An image of a football and boxing glove on the left, sit next to two groups of people on the right to signify IELTS discuss both sides essays

IELTS Discuss Both Sides Essays – are you making this mistake?

Hey! There is a lot of discussion in IELTS forums about IELTS discuss both sides organisation. However, what many people fail to consider is what information each paragraph should actually contain. So, today, I want to address the most common (and dangerous) error that students can make in a Discuss Both Sides essay – discussing the topic instead of the views.

I always think students learn best when they are involved in the lesson, so let me explain what I mean by using this simple (fake) question as an example:

Some people think football is the best sport for children to play. Others think that boxing is better. Discuss both sides and give your own view.

In this question there are two clear topics – boxing and football. Let’s imagine then that a student writes an essay based on the following ideas. What do you think? Would an essay that follows this plan address the question?

Body Paragraph 1Boxing is dangerous / can cause people to be violent

Body Paragraph 2Football is a good way to make kids move / a team sport so learn cooperation

The answer is a big no! Why? Well, let’s think about it. Yes, the student has discussed the two topics (boxing and football), but that is not what the question asked them to do! Remember, we were asked to discuss both views. Look at the question again.  What are the two views?

View One =  Football is the best sport

View Two =  Boxing is the best sport

Do you see the problem? Look at the student’s plan again. Yes, they have two arguments that discuss boxing, but they are both reasons why boxing is BAD! However, the second view states that “Others think that boxing is better“! Would these people really argue that boxing is “dangerous and leads to violence”?!!! Of course they wouldn’t! They think that it is the BEST sport, not the worst! If the student wrote an essay using this plan, they would get no higher than a 5.0 for Task Response as their essay would not address the question.

Body Paragraph 1Boxing is dangerous / can’t practice on your own (= FOOTBALL IS BEST) ❌❌❌

Body Paragraph 2 – Football is a good way to make kids move / a team sport so learn cooperation (= FOOTBALL IS BEST)

In this type of question, it is vitally important that you present arguments in favour of each view. Think about this when you read the question. Don’t focus on the topic (usually one word) but the views (usually one sentence).

Remember you must discuss both views not both topics!

For this essay, the second view states that boxing is the best sport for children to learn, so you must give some arguments for this view in one body paragraph. If the student agrees that football is the best (because most students usually do!) then they would put these arguments in the first body paragraph of their essay.

Body Paragraph 1Boxing is a good way for children to channel aggressive energy / it can improve coordination (= BOXING IS BEST) ✅ ✅ ✅

Body Paragraph 2 – Football is a good way to make kids move / Football is a team sport so children learn cooperation (= FOOTBALL IS BEST)

Do you see the difference? Now we have arguments in support of each VIEW. This is crucial if you want to score a 6.0 or higher for Task Response. Interestingly, the writer could have used some of their original ideas about boxing BUT IN THE PARAGRAPH SUPPORTING FOOTBALL. In fact, it might be good to make a comparison between the two sports here and mentioning that football is less dangerous than boxing would strengthen the argument that football is better.

Body Paragraph 1 – Boxing is a good way for children to channel aggressive energy / it can improve coordination (= BOXING IS BEST)

Body Paragraph 2 – Football is a good way to make kids move / Football is a team sport so children learn cooperation / Football is safer than boxing, which is very dangerous  (= FOOTBALL IS BEST)  ✅ ✅ ✅

So, what is the lesson we have learned today?  Having the right discuss both sides organisation is great, but if you don’t actually discuss both views, you are not addressing the question! The key to getting it right is not looking at the topic (boxing / football), but looking at the views (boxing is the best / football is the best).  If you follow this rule, you will always be on the right path to a high score!


I hope that you found this lesson helpful. Remember that there are FIVE lessons devoted to Discuss Both Sides essays in the My IELTS Classroom essay writing course, which cover:

  • How to organise the paragraphs in your discuss both sides essay.
  • How to structure your introduction and conclusion, and which grammar structures you should use in them.
  • How to discuss your opinion and show other people’s views without getting the two confused!
  • How to write topic sentences and order the sentences inside a paragraph to improve progression.

Plus, you can watch the first three lessons of my course for free, so CLICK HERE to start learning now! Also, if you are worried about whether or not you should put your opinion in the introduction to a Discuss Both Sides essay or not, then you can read my clear explanation in this blog post.

Discuss both sides
Click here to read about IELTS Discuss Both Sides introduction

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