Brainstorming ideas is difficult for students. They often find it difficult to think of ideas, and think they don’t know what to write about.


This is normal, so don’t feel worried or anxious, as the examiner is not expecting you to know a lot about the topic. They just want you to show that you can develop some simple ideas. Using examples and reasons, and sometimes include some effects of what you are writing.

The IELTS topics should all be familiar to you.

You are usually asked to write about general issues. This includes topics such as relationships, bringing up children, education and skills, health and fitness, globalisation new technology and sometimes more topical issues such as obesity and environmental problems.


After reading the question carefully to check you understand what you are required to do. You should brainstorm all the ideas you can think of and note them done. Whatever comes into your mind, just single words.


This will prepare you to start writing a plan. Here is an example of an IELTS Writing Task 2, which is currently on the official IELTS website –


The threat of nuclear weapons maintains world peace. Nuclear power provides cheap and clean energy. The benefits of nuclear technology far outweigh the disadvantages. To what extent do you agree or disagree?


On first reading, you might think it difficult and worry that you can’t think of any ideas. Perhaps you don’t know much about nuclear technology. But read it more carefully and you can see that they have already given you some positive points about nuclear technology. It has kept world peace, it can provide cheap, clean energy. These are points you can easily expand and develop, with reasons, examples and effects.


You just need to think of some disadvantages to provide a counterargument. Then you can think of some of these, such as the nuclear disasters at Fukushima and Chernobyl. Or about the atomic bombs that have been used at Hiroshima, and the problems in storing nuclear waste.


Now you have begun to start thinking and feeling more confident. You might even begin to think of some other positive uses and effects of nuclear technology. Such as diagnosing health conditions, and how nuclear energy can reduce global warming. So, this is what your brainstorming might look like:



  • Stopped world wars – kept the peace – deterrent
  • A good form of energy – good for global warming
  • Used for health – X rays, CT scanners – diagnose




  • Harmful to health – cancer
  • Risky – can be used for bombs
  • Dangerous – nuclear disasters


Remember, you don’t actually need lots of ideas, it’s better to expand what you do know with one main idea in each paragraph. Add some synonyms and vocabulary to your main ideas (dangerous, risky) to help you when you start writing.
When you have collected some ideas, decide whether it would be easier for you. Based on what you know and the vocabulary you know to agree or disagree with the statement
The benefits of nuclear technology far outweigh the disadvantages. Also, notice far in this statement. You need a strong argument for the benefits. Next, you need to make a brief plan. If you spend 5 minutes of your 40 minutes doing this it is likely to save you time and raise your score. As it means: You organize your thoughts before you start writing.
You write down ideas and key vocabulary so that you can refer to these if you get stuck and can’t think of what to write. Then, you write down the key points to include in each paragraph, so you can organise your paragraphs well. Avoid repeating ideas.
Make sure you have a conclusion as if you are running out of time. In the last few minutes, you can use the main points from the conclusion you have already planned.
All these issues are very important, as scores for the Task Response and Coherence and Cohesion marking criteria give you 50% of your mark!
To achieve a good score for Task Response you need to include relevant, extended and supported ideas and to reach a conclusion. To achieve a good score in Coherence and Cohesion you need to write logically in paragraphs. So, imagine you decide to agree with the statement in this task, this is what your plan might look like. The words in brackets explain why you should include these points in your plan.


Recent developments in nuclear technology with many uses. (Background general information to introduce the topic).
More advantages (despite the dangers, it has more benefits than disadvantages)
Paragraph one Source of energy (main reason why you agree)
Safe, clean, inexpensive, requires little fuel; substitute for fossil fuels (reason why)
Nuclear power plant in my country (example)
Does not increase global warming (effect)
Paragraph two Health (second reason why you agree)
Diagnose disease (reason why)
CT scanner (example)
People live longer/healthier (effect)
Paragraph three Dangers (counterargument – your “however” paragraph – the main disadvantage)
Toxic, contamination from radiation (reason why)
Nuclear disaster, Chernobyl, Fukushima (example)
Long-lasting contamination, homelessness, disease, fear, cannot grow food (effect)
Conclusion Dangerous, but far more positive than negative (summary)
Need to use it carefully (recommendation)
Finally, to help you develop your ideas it is a good idea to read as much as possible. Read some newspaper articles, to see which issues are topical in the world of today. Especially the Western world. Since IELTS questions often assume a knowledge of Western culture.
I would also recommend you find model answers on the internet. There are numerous websites, just google IELTS Writing Task 2 with a particular topic.
Then you can start collecting ideas for each topic by noting down the key points that are included in the answer.
Following this advice will give you confidence when faced with your Task 2 question in the exam!

If you are serious about taking your IELTS writing to the next level, sign up for your FREE 3 part IELTS writing video course that takes you through both task 1 and task 2. The video lessons are led by our highly experienced UK native IELTS teacher, Katherine. We also provide you with exercises to test your understanding!

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