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The Difference Between "Agree or Disagree" and "Extent of Agreement or Disagreement" in IELTS Task essay

JohnWriter 13 | -   Freelance Writer
Oct 13, 2017 | #1
There is some confusion among the IELTS test takers with regards to the proper approach or writing style for two similar, but different discussion instructions. They normally find it difficult to tell the difference between an "agree or disagree" and an "to what extent do you agree or disagree" essay. While the difference between the two discussion types stands out for a native English speaker, those whose main language is not English struggle to write these essays. Here are some points to help the exam taker figure out which is which.

When to Simply Agree or Disagree

IELTS Task 2 - Agree vs DisagreeAn essay that requires an agree or disagree discussion states simply that. "Do you agree or disagree with the given viewpoint" means that the discussion would like the exam taker to discuss the essay based only on one opinion, supported by various facts, popular knowledge, or personal experience. The proper response to the prompt can only be one of two things; "I agree" or "I disagree". One can never discuss both sides as there is no option in the original prompt that indicates a comparison statements such as "Discuss both points of view." Since only the personal point of view is required in this statement, it makes it easier to develop a line of reasoning for the discussion. FYI, this type of essay can be completed in 4 paragraphs.

Here is a sample essay that responds to this type of prompt:

Topic: Some people believe that tourism does more harm than good. Agree or disagree?

Tourism is something that is often promoted as a good thing for a country. There are some people though who believe that tourism does not really do much good in terms of the country's situation. I agree with this statement for a reason.

One cannot deny that there are economic benefits to be reaped from an active tourism industry in a country. It creates jobs and generates income that helps the people of an area of the country. It promotes the beautification of the country, but not without damaging the same country or area in the process.

Take for example, the negative effects of beach tourism. While the tourists bring in the money, their activities, such as partying at night on the beach and leaving their trash to be carried out to sea, destroys the natural habitat of sea creatures. Coral reefs are damaged and birds end up eating poisonous substances from the leftover waste products. This creates an environmental problem for the city or national government. Thus, proving that tourism does more harm than good.

In the end, the positive effects of tourism are commendable. However, the negative effects that is has on the same tourist area could be a bigger problem in the future. Therefore, tourism does promote more harm than good.

When Do Emotions Come in to the Picture?

The minute the essay prompt directly asks the writer "To what extent do you agree or disagree?", the emotional play for the response begins. The word "extent" tells the exam taker that a strong, emotional response is expected. There are at least 3 ways of responding to this prompt. One can say any of the following in the discussion sentence:

1. I totally agree / disagree
2. I partially agree / disagree
3. I agree / disagree to a certain extent
4. I strongly agree / disagree

The emotional reference in the discussion is required because the discussion will be coming from a personal experience or knowledge of how the prompt has affected someone. Let me show an example of how to approach this essay:

Topic: Businesses today grow at a rapid rate. As such it is now commonly believed that businesses also have social responsibilities in terms of preserving the environment. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

In our modern world, businesses have been expanding at a rate far faster than in the 20th century. These expanding businesses are believed to also have social responsibilities because of their rapid pace of development. I strongly agree with this statement.

Businesses these days tend to have an environmental effect on society because of the way that they take down the natural habitat or animals or pollute the environment when they expand their business. Some businesses do this without any regard for the environment and end up destroying, rather than developing an area.

The skyscrapers of today were built on what were once forests and marshlands. These were converted to make it useful for business purposes. Before the environmental buildings of today were erected, this meant that environments were permanently altered and animals displaced, crops ruined, trees, destroyed, among other things. It was only recently that businesses began to heed the call of environmentalists and started preserving the naturally existing elements in an area even as they built their dream mega buildings.

These are the reasons why I strongly agree with the previously given statement. It is important for businesses to recognize the importance of preserving the environment upon which they are building. Their actions dictate the ability of our planet to survive, repair itself, and continue to support life.

In the end, businesses need to acknowledge that their business growth is tied in with a social responsibility such as protecting the environment. Their failure to act in a socially responsible manner will have direct effects on our planet. That is why I strongly agree that businesses have a social responsibility.

How Can I Remember the Difference?

The discussion instruction will always be your guide. If the phrase "to what extent" does not appear in the instructions, then is it a simple "agree or disagree" essay. When you see the "to what extent" phrase, then that means emotions come into play in the discussion.

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