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Written by Ashlee Fisher


When it comes to the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Task 2 essays play a crucial role in assessing a candidate's writing skills. One of the common pitfalls test-takers face is veering off topic. In this blog post, we will explore the perils of going off topic in IELTS Task 2 essays and provide valuable tips to help you stay focused and on track.

The importance of staying on topic

wooden letters spelling out stay on topic on a white background

In IELTS Task 2, staying on topic is of utmost importance. The examiner evaluates your ability to address the specific question prompt and provide a coherent and relevant response. Going off topic not only demonstrates a lack of understanding but also jeopardizes your chances of scoring well.

Deviation from the assigned topic is usually a result of poor planning, insufficient understanding of the question, or a desire to showcase a broader range of knowledge. However, straying away from the prompt often leads to disorganized thoughts, lack of clarity, and incomplete arguments, all of which can significantly impact your overall score.

Negative impact on coherence and cohesion

One of the key criteria for evaluating IELTS Task 2 essays is coherence and cohesion. Coherence refers to the logical flow of ideas within paragraphs and throughout the essay, while cohesion pertains to the effective use of linking words and phrases. Going off topic disrupts both these elements, making your essay appear disjointed and difficult to follow.

When you deviate from the assigned topic, you might introduce unrelated ideas or arguments that do not align with the main question. This hampers the overall structure of your essay, and the lack of coherence can confuse the reader. Additionally, attempting to connect these off-topic ideas with the main question often leads to awkward transitions, reducing the overall cohesion of your essay.

Impact on task achievement

Task Achievement is a critical aspect of IELTS Task 2 essay evaluation. Going off topic directly affects your ability to fulfill the requirements of the assigned task. Examiners expect you to provide a well-structured response that addresses the specific question, presents a clear position, and supports it with relevant arguments and examples.

By deviating from the prompt, you risk failing to fulfill these requirements. Your arguments may lack specificity, relevance, or clarity, undermining the overall strength of your essay. Consequently, even if your writing skills are strong, going off topic can significantly lower your Task Achievement score.

Tips to stay on topic

Now that we understand the implications of going off topic in IELTS Task 2 essays, let's explore some effective strategies to help you stay focused:

  1. Carefully analyze the question: Before you start writing, make sure you fully comprehend the question prompt. Underline the keywords and clearly identify what is being asked. This will guide your essay and prevent unnecessary digressions.

  2. Plan your essay: Create a clear outline that outlines the main ideas, supporting arguments, and examples you will use. This will keep you organized and focused on the task at hand.

  3. Stick to your thesis statement: Craft a strong thesis statement that directly addresses the question prompt. Use it as a reference point throughout your essay to ensure you're on track.

  4. Avoid going into tangents: While it's important to demonstrate your knowledge and vocabulary, make sure every point you include directly supports your main argument and stays relevant to the assigned topic.

  5. Proofread and revise: Allocate time at the end to review your essay. Check if your arguments and examples are in line with the main question, and make any necessary revisions to ensure coherence and cohesion.


In IELTS Task 2 essays, going off topic can have severe repercussions on your overall score. It compromises coherence, cohesion, and task achievement. By carefully analyzing the question, planning your essay, and staying focused on the main topic, you can avoid this pitfall and create a strong, relevant, and coherent response. With diligent practice and adherence to these tips, you'll enhance your chances of success in the IELTS exam.