How To Write A Problem And Solution Essay

In writing task 2 you will be asked to write a discursive essay (250 words minimum). You will be given a question asking you to give your opinion, discuss a problem or issue. You could also be asked to provide solutions, evaluate a problem, compare and contrast different ideas or challenge an idea. In this post, we will be focussing on how to write a problem/solution essay.

One of the first things you should do is read the marking criteria to see what the examiners expect. This is really important, as you need to know what they are looking for in the band 7+ boxes. 

You should be able to give the examiners exactly what they want, in order to get a 7+ band score. 


WRITING TASK 2 Problem/Solution STRUCTURE

The structure that I advise my students to use, will be sure to get you a band score 7+. You need to practice using this structure, with as many questions as you can, before sitting your IELTS test. This writing task 2 structure has been proven to be successful for my students and when perfected, can easily help you to achieve a high band score

TIP >> Before you start writing, plan your ideas so that you can organise the information clearly. You must decide what you think is the main problem and what the specific solution to that problem is. Take 5 minutes and plan out your ideas and examples. 

TIP >> It is very important that spend a full 40 minutes on this task as the score you get for writing task 2 is two-thirds of your total writing score. You also need to write a minimum of 250 words and use your own ideas

TIP >> Remember to write in a formal tone, this is an academic essay, therefore your writing should be formal. 

This is one possible way to structure your essay;

It is a 4-PARAGRAPH STRUCTURE >>

Paragraph 1 - The Introduction

This is the introduction to the essay and where you should start off by paraphrasing the question. 

Do you understand what I mean, when I say 'paraphrase' the question?

This means that you rewrite the question in your own words using synonyms. You can't just copy the question again or use the same words in the question. Paraphrase and show off your vocabulary knowledge by using synonyms. When practising your essay writing, use an online thesaurus to help you. This is a great tool and can help you to learn many new words.

Then your next sentence should introduce the essay, this will tell the examiner exactly what you will discuss in the main body paragraphs. For example, Firstly this essay will discuss......... Secondly this essay will discuss.......

There are two sentences you need in the introduction >>

  • Paraphrase the question
  • Introduce the specific topics that will be discussed in the main body paragraphs.

Paragraph 2 - Main Body Paragraph 1

In this paragraph, you should describe a specific problem.

Start the paragraph by introducing the problem. This is where you need to have a topic sentence. The next sentence(s) should explain the problem, going into detail. The third sentence should give an example that supports the problem.

The example you give could be something from your own experience or made up - it is ok to make up something as the examiners will not fact check your information. They want to see your ability to use English at a certain level. You could make up an example from a report, journal, newspaper or University study. 

This is how the paragraph should look >>

  • Introduce the problem (topic sentence)
  • Explain/give detail
  • Example

Paragraph 3 - Main Body Paragraph 2

In this paragraph, you should write about the solution.

Start the paragraph by introducing the solution. This is where you need to have a topic sentence. The next sentence(s) should explain the solution, going into detail. The third sentence should give an example.

The example you give could be something from your own experience or made up - it is ok to make up something as the examiners will not fact check your information. They want to see your ability to use English at a certain level. You could make up an example from a report, journal, newspaper or University study. 

This is how the paragraph should look >>

  • Introduce the solution (topic sentence)
  • Explain/give detail
  • Example

Paragraph 4 - The Conclusion

In the fourth paragraph, you write the conclusion giving a summary of your main points and say what you think is most important about this topic and give a recommendation. You should not enter any new information or ideas in this paragraph. 

  • Summary of the main points
  • What you think is most important about this topic / give a recommendation

Another possible way to structure your problem/solution essay is this;

  • Introduction
  • Problem 1 - Describe a specific problem and give a solution
  • Problem 2 - Describe another specific problem and give a solution
  • Problem 3 - Describe a third specific problem and give a solution
  • Conclusion

You will need to make a choice, either describe each problem and give a solution in the same paragraph, or split the information into separate paragraphs, with only one main idea in each of the main body paragraphs. 


SAMPLE Problem/Solution ESSAY >>

**All questions have been reported by students who have taken the IELTS exam.**

In many developing countries, there are a number of skilled academics leaving in search of better pay, increased socioeconomic benefits, and the chance to earn citizenship in a developed country. In this essay, I will examine the impact this has had on the more poverty stricken countries and suggest how this situation could be improved.

The foremost problem with skilled professionals, such as doctors and teachers leaving is that it deprives the country of people who are necessary to its survival. A shortage of doctors in hospitals could lead to them being severely understaffed, even though they have the trained doctors and nurses who are local and willing to work. In addition, some academic institutions will also suffer, with a lack of skilled teachers in highly desirable subjects, like maths, science and languages. Many professionals desire better pay and working conditions, leaving in search of a better lifestyle, so that they can earn a higher salary. For example, a study from Bucharest University showed that in Romania in 2014, 75% of graduates had applied to work in the UK and the USA.

A possible solution to this problem is for skilled professionals to enter into mandatory service in their origin country, before being able to migrate. Those who earn their qualifications from state universities should have to work in service to their country for a set amount of time, even though they are ready for the wider workplace. This would address the shortage of workers in hospitals and schools, meanwhile gaining experience, in order to give something back to their community and country. For instance, in Romania, it is common practice for graduates from state-funded university courses to work in areas where their services are needed for a minimum of two years before they are able to apply to work abroad.

In conclusion, with the rising demand for nurses, doctors and teachers in economically rich countries like the UK, more and more people are leaving their poor origin countries in search of better pay, working conditions and benefits. It is, therefore, necessary for governments to put appropriate schemes into place, with mandatory service for state-funded degree holders.

(Word Count = 362 / Band Score 9)


  • Task Achievement - The answer provides a paraphrased question, to begin with, followed by a relevant problem and solution. Both the problem and solution are fully supported in the main body paragraphs in the essay, with fully extended and well-supported ideas. the style of the writing is appropriate for an academic essay.
  • Coherence and Cohesion - The answer has been divided into clear logical paragraphs and each main body paragraph only has one main idea. There are cohesive links between the main body paragraphs and between most sentences. Examples are highlighted with discourse markers like - for example, and for instance. The conclusion gives a clear recommendation, which is linked to the information in the main body paragraphs.
  • Lexical Resource - There is evidence of a wide range of vocabulary, with no errors in the text.
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy - The answer has no grammatical errors. The sentences have a wide range of structures. 

TIP >> Remember to give both a problem and solution. Use each of the main body paragraphs to support your ideas, giving examples that are relevant. In the conclusion, summarise your main points and say what is important about the topic/give a recommendation. 


WRITING TASK 2 BAND SCORE 9 CRITERIA >>


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