The academic essay is one of the most common assignments you will be asked to write in your IELTS/CELPIP writing task 2 exam. Writing task 2 is a reflection of how well you have understood the task, how much brainstorming and research you have done for the essay topic and how analytical you have been in selecting and commenting on the thoughts that come into your mind. In short

Task 2 Academic Essay = understanding of task + brainstorming + analysis + good writing

There are five main steps to writing a good essay. These are:

1 Analyze your task
2 Gather your information by thinking and your knowledge
3 Organize your material
4 Draft your essay
5 Revise your essay

Analyze Your Question/Task

The first thing to do is to look at the essay question carefully and decide what kind of essay you are being asked to write.

Define your purpose

Different essay prompts require you to do different things. Some essays need you to explain a concept, while others expect you to compare and/or contrast; yet others expect you to argue a position. The main essay prompts are:

Analyze :

Find some systematic or methodical way of categorising or defining a topic.
Find the cause and effect of some phenomenon.
Find the solution to a given problem.

Argue :

Present your essay— that is your stand and the reasons for it and persuade the reader by the points that you raise.

Compare and/or contrast Focus on similarities and/or differences in a topic.

Discuss :

Present your view of a topic; you need to choose your own focus. Explain how well you understand a topic or phenomenon.

Analyze the keywords in the prompt

Some words are significant and will need to be defined as part of your essay. You will need a working definition of surrogate motherhood and legalized. A working definition is one that you will work with so you would choose one that suits your thesis. For ex., the task question is

Some say that surrogate motherhood should be legalized in all countries so that everyone has a chance to have their own children, while others argue that it has negative impacts on society. Discuss both views.

Consider other important words in the prompt

The other important words are ones which will affect how you delineate or gather your essay points. You could pick up on the words all, everyone and own children. You may ask if surrogacy would suit all countries in the world or who is meant by everyone — should these people include single people as well as couples and people of different sexual orientations? You may also ask why it is important to have one’s own children. In short, analyzing the prompt in detail will have an impact on how you search for material and how you select and analyze it later.

Think of Your Thesis

It is now time to craft your essay. The most important idea in your essay is your central idea, which is called a thesis. The thesis controls the entire essay — all your main points will be a development of it, and all the minor supporting details will illustrate it. For the example essay prompt above, one thesis statement might be:

Surrogate motherhood is a useful method for conceiving children, but should only be legalized where it is culturally appropriate to do so and for a clearly specified group of people.

Make sure that the thesis expresses a controlling idea that is neither too broad nor too specific to develop effectively and that it does not simply state the obvious.

Organize Your Content

A good essay is well-organized. It has a coherent structure that helps the reader make sense of the content. After gathering all the ideas, decide what to include in what order and how to let the reader know you are moving from one point to another. You will need to identify your main ideas and make sure you can support each one sufficiently with details.

Drawing an outline can give you a good visual picture of the final essay. Work out an outline that allows you to develop and support your thesis. This helps you to remember when you will use which points of the information you have gathered. This is useful in long academic essays to prevent you from digressing because of an interesting sub-point, which might lead to a rambling essay.

Template for an essay


a. give a brief background to the topic
b. address definition of keywords and issues
c. state your thesis
d. outline your main points
e. provide transition into body paragraphs.

Body Paragraphs

a. provide a topic sentence which says what the main point of each paragraphs.
b. provide supporting details for your topic sentence (based on your brainstorming).
c. synthesise what you have read; that is, show different examples about the same point.
d. show some critical thinking; i.e a mini version conclusion.


a. recap your main points
b. reiterate your thesis, and
c. give your final word, if any.

Draft Your Essay
Using your outline, write your essay — get all your thoughts down on paper. It does not have to be perfect first time. Use formal English and aim for an objective tone. Choose the most precise words and aim for a fluent and coherent style.

Check your Essay
The revision consists of two steps: editing and proofreading. Editing is the process of reading through your essay again and asking how well organized it is and how well your ideas are developed. Do you have an objective tone? Is your choice of words accurate? Is your writing concise? Are the links within and between paragraphs clear? Are there any spelling mistakes?

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