In IELTS writing task 2, you will need to write a clear and coherent introduction. This should be comprised of several parts, one of which is a sentence that tells the reader what your essay will say or do. This is often called an essay outline, although you may hear it referred to by other names, such as “thesis statement.”

What your essay outline should say will depend upon the exact essay that you have to write, so it is a complicated issue, but this article will tell you everything you need to know.

What is an Essay Outline?

First of all, let’s briefly discuss what an essay outline is because it’s not 100% clear to everyone. The word “outline” means:

a general description or plan showing the essential features of something but not the detail

Therefore, in the context of IELTS writing task 2, an essay outline could be defined as a sentence at the end of your introduction that tells the reader what will come next.

This sentence should simply and effectively give information about what the reader will encounter in the coming paragraphs but without any of the detail that will come later. For example:

This essay will look at both sides of the issue but argue that it is best to fix problems and reach for a better situation.

Here, my sentence has made it very clear to the reader that this essay will do three things:

  1. Look at one side of an issue
  2. Look at the other side of that issue
  3. Argue in favour of fixing problems

In just twenty-five words, it has offered an effective outline of my essay. It has prepared my reader for what will come next, guiding them conveniently through the essay.

Do you Need an Essay Outline?

For a task 2 essay, it is generally good to have a sentence that explains the rest of your essay. This helps with both Task Response and Coherence and Cohesion. However, its necessity actually depends on the kind of question you are answering.

For any question that requires an opinion, you must include an essay outline that gives your opinion. If you don’t, you won’t get a good score for Task Response. That is because, in order to get a band 7 or higher, your essay needs to:

present a clear position throughout the response

Source: IELTS band descriptors

Thus, you must make your position (ie your opinion) clear in the introduction, the body paragraphs, and the conclusion.

If you don’t need to give an opinion, then it is less important but it is still a very good idea to include an essay outline. I would strongly suggest that you write a sentence that tells the reader what you will do next.

Here are some examples…

Essay Outline Templates

The following are examples of sentences you could use for the different IELTS writing question types. Obviously, they depend on the exact question asked and your intended answer.

Agree/Disagree Questions

  • This essay will disagree with the notion that _____.
  • This essay will argue that ____.

Note: People often make a huge mistake in agree/disagree questions because they paraphrase the question and then give their opinion. This means that they present the opinion as their own and then either agree or disagree with themselves! This is a very serious error. You can read more about it here.

Discussion Questions

  • This essay will examine both sides of the issue and conclude that…
  • This essay will look at both perspectives and argue that…
  • This essay will look at both viewpoints and then argue that…

Advantages/Disadvantage Questions

If you are asked to discuss the advantages and disadvantages:

  • This essay will explore the advantages and disadvantages of…
  • This essay will explain the advantages and disadvantages of…

If you are asked to weigh the advantages and disadvantages:

  • This essay will argue that the advantages of ___ outweigh the disadvantages.
  • This essay will argue that the disadvantages of ___ outweigh the advantages.

Problem/Solution Questions

  • This essay will first look at the causes of ___ and will then suggest several solutions.
  • This essay will explore the causes of ____ and also will present a possible solution.

Note: As always, your essay outline will depend on what you want to say. You may have one solution or many. Make sure that your outline matches the content.

Two-Part Questions

This essay type is harder to approach in terms of essay outline because it would depend 100% on the actual questions. However, your structure for a two-part question will usually be the same and your outline should clearly reflect this.

Here is a sample two-part question:

Some parents buy their children whatever they ask for and allow their children to do whatever they want.

Is this a good way to raise children?

What consequences could this style of parenting have for children as they get older?

And here is how I would write my outline:

This essay will explore why this is not a good way to raise children and why it will have negative impacts upon them in future.

As you can see, it is split into two parts: the first question is addressed and then the second. It is simple and effective.

Should you Write “This essay will” or “I will”?

You may have noticed that in all my examples above, I wrote “This essay will…” That’s because it is a little more formal to drop the personal element. Even though some questions explicitly ask for your personal opinion, you can still answer them without personal pronouns. For example:

  • I believe that countries should protect their seas and I will explain why in this essay.
  • This essay will explain why countries should protect their seas.

Both of these sentences are fine, but using the more neutral and objective perspective is better. It avoids being personal, which is slightly informal. However, if you feel more comfortable saying “I think/believe/feel/etc.,” then go ahead and keep doing that.

Common Mistakes

There are some problems that I see when doing my IELTS writing correction service. Some are big problems and some are small.

The worst problem, which I already mentioned above, is when people agree/disagree with themselves. This is actually a problem with the first sentence rather than the outline sentence, but still it is the outline that appears wrong. For example:

City councils should band the construction of buildings that are in a different architectural style to the traditions of that area. I completely disagree with this notion.

This is a huge problem! The author has disagreed with himself because the first sentence is presented as his own perspective. It is very important that you never do this in IELTS. Instead, you should frame the viewpoint as someone else’s:

Some people argue that city councils should band the construction of buildings that are in a different architectural style to the traditions of that area. This essay will completely disagree with this notion.

I have fixed the first sentence and now changed the second to be a bit more formal.

Another problem concerns discussion questions. People often mix up words like this:

  • This essay will explain both sides of view.
  • This essay will look at both sides of the view.

Basically, they have misunderstood the word “view.” A view and a side are pretty much the same thing here. We can just say “both views” or “both sides of the issue/argument/debate.”

A very common problem is to say the same thing twice, like this:

  • In my opinion, I think that…
  • From my viewpoint, I think that…

Keep in mind that both the first and second parts of those sentences mean the same thing!

Finally, we need to remember that an essay can do some things but it cannot do others.

This essay will…
argue / state / discuss / debate / explore / explain / analyse / look at / look into / agree / disagree / weigh

There are other words that can only apply to people (ie using “I”). For example:

believe / think / want to / feel

In other words, your essay is not conscious and so it cannot do feel anything. It can only present ideas on your behalf.

Do you Always Need an Essay Outline?

Are essay outlines always necessary? The short answer is: no. However, omitting them is a quite advanced technique and so it is generally best to include one.

If you leave out an essay outline, then your introduction must be sophisticated enough to hint at later ideas and your body paragraphs must follow on very intuitively from the intro. The benefit of doing this is that you show a subtle and intelligent grasp of cohesion whilst also avoiding formulaic language.

Here is an example:


The tourism industry has grown enormously over the last fifty years, and there are few places which are unaffected by it. However, tourism rarely benefits the countries which tourists visit.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?


Tourism has been around for millennia, but in the late twentieth century it exploded in popularity. Nowadays, millions of people take off on holiday during their summer and winter vacations, often to foreign countries. It generally considered a positive phenomenon, bringing the people of the world closer together and boosting the economies of developing countries. However, there are some drawbacks.

Instead of following the usual approach of saying “This essay will…” or “I think that…” I have simply said that “It is generally considered a positive phenomenon,” and then hinted at my perspective by saying “there are some drawbacks.” This shows balance and in the body paragraphs I will present both the positives and negatives, finally coming to a conclusion, which is that I neither wholly agree nor disagree. Remember: you do not always need to give a strong opinion. Balance is fine.