As an example, here is the IELTS essay topic that you are required to write about:
“Many young people today leave their own countries to work abroad. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of working abroad and give your own opinion.”
The first thing to do when considering your response is to underline the keywords in the sentence. What areas should you focus on?
Many young people today leave their own countries to work abroad. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of working abroad and give your own opinion.
Incorporate your own experience. Think about why you are taking the IELTS exam; do you want to go abroad (to leave your own country) to work or study? What are the advantages for you in going abroad, and are there any disadvantages? What might happen while you are in a foreign country? Make some notes under the headings Advantages and Disadvantages. These will help when you come to write your essay.
Which style is appropriate, formal or informal? The IELTS exam tests students' abilities to deal with advanced level material and academic texts. A formal writing style is, therefore, essential.
The essay will have at least four paragraphs and you need to understand how to move smoothly from one paragraph to the next. Basically, each time you begin a new topic you start a new paragraph. If you are writing about different times, you begin a new paragraph when the time you are writing about changes.
The outline or plan for this essay could look like this:
Paragraph 1: Introduction
Paragraph 2: Advantages for young people working abroad
Paragraph 3: Disadvantages for young people working abroad
Paragraph 4: Conclusion in which you sum up and give your own opinion
Introduction: Paragraph 1
In the Introduction you use the same key words that are in the rubric (the question). You can paraphrase them, or simply change a few words and the word order. For example, you might begin like this:
It is now fairly common for young people to leave their own countries in order to find work abroad.
This is stating the topic of the essay and it is the “topic sentence” for this paragraph. You should continue to point out that there are advantages and disadvantages in this situation:
As with most important decisions, there are both advantages and disadvantages in the choice that is made.
So, these two sentences introduce the topic of the essay and are all you have to write. The introduction doesn’t have to be long.
It is now fairly common for young people to leave their own countries in order to find work abroad. As with most important decisions, there are both advantages and disadvantages in the choice that is made.
Paragraph 2: Advantages
What advantages did you think of? You may have thought about money. There is a strong chance that a young person who migrates is hoping to secure better paid employment. Furthermore, many migrants to the UK and US want to help out their families by sending remittances (money sent from abroad), thereby taking advantage of working in a country with a strong currency.
Financial reasons are perhaps the most significant when deciding to work in a foreign country. But what other reasons motivate young people to leave their own countries?
It is often said that travelbroadens the mind as you meet people from a culture which is different to your own. This is a point that can easily be expanded on. Think of your own experiences.
So here are two points for a young person to leave his or her own country and go to work abroad.
You should begin paragraph 2 with a topic sentence (i.e. talk about advantages) and then expand on it with concrete examples. Using a topic sentence keeps you focused on what should be included in the paragraph.
Topic sentence: There are several advantages of moving to another country to work.
Give one advantage, followed by a second (and third if you wish). So you could write something like this:
The financial aspect to migrating might well be the most important. A young person who lives in a still-developing country can earn more if he or she works in a country with an advanced economy. Currencies in such countries tend to be stronger than in the migrant's homeland and so money can be sent back to families in the form of remittances. Theses will enable the family to have a better standard of living.
A second advantage to working abroad is that one gets to meet new people and make new friends from different cultures. This can be exciting and it will broaden one’s horizons and outlook.
You might want to continue this line of argument and say that when you meet people from different cultures you can become more tolerant and understanding of people from cultures other than your own.
Other lines of thought could also be included. A young person will gain work experience and learn new skills, which will be useful if they decide to return to their homeland. Moreover, they will (probably) have learned a new language and become proficient in its use, which will also benefit them later in life.
Paragraph 3: Disadvantages
In this paragraph you should mention the advantages you have listed in paragraph 2 and say why there could be drawbacks to each of them.
If we first consider the financial aspects of working abroad, the disadvantages are that the cost of living might be much higher than expected. That would mean that there would be little money to send back home and this disappointment might lead to feelings of regret and guilt about having left the family. There will be taxes to pay and social security too, which may not have been taken into consideration. Accommodation costs could also be much higher than expected.
Moving to a different country can also cause culture shock. After an initial period of excitement, the young migrant might be left with the impression that everything is strange, alien and unpleasant.
Neither is there any guarantee that the migrant will be accepted by the host country. Sadly, many people resent migrants, who are accused of taking jobs, pushing up rents and undermining the native culture.
Now you have to write a topic sentence for this third (or fourth) paragraph.
However, there could be disadvantages for a young person who decides to work abroad.
Continue to mention what these disadvantages are:-
First of all a young person might find that although wages are higher than in their own country, so is the cost of living. It might, therefore, be difficult to make ends meet. This might mean that no (or very little) money can be sent home, and this might lead to feelings of regret and guilt at having left.
Secondly, while it may be that at first a young person might be excited about being in a foreign country, ultimately he or she might suffer from culture shock, which can be extremely unpleasant. The person might wish to return to their own country but perhaps this is financially impossible. Homesickness is a very common feeling.
These negative feelings might also occur if the young person meets people, perhaps colleagues, who are racist and resent foreigners. Although people are generally tolerant, some people are not.
Note: “To make ends meet” is an idiom and is used to mean that you earn and spend equal amounts of money, so that you don’t get into debt.
Now you have to sum up what you have written and give your opinion. Do you think that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?
Do you remember what we did in the first paragraph? We used some of the words from the rubric and we will do this again in the conclusion in the topic sentence.
There are both advantages and disadvantages for young people who work abroad.
Now you give your opinion:-
However, I believe that the advantages by far outweigh the disadvantages, as the experience a young person gains from working abroad and becoming independent will be invaluable.
This is a positive opinion, stating that there are more advantages than disadvantages and it gives a new reason for believing this - experience and becoming independent.
Now here is the opposite opinion which would come after the topic sentence:
I personally believe that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Young people who have never left their families before might well suffer from homesickness, and if they encounter difficulties while in the foreign country this could lead to a state of despair. I think young people should try to work in their homeland and stay close to their families.