Question Types and How to Get A Great Score in Task Achievement


Hey everyone. Today’s lesson is important for two reasons:

  • First, because Task Achievement is the most common problem for high level English speakers who failed to get higher than a 6.0 in writing.
  • Secondly, the things you need to do to get a great Task Achievement score are not obvious. This is something you have to study!


The good news is that if you understand what to do, it isn’t that difficult to get a great Task Achievement score.

Let’s go.


Task Achievement: What’s the Examiner Looking for?


Remember that Task Achievement is one of four criteria (Task Achievement / Coherence and Cohesion / Lexical Resource / Grammar), and it is worth 25% of your entire band score for IELTS writing.

Your examiner will be looking for three things here:

  • Did you write 250 words?
  • Did you address all the points in the task, exactly as they are written?
  • Did you stay on topic?

I won’t discuss wordcount in this post, but if you’re having trouble writing 250 words in your 40 minutes then you should practice that as well.

Let’s focus on whether you addressed the task exactly as written, and whether you stayed on topic.

Read the following task:



You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.

Write about the following topic:

Countries are becoming more similar because people are able to buy the same products anywhere in the world.

Do you think this is a positive or negative development?


What do you think you would talk about in this essay?

For Task Achievement, your examiner will be making sure that you focus on talking about the positive / negative developments of countries becoming more similar, due to their having access to similar products.


IF, on the other hand, someone disagreed that countries were becoming more similar, and wrote their essay explaining how countries today were still able to maintain their differences, that person would get a very low score on Task Achievement, and no matter how good their essay was, they most likely would not score above a 6.0.

Do you understand? This task is not asking whether you agree that countries are becoming more and more similar! It is assuming that countries are becoming more similar, and then asking you to discuss the positive and/or negative developments of this.

Understand this well: a simple error in answering the task can destroy your entire band score. It happens all the time, and it happens to very smart people!

The good news is that it’s actually not too difficult to get a great score in Task Achievement; you just have to be really careful, and know what to watch out for.


4 Big Tips – How to Get a Great Score on Task Achievement


1. Be vigilant. 

The most important thing is to simply read the task really carefully.

The IELTS tasks are not trying to trick you! As long as you read carefully and understand the words used, you will be fine.

Sometimes people get ahead of themselves and are eager to begin, and they end up writing about something that is close but not exactly what the task is asking.

It’s better to slow down, and look carefully. It’s not enough to be ‘close’! You have to answer the task exactly.


2. Think about Task Achievement when doing your OUTLINE!

If you haven’t completed the lesson on how to make a Great Outline, you should do it first, and do this one later.

Making an outline before you start your essay is the best thing you can do in Task 2 to get a great score. One reason it’s so important is that it gives you a chance to make sure to address your Task Achievement score before you start writing.

It’s extremely difficult to fix a Task Achievement problem if you’re already halfway through writing an essay! It’s better to consider Task Achievement right from the start, and be absolutely sure that your outline’s supporting points are answering the task.

Always double check your outline and the task… then triple check to make sure!


3. Stay on topic!

It’s very important to keep your essay inside the parameters of the task.

For example, if a question asks you to discuss whether or not raising gasoline prices could help with pollution, and your essay goes on to discuss other possible solutions to pollution, your score will drop!

Again, the test isn’t trying to trick you. You just have to read really carefully, and do exactly as it says (and no more than that).


4. It doesn’t matter how you do it… but Make Your Examiner’s Life EASY!

There is no set ‘structure’ that you have to follow to get your Task Achievement score. You are never required to spend half your essay on X and the other half on Y, or to make sure to give your opinion in the introduction, or anything like that!

You can use whatever structure you want, as long as you address all the points in the task somewhere in your essay.

However, you should try to make your examiner’s life easy. Make it really obvious to your examiner that you understand the task as given.

For example, if you are asked for your opinion, then at the end of your introduction you should write “In my opinion, …” and give your opinion!

If you’re asked to “discuss both views” then say “Some people think that…” and discuss that view!

If you’re asked to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of something, then say something like “The main advantage of X is…”.

Remember, your examiner is only human. Make it SUPER CLEAR that you understood the task, and make it REALLY EASY for your examiner to give you a great task achievement score by being really clear with your words.


Some Task 2 Question Types, and Common Problems


There are some tasks on IELTS Writing that test takers find more difficult than others. I have seen very smart people make major Task Achievement errors with some of these questions.

That won’t be you, though, because you’re going to read through these question types carefully and learn from others’ mistakes 😊

Let’s take a look.


Opinion Questions (Agree / Disagree, To what extent, etc)

Today, everyone seems to own more and more possessions (e.g. cars, cell phones, computers, etc.). Our desire to own these things is making us less aware of important human qualities like kindness, and concern for others.

To what extent do you agree?

  • Note that almost all IELTS Writing Task 2 questions ask for your opinion. But some tasks – like the one above – just ask for an opinion and nothing else. On the surface, these tasks are straightforward.

They may say “to what extent do you agree”, or “what do you think” or “do you think this is a positive or negative development?”.


Common Problems on Opinion Questions:

The most common problem on this task is that people agree or disagree with something that is not exactly what the task asked.

Most often, they write their essay about something they see in the setup or buildup, instead of the question the task is asking!

For example, for the above task one test taker wrote about why qualities like kindness and compassion are far more important than possessions and material wealth, and why the pursuit possessions can negatively affect relationships.

Their essay was excellent. However, it only received a 6.0, due to a very low score on Task Achievement. Can you understand why?

This task is not asking if you think kindness or compassion are more important than material wealth, or about the effects of possessions on relationships. It is asking whether you agree that more people today are concerned with possessions, than kindness and compassion.

Do you see the difference?

One other example of this problem is when people want to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of something, when the question just asks for their opinion. I don’t recommend doing this. Save your “advantage/disadvantage” discussion for those specific question types.


How to Do Opinion Questions Right:

You just need to read carefully, and be vigilant.

Make sure you are answering the question the task is asking – exactly as it is written!

On this question type, you always have three options:

1. You can write your two support paragraphs about two different reasons why you agree.

2. You can write your two support paragraphs about two different reasons why you disagree.

3. You could write your first support paragraph about why you agree, and your second one about why you disagree.

It really doesn’t matter what you choose. The most important thing is just to make sure that you are agreeing or disagreeing with exactly the statement as it is written in the task!

(Remember, it is okay to use subjective language on the IELTS Task 2 (like “I think” or “I believe”))


Discuss Both Views and Give your Opinion

Some people think that it is the responsibility of parents to teach children how to be good members of society. Other people, however, believe that school is the place for children to learn this.

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.


Common Problems on Discuss Both Views Questions:

This is actually a tricky question type. One really common error is to jump right into giving your opinion, without “discussing both views”!

For example, one person wrote an essay where she discussed why both parents and schools had important roles in teaching children. She spent her first support paragraph talking about parents, and her second talking about school.

This is a great way to structure an essay on this task… except, she simply gave her opinion on the topic, without talking about the “view” that other people have.


How to Do "Discuss Both Views" Questions Right:

Believe it or not, all you need to do to get your Task Achievement score here – besides staying on topic and writing 250 words – is to acknowledge the “discuss both views” part of the task before you give your own opinion.

You can do this by using language like “Some people believe”, or “The view that…”, or “Some think that…”, discussing that side of the argument, and then give your opinion.

Yep, it’s that easy! You just have to make sure to do each part, and not only give your opinion. Take time to say something like “Many people believe that parents are superior, because of blah blah blah” before giving your own opinion.

As long as the examiner sees that you attempted to “discuss both views” – instead of only giving your opinion – you will get your Task Achievement score.

Also, don’t forget to give your opinion somewhere! Use words like “I think” or “I believe” to make it clear to the examiner that this is what you’re doing!


Advantage / Disadvantage (or, “do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages”)

Example 1:

There are more cars on the road nowadays, and more accidents. Some politicians suggest that people should have to take regular driving tests at regular times all throughout their lives, instead of just one single test.

What do you think would be the advantages and disadvantages of repeated driving tests?

Example 2:

Some museums choose to charge people for admission, while other museums are free to the public.

Do you think the advantages of charging people a fee for entry outweigh the disadvantages?


Common Problems on Advantage / Disadvantage Questions:

The most common problem with any advantage / disadvantage question is focusing only on one side! These questions make it clear that you must discuss both advantages and disadvantages.

Even in the “do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages” version [Example 2], you still need to discuss both sides.

In Example 2, one of my students wrote his entire essay about why museums should be free. Essentially, his entire essay was about the disadvantages of charging a fee for museum entry. He did a great job explaining this, but because he didn’t talk about the possible advantages of charging a fee, he would have received a bad score on the IELTS Writing test.


How to Do Advantage / Disadvantage Questions Right:

  • Make sure you discuss both advantages AND disadvantages.
  • The “do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages” version also clearly asks you to give your opinion about which side is more important, so make sure you do so!
  • You should note that it is okay to give your opinion in a normal advantage/disadvantage task, even if the task doesn’t ask for it. You won’t get penalized for this. Just don’t make it the focus of your essay!
  • One nice thing about advantage/disadvantage tasks is that they give you an easy structure to use on your essay:
  • Intro
  • Support Paragraph 1 = discuss advantages (or disadvantages
  • Support Paragraph 2 = discuss disadvantages (or advantages)
  • Conclusion to summarize and possibly give your opinion.


Multi-part Questions

Example 1:

Nowadays the way people interact with each other has changed because of technology.

In what was has technology affected the types of relationships people make?

Has this become a positive or a negative development?

Example 2:

In many countries the average weight of people is increasing and their health and fitness is declining.

What do you think are the causes of these problems, and what measures could be taken to solve them?


Common Problems on Multi-part Questions:

Multi-part tasks are a challenge, because they ask you two different questions. And yes, as you may have guessed, you have to answer both!

The biggest problem people have with these tasks is that they fail to answer all the questions.

For instance, in Example 2 above, one IELTS test taker wrote her essay all about how to solve the problem of increasing weight gain and low fitness levels, but she forgot all about discussing the causes of these problems. This resulted in a low band score.

Also, as with any task, there is the possibility of not fully answering the question. In fact, this is more likely to happen on multi-answer tasks because they are longer and more confusing. So be careful!


How to Do Multi-part Questions Right:

Multi-answer are a challenge, but as long as you read carefully and answer all the questions in the task, you’ll be fine.

  • Note that it doesn’t matter where you answer the questions! For Example 2 above, you could talk about the causes of weight gain and poor health in your first support paragraph, then some solutions in the second support paragraph. Or, you could talk about causes for both support paragraphs, and discuss solutions in the conclusion. Another way might be to discuss different, specific causes and their solutions in each of your two support paragraphs.

It’s up to you. It doesn’t matter how you structure your answer. What matters is to make sure you answer the task exactly as written, and answer all of the questions!


Okay! Now, I know this lesson is a bit scary – it sometimes seems like there are so many ways to go wrong with Task Achievement on IELTS Task 2.

But don’t worry. Just remember, the tasks are not trying to trick you. You simply need to force yourself to slow down and read your task really carefully, and make sure you think about Task Achievement when doing your outline!

Also, remember that you need to practice these ideas! Going forward, you should:

  • Complete the practice questions below.
  • Do some IELTS writing practice tests, and think about Task Achievement.
  • If you’re unsure about whether you’re doing a good job, you should send us a sample of your Task 2 writing using our Writing Correction Service. That way, I can give you specific feedback on your strengths and weaknesses and concrete tips on how to improve your writing.


Let’s Get Some Practice.


For the following tasks, try to find the Task Achievement errors. Read the tasks carefully! After you’ve thought about it, click to reveal the answers.


Question 1:

Raising gasoline prices is the best way to solve growing traffic and pollution problems.

To what extent do you agree with the above statement?

What other measures do you think might be effective?


Take a look at the following essay outline. Can you see a Task Achievement problem?

Argument/opinion: pollution and traffic a big problem. Best solution = taxes on carbon emissions for large industries/business

Support #1: taxing carbon emissions for large companies can reduce pollution

Support #2: best way to reduce traffic/cars = research into electric automobiles + incentives

Click to show the answer.

Did you get it? This person’s outline does a great job of answering the second question in the task, but they forgot to directly address the first question!

Unfortunately, this will cost them major points on their band score.

On a task like this, you need to be really clear about whether you agree or disagree with exactly the statement that the task is asking about: do you think raising gas prices is the best way to solve pollution?

This person doesn’t plan to talk about gas prices at all!

On a real IELTS Writing test, this person would be lucky that this is just their outline… so it wouldn’t be too late to fix the Task Achievement problem before starting their essay!

Question 2:

One result of improved medical care is that people are living much longer lives.

Do you think the advantages of this development outweigh the disadvantages?


Take a look at the following essay outline. Can you see a Task Achievement problem?

Argument/opinion: improved medical progress is good, definitely positive development

Support #1: big benefit = longer lives means more productive years working

Support #2: 2nd benefit = longer lives means more experienced people

Click to show the answer.

This person did not discuss both the advantages and the disadvantages of longer lives; he only talked about the advantages!

Remember: if you are asked about the advantages and disadvantages – even if it says “do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages” – you must discuss both somewhere in your essay.

Also, to make the examiner’s job easier, you should say something in the introduction like “I believe that the benefits do outweigh the drawbacks of…” to make it clear that you understood the task.

Question 3:

With so many people increasingly communicating by text and internet, face to face communication will become a thing of the past.

To what extent do you agree?


Take a look at the following essay outline. Can you see a Task Achievement problem?

Argument/opinion: relying on texting/internet to connect is worse than face-to-face / face-to-face communication much more important

Support #1: importance of facial expressions and body language

Support #2: physical presence is important to understand others and technology cannot provide this

Click to show the answer.

This is a tough one, but I should tell you that the above outline – if the essay is written based on this – would not receive a good score in Task Achievement. Why?

This person is answering something that the task didn’t ask. The task is not asking whether you think face-to-face communication is better than texting! It is asking whether you think technology will make face-to-face communication a thing of the past.

Tricky, right?


Okay. That’s all for now. Remember, the best thing you can do with your task on Task 2 IELTS Writing is just be vigilant and read really carefully, and try to remember to think about this while making your outline!

If you want some specific feedback on certain tasks, please check out the Writing Correction Service. The purpose of this service is to help test takers address their specific problems; while it's very useful to read model answers and practice lessons, writing really does require some personal feedback if you wish to improve.


Good luck, and have a wonderful day!