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Writing an Argumentative Essay: Tips & Recommendations

Argumentative essays are extremely common in IELTS and TOEFL.

Gerry Masters
Gerry Masters
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Despite what you may think, Writing Exams/Assessments are the least stressful of all four major language skills (not including Vocabulary & Grammar). As long as you have prepared and have spent time acquiring and practicing the skills below, you should be fine.

What are Argumentative Essays and how to deal with them?

Argumentative essays are extremely common in IELTS and TOEFL.

These always have a thesis statement/topic/ e.g., Some restaurants have a policy of not allowing children under the age of 14 as they are disruptive to other diners. This is seen as discrimination by parents who have younger-aged children.

And then they have the question — To what extent do you agree or disagree with this policy. Give reasons for your opinions.

They will always have this phrase, “To what extent do you agree or disagree….”So you need to present your reasons clearly.

Before you rush off and start writing, you need to do a few things first. If you just jump in and start writing WITHOUT planning, you will end up with a poor to very poor essay.

1.   Decide where you are on the continuum


Even if you are 100% for or against something, you MUST present at least one reason for the opposite perspective. This shows the Examiner that you are capable of understanding an opposing opinion without agreeing with it.

You can use modifying words before Agree/Disagree, such as:

Fully, Completely, Mostly, In most cases, Depending on the circumstances

2.   Get all your ideas down

Just write down whatever comes to mind – words, phrases & brief notes – save the details for the essay.

3.   Decide on what goes together

There is a very good chance that some of your words, phrases & brief notes with being very similar to one another, so these can be combined and/or used in the same paragraph.

4.   Decide on what is going into your essay and in what order

Not all your ideas will fit, and that is fine, just because you wrote something down doesn’t mean you have to put it in your essay. Flow and cohesion are very important in any essay, so you need to decide what is going where, there are few things worse than an essay that is disjointed and jumps around.

5.   Paraphrase the thesis statement/topic/question

If you simply copy and paste the thesis statement, it shows to the Examiner that you have little or no ability to paraphrase and/or you are too lazy to do so. It really is not that hard – the simplest way to do it is to change the order around and modify it slightly.

Original: Some restaurants have a policy of not allowing children under the age of 14 as they are disruptive to other diners. This is seen as discrimination by many parents who have younger-aged children.

Paraphrased: Children under the age of 14 can be disruptive to other diners, which have resulted in them being banned by some restaurants. Numerous parents who have younger-aged children feel discriminated by this.

It still means the same  - which is very important – paraphrasing is NOT changing the meaning, just the way it is said.

Make any essay better interesting by using this great resource from Otago Polytechnic.

Using the same phrases over and over in an essay is lazy, unimaginative, and will lose you marks. This resource is great because it has the following:

  • Ways to introduce your topic/begin your essay
  • Ways to conclude your essay
  • Different methods of comparing and contrasting
  • How to give examples
  • How to show relationships or outcomes
  • How to present uncommon ideas and common ideas
  • How to present inconclusive ideas
  • How to present historical or prior ideas
  • How to present the ideas of others

And most importantly

  • How to keep the I out of academic writing.

Be sure to practise using these correctly – you can’t just shove them in anywhere; some grammatical changes will most likely be required.

Checking and Proofreading your Essay

Finished writing? Good, but it doesn’t mean you have finished your essay.

You need to check for basic errors  - of which there are many – before you submit it. Here are two great ways to check your work, and you are guaranteed 100% to find something that needs fixing.

A)  Blank Paper Line by Line:

Get a sheet of blank paper and start at the top of your page/screen. Slowly go down one line at a time, carefully reading each line  - fix errors as you find them.

This method works very well as it forces your eyes to focus on one sentence at a time – you cannot do this when you have nothing blocking out the rest of the text.

B)  Start at the End:

Go to the end of your writing and read the final sentence, then the one before and the one before and so on, all the way through right back to the beginning.

This method is very good for checking the flow and cohesion of your essay, and there is a very good chance that in addition to finding errors, you may find you need to make a few changes so that it ”sounds” better.

Good Luck with your Argumentative Essay!


Gerry Masters

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