During the IELTS exam, you may find yourself required to describe the pros and cons (or advantages and disadvantages) of something. There are different ways of doing this. For example, you might want to say “On the one hand… On the other hand…” But one of the simplest and best ways is by using “however.”


Looks at these examples:

Riding a bike to school can help you maintain a higher level of fitness; however, sometimes when you cycle you will get your school uniform dirty.

Many people argue in favour of reducing our dependence upon fossil fuels. However, it should be kept in mind that these people don’t always know everything about the new kinds of energy they advocate.

Note the punctuation above. We can use “however” after a semi-colon or a period, and always followed by a comma.

Online Shopping

One common topic these days that you may encounter in the IELTS exam is online shopping. Everyone knows that there are pros and cons to this topic. If you’ve spent a long time practicing IELTS, you’ve probably had to explain your thoughts on this issue more than once. Maybe you said something like this:

There are two sides to every coin. On the one hand, online shopping is convenient. On the other hand, you don’t know the quality of what you’re buying.

Is that a good answer?

Not really. Firstly, the idiom at the start is really cliched. Examiners hate hearing this stuff. You should avoid phrases like that, even when they’re correctly used. Then, the “on the one hand… on the other…” structure. Again, it’s over-used by IELTS candidates and can be annoying for examiners to hear. You’re better off using simpler phrases with a higher degree of accuracy.


Take a look at the following table.

Beauty products  
Books Instant download Disposable
Music Find new artists Copyright infringement
Airplane tickets Efficiency


Try to fill in the blanks with your own ideas, and then practice explaining the pros and cons in just one or two sentences. I have given a few examples:

The internet allows us to buy e-books quickly online and instantly download them to our e-reader device. However, this ease of access means that we no longer value our books so much and we treat them as though they were disposable.

These days it is possible to get music online from various streaming services, and one great thing is that you can find new artists that you didn’t know about. However, there is a lot of copyright infringement, so you really need to be careful.

I think that buying airplane tickets online is necessary because it’s so much more efficient than the old method; however, they are usually non-refundable, and if you make a mistake then you are in big trouble.

Feel free to post your answers in the comment section below.