An essay introduction is always the first part an examiner reads and therefore it is crucial to make a great first impression. The IELTS examiner in particular will be reading yours with the following questions in mind:
- Have you understood the exam task?
- Do you know what you’re talking about?
- How well do you know how to plan?
So it is really important that you reassure the examiner in the first few sentences of your essay that YES you have, YES you do and YES you can!
First of all, you need to understand the purpose of an IELTS introduction so that you know what the content should include. The purpose of an introduction is to clarify what you understand the title to mean and to outline how you intend to answer the question. Eg. if you are asked for your opinion, you must make your opinion clear in the introduction.
Where to begin?
Before you start writing your essay, you should spend the first 5 minutes reading, analysing and planning. There are 4 questions to consider in your head at this time.
- What is the topic?
- What is the question?
- What is your opinion?
- What are your reasons?
Have a look at this example:
Some people choose to eat no meat or fish. They believe that this is not only better for their own health but also benefits the world as a whole.
Discuss this view and give your own opinion.
Now, in your head, you need to consider the answers to those 4 questions. If I was writing this essay, this is what I would be thinking at this stage.
- I have understood the topic, which is Vegetarianism (people choosing not to eat meat)
- I have interpreted the question as: Vegetarians believe that not eating meat is healthier for them AND it has a positive effect on the world in general. What do I think about this?
- This is my personal opinion: I think that eating meat is not healthy for your body. I think that industrial farming practices are harmful to the environment (basically, I agree with the view expressed in the exam task).
- My personal reasons for agreeing are:
- scientific research has shown that the modern diet, which includes a lot of meat and animal products, results in higher rates of cancer, diabetes and heart disease
- whereas fruit and vegetables are full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and research shows that you can prevent, even treat, these diseases by reverting to a meat free diet
- industrial farming practices are destroying the environment through the overuse of antibiotics and pesticides, the clearing of rainforest for cattle farms and the use of GMO crops for animal feed
Now that I have this information in my head, I can plan the structure of my essay. And I can use my introduction to do this. With a good introduction, your whole essay will be easier to write.
How to structure a good introduction
An IELTS writing task 2 opinion essay should have at least three sentences (maximum five sentences) in which you:
- Paraphrase the topic of the task
- Make a thesis statement
- Write an outline statement
Let’s look at how to paraphrase question:
Don’t repeat words or phrases form the exam rubric (the words given to you on the exam paper). You will lose marks. Why? This is considered copying. It also does not show your language ability. Instead, think of other ways you can say the same thing. Underline the key words in the task. Are there synonyms (alternative words with the same meaning) you can use as alternatives?
Eg. choose —> opt, make a choice
believe —> think, assume, claim
better for health —> healthier
Can you rephrase the sentences using different grammar and sentence structure?
Eg. Some people choose to eat no meat or fish. They believe that this is not only better for their own health but also benefits the world as a whole. —> A meat-free diet is a popular choice for some who claim it is healthier for them personally and for the earth in general.
Let’s look at how to write thesis statement:
Your thesis statement states how you feel about the whole issue in one sentence and it shows the examiner that you have understood the question. This makes it the most important sentence in your IELTS writing task 2 answer. One way to begin this sentence is, In my opinion/view… It is also possible – a good idea, even – to make a brief reference to the contrasting view.
Eg. Although meat-eaters might disagree, in my view it is undeniable that a vegetarian diet has health benefits for both the individual and the planet.
Let’s look at how to write outline statement:
Look again at the 3 reasons I gave above for agreeing with the writer’s position that vegetarianism is a good thing, and you will see that in my essay I will discuss:
1) nutrition (meat = bad / fruit & vegetables = good)
2) modern farming practices (industrial animal production = bad / organic crop cultivation = good)
So in my outline statement I need to indicate that these are going to be my main arguments (and therefore my main paragraphs). I also need to link my outline statement with my thesis statement so that the second sentence supports the first.
Eg. Not only is the food more nutritious for the human body, the farming methods to produce it are significantly less harmful to the soil and the environment.
(“human body” in the outline statement = “individual” in the thesis statement.
“soil and environment” in the outline statement = “planet” in the thesis statement.)
Now, let’s put all those sentences together to see how they read as a whole.
A meat-free diet is a popular choice for some who claim it is healthier for them personally and for the earth in general. Although meat-eaters might disagree, in my view it is undeniable that a vegetarian diet has health benefits for both the individual and the planet. Not only is the food more nutritious for the human body, the farming methods to produce it are significantly less harmful to the soil and the environment.
How will the rest of the essay follow on from this introduction? It is very clear to the reader (ie. the examiner) that my next two paragraphs will discuss, describe and/or compare the differing nutritional value of a meat-eating and a meat-free diet and their effects on the health of the human body, and that my third paragraph will discuss the environmentally destructive practices of modern industrialised meat farming.
So, in conclusion, if you keep this structure in mind and follow it in the exam, you can save yourself time and raise your overall score. Introductions are actually quite easy once you get the hang of them and if you practise enough, you will be able to write them in just a few minutes. This is a very important strategy as it will help you to really focus on the exam task and to structure a clear, cohesive and coherent argument in your essay.