The words Recent IELTS essay questions January 2020 sit in red on a white background with the image of an essay to show that IELTS Essay Questions (Jan 2020)

50 Recent IELTS Essay Questions – Jan 2020

Hey! It is so important that when you sit down to practice IELTS writing, you only use questions that are “genuine”. This means using either questions that come from the IELTS Cambridge 1 – 14 series or those that have been created by an exam writer, like those in my 100 IELTS essay question blog post. However, many students like to practice recent IELTS essay questions i.e. topics that have been reported by recent test-takers.

A rocket on a space background symbolises the importance of practicing with these authentic 100 IELTS essay topics
Click here to go to my 100 IELTS essay questions lesson

I understand why students want to do this – knowing what the recent IELTS essays questions are and checking that you can answer them is reassuring. However, unfortunately, test-takers rarely (if ever) manage to accurately remember the wording of the question that they had in their test.

Can they remember the general topic? Sure.

Can they remember the exact wording? Definitely not.

Sadly, changing even one word in a test can change the focus of a question and, therefore, make it impossible to answer! So, over the last month, I have collected 50 recent IELTS essay questions from students in My IELTS Classroom , and edited them so that they are as close to perfect as possible. Plus, I have divided the questions into Academic and General Training (so you can be sure you are tackling the right type of questions) and have highlighted the main topic of each question for you.


Academic IELTS Essay Questions (Jan 2020)

  1. Some people believe that having interviews is the best way to find new employees for a company. Others say that there are better alternative ways to appoint employees. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.
  2. Some people believe that individuals are born with leadership skills. Others say that these skills can be developed with experience. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.
  3. Some people believe that the government should financially support retired people. Others feel that those who have retired should pay to support themselves. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.
  4. Some people believe that teenagers should study all school subjects. Others argue that they should focus on only the subjects that they are good at or find most interesting. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.
  5. In some cultures, older people are valued most highly. In other cultures, youth is valued more than experience. Discuss both views and give your opinion as to which age should be most valued.
  6. Some people believe that individuals are responsible for their own personal happiness. Others argue that happiness can be affected by other factors. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
  7. Some believe that charitable organisations should help people no matter where they live. Others argue that charities should only help those living in the country where the charity is based. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
  8. Some educators believe that international school exchange visits are important for teenage children. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  9. Too much money is spent on repairing old buildings instead of constructing new ones. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  10. The international community must act immediately to ensure that all countries reduce their consumption of fossil fuels, such as gas and oil. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  11. As well as making money, businesses also have social responsibilities. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  12. Spoken communication is always more powerful than written communication. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  13. The only reason to work hard is to earn money. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  14. Some people think that in order to produce a happy society, it is necessary to ensure that there is only a small difference between the earnings of the richest and poorest. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  15. Since most information about culture and history can be found online, museums are no longer needed. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  16. Scientific research should be funded by governments rather than commercial organisations. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  17. Some children find some particular school subjects difficult (for example maths or philosophy), so these subjects should be optional rather than compulsory. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  18. In recent years, television has contributed most to changing the quality of life of ordinary people. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  19. Many people depend on cars in their day-to-day life (for example, to drive to work). However, unrestricted car use has led to a number of problems. What are these problems? Should individuals be discouraged from using cars in order to reduce them?

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  20. People today rarely interact with their neighbours, and this is having a harmful effect on local communities. What are the possible causes of this trend? What can be done to address it?
  21. Despite the environmental concerns raised by scientists, people are still not changing their lifestyles. Why is this? What can be done to encourage people to protect the environment more?
  22. In some countries, criminal trials are shown to the public on television. Do the advantages of this trend outweigh the disadvantages?
  23. In the modern world, it is possible to shop, work, and communicate online without any face-to-face contact with other people. Is this a positive or negative development?
  24. Nowadays many celebrities receive higher salaries than senior politicians. Why is this?  Do you think this is a positive or negative development?
  25. Throughout history, people have dreamed of living in a perfect society but nobody has agreed on what an ideal society would look like. What do you think is the most important element needed to make a society perfect? How can the ideal society be achieved?

My observation of January’s Academic IELTS essay questions is that there were a lot of Discuss Both Sides and To What Extent questions (as usual), but some of the topics (charitable organisations, financing retirement, international school exchange trips) have never been used before. If you  have never spent time thinking about these topics before, it might be hard to come up with good ideas for them on the spot.  (And I pity the poor test-takers who had to think about what makes a society perfect in 40 minutes!!!). 


General Training IELTS Essay Questions (Jan 2020)

  1. Adults today do not do enough exercise. Some people believe that showing major sports events like the Olympics or the Football World Cup on television encourages people to exercise. Others argue that there are better ways to encourage adults to move more. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
  2. Some people believe that it is best to do the same type of work throughout your life. Others feel that it is beneficial to change jobs often. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
  3. Some people think that it is good for younger people to make their own decisions. Others feel that these decisions should be made with the help of their parents. Discuss both sides and give your own opinion.
  4. Some people believe that it is important to spend time developing a successful career. Others argue that it is more important to spend time with friends and family than at work. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
  5. Some parents believe that mobile phones are harmful for children. Others argue that they are necessary in the modern world. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
  6. Some people think that schools should give prizes for academic successes. Others argue that it is more important for schools to give prizes for other achievements (for example, for sports, music and behaviour). Discuss both views and give your own opinion.
  7. Some people believe that children should be involved in educational activities in their free time. Others argue that this puts too much academic pressure on a child. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
  8. Some people believe that all company decisions should be made by managers. Others feel that it is better to include employees when making decisions. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
  9. Some people think that the government should put a tax on unhealthy food to encourage people to eat more healthily. Do you agree or disagree?
  10. There are many benefits for young people who travel to other countries. Do you agree or disagree?
  11. Some believe that modern inventions have brought more problems than benefits.  Do you agree or disagree?
  12. It is better if an extended family (for example, aunts, uncles, grandparents) are involved in a child’s upbringing than just parents alone.  Do you agree or disagree?
  13. Some people believe that schools should teach children how to grow and cook food. What is your opinion about this?
  14. Some people believe that there should be a law which prevents young people under the age of 18 being outside after midnight. Do you agree or disagree?
  15. Nowadays, people are not as fit and active as they used to be in the past which creates health issues in the long-run. Why do you think this is? What measures can be taken to solve this problem?
  16. The amount of violence in computer games, TV programmes and other leisure activities has increased and, as a result, parents are worried about the effect this is having on their children. How harmful is this development? What can be done to address this situation?

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  17. Nowadays, when people have to travel abroad for work, many take their family members with them on the business trip. What are the advantages and disadvantages for the individual and his or her family members who travel together?
  18. In some countries, people prefer to rent a house than buy one. What are the advantages and disadvantages of renting a property?
  19. Nowadays people have many consumer goods in their home (such as a refrigerator or washing machine). Is this trend a positive or negative development?
  20. Most children have to complete homework when they are at school. Is this a good or a bad thing?
  21. Many university students have part-time jobs while they study. Is this a good or a bad thing?
  22. In some countries, young people leave home as soon as they finish school. Is this a good or a bad thing?
  23. In the past, people wore clothes that were unique to their own culture. Today, people all over the world wear the same types of clothes. Is this trend a positive or negative development?
  24. The world of work is changing rapidly and people cannot depend on having the same job or the same working conditions for life. What are the possible causes of this rapid change? How can people prepare for work in the future?
  25. Many people are choosing to move to citiesWhy is this happening? Do the advantages of this trend outweigh the disadvantages?

A lot of the General Training essay topics in January have been seen many times in IELTS (healthy food, moving to cities, work, etc). However, there were a lot of 2-Part and positive / negative questions, so be sure that you know how to approach these question-types, as they tend to be overlooked.


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OK – those were 50 recent IELTS essay questions. I will try to do this every month so that you can be sure you have ideas for every possible IELTS question in your exam. Well, maybe not to every question, but at least by practicing with these, you will have sharpened your idea-generation skills. Plus, you can help me by adding any questions that you can remember from a recent IELTS exam in the comments below 🚀

If you want to know how your IELTS essay will be marked by the examiner and how you can avoid the errors that I saw as an IDP and BC examiner, then download a FREE copy of my ebook “An ex-examiner’s guide to the IELTS band descriptors” by clicking here.

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