A few days ago, I was given an essay to correct by one of my writing students. The question was quite interesting and I had never seen it before. When I wrote her a sample answer, I decided that I would use it on this website to illustrate how to write a good answer for this sort of question.
As such, I am going to show you some ideas about writing a good answer for “discuss both views…” questions and then give you my band 9 sample answer.
Here is the question that she gave me. It is, of course, an IELTS writing task 2 question:
In order to be successful in sport, some people think you have to be physically strong. Others say that mental strength is more important.
Discuss both views and give your opinion.
I think that it is pretty straightforward. In other words, there is nothing very complicated about it. There are essentially two issues:
- physical strength is the most important factor in sports
- mental strength is the most important factor in sports
What do you need to do here? You need to discuss both views and then state what your opinion is. That means you should choose either #1 or #2 or say that both are equally important.
Once you understand the question, you need to think of ideas. In a question like this, there isn’t much brainstorming to do because you already have the two main ideas. However, you need to think of:
- reasons why physical strength is important
- reasons why mental strength is important
- examples to prove both of those points
For me, this was quite easy. I decided that I wanted to give a balanced answer because, in my opinion, you cannot succeed at sports without a mixture of these qualities. So I made some notes that looked like this:
|Physical Strength||Mental Strength|
|Strong people can win physical contests |
They can last longer in races
Strength triumphs over weakness
Strong people have better stamina
They can endure more pain
Sports require strong athletes
|Strong minds keep the body going |
You must endure some failure
Stamina is partly mental
Mind is more important than body
Visualizing success is essential
Your brain can overcome physical weakness
It is important to note that not all of these ideas are equal and that you should not say too much. This second point is important. For IELTS, it is better to take one or two ideas and expand upon them logically rather than just list many ideas. This will help you score highly for Task Achievement and Coherence and Cohesion.
Considering those last points, it is important that you take your ideas and develop them appropriately. I decided to include just one idea in each paragraph, but to expand upon it logically. This is a risk for some IELTS students, but as a native speaker and professional writer, I was not worried. I am confident in my skills.
I decided to say that both a strong body and strong mind are necessary. I would put that as my topic sentence for each paragraph and then develop the idea with explanation and examples. Here is how I would organize my thoughts:
|Physical Strength||Mental Strength|
|A strong body is essential |
It can come from genetics or training
For example, runners with long legs or cyclists with strong hearts
|Determination is essential |
Perseverance works in addition to strength and talent
Even strong people feel pain, so they need mental strength to go further
Tenacity pushes you through necessary training
In terms of paragraphing, I would structure my essay like this:
- Introduction – introduce the topic and state my thesis
- Body para #1 – talk about physical strength and give examples
- Body para#2 – say that mental strength is equal and explain
- Conclusion – summarize the issues
It is possible to write more than 4 paragraphs. Some people would choose to write 5 paragraphs in this sort of essay, but I personally think that writing 4 paragraphs is better. You can read more about that discussion here.
Anyway, let’s move on to my sample answer so that you can see how I would personally approach this topic.
Traditionally, people believed that sports were in the domain of those who were bigger, faster, or stronger than their peers; however, nowadays people value mental strength and believe that this is the most important factor in attaining sporting prowess. This essay will look at both sides of the argument before concluding that a successful sportsperson needs both.
To begin with, it is nearly impossible to become a talented sportsperson without some degree of physical superiority over your fellow athletes. This could be either a genetic predisposition or the result of intensive training, but it is undoubtedly of massive importance. A runner with short legs could not win a race against his long-legged competitors regardless of his tenacity and a Tour de France cyclist with a weak heart and poorly developed leg muscles would stand no chance of winning the yellow jersey even if he was extremely determined.
Despite that, mental strength is also tremendously important and thus cannot be overlooked in measuring the prerequisites for sporting achievements. In the aforementioned examples of running and cycling, physical strength and attributes are incredibly important, but without the motivation to win and the perseverance to push through pain and adversity, there would be little chance that those people could succeed. In addition, mental strength is required to endure the brutal training regimes necessary for modern athletes, and these are responsible for at least part of the physical capabilities that they develop.
In conclusion, it is impossible to say whether physical or mental strength is more important for sportspeople because they are both utterly indispensable.
In terms of language, you may notice that I have used some advanced vocabulary. You don’t need to use lots of difficult words. The most important thing is avoiding mistakes. This video will explain why that is the case:
Anyway, I have put some of that language in bold for you to review. These words and phrases are suitable for this topic and added some value that would help me get band 9 for Lexical Resource.
Perhaps more importantly, I have varied my language. Notice that there is little repetition! Look how I added an example in paragraph 2:
A runner with short legs could not win a race against his long-legged competitors regardless of his tenacity and a Tour de France cyclist with a weak heart and poorly developed leg muscles would stand no chance of winning the yellow jersey even if he was extremely determined.
I have not repeated “win” as I used the phrase “winning the yellow jersey.” This made it specific to the sport and avoided a boring piece of language. Instead of repeating “strong” and “strength,” I talked about specific features: legs and hearts. Also, notice that I used the negative forms: short legs could not win… and weak hearts would not get the yellow jersey.
In terms of Coherence and Cohesion, I have linked my paragraphs very well. I started the second one with “Despite that” and then later said “In the aforementioned examples …” This clearly tells the examiner that I am capable of connecting my ideas across a whole answer.
Overall, with no mistakes and some quite advanced techniques for language and linking, I have produced an excellent essay that would surely score a band 9.
Books About IELTS Writing
If you liked this sample answer, you may find my books on IELTS writing to be useful. Check them out here.