Are The IELTS Essay Questions Getting Tougher - IELTS University (Singapore)

Are The IELTS Essay Questions Getting Tougher

The IELTS writing module is notorious for being extra tough on candidates. However, the writing module consists of 2 questions. The academic module requires candidates to produce a formal report and an essay while the general training module test asks students to write a letter and an essay. Both of these pieces of writing have to meet an extremely high standard of assessment criteria in order to score well. Many students took comfort in the fact, that at least the types of essay that were commonly asked during the test were almost the same for 2 decades. Unfortunately, this seems to be changing. In this article, we will take a look at why the IELTS essay topics seem to be getting tougher.

In general, I teach my students that there are around 5 main types of essays that are:

  • Advantages and disadvantages essay
  • Opinion essays
  • Discuss both views essays
  • Problems and solutions essays
  • Mixed type essays

You can understand what type of essay you need to write by analysing the wording of the question, and the type of essay will also determine how you structure your essay as well as the type of vocabulary and argument you can use.

Fake Questions

In general IELTS essay question follow a fixed structure and careful unambiguous languages

When students show me questions which appear to not fit the standard structure of the typical IELTS question, my first question to them is where did the sources say this question is from. Often websites asks their readers to provide them with the questions from their own ielts exam. However, it is highly unlikely that these second language learners have the skills, let alone the memory to remember the exact wording of each question.

These slight changes in wording can completely alter the meaning of the question, and make it seem much more difficult to understand and answer.

There are also some two part questions in the ielts exam. These usually consisit of some combination of the main essay types for example.

A question might ask you to discuss the causes of an issue and then ask you to mention your opinion. For example

The continued rise in the world’s population is the greatest problem faced by humanity at the present time.

What are the causes of this continued rise?

Do you agree that it is the greatest problem faced by humanity?

These questions are also known as double essay questions because, they have one statement with two different questions after it. The questions may or may not be linked.

  • These three errors are common in IELTS Mixed essays.
  • Not answering both questions fully.
  • Not outlining both answers in the introduction.
  • Mistaking it for one of the other essay types.

These types of questions are not actually new, but they are less common, and because of this, they usually throw students off when they come across one. Here are some tips on how to handle such questions.

First you need to analyse the question to determine exactly what is being asked of you.

Let us look at the following example:

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

In what ways has technology affected the types of relationships people make? Has this become a positive or negative development?

We know the general topic is about technology, specifically how people interact using technology. We need to discuss how has technology affected relationships, and which type of development is it? Is it good or bad?

Next we need to generate ideas for our essays and come up with a good structure for it. I recommend using separate paragraphs for each question, as follows.

Mixed Question Essay Structure:


  • Paraphrase Question
  • Give your opinion and outline main ideas.

Main Body Paragraph 1

  • Answer the First question
  • Explain
  • Example

Main Body Paragraph 2

  • Answer the Second Question
  • Explain Topic Sentence
  • Example


  • Summary of main points and opinion

Once you have you done this, writng your essay becomes much easier. Make sure that you practice as many of these types of mixed essay questions as possible, so that you are not phased if one of them appears in your actual ielts exam.