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IELTS Problem and Solution Essay

ielts problem and solution essay

Problem-solution is one of the essay types that you may be asked to write during the IELTS test writing task 2. In this article, we will take an in-depth look into problem and solution essays, how to recognize and answer them.

Always keep in mind, you won’t be able to write well-structured IELTS essays if you don’t know how to structure all 5 types of IELTS essays. So, now, let’s start learning about problem and solution essays.

How to Recognize Problem and Solution Essays

Obviously, the first thing you want to do when writing an IELTS essay is to determine the essay type.

Problem and solutions essays consist of two parts. The first part of the topic question describes an existing problem. The second part of the topic question asks what possible solutions you can propose to the problem.

At this point, you should have a basic idea about problem and solution questions and the way they look. Now, let’s take a question from an official IELTS Cambridge book and see it with a real example.

The question we will use is from Cambridge IELTS Book 10, Test 4:

Overpopulation in many urban centres around the world is a major problem. What are the causes of this and how can this problem be solved?

As you can see, the topic asks you to discuss a problem, which is overpopulation in urban centers. And then you have to think of some possible solutions to deal with this problem. This is a problem and solution essay. Whenever you see an essay question that describes a problem and asks you to give possible solutions to the problem, that is a problem and solution essay. No need to hesitate about the essay type!

Now, let’s move forward and understand how you should structure problem and solution essays.

Step 1. Plan your answer.

Understand the question.

Before beginning to write, make sure to understand what the question is asking for. Once you fully understand the question, it will be easier to give a relevant answer. For example, this question asks you to find the reasons why urban centres are becoming overpopulated and propose solutions to deal with this situation.

Additionally, since the question has “you” in it, it is, thus, asking for your opinion. IELTS essays always ask for your opinion, so writing in the first person is okay. You may use phrases like “I believe”, “in my opinion.”, “I have to state” and etc.

Plan the structure.

We recommend that you write 4 paragraphs for problem and solution essays – introduction, two main body paragraphs, and conclusion.

1. Introduction: topic and answer.

In the introduction, you need to write two sentences: The first should paraphrase the topic question and the second one should give some ideas on how the problem can be solved.

2. Body paragraph.

In the first body paragraph, you should discuss what causes the given problem. Try to give 2-3 ideas in this body paragraph with supporting examples. Write 5-7 sentences for this body paragraph.

3. Body paragraph.

In the second body paragraph, you should write your solutions to the problem. Again, try to write 5-7 sentences for this body paragraph.

4. Conclusion: repeat the answer.

In the conclusion paragraph, you should repeat the answer you stated in the introduction while summarizing the problems and steps you have written in the two body paragraphs. This should be easy to do. In a moment, we’ll show the way you can do it.

Plan ideas for two body paragraphs before writing

For the first body paragraph, you will write the causes. Some causes of this problem could be:

1. More jobs in urban centers and people move there to get a job

2. In urban centers education is better, that’s why people prefer staying there.

This body paragraph will need to include 5-6 sentences. The first sentence should introduce what the paragraph is about. You may write, “There are several reasons why in urban centers the population is increasing rapidly.” Then, you can follow the paragraph and add your points with supporting examples.

For the second body paragraph, propose solutions to the causes you stated in the first body paragraph. For this example, the solutions may be as follows:

1. The government can create jobs in rural areas so that people can work there.

2. Creating good schools in the countryside so that children can get a decent education outside of major cities.

This body paragraph will need to include five to six sentences, like the previous paragraph. The first sentence should introduce what the paragraph is about. You may write, “There are solutions to decrease the population in urban centers.” In the second through fifth sentences, you should list the solutions you have suggested. Try to divide two to three sentences for each idea while staying within five to six total sentences in the paragraph.

Understanding the question and planning the ideas should take you overall 7 minutes. Try to achieve this.

Once you understand the question and have planned your answer, it’s time to start writing the answer. 

Introduction Paragraph – IELTS Problem and Solution Essay

The introduction paragraph needs two sentences. The first sentence should be introducing the topic. In this example, the topic sentence can be similar to the following:

 “It is undoubtedly true that overcrowding is a serious problem in many cities. There are a variety of reasons for this, but steps can definitely be taken to tackle this problem.

Beginning with the phrase “It is undoubtedly true” confirms that you agree that the problem mentioned in the question exists.

With the second sentence, we say that to solve this problem we should take some steps. And, we are going to write these steps in the second body paragraph.

You have not revealed any causes or solutions yet. You will present these in the body paragraphs. For now, you are introducing what you will talk about in the essay.

Body paragraph 1 – IELTS Problem and Solution Essay

Write the first body paragraph according to the plan. We should mention what are the reasons that cities are overpopulated. So, it could be:

On the one hand, there are a lot of reasons why in urban centers the population is increasing rapidly. First of all, in cities, there are more job opportunities and therefore people move to cities to seek employment. For example, many people struggle to find a job in their villages for a long time, but once they move to major cities, they land a job easily. Moreover, the lack of good schools in rural areas forces people to leave their homes and move to towns because their children will get a decent education. Hence, these people do not have another option except living in the cities where the standard of education is far better than in rural areas.

Here, we finish the first main body paragraph. We gave two reasons why urban centers becoming overpopulated place.

Now, we need to write the second body paragraph and propose solutions to the existing problem.

Body paragraph 2 – IELTS Problem and Solution Essay

Let’s start writing the second body paragraph. We will start it with the phrase “on the other hand” because the first paragraph we started with the phrase “on the one hand”. Also, we will propose our solution to the existing problem.

“On the other hand, there are several actions which governments can take to improve the situation. The first and most obvious step is to create more job opportunities with competitive salaries in rural areas so that people will not move to the cities to find work. For example, in the countryside, governments can establish a tax-free system. Hence, people will be eager to start a business there and create jobs. Additionally, if governments create better schools near villages people will not need to move to the major cities to get a first-class education.

We gave two solutions which were relevant to the issues which cause the problem of overpopulation in urban centers.

Now, it’s time to write the conclusion and finish this essay.

Conclusion paragraph – IELTS Problem and Solution Essay

In the conclusion paragraph, you will need to summarize the problem and the solution. We already know the problem as we introduced it in the first body paragraph. We also know the solutions that we suggested, and we will summarize those, too. Your summary may be as follows:

“In conclusion, people tend to live in urban areas because of several benefits but governments can take certain actions to make these people happy in rural areas as well so that urban centres will not become overpopulated.”

ALISTAIR BROWN: As a writing and speaking examiner for more than 10 years, I bring a lot of experience. I have seen the frustrations that students have with IELTS from a career where I have actively guided and corrected students’ studies. I am looking for the most effective ways to teach IELTS as I understand students’ needs.