IELTS / TOEFL Writing Task 2: How to write an introduction

Hello! In this blog post I'm going to show you how to write a good introduction paragraph for your IELTS or TOEFL writing task 2 essay - the second of the two IELTS tasks or TOEFL tasks in the writing test, in which you must write at least 250 words on IELTS or at least 300 words on TOEFL on a certain question. Writing task 2 is identical for both IELTS tests - IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training (GT) - and for TOEFL, so you can use the information in this post for either. So that I can stop saying IELTS TOEFL IELTS TOEFL all the time, from here on out I am going to refer to IELTS only, but everything I say is true for TOEFL as well.


Now this is the essay question we're going to look at:


The best way to improve health is to do regular exercise. To what extent do you agree or disagree?


Well let's first look at the statement. Of course, you never start writing anything before you take the time to understand the question and plan what you want to say about it in your essay. This is an agree/disagree type question. Remember - there are two other main types of IELTS essays - the discussion essay (also called advantage disadvantage), and the direct question essay, but I’ll leave those aside for now.

Let's have a look at what information we need to put in our introduction. For many academic writing and academic essays there are three parts to the introduction: there's the hook, there's a background statement, and there's a thesis statement, so let's look at each part of this.



The first one the hook, which is a center that has lots of interest in it so that immediately the reader wants to continue, and we use that in many essays, but do we use it for the IELTS exam essays? The answer is no - we don't need it, and let me explain why.


Firstly, the examiner is not looking for interesting ideas - interest is not assessed in your IELTS essay, so if your introduction is interesting or boring makes no difference - you don’t have to hook your reader.

Secondly, another reason that you don't need the hook is that you don't have much time - you have a total of 40 minutes and in those 40 minutes you need to analyze the statement, plan your essay, write it, and at the end of your essay, when you finish, you need to check it, so really you only have about 35 minutes to write that essay. There is not enough time to worry about having a hook that the examiner doesn't want anyway, so forget the hook.



The next thing is the background statement, which is basically the question’s statement paraphrased - you need to write the statement from the question again with the same meaning, but use your own language. Many students think they can just copy the question, but that will not help you for your essay: if you copy those wordsת they are not yours, and the IELTS examiner will not take them, so please don't copy the sentence, just paraphrase it.


The next thing is the thesis statement, which is your opinion. So we've got two parts to the introduction - we've got paraphrasing the statement and giving our answer/opinion in short while introducing our ideas. Now I'm going to show you how to write those two parts of the intro paragraph, so let's start with the background statement, and here’s an example for a good one:


The most effective method in developing and improving health is considered to be daily exercise.


See what I did there?


Let's just see what I've done here: firstly I've added an extra word, and I've added this to show IELTS that I can paraphrase and I understand the meaning. I've added this word because I still like it - I still think it's a very good word to use for this sentence. Note that they say improve and I say improving - this is also paraphrasing as I'm using the same word, but a different form of the word. I've taken the word and I've changed it a little bit. This is very good for IELTS, and it means you don't have to change the word completely, you can just change the form of the word. The next bit they say is to do, but I will say is considered to be. Now we've got regular exercise.



Now, exercise I want to keep - I don't want to use sport, because Sport and Exercise are not really the same thing: sport is a game which often involves a team and equipment, but exercise is something you can do on your own - it's not a game, it's just some movements. So I want to keep the word exercise, but that means I want to change the word regular, so I could say daily. it's not exactly the same, but it's more or less the same. I could say frequent - that's quite similar - but for this essay I'm gonna say daily.


Now that I have finished my background statement, let's have a look at writing the thesis statement, and this is the one I wrote:


In my opinion, I agree that exercise is the key to health. However, I also believe that diet is important.


This part is probably a little bit more difficult, so how do we start the thesis statement? Remember that the thesis statement is your short answer to the question, and the question is to what extent do you agree, so this question is asking for my opinion. The examiner is looking for your answer, so I want to show the examiner my answer, and I want to help him or her find it easily.

To do that, we can say “in my opinion” to begin our thesis statement. Now, do we agree or disagree? well I want to agree in this case - I really think that exercise is the most important way to gaining health. I really believe that. I think maybe there are other ways, there are more things we can do, but I think exercise is very important, so I'm going to agree. So in my opinion, I agree that exercise is the key.


OK, but do I want to stop here? No. My thesis statement is also a chance for me to introduce my ideas. Am I going to write an essay that is only about exercise? Well to be honest, I don't want to write more than 250 words only about exercise. Thus, it's very useful to have some more relevant but different ideas, so I'm going to add a little bit more to this essay, and I'm gonna say “however, I also believe that diet is important”. By doing this, I have introduced a new solution to health, and that is diet. I'm not saying it's the key - it's not the most effective - but it is important, so I agree that exercise is the key but I also think that diet, what we eat, is important.



Well let's have a look at the whole introduction together:


The most effective method in developing and improving health is considered to be daily exercise. In my opinion, I agree that exercise is the key to health. However, I also believe that diet is important.


This is the finished introduction - the background and the thesis statement together.


To summarize, let me give you some tips so that you can practice writing your introduction at home.

The background statement should have the same meaning as the statement given by IELTS test. However, do not copy the IELTS statement - you need to paraphrase it, or in other words, to use different language with the same meaning. Then write your thesis statement. It can include up to two sentences. How long should the introduction be? Well, the introduction in this example is 35 words, and that's fine. For your introduction for IELTS writing task 2, you should aim for between 35 and 50 words. I don't really recommend that you write more than 50 words, because you don't have a lot of time and you must arrive quickly to the body paragraphs. You need time to write the body paragraphs - to develop your ideas and support the ideas, so don't spend too long on the introduction.

Are you still alive? Want to do really well on your IELTS exam so you can go live, study, and/or work in the United Kingdom, Australia, New-Zealand, or the US? I have been helping students prepare for IELTS for the past 20 years, so talk to me - I know what you need :-)

 avi@yulzari.net  | 054-4768478 | תל-אביב

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