How to answer ‎‘To what extent do you agree or disagree?’ questions.

How should you answer ‎IELTS writing task 2 questions that ask ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree?’

A lot of people have asked me about this recently.  Here are two typical questions:

1) ‘When the writing task question says ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree?’ Do I have to discuss both of the views in the question? So, one body paragraph for ‘agree’ and other one for the ‘disagree’? Or can I choose to just either agree or disagree?’

2) ‘In “To what extent do you agree or disagree” type questions, will I lose marks if I write only the points in the body paragraphs that I agree or disagree?’

These questions are basically asking – ‘is it ok to only give only one opinion or do I have to mention both opinions?’

Let’s take a look at an authentic example of this type of writing task. It is very important that the writing tasks you use for practice are authentic and reflect the real IELTS test. I find that it is test questions that are NOT authentic (the ones that advertise themselves as ‘free!” or ‘cheaper than Cambridge!”) that often cause problems and confusion.

Here is an image showing an authentic writing task question that comes from Cambridge Practice Tests Book 9.  I’ve added notes to show how you should approach this type of question.


To understand more about planning your answer, and how to approach this type of question, read this post: How to quickly plan your answer


Recent Comments

  • Milad
    15th May 2019 - 4:27 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline, Sometimes the question or prompt has just one idea, for example:
    ” Some people say that music is a good way of bringing people of different cultures and ages together.
    To what extent do you agree or disagree? ”
    Cambridge Book 14-Test 3.
    How we can organize our paragraphs in examples like this?

  • Pawan Bahuguna
    1st September 2018 - 12:55 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline,

    That is great and I got some idea from the comments what you are trying to say. If the candidate is not having 2 different ideas to explain in 2 paragraphs, he/she can also explain the other side.

    Also, the image in this article is not working, so please fix that.

    • Pauline
      3rd September 2018 - 8:21 am · Reply

      Yes, that’s exactly my point, Pawan :). With the images from old posts, I am going to update these links over the next few weeks. Please bear with me as I move into my new site.

  • James Edel
    11th November 2017 - 8:13 pm · Reply

    Dear Pauline,

    Permit me to ask few questions on this post even though it has been posted almost two years ago.

    Do candidates lose any mark if they fail to consider both sides of the question? Which of the writing assessment criteria will they not meet if they write explanations to only the point/side they support?

    I do agree with you that writing about the two sides will make the essay more balanced, however, this method of writing is difficult to teach.

    • Pauline
      11th November 2017 - 9:50 pm · Reply

      Hi James, I am answering those questions in my free book – the short answer is that a candidate will lose marks if they do not discuss everything in the task (i.e. if there are two views they must discuss both, if there are two elements, they must discuss both). What I suggest in this post is that, where there is only one viewpoint given, non-native speakers often struggle to write about only one side, so it can help them to be less repetitive if they also write about the opposite (i.e. to say 1) I believe x because 2) if we did not have x then y would happen

  • Sophie
    30th August 2017 - 6:03 pm · Reply

    I have a question about citing research in task 2. Many of my students are experts in their field and they are in a position to say things like “according to research in behavioral psychology….”. My question is, how do the examiners know if these examples are not made up if the source is not provided? Also, what kind of examples should be given in task 2?

    • Pauline
      10th September 2017 - 6:44 pm · Reply

      Hi Sophie, If they are truly experts then they will naturally know this data so it is absolutely find to use it just as you say. However, in my experience, the people who do this are often going out of their way to show their knowledge and so use data that may be relevant to part of the topic but is not really relevant to the specific question – once they cite data like this they also tend to get a bit carried away. This is particularly true of the many doctors I help. The ones that are clearly made up tend to use extremes (e.g. 80% of children in the USA are obese) or make up names using famous people they know – I have seen a Dr Justin Bieber (!) In itself, this is ok, but I do find that once they are inventing, other language problems creep in. This is why I always recommend they write about what they know.

  • Ngan
    17th July 2017 - 5:09 pm · Reply

    Hi Pauline,
    Above you said “consider the effects of NOT HAVING unpaid community service”
    I’m a little confused about this.
    These “effects” are negative effects of not having unpaid community service (ideas for disagreement) or both positive and negative effects of that?

    • Pauline
      25th July 2017 - 9:23 am · Reply

      They can be either positive or negative – there is no rule for that – it is only about finding ideas to write about and looking at the question for inspiration. A lot of people tell me that they have no ideas, so this suggestion is a way of thinking to help you get ideas in the short space of time you have in the test. For example, not having unpaid community service would mean the students have more time to study and relax (a positive), but would also mean that community suffers as a result (a negative) It’s just about finding things to write about.

  • Muhamamd
    25th June 2017 - 11:22 am · Reply

    So! Do I have to support why I agree in one paragraph with advatages and effects of not applying and then write a paragraph for disagreement? Please answer.

    • Pauline
      26th June 2017 - 1:20 pm · Reply

      Hi Muhamamd, it isn’t that you ‘have to’ to do that, it is that I suggest you do that (It means you look at both sides and gives you more to talk about so your answer is balanced and less repetitive) I will be explaining it in more detail in my free book

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