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5 Paragraph Essay

IELTS Writing, Task 2 worries many candidates. However, here we present a foolproof method to handle these questions with ease! Master this writing technique, and you will never worry about it again.

For both AC and GT question papers, in essence, Task 2 requires the candidate to write a 250-word argumentation essay.

5 Paragraph Essay

One of the standard ways to teach writing such essays is the 5 paragraph essay method. Although normally intended as a basic teaching template, which could then be expanded to more than 5 paragraphs. For task 2 responses, 5 paragraphs would normally be the ideal number.

Argumentation

​Argumentation is connected to the word argue!

When we think of argue or having an argument we might picture two red-faced people speaking quite loudly and making dramatic gestures. That's because face-to-face arguments often become emotional.

However, there are two different definitions of the word ‘argument’.

a) 'An exchange of diverging or opposite views, typically a heated or angry one.'

Synonyms: quarrel, disagreement, squabble, fight, a difference of opinion, dispute, wrangle, clash, altercation, feud, dissension, war of words, exchange of views.

b) 'A reason or set of reasons given in support of an idea, action or theory.'

The act of arguing involves providing proof to support your claim, usually without emotions.

In an argumentation essay, you will have to provide evidence without providing too much drama.

You'll explore two sides of a topic and provide proof as to why one side or position is the best one.

With argumentation essays, we are talking about definition b).

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Before we look at the 5 paragraph essay structure, we should remind ourselves of the basic 3 part structure of all essays.

1) Introduction

This should contain a brief explanation of the topic, some background information (context) and a thesis statement. Here, your thesis will be a statement of your position on the topic.

2) Main Body

The body of your essay will contain the meat of your argument.

3) Conclusion

Re-state your position as the most sensible one.

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5 Paragraph Essay

With a 5 paragraph essay, the main body consists of 3 paragraphs.

Paragraph 1: INTRODUCTION.

Paragraph 2: The first of three MAIN BODY paragraphs.

Paragraph 3: The second of three MAIN BODY paragraphs.

Paragraph 4: The third of three MAIN BODY paragraphs.

Paragraph 5: CONCLUSION.

​Simple 5 Paragraph Essay

Below is an expanded view of a simple 5 paragraph argumentation essay. This would be ideally suited to a short essay of no more than 250 words.

Paragraph 1: INTRODUCTION.

This should contain a brief explanation of the topic, some background information (context) and a thesis statement. Here, your thesis will be a statement of your position on the topic.

End the paragraph with a transition sentence.

Paragraph 2: The first MAIN BODY paragraph. Name and explain the most important reason/s for your stated position/opinion.

End the paragraph or begin the next with a transition sentence.

Paragraph 3: The second MAIN BODY paragraph. Introduce an opposing view/opinion [concession].

End the paragraph or begin the next with a transition sentence.

Paragraph 4: The third MAIN BODY paragraph. Explain why the opposing view/opinion is not valid [rebuttal].

End the paragraph or begin the next with a transition sentence.

Paragraph 5: CONCLUSION. Rephrase and recap your position on the issue and reasons for it and then write a concluding sentence. The conclusion might emphasise your position, expand it, offer a solution, or express a hope or prediction for the future.

​________________________

​Complex 5 Paragraph Essay

The following is the structure of a more complex 5 paragraph argumentation essay. This is more suited to essays well in excess of 250 words. It is not uncommon for some part 2 answers to exceed 400 words. For a competent writer, the following structure is an alternative.

Paragraph 1: INTRODUCTION.

This should contain a brief explanation of the topic, some background information (context) and a statement of the writer's view on the topic; if asked for in the question.

End the paragraph with a transition sentence.

Paragraph 2: The first of three MAIN BODY paragraphs. Name and explain the most important reason for your stated position. Introduce an opposing opinion [concession] and then explain why it is not valid [rebuttal].

End the paragraph or begin the next with a transition sentence.

Paragraph 3: The second of three MAIN BODY paragraphs. Name and explain the second most important reason for your stated position. Introduce an opposing opinion [concession] and then explain why it is not valid [rebuttal].

End the paragraph or begin the next with a transition sentence.

Paragraph 4: The third of three MAIN BODY paragraphs. Name and explain the third most important reason for your stated position. Introduce an opposing opinion [concession] and then explain why it is not valid [rebuttal].

End the paragraph or begin the next with a transition sentence.

Paragraph 5: CONCLUSION. Rephrase and recap your position on the issue and reasons for it and then write a concluding sentence. The conclusion might emphasise your position, expand it, offer a solution, or express a hope or prediction for the future.

To produce a well-balanced short essay structure, remember to apportion the essay word count, as follows.

  • ​Introduction 15% to 20%
  • Main Body - 60% to 70%
  • Conclusion 15% to 20%

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Concession Sentence

Making a concession to the other side can make your argument stronger — that is, rather than acting like another side of your argument does not exist, you address it then “rebut” it.

Conceding to some of your opposition’s concerns can demonstrate respect for their opinion. Making concessions also demonstrates your ability as a writer, by demonstrating that you have considered your argument from multiple perspectives to come to an informed decision.

What you don’t want to do is present a concession and then not rebut it.

Rebuttal Sentence

​After conceding to an opposing argument, it is then necessary to explain why it is not as valid, important, or relent as your own. If there is no rebuttal then you have just weakened, rather than strengthen your own position! 

Concession Sentence Introductions

Below are a few examples of how a concession sentence could be introduced.

'Admittedly ....'
'Granted ....'
'On the other hand ....'
'Opposing views claim ....'
'It is true that ....'
'Certainly ....'
'Although ....'

'Of course ....'
'One cannot deny that ....'
'Some/others may argue ....'
'There are some solid arguments on both sides of this issue ....'
Many people see this issue from a different perspective ....'

Don’t be put-off by the apparent complexity of all the above. With a little practice, it becomes very clear and simple. What this structure does, is provide the writer with an invaluable template or framework to use, whatever the Task 2 question. Whenever we have a process to follow, it is much easier and far less stressful, to complete difficult or confusing tasks.

​________________________

The Essay Process (Simple Version)

​1) Study the question carefully

​2) Decide on your position 

Writing Element

3) Introduce the topic, the different views, and your position (INTRODUCTION)

4) Present your view argument/s (MAIN BODY 1)

5) Present an opposing view and arguments. (MAIN BODY 2)

6) Rebut/discredit the opposing arguments (MAIN BODY 3)

7) Reintroduce the topic, presenting your view and argument/s only. (CONCLUSION)

​Detailed View

Decide on your position

If you were writing a lengthy essay, the best position to take is the one that has the most arguments to support it. However, in 250 words, this is not going to be an issue, as one or two supporting arguments are quite enough.

INTRODUCTION

Introduce the Topic

Don’t just copy the question. Present it in your own words.

Present the Different Views

Most Task 2 questions will present two different views/opinions, about the topic. Sometimes only one may be presented, and the writer has to introduce the other possible view. Do not go into great detail! Keep it short and simple.

Present the Writer’s Position

Briefly, state this. Do not explain why you have done so, at this stage.

As introductions should normally represent 15% to 20% of the word count, in a 250-word essay, this would be between 38 and 50 words. Typically 4 to 5 lines.

MAIN BODY 1

Present your view. There is no need to introduce the question topic again! Choose your strongest reason or reasons for taking that view.

MAIN BODY 2

Present the opposing view and a strong reason for support this. It is advisable to use the best argument you can think of. Even though the IELTS test is not marking the correctness or strength of your arguments, for the examiner a well argues essay will, subconsciously, appear to be a better-written essay.

Don’t worry about the difficulties of countering a strongly supported opposing view in the next paragraph!

MAIN BODY 3

Rebutting even a strong opposing argument is nowhere near as difficult as it may seem. You can even agree with it, and not discredit it at all! Simply stating that it is less important than yours is enough. Although, it helps if you can explain why!

As the main body text should be 60% to 70% of the total, in a 250-word essay, this is 150 to 175 words or 50 to 58 words per paragraph. Typically 5 to 6 lines at most! When you view it in this way, writing 250 words does not sound like such a big task.

An important thing to remember in an argumentation essay, whatever its length or complexity, is the order in which things are presented. Your own opinions and reasons should always be presented first, and the opposing arguments second, with your arguments (rebuttal) following after. In effect, you are outnumbering and surrounding the opposing view, with yours.

To structure the essay differently, will reduce your persuasiveness, and risk confusing the reader. Although the persuasiveness of the essay is not an IELTS marking criterion; an essay with an unusual structure and weak argument may be construed as a poor essay by the examiner, even though they may not realise they are doing so. Remember always to make it clear and simple for the examiner. Don’t make life difficult for them, as you may be the one who also suffers!

CONCLUSION

This is the simplest part of the whole essay. Here you focus only on re-introducing your argument/s, without making any mention of the other views. Avoid copying exactly what you have stated before, by paraphrasing. It is also possible, although not necessary, to introduce a new argument.

If there is some uncertainty or possible doubt, as to which view is correct, you should never indicate this directly, as to finish off by stating that you are not sure about your position, would prevent this being a true argumentation essay. To be that, your argument has to follow through all parts of it! You could, however, suggest that further research or study would be a good idea, or needs to be carried out. This way you are indicating that your belief, although strongly held, is based on the current situation,

Main Body Paragraph Example

Many schools ban students from taking cell phones. However, some people believe that students should be allowed to do so.

What is your view on this subject?

Give your reasons why you agree or disagree with the ban.

​The following are examples of supporting arguments, concessions and rebuttals that could be used in the main body of a response to the above question.

[Supporting Argument]

'It is vital that cell phones continue to be prohibited in schools. The more time students are on cell phones, the less time they are reading, writing, and conversing. Teachers will have a harder time keeping students interested in school if a student can text as soon as he/she is bored.'

[Concession]

'Many students claim they need their cell phones with them at all times, in case there is an emergency.'

[Rebuttal]

'However, in the event of an emergency, it is vital that administrators and local authorities can communicate quickly and efficiently. Having students frantically calling parents, texting siblings, and spreading panic will make an emergency more dangerous and harder to manage.'

​________________________

Practice Exercises

1) Write a concession and rebuttal paragraph for an argumentation essay, agreeing with the following statement.

Wearing school uniforms should be compulsory.

Possible reasons to agree. (supporting argument / rebuttal)

Prevents pupils being judged by their appearance

Makes it harder for cliques to form

Improves security – “Easy to identify individuals, not from the school.”

Possible reasons to disagree. (concession)

Expensive

Restriction on individualism

2) Write a concession and rebuttal paragraph for an argumentation essay, disagreeing with the following statement.

To encourage healthy eating, higher taxes should be imposed on soft drinks and junk food.

Possible reasons to disagree. (supporting argument / rebuttal)

Penalise responsible consumers

Penalise businesses

Should government control eating habits?

Could result in job losses

Possible reasons to agree. (concession)

Encourage healthy eating.

Could reduce consumption.

Why should it be different to alcohol?

A healthy country is better.

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Further Task 2 Type Questions

Today’s food travels thousands of miles before it reaches customers.

Why is this?

Is this a positive or negative trend?

Modern lifestyles mean that many parents have little time for their children.

Many children do not get as much attention from their parents as children did in the past.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Nowadays, many jobs are more stressful, and usually with longer working hours.

What are the reasons for this?

What can employers do to help employees?

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