structure, and so on.

Analysing the Question

Firstly, let’s look at our question for today:

If old people are no longer physically, mentally, or financially able to look after themselves, younger family members should be legally responsible for supporting them.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

This is an interesting topic! It’s something that could be quite divisive and will elicit some interesting views depending on people’s cultures and personalities. There’s certainly a lot to talk about.

Importantly, this is about age and society. You’ll notice that age is one of those common IELTS topics that seems to pop up often in the speaking and writing tests.

I think the question is fairly straightforward but I would caution you to note the word “legally.” Thus, if you simply wrote about why you think people should look after their elderly relatives, you would have failed to answer the question. It’s about legal obligation, not moral obligation.

One more thing: This is, of course, an agree or disagree question, which means you must have an opinion, whether that is agree, disagree, or a balance of the two.

My Ideas and Structure

When I read this question, my first thought was this:

People should look after their elderly relatives, but it should definitely not be made a legal requirement.

Thus, that became the core thesis of my essay.

It’s fine for you to disagree with me, but make sure that you know what you want to say before you begin planning and certainly before you begin writing. Make sure your ideas are clear in your mind or else your essay will probably score poorly for Task Response and Coherence and Cohesion.

My structure will look like this:

IntroductionExplain the purpose of the essay and state my opinion clearly
Body paragraph #1Admit that most people should look after their elderly relatives
Body paragraph #2Put forth my explanation for why this should not be a legal necessity
ConclusionSummarise my points

A few more detailed thoughts:

  1. If you are asked for an opinion, then you must give it in the introduction! This is very, very important. It clearly states this in the band descriptors. You can state it briefly in the outline sentence if needed.
  2. If you want to add nuance to your argument (which is a good idea but not always necessary), then you can include a concession paragraph. That’s what I’ve done in paragraph two.
  3. Do not add too many paragraphs. You should develop each idea and that’s not really possible if you have six or seven paragraphs. Aim for about 4 or 5 paragraphs.
  4. Make sure that your conclusion reiterates your main point and summarises your ideas without repeating too much. Do not add anything new here and avoid straying from the main point.

Ok. That’s about everything I want to say. You can learn more about task 2 essays in my book, How to Write the Perfect Essay for IELTS.

how to write the perfect ielts essay

Next, I’ll give you my sample band 9 answer, with some notes on language posted after it.

Sample Band 9 Answer

Different cultures and legal systems take different approaches to the concept of elder care. One view is that people should be legally obligated to care for their elderly relatives in the case that those old people are no longer capable of looking after themselves. This essay will argue against that notion.

First of all, it is important to acknowledge that in most cases people should certainly strive to look after their elderly relatives. This is a moral issue and younger people do have a moral obligation to offer emotional, practical, and financial support to their parents. However, to make this a legal requirement is problematic because it overlooks important complexities.

For one thing, no person ever asks to be born and therefore no person truly owes their parents anything simply for having brought them into this world and raised them. Whilst we can say that there is some moral imperative to return the favour, it is essentially a matter of opinion and should not be codified in law. Moreover, not all parents raised their children well and it would be a travesty, for example, to force a person to give financial support to an abusive parent. Whilst in an ideal world, people would raise their children with love and respect and then expect the same in return, this is just not how reality and functions and any attempt to enshrine this concept in law would be flawed at best. Ultimately, that choice should be for each individual and their family to make together. It is admirable that a person would grow up and treat their parents well, but it should not be something enforced by the law.

In conclusion, this is a situation that sounds simpler than it is. In fact, whilst people should in most cases look after their elderly relatives, it is a private matter and not something that should be dealt with by the law.

Notes on Language

First of all, I’ll suggest that you read this for some advice on how to talk about old people. It’s something I’ve noticed many (possibly most) IELTS candidates struggle with. Given how common the topic is, I do recommend studying it in depth.

Now, let’s look at some phrases from the essay:

  • different approaches to the concept of elder care
    • This is a useful one, specifically the phrase “elder care,” which is the modern expression we use to talk about the idea of looking after old people. It is contemporary, specific, and appropriate because it’s inoffensive.
  • legally obligated to care for their elderly relatives
    • If you want to score highly for Lexical Resource, you don’t need to find weird words and phrases. Rather, you should aim for accuracy in terms of topic-specific language. This is a good example. The phrase “legally obligated” shows the examiner that you know how to correctly discuss the main issue.
  • strive to look after their elderly relatives
    • The phrase “strive to” is a great way of showing that someone is making an effort to do something.
  • This is a moral issue and younger people do have a moral obligation to
    • I want to address this because it seems like repetition. In fact, it is repetition but it’s deliberately done for effect. I wanted the reader to think about “moral” here as opposed to legal. You generally should avoid repetition but in some cases it can be used for a positive purpose.
  • should not be codified in law.
    • Here is some more topic-specific language. To “codify in law” means to make something fully legal.
  • attempt to enshrine this concept in law
    • Here’s another very useful way of expressing the same idea.
  • enforced by the law
    • This is related to but distinct from the above examples. It shows that a law exists in order to force people to do something. Again, this is good language for the main topic.
  • it is a private matter
    • In this essay, I wanted to get across the idea that elder care should be a personal matter and not a legal one, and this phrase is quite useful for summarising that concept.

If you have any questions about this essay, please let them as comments below.