how to write a to what extent essay

How to answer a “to what degree/extent” essay question

Woman thinking with pen

One of the most popular question types to appear on History assessment tasks is one that starts with the phrase, “To what extent/degree...”.

Despite the fact that it appears so frequently, particularly on exam papers , some teachers and students are not sure how to correctly write a response to it.

Thankfully, "to what degree/extent" questions are relatively easy to understand and to write a sophisticated response to, as long as you know what they are specifically asking you to do.

In this blog post, I will explain what such questions are asking you to do and give you some practical tips on how to write an essay response to a “To what extent/degree” question so that you feel confident in your assessment pieces.

Watch a video explanation:

Watch on YouTube

Understanding the question

First of all, it is crucial to understand the purpose of the word “degree” or “extent” in this kind of question. Regardless of which of the two words are used, they mean exactly the same thing: they are asking you to assign a degree of importance to how influential or important a particular factor is regarding the topic at hand.

A useful way of conceptualising the degree of importance , is to think of a simple scale that you could measure it against:

Most of the time, a "to what degree/extent” question is ultimately asking you to decide a single factor’s importance in comparison to another, potentially equally important factor. In other words, you need to argue which of two things is the most important.

Therefore, you will say that one of the two factors was “ to a greater degree ” important, while the other is “ to a lesser extent ” important.

It is rare that this kind of question will require you to say that only one factor was the only important element in regards to a topic. Any event in history is a complex combination of multiple factors, and it is too simplistic to assign only one factor to any topic.

That is why this kind of question is so popular with essays about historical causation , consequences or significance in History exams. These topics acknowledge that there are multiple factors which contributed to a historical event or idea. 

Example essay questions

Sometimes, the question itself will provide you with the two elements that it wants you to compare. For example:

“To what degree was political ideology more important in Hitler’s rise to power than the economic conditions in Germany in the early 1930s?” 

As you can see in this “to what degree” question, it is asking you to decide whether “political ideology” was “more important” than “the economic conditions in Germany in the early 1930s”. Therefore, in your answer to this question, you need to clearly state which you think was “more important”.

Here is another example: 

“To what extent did the Black Death in 14th century Europe decrease the papacy’s cultural influence in comparison to the political scandals within the curia?” 

Once more, it is easy to identify what you are being asked to decide between: whether “the Black Death in 14th century Europe” or “the political scandals within the curia” was more important in causing the decline of “the papacy’s cultural influence”.

However, sometimes an essay question will only give you one factor, in which case you will need to choose the second factor to compare it against.

For example 

“To what degree was Julius Caesar’s assassination the result of his own hubris?” 

In this example, the question only gives you “his own hubris” as one important element. Therefore, you will need to decide, based upon your own historical knowledge and the sources supplied, something else to compare it against.

It is still important, though, that you still come to a conclusion about which of the two elements was the most important.

How to structure your answer to the question (the hypothesis)

Once you have identified the two elements you are going to compare in your answer, you need to decide which of the two you are going to assign most importance to.

When you write your answer to the essay question (which will become your hypothesis ), you have to ensure that you clearly state which of the two options you have decided is the most important. You can use the following cues to identify the greater and lesser factors:

“[Factor 1] was, to a greater degree , more important in [the Topic] than [Factor 2] because...” 

“[Factor 1] was the main cause of [the Topic] despite the role of [Factor 2] because...” 

“While [Factor 2] did play a role in [the Topic], [Factor 1] was by far the most significant element because...”

As you can see in these example structures, you need to:

  • clearly state the two topics you’re comparing
  • mention the topic to which they relate
  • have a clear decision about which of the two factors are most important to the topic

Also, don't forget to provide clear reasons for your decision after the “because” in your hypothesis.

How to structure your essay

 Once you have decided which of the two factors was the most important and which was the least important, then you can start planning your essay paragraphs .

Since essays typically require you to follow the standard five-paragraph structure ( introduction paragraph , three body paragraphs , and a conclusion paragraph ), you know that you will have three body paragraphs available for arguing your decision.

  • In two out of your three body paragraphs, provide two separate reasons for why one factor was the most important  
  • In the third of your body paragraphs, talk about the lesser contributing factor  

This helps us to use a simple structure to respond to a “to what degree/extent” essay question:

Here is a visual representation of the structure to help you:

By dividing your three body paragraphs in this way, you devote two-thirds of your essay to the most important of the two factors, and then one-third to the lesser of the two factors.

At the start of each body paragraph, then, you need a clear topic sentence that provides a reason why this factor was important. Ensure that you have two separate reasons to support the factor you’ve chosen as the most important, and one for the lesser of the two factors.

For example: 

Topic sentence for body paragraph 1: 

“[Factor 1] was the most important element in [the Topic] because...” 

Topic sentence for body paragraph 2: 

“Another reason that [Factor 1] was the most important element in [the Topic] is because...” 

Topic sentence for body paragraph 3:  

“To a lesser degree, [Factor 2] was important to [the Topic] because...”

Some rare exceptions

The advice provided above will serve you well in replying to almost all “to what degree/extent” essay questions. However, here are some rare exceptions which you might need to watch out for, along with some quick advice for how to deal with them.

Some questions may ask you to compare three separate factors. On these occasions, the question is probably guiding you to argue that all three factors were of equal importance. Typically, you can assign each factor to a body paragraph and provide one reason why each element was a contributing factor.

Some questions may ask you to only assign a degree of importance to only one factor, without expecting you to provide a second alternative. In short, if this happens, it is probably a poorly written question.

Essay questions that require the analysis and explanation of only one factor should probably be a “how” or “why” question, rather than a “to what degree/extent” question. Firstly, check with your teacher about if they really do only want one factor considered and ask how they intend for you to answer the question.

Additional resources

For additional resources on how to write all the elements in a History essay, please check out the following scaffolding guide , which has examples of full paragraphs to help you out. 

For advice on other kinds of exam questions, read over the exam question advice section .

Write a comment

Kim Brett ( Tuesday, 01 September 2020 23:32 )

As always, you've got your finger on the pulse, Michael. My students at Our Lady's College Annerley really appreciate your posts. Best wishes

History Skills ( Wednesday, 02 September 2020 02:13 )

My absolute pleasure, Kim. So good to hear that your students are finding the information helpful. Please say 'hello' to them for me and tell them I wish them all the best for their upcoming assessment.

Jeffery ( Friday, 18 December 2020 16:41 )

Hello, I am unsure how to formulate a thesis to this question, can you help me. "To what extent were the American colonists justified in revolting against England?"

Mutsawashe (Tuesday 15 June) ( Tuesday, 15 June 2021 15:29 )

please help me answer this question,"how far did the Germans benefit from the social policy ".My answer should start with ,the Germans benefited from the social policy to a lesser extent. So what comes next.

sharon odawa ( Thursday, 02 September 2021 01:12 )

my question is."to what extent does common and equity law a source of kenya"please help

maddison ( Sunday, 07 November 2021 03:06 )

this has literally saved me so much time on my assessments.

Karina Doherty ( Wednesday, 10 November 2021 17:26 )

It is possible to ask a well written 'to what extent' question that does not require a comparison, but only asks students to provide a judgement about a degree of success. There will naturally be a discussion about factors that limited the success or impact of a particular event or policy, but this is not really a comparison. The question could still be a perfectly valid and well-written.

Christina ( Monday, 13 June 2022 02:19 )

Great advice! Would be great if you correct the reference to a hypothesis. The correct word hers is "thesis".

Queenest ( Wednesday, 12 October 2022 17:41 )

Thank God I came across this article. It has been a blessing to me. Thank you so much

Ishmael ogechi ( Wednesday, 28 June 2023 10:59 )

Can an extent be used in questionnaire construction to elicit responds from respondents? Please may I know the firs scholar that used this term or introduced it in research work and when? Thank you.

Joy ( Wednesday, 18 October 2023 08:32 )

Can a ''to what extent'' question be used for the prevalence of the disease in two different parts of the world?

What do you need help with?

Download ready-to-use digital learning resources.

how to write a to what extent essay

Copyright © History Skills 2014-2024.

Contact  via email

Free IELTS lessons signup

home

  • Academic practice
  • General practice
  • Task 1 Academic
  • Task 1 General
  • Task 2 (essay)

To what extent you agree or disagree essay

This lesson will guide you how to write essays in IELTS Writing that ask you to what extent you agree/disagree . Such questions are very common for IELTS Writing task 2 . In such essays your task is to say whether you:

  • completely agree with a given statement 
  • completely disagree with a given statement 
  • partly agree / disagree

and  justify your opinion .

In this lesson you will see IELTS writing task 2 sample question + model answer . Also, you will learn the following points:

  • how to decide on your opinion
  • how to generate ideas to justify your opinion
  • how to give a band 9 answer for agree/disagree question

To what extent you agree/disagree question sample

Let’s look at an example of IELTS writing task 2:

The government's investment in arts, music and theatre is a waste of money. Governments should invest these funds in public services instead.

To what extent do you agree with this statement?

Choose your opinion & generate ideas

how to write a to what extent essay

Unlike classic agree/disagree questions, to what extent you agree or disagree questions do NOT ask you to clearly determine whether you agree or disagree with the given statement.

In fact, you have 3 major options for your opinion :

   AA : You completely agree (provide 2 ideas that strengthen the statement)    DD : You completely disagree (provide 2 ideas that weaken the statement)    AD : You agree or disagree partly (provide 1 idea that strengthens the statement and 1 idea that weakens it)

After you’ve decided your opinion,  generate 2-3 supporting points for it .

Now let’s generate supporting points for each of the opinions:

AA: Investment in arts, music and theatre is a waste of money

  • Art, music and theatre don’t help to solve urgent problems of the society
  • Art and music can develop as hobbies, and saved money can be directed towards urgent needs of the society
  • If artists and musicians were employed at more traditional jobs, there would be a great benefit for science and industry

DD: Investment in arts, music and theatre is NOT a waste of money

  • The arts and music preserve unique culture and heritage, passing nation’s cultural character and traditions to future generations
  • Arts, music and theatre are an integral part of the society’s cultural and intellectual development and amusement
  • A strong arts, music and theatre sector is an economic asset that creates new jobs and attracts tourism revenue

For this opinion, just combine ideas from the previous points.

For our essay, we’ll choose the last opinion - partially agree / disagree (AD).

Band 9 answer structure

There are a lot of ways to structure your essay, but we’ll use a structure that has been approved by many IELTS examiners to be high-scoring and coherent. Band-9 essay structure :

  • Introduction

Body paragraph 1 - the 1st supporting point

  • Body paragraph 2 - the 2nd supporting point

As you already know, you can write the supporting points of your body paragraphs in the following ways: agree + agree, disagree + disagree, agree + disagree. We’ll use the last option as our opinion is partially agree / disagree .

Let’s take a look at each of these sections in detail.

  • Sentence 1 - paraphrase the statement  (you can use ‘ it is argued/considered/thought that ’ to start):

It is often argued that the government should finance public services instead of spending its budget on arts, music and theatre. 

  • Sentence 2 - give your opinion :

Although I agree that government’s investments in public services play a very important role, I think that proper funding of arts sector is also crucial for the society.

  • Sentence 1 - state the first reason you agree/disagree .

This sentence should contain the main idea of the whole 1st paragraph. In our case we’ll use the reason A: why it is important to finance public services. As we’ll be considering opposite opinions, it is a good idea to use a collocation on the one hand to introduce the first reason:

On the one hand, the government should definitely allocate a large part of its budget on public services.

  • Sentences 2-3 - explain the reason .

To explain the reason effectively, you can imagine that your examiner didn’t understand what you were talking about and you have to explain every detail:

This economic sector determines the overall quality of life, ensuring that some basic services, like schools, hospitals and roads, are available to all citizens irrespective of their income or social status. Public services satisfy the primary needs of the society and thus need a proper funding, while artists and musicians are not curing diseases or building houses, so their role is secondary.

  • Sentence 4 - example .

It’s always good to give examples in your body paragraphs, even if you’re not asked to do it (like in our case):

For example, any country can live without music concerts, but absence of medicine will create significant problems.

  • Sentence 5 - a short summary of your ideas in this paragraph :

That’s why the government should adequately finance public services in the first place.

Body paragraph 2 - the 2nd reason you agree/disagree

  • Sentence 1 - state the second reason you agree/disagree .

This statement should contain the main idea of the whole 2nd paragraph. This time we’ll use the reason D: why it is important to finance public services. As we are considering opposite opinions, it is a good idea to use a phrase on the other hand to introduce the second reason:

On the other hand, arts, music and theatre are not a waste of money, since they are an integral part of the society’s cultural and intellectual development and amusement.

  • Sentences 2-3 - explain the reason  (assume that your examiner doesn’t understand the topic at all):

Firstly, art and music draw people’s attention to diverse phenomena and represent the inward significance of things. Quite often a single drawing, piece or song can exhort myriads of people to reconsider their attitude towards some situation. This way, art serves as a major source of nation’s personal and intellectual development. Moreover, visiting museums, watching movies and listening to music are common ways of relaxation and entertainment.

  • Sentence 4 - support your idea with an example :

The question doesn’t ask us to give examples, plus we’ve already written a lot in this paragraph, so we’ll skip this point. 

  • Sentence 5 - a short summary of your thoughts in the 2nd paragraph .

Thus, art sector is also important for the society and should not be neglected.

You can write the conclusion in  one sentence that summarizes your opinion + 2 reasons for it :

To conclude, though I agree that the government should allocate a large part of its budget on such urgent needs of the society like public services, I think that arts, music and theatre should also be financed since they play an important role in people’s development and entertainment.

DO NOT write new ideas in the conclusion!

Model answer

This is a full band-9 answer for to what extent you agree or disagree IELTS Writing question above:

It is often argued that the government should finance public services instead of spending its budget on arts, music and theatre. Although I agree that government’s investments in public services play a very important role, I think that proper funding of arts sector is also crucial for the society.

On the one hand, the government should definitely allocate a large part of its budget on public services. This economic sector determines the overall quality of life, ensuring that some basic services, like schools, hospitals and roads, are available to all citizens irrespective of their income or social status. Public services satisfy the primary needs of the society and thus need a proper funding, while artists and musicians are not curing diseases or building houses, so their role is secondary. For example, any country can live without music concerts, but absence of medicine will create significant problems. That’s why the government should adequately finance public services in the first place.

On the other hand, arts, music and theatre are not a waste of money, since they are an integral part of the society’s cultural and intellectual development and amusement. Firstly, art and music draw people’s attention to diverse phenomena and represent the inward significance of things. Quite often a single drawing, piece or song can exhort myriads of people to reconsider their attitude towards some situation. This way, art serves as a major source of nation’s personal and intellectual development. Moreover, visiting museums, watching movies and listening to music are common ways of relaxation and entertainment. Thus, art sector is also important for the society and should not be neglected.

IELTS Podcast

How to answer “To what extent do you agree or disagree?” task 2 questions

Analyze the question – make sure you totally understand what you are supposed to answer.

Spend a couple of minutes reading and underlining the key words.  

Some people believe that professional workers such as doctors and teachers should be paid more than sports and entertainment personalities. To what extent do you agree or disagree? Give your opinion and relevant examples.  (Source:  unknown)

Determine your position

You can 100% agree, 100% disagree or partially agree 

Position:   they should be paid more but this is not feasible in the real world

Brainstorm for ideas – aim for at least two ideas for each paragraph

Paragraph 1

Doctors are vital and deserve a lot of money

Teachers educate our children and also deserve to make a lot

Paragraph 2

There are valid reasons why entertainers and athletes make a lot of money

Not all singers/ athletes in these professions make large amounts of money

Brainstorm ideas to support your initial ideas

Support can be an example, further explanation, a definition, or any statement explaining why or how your main idea is true.

Support:  Doctors save lives and carry enormous responsibility for their patients’ wellbeing

For more help with your IELTS Writing , join our IELTS Online Course .

Planning your essay writing

Introduction

Start by rephrasing the prompt. Make sure you include all the sides of the topic that the prompt addresses. 

State your position. If you partially agree you can use a “while” statement: While it is true that doctors and teachers perform priceless services, on the whole I believe that it is impossible for them to be paid what top entertainers are paid. 

Your introduction should be 3 or 4 sentences. Do not waste time getting into details in the introduction – save these for your body paragraphs.

Example introduction:

There are numerous jobs where it could be argued that people are not paid nearly enough for what they do, as in the case of doctors and teachers. Some, in fact, say they should be paid more than sports or entertainment stars.   While I understand the logic behind this, the world works differently and such a shift is impossible.

Essay structure

Start with a topic sentence that introduces the central idea of the paragraph.

Doubtless doctors and teachers deserve to earn a great deal of money for the services they provide.   

Introduce your first main idea.

Doctors save lives on a daily basis and take on a great responsibility in caring for their patients and their health.  

Follow this with support .

This is a skill that requires great intellect, arduous studying, and should be compensated accordingly.

Add a second main idea for teachers and include support for this as well.

The important role teachers play can also not be overlooked. Not only do they transmit knowledge to the future generation, but they also are directly involved in the shaping of characters, inspiring new ideas and act as surrogate parents in many instances.   

Create a summary statement that is essentially a rephrasing of your topic sentence. Begin this with therefore, thus, or consequently.

Therefore, these roles, the seriousness of which cannot be overstated, establish teachers and doctors as key figures in our society, and they should be reimbursed accordingly.

Task Response

Essays that score well on task response answer the question directly and develop the topic fully. A Band 9 answer leaves no further questions for the reader.

Make sure you don’t over-generalize. Without the words in bold below, the sentence is an overgeneralization.  

While there are clearly professions that perform greater services to society than singers and footballers, these typically/ often/ usually/ frequently do not earn a great deal of money for their employers.   

Example: Doubtless doctors and teachers deserve to earn a great deal of money for the services they provide.  Doctors save lives on a daily basis and take on a great responsibility in caring for their patients and their health.  Furthermore, they have undertaken years of arduous study to pursue their profession and commit to lifelong learning in order to stay up to date on therapies and developments in the field. The important role teachers play can also not be overlooked. Not only do they transmit knowledge to the future generation but they also are directly involved in the shaping of characters, inspiring new ideas and act as surrogate parents in many instances. These roles, the seriousness of which cannot be overstated, establish teachers and doctors as key figures in our society, and they should be reimbursed accordingly.

Do not use too many front-position linkers.  These are words like Firstly, Furthermore, Moreover, For example.  Try to create cohesion with pronouns, synonyms or ellipsis

Example:  These roles, the seriousness of which cannot be overstated, establish teachers and doctors as key figures in our society, and they should be reimbursed accordingly.

If you partially agree, make sure the transition between the two body paragraphs is appropriate.  Use:

Although the above arguments are valid, on the whole it is also true that…

Having said this, (followed by contrasting statement introducing new paragraph)

Example:  Having said this, it must also be said that the above viewpoints regarding salaries are utopian.  

If you arguing one side of the argument only, you can use linkers like Furthermore, Additionally (provided you use these sparingly).

Lexical Resource

Use language that is natural but avoid using elementary English like “big, small, good, bad, or nice.”

While topic vocabulary is appreciated, points are scored for the surrounding language you use, like less common collocations.

Great responsibility

Years of arduous study

Commit to lifelong learning

Pursue their profession

Perform services

Grammatical Range and Accuracy

Make sure your basic grammar is accurate:  tenses, subject-verb agreement, articles, prepositions

Practice using higher level grammar: Not only do they transmit knowledge to the future generation but they also are directly involved in the shaping of characters, inspiring new ideas and act as surrogate parents in many instances.    

Keep it brief – 2 sentences should be enough

Start by restating your position. Leave your reader with a general, thought-provoking statement

Example:  

While ideologically it seems fair that doctors, teachers and other professions that save and shape lives should make more money than those who sing or kick around a ball, the reality of the situation is more complex. Perhaps we should all simply strive to do the best work we can and not concern ourselves with the incomes of others.  

Audio tutorial

You can download or listen to the audio version here:

| Direct Download Here | Stitcher | iTunes | Spotify | Soundcloud | Transcript |

Subscribe:  Android  |  RSS

  • Free Essay Band Score Evaluation
  • Sign up to claim your free IELTS materials
  • Jump to Band 7 or it’s Free
  • IELTS Writing Evaluation
  • IELTS Band Score Calculator
  • Book Your Online IELTS Test
  • Sample Topic Answers
  • Useful Sentences
  • Sample Task 2 Questions 2022
  • Introduction to Paraphrasing
  • Model Band 9 Essay
  • Five Band 9 Words
  • Model Band 7 Essay
  • Differences Band 9 vs Band 7 Essay
  • Band 6.5 Essay
  • Academic Collocations
  • Topic Sentences
  • Discuss Both Views
  • Tutorial: To What Extent Essays
  • Paraphrasing Introductions
  • Essay Structures
  • Essay Plans
  • Describe a Pie Chart
  • Using Percentages
  • Map Vocabulary
  • Describe Flow Charts
  • Describe a Bar Chart
  • How to get Band 9
  • AT 1 Sample Questions 2022
  • Describe a Graphic
  • GT Task 1 Questions 2022
  • IELTS Vocabulary
  • Google Play / Podcasts
  • Apple Podcast
  • Android App
  • Task 2 Sample Questions
  • AT 1 Questions

Company addresses: HK Office: BW ENGLISH SERVICES HK Ltd, Unit 2512, 25/F, Langham Place Office Tower, 8 Argyle Street, Mongkok, Hong Kong UK Office: BW ENGLISH SERVICES, 120 High Road, East Finchley, N29ED, London, England, United Kingdom ​+44 20 3951 8271 ($1/min).

IMAGES

  1. To What Extent Essay? How To Draft It?

    how to write a to what extent essay

  2. To What Extent Essay? How To Draft It?

    how to write a to what extent essay

  3. To what extent Essay OUTLINE by Danielle Sands

    how to write a to what extent essay

  4. Extended Essay Examples sample, Bookwormlab

    how to write a to what extent essay

  5. To what extent Essay OUTLINE by Danielle Sands

    how to write a to what extent essay

  6. Essay Structure

    how to write a to what extent essay

VIDEO

  1. How to Write an Academic Essay (Argumentative Type)

  2. How not to write an essay #youtubeshorts #funnyimages #funny #funnymemes #shorts #meme

  3. ielts writing task 2 tips| 2 Dec 2024 ielts writing task 2| To what extent agree/disagree essay

  4. How to write a formal essay, part 1

  5. IELTS ESSAYS IN 10 MINUTES: AGREE OR DISAGREE? By Asad Yaqub

  6. How to write A+ Essays

COMMENTS

  1. "To What Extent" Essay Writing

    The typical essay phrases that you use should point out that you agree "to a certain extent" because "the study of both opinions helps to conclude that". Likewise, saying that you agree "to a great extent" will require an explanation as to why it is so. If you provide evidence or some examples, it will help.

  2. How to answer a “to what degree/extent” essay question

    “ [Factor 1] was, to a , more important in [the Topic] than [Factor 2] because...” “ [Factor 1] was the of [the Topic] despite the role of [Factor 2] because...” “While [Factor 2] did play a role in [the Topic], [Factor 1] was by far the most significant element As you can see in these example structures, you need to:

  3. To what extent you agree or disagree essay

    To what extent you agree or disagree essay This lesson will guide you how to write essays in IELTS Writing that ask you to what extent you agree/disagree. Such questions are very common for IELTS Writing task 2. In such essays your task is to say whether you: completely agree with a given statement completely disagree with a given statement

  4. Model answers 2020: "To what extent do you agree/disagree?"

    You can 100% agree, 100% disagree or partially agree. Position: they should be paid more but this is not feasible in the real world. Brainstorm for ideas – aim for at least two ideas for each paragraph. Paragraph 1. Doctors are vital and deserve a lot of money.