Katiss, you asked
Does compare and contrast ask for a discussion essay?
Compare and Contrast? Discussion Essay? Advantages/Disadvantages? One-sided essay? Two-sided?
I don’t worry too much about essay types. Unless the essay question says “Give both sides” then basically anything will do. I know many teachers will disagree with me here.
In IELTS, you are not going to get 'Compare-and-contrast-a-Toyota-Corolla-with-a -Volkwagen-Golf' - type essay. You will be asked to deal with ideas, not specifications or numbers, and you should not be mechanical. Your ideas need to flow.
A good argument will naturally mention the other side - it doesn’t have to be a mechanical (Para 1= This, Para 2=That) layout or structure. If your ideas flow, and are logically developed and supported, then you will get a good mark.
But don’t worry too much about one-sided or two-sided arguments. A purely one-sided argument will probably not get a good mark, because at some stage you simply have to deal with the opposite view: in other words, you have to mention the other side of the problem or situation or other people's viewpoints. You can dismiss them or ridicule them or undermine them or show they are wrong, but you have to deal with them.
A two-sided argument where you mechanically describe a problem or situation and then mechanically respond to it in the next paragraph (or next sentence) is also going to be very repetitive and boring for the reader. There is no need for exact symmetry between paragraphs or even within paragraphs.
Just write. Have a good intro and conclusion.
And what about the the middle bit?
Here’s what the official descriptors for Writing Task 2 in IELTS (public version) say about Paragraphing:
- Band 8: uses paragraphing sufficiently and appropriately
- Band 7: presents a clear central topic within each paragraph
- Band 5: may not write in paragraphs, or paragraphing may be inadequate
So there is no prescribed layout, except that if you don't have paragraphs you won't get above Band 5.
Let’s look at Task Response (did the candidate answer the question)
- Band 5: addresses the task only partially
- Band 6: addresses all parts of the task although some parts may be more fully covered than others
- Band 7: addresses all parts of the task
- Band 8: sufficiently addresses all parts of the task
So again, there is no required layout - you just have to answer the question with fully developed ideas.
I do recommend certain layouts - have a look at 3773 and 35553 here - because they suit some essay types. The 35553 layout is where you tend to agree so strongly with one side that you have more ideas about it AND can write more about each idea. But these layouts are not set in stone.
Bottom Line: Unless the question asks for “discuss both sides” or something like that, then you can do what you want. Just have plenty paragraphs with a clear central idea. And please, keep your sentences short and clear.
OK - teachers, let's hear from you. Or candidates, let's hear what you think your teacher thinks!