In task 2 of the IELTS writing test, you could be asked to write a positive or negative development essay. This article will explain how to analyse the question, plan your answer, and then write an essay that can score you at least band 7.

What is a Positive or Negative Development IELTS Essay?

There are different kinds of question in task 2 of the IELTS writing test, but one of them will give you a statement and then say something like “Is this a positive or negative development?” In a sense, then, it is a form of opinion essay.

Here is an example:

Today, more people are waiting until their thirties to get married and have children.

Do you think this is a positive or negative development?

This kind of question is quite simple because you are given a development (that more people now wait to have children) and you must decide whether that is positive or negative. There is nothing tricky about this.

Still, it is worth mentioning a few things because people often make mistakes with this sort of question:

  1. This is not a discussion essay, so you do not have to give a balanced answer
  2. If you say “this is a very negative development,” then don’t explain the positives
  3. Once you have given your answer, you should try to justify your perspective

Analysing the Question

Let’s consider the above question a little more closely. You must decide whether it is a positive or negative development that people now wait until their thirties to get married and have children. Thus, we can essentially have three possible answers:

  1. It is a positive development.
  2. It is a negative development.
  3. It is neither wholly positive nor negative.

I strongly recommend that you choose an approach that allows you to develop your answers clearly and convincingly. By that, I mean you should decide to give the answer that allows you to present good ideas and then justify them. Take a minute or two to figure this out before you begin properly planning and writing your essay.

For example:

 It is a positive developmentIt is a negative development
Supporting ideasPeople can enjoy freedom in their younger years
They will become more mature before settling down
There could be medical problems
Children will grow up with older parents

When you look at these ideas, which ones do you think would be the easiest to develop? There is no correct answer here – it is totally up to you.

Remember that for a good score in Task Response and Coherence and Cohesion, you must develop your ideas and sequence them logically. Thus, choose carefully at this stage.

If you have trouble generating ideas, then you can research different topics in preparation for your essay by looking online. For example, here we are discussing having babies at an older age, so we might look for news articles and then take ideas and vocabulary from there. Here is an article from Forbes about why millennial women are waiting longer to have children. Here is one from The Guardian about waiting until you’re in your fifties! Remember: Good writers read a lot.

positive or negative development

How to Structure a Positive or Negative Development IELTS Essay

There is no perfect way to structure an IELTS essay, but there are good ways and bad ways. I strongly recommend writing four paragraphs and making sure that each paragraph has a single focus. For a positive/negative development essay, it would be a good idea to pick two main arguments in support of your view, then provide them as the focus of each body paragraph.

For example:

 Positive developmentNegative developmentNeither wholly positive nor negative
IntroductionExplain your positionExplain your positionExplain your position
Body paragraph #1Main reason why it is positiveMain reason why it is negativeDiscuss positives
Body paragraph #2Secondary reason why it is positiveSecondary reason why it is negativeDiscuss negatives
ConclusionSummarise your positionSummarise your positionExplain why it cannot be said to be entirely one or the other

That’s pretty simple, right?

Mistakes that people make here include:

  • Putting too many ideas into each paragraph
  • Feeling that they have to give balance
  • Providing an unclear position

The best approach to IELTS is keeping things simple. I cannot stress enough that overcomplicating an issue is a bad idea. Thus, using the above structures is a really effective way to produce a great essay that is capable of achieving at least band 7.

Keep in mind that approach #3 (neither wholly positive nor negative) is naturally going to be a little more complicated than the others. If you are not confident in your ability to structure an essay, you might want to avoid this one.

Personally, I feel that this issue is not purely positive or negative, so I would choose the third option. Here is my sample answer.

Sample Band 9 Answer

While in previous generations it was normal for people to get married and start a family at a very young age, nowadays people tend to wait until they are in their thirties. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this development, and so this essay will explain why it is neither a wholly positive nor negative trend.

Traditionally, people would get married and settle down at a very young age because life expectancies were short and there were also few other options available to most people. Nowadays, with people expected to live into their seventies or eighties, it is reasonable to wait until later to get married and have children. This allows people to develop more prior to starting a serious relationship or embarking on the journey of parenthood. They can gain an education, see the world, find out more about themselves, and even have the sort of fun experiences that are difficult in the midst of parental responsibility.

However, it could also be argued that people are naturally inclined to settle down earlier. The human body has evolved over millions of years to reproduce at an early age and, when people try to have children later, it often ends in failure or even with birth defects. Therefore, perhaps it is more reasonable to settle down and do this at an earlier age, and then the parents can enjoy more freedom once their children have grown up and left home. In terms of love, people who meet later might also feel a sense of regret that they did not share their younger years as this is a special time when life can be more eventful and passionate.

In conclusion, there are both advantages and disadvantages to settling down early, and it is really just a personal choice that will suit different people in different ways.

Notes on the Answer

You may look at this and think, “But that’s an advantages and disadvantages essay…” Well, it certainly looks like it because I have used the phrase “advantages and disadvantages” twice! However, I have made it clear that it is about the positive vs negative issue and that my position is that it cannot be said to be either of them.

For me, this allows an in-depth discussion that gives nuance and allows me to show my critical thinking skills to the examiner. One thing to avoid, though, is cramming too many ideas into each paragraph, which can be a big problem with balanced essays like this.

Another Sample Essay

Ok, let’s take another look so that we can get an idea of how to give a straightforward answer.

Here’s the question:

Nowadays, more people are choosing to socialise online rather than face to face.

Is this a positive or negative development?

And here’s my answer:

In the twenty-first century, the internet is changing the way that people socialise. Where we used to talk face-to-face, now we tend to use different types of technology to communicate. This essay will argue that it is a positive development.

The first reason why this is positive is that humans have always adapted in order to communicate more efficiently. In fact, our ability to communicate well has led us to be the most sophisticated and powerful animal on the planet. We have developed thousands of complex languages, then learned to write them down, and in the last few hundred years we have discovered printing and telephones. Now that we have the internet, our communication skills are becoming even greater as a species, and it is hard to see why that could be a negative development.

Furthermore, the internet has allowed people from all over the world to interact with each other. Rather than speak only with our immediate friends and family, or our social or national group, we can now speak with people from anywhere, and the communication is instant. This allows us to break down traditional cultural barriers and will hopefully lead to a worldwide decline in prejudice and hatred. This is an unprecedented development in world history, and one that I think is going to make largely positive changes for all humankind.

In conclusion, the switch from face-to-face to online communication is not a negative development in human history; instead, it allows us to communicate better and interact with other people from different backgrounds.

Notes on the Answer

My position was clear throughout the essay, which is really important. I started by using this easy phrase:

  • This essay will argue that it is a positive development.

I then transitioned nicely into the next paragraph by saying:

  • The first reason why this is positive is that…

I built up my argument convincingly throughout that paragraph, then switched to my second argument with:

  • Furthermore…

Again, that paragraph built up a nice argument, and this time is reached a sort of summary sentence:

  • This is an unprecedented development in world history, and one that I think is going to make largely positive changes for all humankind.

That led naturally into the conclusion, which reaffirmed my position.