Band 9 Essays: Discuss Both Sides – Getting a University Degree (or NOT)

TOPIC – Some people think that to lead a successful life a university degree is important. Others believe that this is no longer true. Discuss both views and give your own opinion.




Since the end of the Second World War, the general trend has been to pursue a university degree after completing secondary education. This has been seen as the best way to attain a desirable job and a prosperous life. However, for many people a university-level qualification is simply not necessary to find success.

It is true that certain careers require a university degree. If one wishes to find a specialized job, such as a lawyer or a doctor, then a relevant degree is necessary to demonstrate that a person has the necessary skills and knowledge to perform in that field.

Moreover, statistics show that people with degrees tend to earn more on average than those with only a high-school diploma or no qualifications at all. University is a place for people to not only acquire advanced knowledge of a subject, but also to form relationships with others in their chosen area, which helps them to succeed in the real world.

However, it is also undeniable that many job do not need a degree and training can be provided via apprenticeships of other on-the-job training. For example, someone who wishes to become a mechanic or a carpenter will probably not gain much benefit from spending several years sitting in lectures.

In addition, many degrees nowadays hold little value because there are too many people holding them. Popular subjects like business management and marketing are over-saturated with students who are finding it increasingly difficult to find jobs after they graduate.

Overall, whether a person should attend university depends on their career goals. While a degree-holder may earn more money than someone who has never been to university, it is undeniable that for many people using a degree to get a job in an office or corporate environment does not equate to a “successful” life. (304 words)


  1. In the “Discuss” essay type, it is ESSENTIAL that you discuss BOTH sides of the topic. Normally, for an essay of 250 words, it is best to aim for two ideas for each side.
  2. Try to only have on main idea per paragraph to keep your essay clear and easy to follow. In this example, there are two ideas for each side, so there are four body paragraphs in total.
  3. Make sure your introduction makes it clear that there are two sides to be discussed. You DON’T need to write “I am going to discuss both sides”, but make it clear there are two sides with simple words and phrases like “However” or “On the other hand”.
  4. Make sure you link your paragraphs with suitable transition words or phrases. In this example, the words and phrases used are, “It is true that…”, “Moreover…”, “However…”, and “In addition…”
  5. Make sure your general statements are supported by clear examples or further explanation. In this example, the statement “…certain careers require a university degree” is supported by the examples of a doctor and a lawyer. Remember your job in any essay is to try to ANSWER the reader’s question(s). The reader might ask “What do you mean by ‘certain careers’?”, and it’s your job to answer!
  6. Try to add some synonyms from the topic to boost your vocabulary score. In this example, “successful” has been changed to “prosperous” and “qualification” is used instead of “degree”.
  7. Try to use some relevant collocations and topic-related words to boost your vocabulary score even further. For example, in English, someone who “has” a university degree is said to “hold” it, so in this example “hold” and “holder” have been used. Other examples of advanced and/or topic-specific vocabulary in this essay are “apprenticeship”,  “on-the-job training”, “over-saturated”, and “corporate environment.”
  8. Use the conclusion to summarize both sides and give your opinion. Normally, it is best to have an opinion that states that both sides have some good points!

Feel free to post any comments or questions. For more information, idioms, and useful vocabulary like and follow




3 thoughts on “Band 9 Essays: Discuss Both Sides – Getting a University Degree (or NOT)

  1. Pingback: Band 9 Essays: Discuss – Video Games | IELTS UNLOCKED

  2. Pingback: Band 9 Speaking: Part 3 – Business | IELTS UNLOCKED

  3. Pingback: Band 9 Essays: Discuss Both Sides – Art at School | IELTS UNLOCKED

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