Practice Essay Questions For English

Political Science/JSIS/LSJ Writing Center
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Tips for Writing Essay Exams

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Before the Exam: Prepare and Practice

Writing a good essay requires synthesis of material that cannot be done in the 20-30 minutes you have during the exam. In the days before the exam, you should:
  • Anticipate test questions. Look at the question from the last exam. Did the question ask you to apply a theory to historical or contemporary events? Did you have to compare/contrast theories? Did you have to prove an argument? Imagine yourself in the role of the instructor--what did the instructor emphasize? What are the big ideas in the course?
  • Practice writing. You may decide to write a summary of each theory you have been discussing, or a short description of the historical or contemporary events you've been studying. Focus on clarity, conciseness, and understanding the differences between the theories.
  • Memorize key events, facts, and names. You will have to support your argument with evidence, and this may involve memorizing some key events, or the names of theorists, etc.
  • Organize your ideas. Knowledge of the subject matter is only part of the preparation process. You need to spend some time thinking about how to organize your ideas. Let's say the question asks you to compare and contrast what regime theory and hegemonic stability theory would predict about post-cold war nuclear proliferation. The key components of an answer to this question must include:
  • A definition of the theories
  • A brief description of the issue
  • A comparison of the two theories' predictions
  • A clear and logical contrasting of the theories (noting how and why they are different)
In the exam

Many students start writing furiously after scanning the essay question. Do not do this! Instead, try the following:
  • Perform a "memory dump." Write down all the information you have had to memorize for the exam in note form.
  • Read the questions and instructions carefully. Read over all the questions on the exam. If you simply answer each question as you encounter it, you may give certain information or evidence to one question that is more suitable for another. Be sure to identify all parts of the question.
  • Formulate a thesis that answers the question. You can use the wording from the question. There is not time for an elaborate introduction, but be sure to introduce the topic, your argument, and how you will support your thesis (do this in your first paragraph).
  • Organize your supporting points. Before you proceed with the body of the essay, write an outline that summarizes your main supporting points. Check to make sure you are answering all parts of the question. Coherent organization is one of the most important characteristics of a good essay.
  • Make a persuasive argument. Most essays in political science ask you to make some kind of argument. While there are no right answers, there are more and less persuasive answers. What makes an argument persuasive?
  • A clear point that is being argued (a thesis)
  • Sufficient evidenct to support that thesis
  • Logical progression of ideas throughout the essay
  • Review your essay. Take a few minutes to re-read your essay. Correct grammatical mistakes, check to see that you have answered all parts of the question.
Things to Avoid

Essay exams can be stressful. You may draw a blank, run out of time, or find that you neglected an important part of the course in studying for the test. Of course, good preparation and time management can help you avoid these negative experiences. Some things to keep in mind as you write your essay include the following:
  • Avoid excuses. Don't write at the end that you ran out of time, or did not have time to study because you were sick. Make an appointment with your TA to discuss these things after the exam.
  • Don't "pad" your answer. Instructors are usually quite adept at detecting student bluffing. They give no credit for elaboration of the obvious. If you are stuck, you can elaborate on what you do know, as long as it relates to the question.
  • Avoid the "kitchen sink" approach. Many students simply write down everything they know about a particular topic, without relating the information to the question. Everything you include in your answer should help to answer the question and support your thesis. You need to show how/why the information is relevant -- don't leave it up to your instructor to figure this out!



Back to helpful

Below are sample IELTS essay questions and topics reported by IELTS students in writing task 2. The 100 essay questions have been reworded and are organised under common topics which frequently come in IELTS writing task 2.

At the bottom of the page, I’ve put some essay questions for you to practice each type of essay: opinion, discussion etc. These are practice essay questions to prepare ideas, not for full exam practice.

IELTS often use the similar topics for their essays but change the essay question. In order to prepare well for writing task 2, you should prepare ideas for common topics and then practice applying them to the tasks given (to the essay questions). Also see model essays and tips for writing task 2.

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Common IELTS Essay Questions

IELTS practice essay questions divided by topic. These topics have been reported by IELTS students in their tests. Essay questions have been recreated as accurately as possible.

IELTS Essay Questions by Essay Type

There are 5 main types of essay questions in IELTS writing task 2 (opinion essays, discussion essay, advantage/disadvantage essays, solution essay and direct question essays). Click on the links below to see some sample essay questions for each type.

2018 IELTS Essay Questions

You can see recent essay questions reported by students in Jan 2018, here: Jan 2018 Essay Questions. For 2017, see these links: IELTS Essay Questions 2017. Essay questions for December 2017.

Recent Exam Questions

A page of recent questions in all sections of the IELTS test reported by students. Although the words in the essay questions can be changed, the issues and topics often remain the same.

Main IELTS Pages

Develop your IELTS skills with tips, model answers lessons, videos and more.

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