Thinking about functional and not just topic vocabulary
There is a skill in reading IELTS essay questions. One step is to see that you need to use particular vocabulary to write the essay. The next step is to see that not all the vocabulary you need is topic vocabulary. That is what this lesson is really about – a large part of the vocabulary you need in your essays is not about the topic of the essay itself.
Read and understand the question – finding the vocabulary you need
You should see that as you read this youth crime essay question that it does not simply ask you about crime and young people, it also asks you about: causes, solutions, explanations and suggestions. These are the areas where a good range of functional vocabulary will help you.
In recent years, there has been a considerable rise in crimes committed by young people in cities.
What has caused this? What solutions can you suggest?
One obvious area is topic vocabulary. Here we have:
- young people
More functional vocabulary
What other language do you need? Sometimes it can be easy to forget this part.
- Problem/solution vocabulary: the question asks you to discuss a problem.
- Cause and effect vocabulary: you need to think about why it is happening
- Explanation vocabulary: you are asked to explain something.
- Suggestion vocabulary: again, you are asked to make suggestions.
The big idea – vary the vocabulary you use
Once you have identified what types of vocabulary you need, the next step is to understand that you want to vary the language you use. That much is clear. It is worth understanding that there are different ways to do this:
1. Changing the word itself
One obvious thing to do is just change the word you use. For example, all these words are related and can be used to discuss causes:
- lead to
2. Varying your word combinations
A slightly different idea is to keep the main word, but change the words you use with it. This can be a sensible approach as keeping the same word is good for cohesion, while changing the combinations helps show off your range of vocab. For example, all these phrases use “problem” in different ways:
- a pressing problem
- an urgent problem
- deal with a problem
- a problematic situation
Look at my IELTS youth crime essay and see how I use this vocabulary
When I say “look at”, I really mean look. I have highlighted the different functional language in different colours. You should see these words are a huge part of the essay:
The rise of crime among young people is an urgent problem in many cities that needs to be addressed. However, in order to find a solution, it is first of all necessary to understand what has led to this happening. In this essay, I first of all examine thereasons forthe rise in youth crime, then I suggest how this problem may be resolved.
Perhapsthe principal cause ofthis rise in youth crime is the increased use of drugs and alcohol among young people. Many cities suffer from the phenomenon of binge drinking by teenagers who lose control under the influence of alcohol and commit crimes. For instance, it is a common sight on the streets of Britain to see fights breaking out outside pubs and clubs. Similarly, there is a clear connection betweendrug abuse among the young and crime. It is still unfortunately the case that young people frequently see drugs as cool and become addicted. It is a common occurrence for these addicts to resort to petty theft in order to pay for their habit.
There are a variety of potential ways ofcombatting this problem. One possibility that is sometimes suggestedis a much stricter system of penalties and punishments to deter young people from a life of crime. That might work, but it would also be sensible to improve the system of education so that young people were better informed about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. This should have the effect ofdealing with the issuesthat cause youth crime in the first place.
In conclusion, alcohol and drug abuse are among the primary reasons for the rise in young offenders and if the authorities wish to tackle youth crime, one approach would be to educate the young more effectively.
Notes on vocabulary
an urgent problem… to be addressed
find a solution
how this problem may be resolved
combatting this problem
dealing with the issues
to tackle youth crime
Cause and effect
has led to
the primary reasons for
the reasons for
the principal cause of
a clear connection between
have the effect of
issues that cause youth crime
the primary reasons for
examine the reasons
then I suggest how
There are a variety of potential ways of
One possibility that is sometimes suggested is
it would also be sensible to
I haven’t highlighted these in the essay, but you might want to look at:
fights breaking out
binge drinking (not a crime really)
life of crime
Youth Crime Essay
This sample IELTS writing is on the subject of youth crime.
In this essay, you are presented with an issue and asked to discuss the 'reasons' why it is occuring and suggest 'solutions'.
Crime is a topic that sometimes arises in IELTS essays and in speaking questions.
Be careful to identify what kind of crime is being referred to - this is specifically youth crime.
You need to give some reasons that it is happening and then give some solutions.
IELTS Sample Writing
Sample IELTS Writing - Model Answer
Over the last few decades, many cities around the world have seen alarming increases in the levels of youth crime. This essay will discuss the reasons for this and provide some possible solutions.
The first reason is connected with the family. In order for a child to grow up in a balanced way, it is very important that he or she is nurtured well by his or her parents. However, these days, it is often the case that children are neglected. This may be because of the fact that many parents in cities now both have to work so are often not around to give their children support when needed. Another factor is the increasing levels of poverty around the world. We have seen with globalization the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and this inevitably means that those who are poorer will have to resort to illegal means to get what others have. Of course, this will include the children in the poorer families.
However, there are ways to tackle such problems. Firstly, one of the ways to combat the problem is to have stricter punishments. Although, as discussed above, it can be outside factors that lead to crime, it is still important to have severe punishments to deter teenagers from crime. All too often, because they are young, the courts are too lenient. Parents also have to take more responsibility for their children’s actions. They too should be punished if their children commit crime.
To sum up, several factors have led to increases in youth crime, but measures are available to tackle this problem.
The topic is clearly stated in the general statement of the introduction, and the thesis tells the reader that reasons and solutions will be discussed.
It is organized well, with reasons for youth crime discussed in the first body paragraph and solutions in the next. Each paragraph has two ideas and they are clearly signaled and well supported.
There are some good complex structures (In order for…, often the case that…, means that…,) and some good examples of topic related vocabulary (nurtured…, neglected…, illegal…, severe punishments…, deter…, commit crime…).
You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.
Write about the following topic:
Levels of youth crime are increasing rapidly in most cities around the world.
What are the reasons for this, and suggest some solutions.
Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own experience or knowledge.
Write at least 250 words.