Sentence-level essay writing

In my next few blog lessons, I want to continue with the theme of the last lesson that I published on my old blog. Here’s a copy of that last lesson:

Three levels of IELTS essay writing

Let’s break essay writing into the following 3 levels:

  1. The full essay
  2. Paragraph level
  3. Sentence level

Level 1

When faced with a writing task 2 question, some IELTS students / candidates are stuck at level 1. They have no idea how to organise their writing at paragraph and sentence level. They simply start writing and hope for the best.

Level 2

Many IELTS students are at level 2. They know that they need an introduction, main body paragraphs, and a conclusion. They may also know about things like thesis statements and topic sentences. However, students at this level still struggle to write detailed and coherent main body paragraphs. There is still an element of “hoping for the best” when it comes to the main body sentences.

Level 3

I teach students to break essays down to sentence level. This means that we decide exactly how many sentences to write (13 according to my method), and we know exactly what each sentence should do. If you learn to write like this, there’s no need to “hope for the best”; you simply treat each sentence as a mini-task and work your way through 13 of these until the essay is finished.

On this new site, I want to help you with level 3: the sentence-level approach to writing. So how do we write in this way?

Here’s a quick guide:

  1. First, we decide on a fixed number of paragraphs in any essay that we write. We will always write 4 paragraphs, never more and never less.
  2. We make a similar decision about sentences, always 13: two for the introduction, five for each main paragraph, one for the conclusion.
  3. Next, we look at the specific job of each of our 13 sentences.

Think about essay writing like this: each sentence has a job.

And here’s the good news: there is only a limited number of ‘jobs’ that sentences in an IELTS essay can do. A sentence can introduce a topic, give an opinion, explain something…

Study task: What other ‘jobs’ can sentences in an IELTS essay do?

If you need help, look at the essay plans in my writing task 2 model answer lessons here. My essay plans are really useful because they show you exactly what each sentence will do.


To leave a comment, scroll down to the bottom of the page. Comments will close after 7 days, so please leave your message below the newest blog lesson.


  1. Thank you so much Simon, I hope that you add more lesson on this new site!
    I am stuck at level 1.

  2. I am stuck at level 1 until i learn from you. Now i improve better than before. i long for your new lessons. Thanks

    • Hi Nhung. I’ll add more lessons fairly quickly, so the site will soon fill up. For now, try the homework task in the lesson above: What other jobs can sentences in an IELTS essay do?

  3. Hi Simon,
    I am Sheng. I wish that there are more tasks to do,and hope to see more contents in here!!
    Great to be back! It is just the website I hoped for!

    • I’m glad you like the site Sheng! Try the homework (study task) at the end of the lesson above.

  4. I have bit problem in level 3

    • Ok, then try the homework (study task) at the end of the lesson above. Let’s start solving your problem!

      • There is a root cause why people are not in favour of holding international sporting events. Firstly, these global events require a considerable amount of money. Governments develop infrastructures, such as stadiums, roads, flyovers, hotels, restaurants and hospitals for the international visitors in order to gain an international prestige. Many a time,
        nations fall into a serious debts. For example, India spent a huge amount of money from its national budget to expand The Delhi Metro to accommodate more visitors during the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and had to cover up the debt beacuse of this event

        • Analyse your own paragraph in this way: what ‘job’ is each sentence doing?

  5. Hi Simon, a sentence can also give an example, extend ideas and conclude the whole essay (according to what you taught us from the old blog). For each paragraph, sentences’ job can be introducing ideas and giving examples for supporting our opinion.

    • Good work. So:

      – introduce an idea
      – extend an idea
      – give an opinion
      – support an opinion
      – give an example
      – conclude

      Let’s see if anyone can add to this. Thanks!

      • Hello Simon,

        If I remember right the one-idea paragraph also had “extend an example” sentence, though it might be covered by “extend an idea”.

        I also wonder if we can ask you some questions here? I have a question about the language of this post but I’m not sure it’d be appropriate.

        • Hi Jane,

          Yes, you can extend an example. We’ll look at this when we come to one-idea paragraphs.

          Feel free to ask a question! Just submit a new comment rather than replying to this one.

  6. Dear Simon,
    I am a follower of your EILTS approach. Comparing with your previous website, it is easlier to browse around and find the related contents. Apart from that, it’s amazing I can press ‘plus’ to see answers in reading section, which can avoid the disruption before I finish the exercise. The writing Task 1( gen) is also very helpful because there is a lack of general writing advice in the IELTS training market. I look forward to your update.

    • Thanks Chao, I’m glad you like it!

  7. Hi, Simon! It’s great to see you again. I’ve just signed up to your new site (this one) today although I received the link to register days ago. I’ve not checked my mails recently and I felt lucky because I signed up to your new site in time. I have to say that your Ielts lessons help me a lot with my English, so I’m looking forward to the forthcoming lessons. :D. (I just want to say something cuz I signed up too late to be able to comment below the first blog. Hope you don’t mind!. ^^)
    Here is my homework: Beside your examples, there are some other jobs IELTS sentences can do:
    – Give an example
    – Give a result (either on a short, medium or long term)
    – Give a future prediction
    – Conclude
    P.S: Can you set the words in the comment section to be a little bit bolder, please? It’s a bit difficult for me to read what I just typed in because of its light colour. Thank youu.
    From D.E

    • Good to see you here, and thanks for the suggestion about the comment colour.

      Yes, results, predictions and conclusions are also possible elements of a main body paragraph.

  8. I have never thought about writing essays on a sentence level before, which is good news for writing my future IELTS essay!! In my opinions, sentences also have jobs, such as providing reasons and explaining consequences.

    • Yes, I’m sure this way of thinking is going to help you!

  9. This is the first time I’ve heard of 3 level of IELTS writing essay. I think I’m at level 3. I’ll try to use your 13 sentences method.
    Here is my answer for the study task:
    – Provide explanation
    – Provide more details
    – Give contrast ideas
    – Give example
    – Give suggestion

    • Good work Anh. Those are common sentence ‘jobs’.

  10. Dear Simon,
    Here is my answer in relation to the task:
    – give an example
    – conclusion a topic
    – cause and effect relationship
    – has a scientific data
    – give a suggestion

    Apart from the task, Mr. Simon, I have a suggestion for you to develop the website. You can add a night-mode option on your site.

    • Additionally, a sentence can give a comparison.

    • These are good suggestions, but I don’t think you should try to give scientific data in a task 2 essay.

  11. Topic sentence
    Main sentence (idea)
    Explanation (why or how)
    Supporting idea (example and effect)
    Contrast opinion
    Rephrase the topic sentence

    • Good, although I don’t usually recommend the last one (rephrase the topic sentence). Avoid saying the same thing twice within a main paragraph; instead, try to develop / extend your ideas.

  12. Dear Simon,
    I plan to take an IELTS GT exam. I have been thinking that we will be asked about general topic in writing section 2. What I mean is that I presumably will be asked to write as to social, environmental, life-related issues. I wonder, what is the possibility of a question of scientific subject that I might encounter with. Might I be asked to write in relation to space exploration, genetic engineering, nuclear power or guns, artificial intelligence etc.? Since, I am going to act on that.
    Thanks you in advance for the answer.
    Yours faithfully.

    • Hi Burak. Whatever the question is, you won’t need any particular knowledge about the field – you just need to express simple opinions. So, don’t worry too much about covering all of the possible topics.

      In GT writing task 2, the ‘scientific’ or academic topics that you mentioned are much less likely.