Today, I want to show you an IELTS writing task 2 question and then explain how you can give a great answer to it. I will talk you through the whole process, from analysing the question to choosing the right language, and finally I will give my own sample band 9 answer.
Analysing the Question
Here is 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?
First of all, I would like to point out the phrase “legally responsible.” This is very important. I have seen several students attempt to answer this question but somehow miss this expression. They wrote about the ethical responsibility of people to look after their elderly relatives instead of the legal imperative.
Considering that, we must think about what the question is really asking us. This is an agree or disagree question and we have to take a stance on the given statement. Let’s paraphrase it to make it easier:
Do you agree that people should be legally obligated to care for their elderly relatives if those people are not capable of looking after themselves?
You must then decide whether you agree or disagree with this (and to what extent).
Structuring your Answer
Once you have decided upon your position, you should begin planning your answer. There are various ways to do this. You can learn about structuring a task 2 essay here.
My essay is going to have four paragraphs but the structure will still be a little unusual. Here is how I’m going to structure it:
|Introduction||Introduce the topic |
Give my opinion (disagree)
|Body paragraph #1||State that helping the elderly should be an ethical recommendation but not a legal requirement|
|Body paragraph #2||Explain why it should not be a legal requirement – lack of obligation, particularly for victims of abusive parents|
|Conclusion||Summarise my ideas|
Why is this unusual? Well, most people would write two body paragraphs explaining their position but I felt that it was worth having a sort of concession paragraph here. Although you don’t need to provide balance, I felt that in this case it gave the essay some important nuance and allowed for intelligent development of ideas. Overall, that paragraph helped set up my third one, which was quite long and contained convincing ideas for why I disagreed with the notion in the question.
One more thing: You can learn how to start an agreement essay here.
The main topics here are age and law, so it would be good to have some vocabulary about these.
In my essay, I will use the following phrases:
|Elder care||The situation or system of looking after elderly people|
|Legally obligated||Required to do something by a law|
|Elderly relatives||A better way of saying “old” in the context of family|
|Strive to||Make a strong effort to do something|
|Moral obligation||Something that people should do according to cultural norms|
|Moral imperative||The same as above. This means something you have to do according to the ethics of your culture|
|Return the favour||Do something for someone who previously did something for you|
|Codified in law||Make a law|
|Travesty||Something very unfair|
|Enshrine in law||Make something a legal requirement by passing it as a law|
|Enforced||Make something happen through force or law|
Try to be careful when talking about old people as there are many terms you will find in dictionaries that are a little offensive or inappropriate. Also, many IELTS candidates struggle with grammar and vocabulary related to age. Here’s a guide to talking about old people:
Sample Band 9 Essay
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.
A Note on the Sample Essay
You might be wondering why I used repetition here:
This is a moral issue and younger people do have a moral obligation to offer…
It is true that we usually try to avoid repetition, but in this case I felt that it was useful as a means of emphasising a point. By saying “moral issue… moral obligation…” it makes it even clearer to the reader that looking after elderly people is important.
This is particularly effective because I then transition into highlighting my opposition to this being a legal requirement. In other words, it is very clearly a moral requirement but not a legal one.