Task type: Discussion / Discursive (advantages and disadvantages)
Word count: 300-350 words

A discussion essay looks at the different points of view surrounding a topic. It may consider the advantages and disadvantages or pros and cons of something, present reasons for and against a statement/opinion, or discuss different aspectsof an issue (see the example in the book). Unlike an argument essay, the writer does not state his/her opinion in the introduction. However, an opinion is possible in the conclusion, based on the preceding discussion.

Essay structure

  • You will write a for/against or advantage/disadvantage essay.
  • You can group the arguments 'for' or 'against' into a single paragraph in a shorter essay (the diagram below shows separate paragraphs.
  • Just remember to use an inclusive topic sentence to show the reader that you will be discussing several arguments in the same paragraph.
  • While the essay should be balanced, this does not mean that you need the same number of paragraphs or points in each part.
  • 2 strong arguments which are well supported are better than 3 weak poorly-developed ones
  • You do not have to start with the advantages/arguments for; you can reverse the structure if you feel it makes sense.


What you will be assessed on

Task response
  • Content and ideas: quality and relevance
  • Development of ideas: elaboration, explanation and use of examples to support main arguments
  • Use of a formal, academic register (no contractions, personal statements etc...)
Message clarity
  • Clear division of ideas into logical paragraphs
  • Use of thesis statement, topic sentences and a transition sentence/marker
  • Use of discourse markers and referents to link ideas within paragraphs
  • Range and accuracy of appropriate vocabulary
  • Variety of sentence structure
  • Accurate use of simple and compound sentences
  • Some successful use of complex structures


Although ice-cream makes people happy and creates employment, there are a number of ways in which it can negatively impact our lives....

While there are major negative effects associated with ice-cream, there are also some positive impacts which are often overlooked.

On the other hand, it can be argued that there are some disadvantages to eating ice-cream every day.

While/although there are many concerns about ice-cream, there are supporters who are extremely enthusiastic this foodstuff and claim that there is no evidence of problems at all.

Despite the benefits of ice-cream, the negative effects cannot be overlooked.

However, these claims are questioned by environmental and consumer groups. (specific statement grouping ideas for following paragraph)....

Useful vocabulary and structures

- verb + object + to + 1st form

help sb (to) do sth
cause sb/sth to do sth
allow sb/sth to do sth
enable sb/sth to do sth
encourage sb/sth to do sth
persuade sb/sth to do sth
convince sb/sth to do sth
force sb/sth to do sth

- verb + object + from + -ing form

prevent sb/th from + -ing form
stop sb/th from + -ing form
discourage sb from + -ing form

- verb + object

affect sb/sth
hinder sb/sth
impede sbsth
damage sb/sth
harm sb/sth
benefit sb/sth

- make + object + adjective/comparative

make it easy/difficult/impossible (for sb/sth) to do sth
make it easier/more difficult/less expensive (for sb/sth) to do sth
make sth easy/easier/difficult/less expensive to do

- have + noun (collocation)

have a positive/ negative effect on sb/sth
have a positive/ negative impact on sb/sth
have a positive/ negative influence on sb/sth