IELTS Problem Solution Essays

IELTS writing explores a variety of essay topics. Ranging from topics that deal with your personal opinions to ones where you analyse...

Indulekha Prabha Written by Indulekha Prabha · 4 min read >

IELTS writing explores a variety of essay topics. Ranging from topics that deal with your personal opinions to ones where you analyse various social issues. It is the only section where you get to write down your ideas and opinions in an organised manner. Needless to say this section is very minutely judged and you need to be absolutely focused in order to do well. 

One topic that is quite recurrent in IELTS Writing section is the problem-solution type essay. Here you are given a troubled scenario and are asked to suggest suitable solutions to that particular problem.

Types of essays

Years of observation revealed that there are 5 main types of essay questions in IELTS writing task 2; opinion essays, discussion essays, advantage/disadvantage essays, problem-solution essays and direct question essays.

Each of these essays has their own demands and therefore needs to be structured accordingly. This article deals with problem- solution essays in particular. Let us find out more!

All about Problem- Solution Essays

One of the first things you have to make sure you are able to do is, figure out which type of essay is given. To do that skilfully, you need to know what a problem-solution type question looks like. Here are some examples of problem- solution type of questions:

  • Overpopulation of urban areas has led to numerous problems. Identify one or two serious ones and suggest ways that governments and individuals can tackle these problems.
  • Nowadays many people have access to computers on a wide basis and a large number of children play computer games. What are the negative impacts of playing computer games and what can be done to minimize the bad effects?
  • The internet has transformed the way information is shared and consumed, but it has also created problems that did not exist before. What are the most serious problems associated with the internet and what solutions can you suggest?
  • In the developed world, average life expectancy is increasing. What problems will this cause for individuals and society? Suggest some measures that could be taken to reduce the impact of ageing populations.

How To Approach This Kind of Essays?

While you work on such types of essays you must remember that some essays ask for reasons and solutions, not problems and solutions. Writing about a reason (or cause) is not the same as writing about a problem. 

When you writing about Problems, here are some things you must keep in mind:

  • Ask yourself the following questions. Their answers should tell you a lot regarding how you can plan and organise a paragraph that deals with the given “problem”.
  • How many problems are discussed?
  • What are they?
  • What expressions are used to introduce the problems?
  • How are the problems illustrated further?
  • What results are discussed for each problem?
  • You only need two or three problems because you do not have too much time and you need to explain the problems in a stipulated time.
  • When you brainstorm your ideas for problem solution essays, think about (a) what the problem is (b) how you will explain it (c) and what the effect is. Your paragraph should follow this pattern.
  • Here is how you brainstorm:
Problem 1: children can access potentially dangerous sitesExplanation / Example: Pornography sitesResult: Affects thought & development – negative for children & society
Problem 2: growth of online fraud and hacking
Explanation / Example: Evident from the constant news storiesResult: Criminals get sensitive information

Let us now look at what writing about solutions should look like:

You must ask the following questions and use their answers to form your response:

  • How many solutions are given?
  • What are they?
  • What three different groups of people does the writer say are responsible for these solutions?
  • How would the solutions be implemented?
  • What three modal verb structures are used to make the suggestions?
  • When you brainstorm focus on the following three units of the topic:
  1. Think of the key ‘people’ who are involved. It is usually governments and individuals in some way or another. Sometimes it is also companies and parents. If you are to discuss crime it could be the police. If it is violence on TV it could be TV and film producers.
  1. Develop your solutions.

Your solutions should not too simplistic. It’s all too easy to gneralise about what people can do. 

  1. Modal Verbs

Modal verbs can be used to make suggestions in problem solution essays. These are usually found in solutions paragraphs.

Now let us look at a plan for the problem solution essay for the solutions paragraph:

Solution 1: GovernmentsIdea: Adequate legislation and controls for young peopleHow: More complex website access criteria
Solution 2: ParentsIdea: Monitor children and restrict accessHow: Use a computer program

Format of a Problem-Solution Essay:

The format of this kind of essay is quite straightforward. Here is a rough sketch that you can follow for a good response:

  • Introduction 

Sentence 1- Paraphrase Question

Sentence 2- Outline Sentence

  • Main Body Paragraph 1

Sentence 1- State Problem

Sentence 2- Explain problem

Sentence 3- Result

Sentence 4- Example

  • Main Body Paragraph 2

Sentence 1- State Solution

Sentence 2- Explain Solution

Sentence 3- Example

  • Conclusion 

Sentence 1- Summary

Sentence 2- Recommendation or Prediction

Sample Essay on a Problem-Solution Topic

A Band 8 Problem-Solution essay has a good plan, a clear execution of the plan with relevant vocabulary and zero grammatical or spelling errors.

Take a look at your model essay for better understanding:

Global warming is one of the biggest threats humans face in the 21st Century and sea levels are continuing to rise at alarming rates. 

What problems are associated with this and what are some possible solutions. 

Climate change is among the principal dangers facing people this century and ocean levels are increasing dramatically. This essay will first suggest that the biggest problem caused by this phenomenon is the flooding of homes and then submit building flood protection as the most viable solution.

The foremost problem caused by sea levels creeping up is the flooding of peoples’ residences. Millions of people all over the world live in coastal areas and if the sea rises by even a few feet, they will be inundated with water and lose their property. Shelter is one of the most basic of human needs and widespread flooding would cause millions of people to become homeless, not to mention losing all of their possessions. The devastation brought about by this was clear for all to see during the 2011 Tsunami in Japan, in which millions of people were displaced.

A possible solution to this problem would be to build flood barriers. Flood defences, such as dikes, dams and floodgates,  could be built along coasts and waterways, thereby stopping the water reaching populated areas. The Netherlands is one of the most populated areas in the world and also one of the most vulnerable to flooding and they have successfully employed various flood defence systems.

To conclude, stemming the rising tides caused by increasing global temperatures is one of the foremost challenges we face and it will ultimately lead to many of the worlds’ cities being left underwater, but a possible solution could be to utilise the flood prevention techniques already used by countries like Holland. It is predicted that more and more countries will be forced to take such measures to avoid a watery catastrophe.


Writing a full essay for the IELTS Writing Task 2 can seem daunting to. However, if you are armed with the right kind of ideas and stylistic elements, your essay can easily fetch a Band 8.

Written by Indulekha Prabha
My name is Indulekha Prabha. I am an English teacher and a content writer by profession. When I'm not working you can find me writing fiction, reading poetry and painting. Profile

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