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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12 Responses to How to respond to ‘double questions’ on your essay

  1. Jamal says:

    Just I like to say to thank you very much

  2. shreekesh says:

    you are Perfect.

    shreekesh form India.

  3. Chao Hsien Wu says:

    Mr. Ryan Higgins is the most effetive English teacher not because he is a native speaker of English but because he teaches English in an easy-to-learn way. Chinese candidates for IELTS and TOEFL can benefit greatly from his lessons.

  4. Rocky says:

    Hello there,im facing the same problem!Your advice are really helpful,thank you!

  5. goutham katkam says:

    Dear Ryan,

    Thank you very much for your support to the students of IELTS, recently I have purchased your ebook related to task 1 and I have gone through it. Some IELTS material books are strictly advising students not to give or share any kind of opinions on task 1, but Iam slightly confused with your interpretive section in the book. No examples studied elsewhere are consist of this section. Could you please clarify me.

    Thank you very much.

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Goutham,

      Yes, I get questions about that structure regularly. It is a structure that allows you as a student more opportunities to demonstrate your writing skills to your examiner. Students often write ‘robotic’ sounding Task 1 responses and an examiner friend of mine told me this does little to help their mark. That said, the Task 1 structure I share in my videos is not recommended for students who are particularly weak in writing. If you feel your writing is strong and that you can complete the entire structure within twenty minutes, I suggest following it. Otherwise, stick to a ‘robotic’ Task 1 response and try to win back marks in your Task 2 writing.

      Good luck,

  6. Ro says:

    Hi Ryan,
    Thank you for sharing the tips. Your site is really helpful. i think we get double question types these days more often than the normal direct argument or discussion essay, If you could create a you-tube video on double question, would be great and we’ll thus have a clear understanding on this type of question?? Thanking you.


  7. akash says:

    hi ryan i have been reading your writing essays an whole study tips and everything quite often very carefully they are awessome and perfect. we can easily achieve high score if we learn to write essays which tells everything in 250-300 words. bt i have been giving ielts general ielts exame more than 3 times bt i am achiving same 5.5 score in writing in other module i am getting 6 or 6.5 easily so can u plz suggest me how to improve my writing score from 5.5 to 6.0 as i think i am good in spelling and idiology . bt i dont knw where i am loosing scores. plz help me i have an exame tomorrow so relying on u… thanks

  8. Ridham Hans says:


    I saw your all videos.I need your help in my writing because every time I got 5.5 band.I gave the exam 6 times.can please help to me.How can I increase my band in it.
    I look forward to your reply

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Ridham,

      I would suggest you watch all of my videos on YouTube and perhaps consider joining my online course (or find a personal writing coach in your area who knows the IELTS exam well).

      Good luck,

  9. Derek Lim says:

    For me i was trained to write 500-600 words in school. However the I-ELTS exam only allowed 200-300, im still trying to adjust my writing style to suit I-elt. I keep writing more than i need to. I always end up with 500 or more words.

  10. sarah lockheart says:

    Some truly interesting information, well written and generally user pleasant.

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