Recognizing topics in writing part 2

Identify the Topic: 
Writing Task 2 – Lesson 1 

In the writing for task 2, one of the first things you need to do is identify the topic of the essay.

If you write about the wrong topic or go off topic when you write your answer, this is likely to substantially  reduce your band score.

How do I identify the topic?

Remember, in IELTS writing, you are usually presented with some issue or problem that is currently affecting society and you need to discuss it.

So you need to read the question carefully and identify what the issue is. You will normally only be looking for one or two key words.

Have a look at the following question. What is the issue?

The crime rate among teenagers has increased dramatically in many countries.

Discuss some possible reasons for this increase and suggest solutions.

You should have identified teenage crime as the topic.

The crime rate among teenagers has increased dramatically in many countries.


What if I identified ‘crime’ as the topic?

Your essay would be wrong if you wrote about crime generally. When you have a topic, it may require you to talk about a particular area, group of people or place.

In this case, the question specifically wants you to address the issue of TEENAGE crime.

When you identify the topic, always look carefully to see if it is being narrowed down to a particular area that you need to focus on.

Identify the Topic – Practice

Have a look at the following essay questions and choose the best answer to identify the topic. Remember, this is not a full analysis of the question – you are just looking for the broad topic area.

Sometimes more than one answer may be possible. In this case, when you identify the topic, choose the most precise.

Do the exercise below to try to identify the topics of the essay from the titles.


  1. ‘Telecommuting’ refers to workers doing their jobs from home for part of each week and communicating with their office using computer technology. Telecommuting is growing in many countries and is expected to be common for most office workers in the coming decades.

        How do you think society will be affected by the growth of telecommuting?

Working from home


Computer technology


  1. To what extent is the use of animals in scientific research acceptable?

Animal research


Scientific research


  1. We are becoming increasingly dependent on computers. They are used in businesses, hospitals, crime detection and even to fly planes.

          What things will they be used for in the future? Is this dependence on computers a good  thing or should we be more suspicious of their benefits?

The benefits of computers

Computers in businesses, hospitals, crime detection, and flying.

Computer dependency


  1. In what ways has information technology changed work and working practices in the past 10 years?

Information technology and work

Information technology

Working practices


  1. Blood sports have become a hot topic for debate in recent years. As society develops it is increasingly seen as an uncivilized activity and cruel to the helpless animals that are killed. All blood sports should be banned.

         Discuss the main arguments for this statement and give your own opinion.

Animal cruelty

Blood sports

Blood sports and uncivilized activity


  1. A growing number of people feel that animals should not be exploited by people and that they should have the same rights as humans, while others argue that humans must employ animals to satisfy their various needs, including uses for food and research.

          Discuss the arguments in favour of both these positions and state your own position on the issue.

Satisfying human needs

Animals and humans

Animal rights


  1. Forests are the lungs of the earth. Destruction of the world’s forests amounts to death of the world we currently know.

         To what extent do you agree or disagree?

The Earth


Death of the world


  1. The idea of going overseas for university study is an exciting prospect for many people. But while it may offer some advantages, it is probably better to stay home because of the difficulties a student inevitably encounters living and studying in a different culture.

          To what extent do you agree or disagree this statement?

Studying abroad


Living in a different culture


  1. Zoos are sometimes seen as necessary but not poor alternatives to a natural environment.

        Discuss some of the arguments for and/or against keeping animals in zoos.

Natural environments

Alternatives to zoos

Keeping animals in zoos


  1. Many countries are currently witnessing an increase in criminal activity among young people.

          Discuss reasons for this phenomenon and suggest ways to deal with the problem.

Youth crime

Criminal activity

Increases in crimeBottom of Form


1. Telecommuting. – Mentioned as the topic word for both sentence 1 and 2. Also ‘working from home’ is mentioned as a part of telecommuting as is the use of technology.

2. Animal research. – Both research and animals tell us that we are talking about a combination of both.

3. Computer dependency. – Mentioned in both the topic sentence and the question (dependent/dependence).

4. Information technology & work. – information technology and work/working practices.

5. Blood sports. – All blood sports should be banned. Discuss this statement. It is a clear statment which you are asked to discuss.

6. Animal rights. – animals should not be exploited / should have the same rights… human needs is an example. It is not asking you to compare animals and humans.

7. Deforestation. – Destruction of the world’s forests amounts to the death…..

8. Living in a different culture. – ‘the difficulties of living and studying in another culture.

9. Keeping animals in zoos. Discuss……keeping animals in zoos.

10. Youth crime. – criminal activity among young people.

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