How to respond to ‘double questions’ on your essay

Here is a recent letter exchange I had with an online student regarding those difficult ‘double question’ style essay tasks:

Dear Ryan,

Hello! I’m feel happy to contact you. Right now I’m preparing for the Ielts exam. I’ve watched your videos in Youtube and you said there are mainly two kinds of essay, the discussion essay and argument essay. However, when I try to response the tasks given by Cambridge Ielts 8, I was got stucked because the questions are so weird that I even don’t know how to begin. For examples, the writing task 2 in Test 2 and task 2 in Test 3, questions are, a、Nowadays the way many people interact with each other has changed because of technology.
In what ways has technology affected the types of relationships people make?
Has this become a positive or negative development?

b、Increasing the price of petrol is the best way to solve growing traffic and pollution problems.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
What other measures do you think might be effective? There are two parallel questions here. In my opinion, it is not discussion nor argument. How can I answer the questions like that? Thanks and I’m looking forward your reply!

And my response:

Dear Student,

Yes, these kinds of ‘double questions’ can be tricky.  Typically, I tell students to try to prioritize the questions that appear within the same Task, allotting only a small response to one question and a larger response to the other.  As you only have 250-300 words to work with, your response has to be quite specific, so often answering both questions at length is impossible.

For the first example essay question you have shared, I would honestly try to answer the first question (regarding types of relationships) in the opening sentences of my essay, and then spend the remainder of the essay arguing it is either a positive or negative thing.

For the second question, I would state a strong agree or disagree thesis and follow it up with two supporting paragraphs that outline other measures to control traffic and pollution problems.

Answering in this manner allows you to respond completely to your essay question without having to employ any overly complicated essay structure.

Good luck,


About Ryan

I have been developing online IELTS training resources for over 10 years. For more information about me and how I can help your preparation for the IELTS, please email me:
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