In the past, I have talked often about IELTS topics because I believe that this is the best way to prepare for the exam. I’ve dealt with it as a way of learning vocabulary and I’ve got more general articles that deal with common topics. In these articles, I’ve tended to look at speaking, writing, listening, and reading, but today I’m only going to talk about IELTS writing topics.
Note that this will be more or less the same for both the general and academic IELTS tests. The topics and ideas covered here will apply to both forms of IELTS, although the questions may be phrased in a more complicated way for the academic test.
IELTS Writing Topics
First of all, here is a list of common topics that appear in the IELTS writing test. This basically applies to task 2 because for task 1 you are just describing data in a map, chart, graph, or table. Therefore, we will ignore that and just look at the topics for task 2:
- Crime and Punishment
- Food and diet
- Global issues
- Sports and Exercise
- Tourism and Travel
That was a big list, so let’s clarify what I mean by “topic” and how these actually affect your exam preparation and performance in the next sections.
How do Topics Work for IELTS Writing?
In that huge list that I provided above, you can see 30 common IELTS writing topics. These are not the only topics that could appear in your next exam, but these are so common and so wide in scope, that I would be surprised if they didn’t.
However, it is worth remembering that these topics are not mutually exclusive. That means each topic does not have to appear by itself. For example, I have included “reading” as a topic because there are many possible questions about reading (and books) in IELTS writing. These are rarely just about books, though. They tend to crossover into other topics such as childhood, society, or education. For example, you see questions like this:
The main purpose of public libraries is to provide books, and they should not waste their limited resources and space on providing expensive hi-tech media such as computer software, videos, and DVDs.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?
Here, the question is about books/reading but it is also clearly an issue of money and society. It is about what sort of policy is right for people and their community.
When you are learning about topics for IELTS, you need to be aware of this issue. A question about reading is not just about reading. Sure, in the speaking test, you may be asked about what sort of books you like to read… but for IELTS writing, it’s going to be more complicated, like the question above. As such, we can see that IELTS topics tend to overlap.
IELTS Topics and Sub-Topics
Whilst I totally recommend learning IELTS language and techniques through studying topics, it is also worth remembering that these topics are not just overlapping but they can contain other sub-topics. This is where the matter becomes slightly confusing.
Above, I have listed some clearly related topics, such as business, money, advertising, and work. You can view these as separate topics, but you may also view them as potentially sub-topics of one another. Perhaps “money” is the main topic and the others are sub-topics because these are things that only exist because of the pursuit of money.
Then there are sub-topics that are clearly not main topics and definitely fall under the category of a single IELTS topic like environment:
|Sub-topics||Climate change |
Each of those sub-topics is something that could appear in IELTS, yet you would not necessarily call them “IELTS topics.” Still, it is worth considering them as part of the greater topic, environment. This can help you to focus your studies better and prepare for your test effectively.
Here are a few more IELTS topics listed with their sub-topics:
|IELTS Topics||Crime and Punishment||Education||Food and Diet||Media|
Causes of crime
|Imported foods |
Traditional food and cooking
How to Learn IELTS Topics
So you now that you can see the importance of learning language and preparing for IELTS by considering the most common topics used in the test, you might wonder how to actually study this way.
Thankfully, many IELTS books are divided according to topic. Some books, like Focus on IELTS, structure their book into chapters that examine different topics one-by-one. You might have a chapter on education… then a chapter on society… and then a chapter about technology. These will each look at speaking, writing, reading, and listening ideas, giving you practice with each section of the test on a variety of topics. It’s a great way to learn.
If you are going to prepare without a book, then you should try to stick with the topic method. Make a note of my list of 30 common IELTS writing topics from above and then approach them in turn. This article is just about writing, so I won’t bother giving advice on listening and speaking, but I do think that reading is essential for building writing skills. (The experts tend to agree.)
I would recommend that you find some articles about those topics. Let’s take “space” as an example. You should go on Google News and search for articles about space. Find something that is within your reading level – in other words, if you are at about band 5.5 and this is a really complicated article, it may not help you. Then attempt to read it twice. The first time, you should just soak up the ideas and get the gist, but the second time you read it you should go slowly and make notes.
I think that a language notebook is really valuable. You can write down words and phrases that you find, and pay particular attention to collocations – that means groups of words that go together. If you group all of these notes according to their topic, it will be easier for you to remember. You can also note down ideas that you find surprising or interesting, and maybe practice writing a little about that.
You should also look up questions based upon those topics. For space, you might see this question:
Some scientists think that there are intelligent life forms on other planets and messages should be sent to contact them. Other scientists think it is a bad idea and would be dangerous.
Discuss both views and give your opinion.
Honestly, this is a question that many people just never think about. As such, it can be useful to read articles and make notes on ideas such as this. It might help you deal with the troublesome issue of generating ideas for your task 2 answer.
Recent IELTS Writing Topics
Personally, I recommend to my students that they study topics and don’t think too much about anticipating questions. Some teachers (usually the lazy ones) tell their students that they can guess the forthcoming questions… but this is not true, and probably leaves them much less prepared than if they had just studied a wide range of topics.
Anyway, if you want to know some recent IELTS writing questions, then you can look at the following list. These are reported questions from students who have done the exam, so there is no guarantee that these are the exact right questions. I have tried to correct some poor grammar where they were obviously misremembered:
A lot of money is spent on repairing old buildings. Instead of repairing old buildings, money should be spent on knocking down old buildings and building new ones.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
People’s shopping habits depend more on the age group they belong to than any other factors.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
Some people argue that it is best to accept a bad situation, such as an unsatisfactory job or shortage of money. Others believe that it is better to try and improve such situations.
Discuss both views and give your own opinion.
I hope that this has helped you. You can also find a long list of IELTS writing questions on this page. If you have any questions about IELTS writing topics, you can post them in the comment section below or get in touch through Facebook.