How To Write An Advantages Or Disadvantages 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 advantages/disadvantages 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 Advantages/Disadvantages 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 the main advantages and disadvantages are. Take 5 minutes and plan out your ideas, opinions 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;

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 advantages/disadvantages that will be discussed in the main body paragraphs.

Paragraph 2 - Main Body Paragraph 1

In this paragraph, you should describe the main advantage.

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

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 advantage (topic sentence)
  • Explain/give detail
  • Example

Paragraph 3 - Main Body Paragraph 2

In this paragraph, you should write about the main disadvantage.

Start the paragraph by introducing the disadvantage. This is where you need to have a topic sentence. The next sentence(s) should explain, 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 disadvantage (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 were most important pros and cons. You should not enter any new information or ideas in this paragraph. 

You can end your conclusion with a balancing statement that tells the reader why one side is better than the other. For example, using words like outweigh, balance out, compensate for, exceed and make up for. 

  • Summary of the main points
  • What you think were the most important pros and cons

Another possible way to structure your advantage/disadvantage essay is this;

You may want to add paragraphs to explain further advantages or disadvantages, but there should be only one main idea in each main body paragraph. Don't list all of your advantages/disadvantages in one paragraph.

  • Introduction
  • Paragraph 1 - Describe an advantage
  • Paragraph 2 - Describe an advantage
  • Paragraph 3 - Describe a disadvantage
  • Conclusion

TIP >> If the question asks you if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages of something then your essay structure will change slightly. You should make sure you write about how one side is better than the other. You will also have to include this in your introduction. The side that you think outweighs the other should be written about first in main body paragraph 1. Followed by main body paragraph 2 - the more fragile argument. 

TIP >> If the question asks you to write about advantages/disadvantages and give your opinion, then you need to add an extra paragraph that clearly states your opinion. You would also need to write about your opinion in the introduction. 


SAMPLE Advantages/Disadvantages ESSAY >>

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

There is an ongoing debate on the merits of having a rigid discipline system in place for all crimes committed. This essay will firstly discuss, how having fixed punishments could lead to a more competent judiciary system as the biggest advantage. Secondly, this essay will discuss how this may lead to people being punished in the same way for both minor and major crimes as the primary disadvantage.

On the one hand, the main advantage of having a standardised punishment system could lead to a downward trend in crime, as the system would serve as a deterrent. This would allow the courts to easily hand out justice to all criminals, in order to make the judiciary system more powerful. For example, in some states in the USA, there are tough sanctions in place for criminals, including death by lethal injection. In 2014, the New York Times reported that up to 65% of criminals who were incarcerated for high-level crimes (murder, manslaughter) received the lethal injection.

On the other hand, the primary disadvantage of having fixed punishments is that people who have committed low-level crimes may also be given harsh sentences, in the same way as those who have been sentenced for high-level crimes. This may make the system unjust, as the punishment should befit the crime. For instance, a person who may have acted in self defence, should have their case heard in full, before being given a punishment befitting of someone who has been part of a violent act.

In conclusion, fixed punishment offers an interesting choice for effective crime deterrence and a faster judicial process.  However, its inherent flaw in generalising all crime without carefully considering mitigating circumstances would compromise the very essence of justice and should warrant a closer study before fully implementing it to any modern judicial system.

(Word Count = 302 / Band Score 9)


  • Task Achievement - The answer provides a paraphrased question, to begin with, followed by stating an advantage and a disadvantage. Both the advantage/disadvantage 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
  • 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 an advantage and a disadvantage. Use each of the main body paragraphs to support your ideas, giving examples that are relevant. In the conclusion, this is where you summarise your main points.


WRITING TASK 2 BAND SCORE 9 CRITERIA >>


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