Do you have “enough” ideas in your IELTS Writing Task 2 essays?

A stack of books with the words "Idea Flooding: good or bad?"
Here's why having two well-developed ideas with one example each is better than having 10 ideas that are not really developed.

I’m not sure if this is actually a popular concern or not but I’ve got asked this question so many times from my clients and people on TikTok and Instagram. So, let’s talk about the number of ideas you must have in an IELTS Writing Task 2 essay.

“Idea flooding”

Have you heard of “idea flooding”? Simply put, idea flooding is a situation where you have a lot of ideas in one paragraph. It is the end result of a brainstorming technique where the you set a time limit and write down as many ideas as possible on a particular topic, without focusing on developing these ideas. The objective of this practice is to help you come up with a number of ideas that may be useful for you to develop in your essay.

This technique is useful for IELTS Writing Task 2 because it requires you to analyze a statement or a situation and provide your reasons to support or go against the statement, preferably with examples. In other words, you should present your brainstormed ideas in the essay.

So, for IELTS Writing Task 2, it is good to have a large number of ideas, right? Wrong.

The number of ideas doesn’t matter.

Here is the twist!

Presenting ideas is only one-third of the work you need to do. You should also develop the ideas you present (explanations) and support your explanations with a relevant example.

For IELTS Writing Task 2, you won’t have the space or time to fit a number of ideas into your answer. Fitting more ideas in your paragraphs without developing them does not get you a higher score anyway. While there is a statement and you are asked to describe whether you agree or disagree with the statement, listing out a number of ideas does not help.

What matters is how well you develop your ideas.

IELTS is not a test of knowledge or lateral thinking. It is a test of English. The purpose of IELTS Writing Task 2 is largely to assess how well you can convert your thoughts into text that can be understood by most English readers.

So, rather than listing out ten ideas, it is better to keep two ideas, develop each of them well, and add one example for each. A good formula for IELTS Writing Task 2 is to dedicate the second and third paragraphs of your essay to one idea (with example) each. And each paragraph should follow the 3-part paragraph structure.

There are no bad ideas.

I understand that you have the urge to “show off” your ideas and you may be thinking that other ideas are better and that your ideas are bad. That is why you are trying to fit as many ideas as you have in your essay. But you must remember every idea is worth exploring.

However, there are simple and complicated ideas. Simple ideas are the ones you find easy to develop. Complicated ideas are the ones that need more effort to develop. Whether you choose the simple or complicated ones, the most important thing is to develop them properly.

(If you have ever read my Writing Samples, you will know that I aim for the simple ones. It’s just the way I am.)

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Huyen Nguyen

Founder of Practice9, creator of IELTS with Huyen. Huyen has 10 years of experience with IELTS, overall 8.5.

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