The whole IELTS academic writing takes 60 minutes. You have 20 minutes to write academic task 1 and it is 33% of your total mark.

Topics are of general interest to, and suitable for, test takers entering undergraduate and postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration. There are two tasks:

  • Task 1 – you will be presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram and asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in your own words. You may be asked to describe and explain data, describe the stages of a process, how something works or describe an object or event.

IELTS Academic Writing description

Task types: In Task 1, test takers are asked to describe some visual information (graph/table/chart/diagram) in their own words. They need to write 150 words in about 20 minutes. In Task 2, they respond to a point of view or argument or problem. They need to write 250 words in about 40 minutes.

Answering: Answers must be given on the answer sheet and must be written in full. Notes or bullet points are not acceptable as answers. Test takers may write on the question paper but this cannot be taken from the examination room and will not be seen by the examiner.

A detailed look at the paper with links to related resources.

IELTS Task 1

Task type and format: In Writing Task 1, test takers may be asked to describe facts or figures presented in one or more graphs, charts or tables on a related topic; or they may be given a diagram of a machine, a device or a process and asked to explain how it works. They should write in an academic or semi-formal/neutral style and include the most important and the most relevant points in the diagram. Some minor points or details may be left out.

Test takers should spend no more than 20 minutes on this task. They are asked to write at least 150 words and will be penalised if their answer is too short. While test takers will not be penalised for writing more than 150 words, they should remember that a longer Task 1 answer may mean that they have less time to spend on Task 2, which contributes twice as much to the Writing band score.

Test takers should also note that they will be penalised for irrelevance if the response is off-topic or is not written as full, connected text (e.g. using bullet points in any part of the response, or note form, etc.). They will be severely penalised for plagiarism (i.e. copying from another source).

Test takers must write their answers on the answer booklet.

Task focus: This task assesses the ability to identify the most important and relevant information and trends in a graph, chart, table or diagram, and to give a well-organised overview of it using language accurately in an academic style.

No. of questions: 1

IELTS Key Information

1)  You are required to write 150 words or more.

If you write less than 150 words, you are unlikely to get more than a Band 5 for ’task achievement’ as you won’t have fulfilled the marking criteria.

2)  You have around 20 minutes to plan and write your essay.

3)  You should use a formal style of writing.

4)  Task 1 contributes half as many marks to your score as Task 2. So, Task 1 is worth 33% of the total mark in the Writing test.

IELTS What to expect

The Writing Task 1 of the IELTS Academic test requires you to write a summary of at least 150 words in response to a particular graph (bar, line or pie graph), table, chart, or process (how something works, how something is done). This task tests your ability to select and report the main features, to describe and compare data, identify significance and trends in factual information, or describe a process.

IELTS Academic Task 1 consists of 3 (perhaps 4 paragraphs)

  • The introduction
  • The Overview Paragraph
  • The Analysis Paragraph

How to write an IELTS Introduction

The Introduction answers 2 questions:

The Introduction ‘introduces’ the topic at hand. The IELTS website describes the purpose of Academic Task 1 as a ‘response to visual information’. Therefore, your first paragraph should consist of two sentences which answer the following questions:

What is being measured?

How is it being measured?

For example:

“The chart below shows the percentage change in the share of international students among university graduates in different Canadian provinces between 2001 and 2006.

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.”

Introduction:

This bar graph compares the percentages of oversea students who graduated from Universities in Canada over a five year period from 2001 to 2006. On the x axis the percentages are displayed and on the y axis a list of Canadian cities is shown.

^ The above Introduction clearly states what is being measured and how and it has done so in two sentences.

  • What is being measured?

“the percentages of oversea students who graduated from Universities in Canada over a five year period from 2001 to 2006.”

  • How is it being measured?

“On the x axis the percentages are displayed and on the y axis a list of Canadian cities is shown.”

Tip: Pretend that the reader cannot see your graph – how would you give the reader an idea of what you are analysing? That’s your introduction!

How to write an IELTS Overview paragraph

An overview is simply a summary of the main or most important points in a graph, chart, process or map. It is 2-3 sentences long and should be the second paragraph you write in your essay. As we will see below, it also influences what you write in the rest of your essay.

What does the IELTS examiner want?

An overview shows that you can identify the most important information from the graph or chart and clearly identify overall trends and comparisons.

In the official marking scheme, the word ‘overview’ is mentioned three times:

This means that to get at least a 5 for task achievement you must give an overview. If not, you will always get below a 5. If the appropriate data to include in our overview is selected, you will have a high chance of scoring 6 and if it is ‘clear’ we get a 7 for this part of the exam.

What is an IELTS overview?

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

Therefore, a short summary of the main features must be provided. You do this in the overview paragraph by picking out 3-4 of the most significant things you can see and writing them in general terms. By general, I mean you do not support anything you see with data from the graph or chart, just write about what you can see visually.

For example:

The chart shows components of GDP in the UK from 1992 to 2000.

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.

“At the beginning of the period, in 1992, the Service Industry accounted for 4 percent of GDP, whereas IT exceeded this, at just over 6 per cent. Over the next four years, the levels became more similar, with both components standing between 6 and just over 8 per cent. IT was still higher overall, though it dropped slightly from 1994 to 1996.”

How do I select the correct features?

Different charts require different analysis. There are generally two different kinds of charts and graphs: dynamic and static.

Dynamic charts show data over time and static charts show data at just one point in time. This will affect the type of data we select.

When we are looking at dynamic graphs we should be looking out for:

  • What does the data do from the start to the finish?
  • Do they generally go up or down or do they fluctuate?
  • Any significant difference from the general trend?
  • Overall increase/decrease?
  • Peaks/lows?

Dynamic Graphs include:

  • Line Graphs
  • (Some) Bar Graphs

When we look at static graphs we should be looking for:

  • What are the highest/lowest values?
  • What are the most noticeable differences?
  • Any similarities?
  • Any significant exceptions?

Static Graphs include:

  • Pie Charts
  • Tables
  • (Some) Bar Charts

What Grammar should you include?

Academic Task 1 is formal and therefore use of formal registers, connectors and passives is a must.

The Analysis IELTS Paragraph

What is it?

The analysis paragraph ‘zooms in’ and compares and contrasts specific sets of data. Unlike the overview paragraph you mention data, numbers and statistics in order to show what you are focusing on. The type of data and how is ultimately your choice.

For example:

The chart shows components of GDP in the UK from 1992 to 2000.

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.

For example:

“However, over the following four years, the patterns of the two components were noticeably different. The percentage of GDP from IT increased quite sharply to 12 in 1998 and then nearly 15 in 2000, while the Service Industry stayed nearly the same, increasing to only 8 per cent. At the end of the period, the percentage of GDP from IT was almost twice that of the Service Industry.”

Shouldn’t I write a conclusion In the IELTS Exam?

No. Conclusions are really a summary of what you think or opinions. This is not an opinion essay and you, therefore, do not need to write a conclusion. Save your conclusions for task 2.

Below are some examples putting all of these component paragraphs into action:

  1. The chart shows components of GDP in the UK from 1992 to 2000.

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.

The bar chart illustrates the gross domestic product generated from the IT and Service Industry in the UK from 1992 to 2000. It is measured in percentages. Overall, it can be seen that both increased as a percentage of GDP, but IT remained at a higher rate throughout this time.

At the beginning of the period, in 1992, the Service Industry accounted for 4 percent of GDP, whereas IT exceeded this, at just over 6 per cent. Over the next four years, the levels became more similar, with both components standing between 6 and just over 8 per cent. IT was still higher overall, though it dropped slightly from 1994 to 1996.

However, over the following four years, the patterns of the two components were noticeably different. The percentage of GDP from IT increased quite sharply to 12 in 1998 and then nearly 15 in 2000, while the Service Industry stayed nearly the same, increasing to only 8 per cent.

At the end of the period, the percentage of GDP from IT was almost twice that of the Service Industry.

  • The pie charts show the electricity generated in Germany and France from all sources and renewables in the year 2009.

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.

The four pie charts compare the electricity generated between Germany and France during 2009, and it is measured in billions kWh. Overall, it can be seen that conventional thermal was the main source of electricity in Germany, whereas nuclear was the main source in France.

The bulk of electricity in Germany, whose total output was 560 billion kWh, came from conventional thermal, at 59.6%. In France, the total output was lower, at 510 billion kWh, and in contrast to Germany, conventional thermal accounted for just 10.3%, with most electricity coming from nuclear power (76%). In Germany, the proportion of nuclear power generated electricity was only one fifth of the total.

Moving on to renewables, this accounted for quite similar proportions for both countries, ranging from around 14% to 17% of the total electricity generated. In detail, in Germany, most of the renewables consisted of wind and biomass, totaling around 75%, which was far higher than for hydroelectric (17.7%) and solar (6.1%). The situation was very different in France, where hydroelectric made up 80.5% of renewable electricity, with biomass, wind and solar making up the remaining 20%. Neither country used geothermal energy.

  • The table illustrates the proportion of monthly household income five European countries spend on food and drink, housing, clothing and entertainment

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.

The table shows the amount of household income that five countries in Europe spend per month on four items. Overall, it is evident that all five countries spend the majority of their income on food and drink and housing, but much less on clothing and entertainment.

Housing is the largest expenditure item for France, Germany and the UK, with all of them spending around one third of their income on this, at 30%, 33% and 37%, respectively. In contrast, they spend around a quarter on food and drink.  However, this pattern is reversed for Turkey and Spain, who spend around a fifth of their income on housing, but approximately one third on food and drink.

All five countries spend much less on the remaining two items. For clothing, France and Spain spend the least, at less than 10%, while the other three countries spend around the same amount, ranging between 11% and 15%.  At 19%, Germany spends the most on entertainment, whereas UK and Turkey spend approximately half this amount, with France and Spain’s spending between those other three nations.

  • The line graph shows the number of books that were borrowed in four different months in 2014 from four village libraries, and the pie chart shows the percentage of books, by type, that were borrowed over this time.

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.

The line graph depicts the number of books that were loaned out from four libraries over a four month period and the pie chart illustrates the proportions of books borrowed in terms of genre. It is immediately apparent that the borrowing patterns for each library were quite varied, and that fiction was by far the most popular type of book.

The borrowing of books at Sutton Wood and Ryeslip began fairly high, at 250 and 300 per month in June respectively.  However, while book borrowing at Ryeslip fell steadily to around 175 at the end of the period, borrowing at Sutton Wood followed a much more erratic pattern. It plummeted to 100 in August, before then rising steeply to finish at 300, which represented the highest level of borrowing of the four.

Borrowing at West Eaton and Church Mount, meanwhile, followed very similar patterns, with both starting quite low at 50 per month, but then gradually increasing to finish at 150. Moving on to the types of books borrowed, fiction was in demand the most, at 43%. The next most popular books were biographies, accounting for around a fifth of the total. The borrowing of science and history were identical, at 14% each, leaving self-help as the least popular at 10%. 

Extra tips for IELTS:

  1. It is important to note that The Academic Writing Task is a formal piece of writing. In English, it is common to see the passive voice deployed in a lot of texts. Below is a quick summary introduction:

The passive voice is used to show interest in the person or object that experiences an action rather than the person or object that performs the action. In other words, the most important thing or person becomes the subject of the sentence.

  • The passive voice is used frequently. (= we are interested in the passive voice, not in who uses it.)
  • The house was built in 1654. (= we are interested in the house, not in who built it.)
  • The road is being repaired. (= we are interested in the road, not in the people who are doing the repairs.)

Sometimes we use the passive voice because we don’t know or do not want to express who performed the action.

Examples
  • I noticed that a window had been left open.
  • Every year thousands of people are killed on our roads.
  • All the cookies have been eaten.
  • My car has been stolen!

The passive voice is often used in formal texts. Switching to the active voice will make your writing clearer and easier to read.

If we want to say who or what performs the action while using the passive voice, we use the preposition by. When we know who performed the action and are interested in him, it is always better to switch to the active voice instead.

  • Linking words (or transitional words, conjunctions) are words or phrases that connect ideas or sentences within a text. Using linking words helps your text more readable and allows the reader to comprehend the opinion or information you’re representing. Another key thing to note is that you are marked on ‘coherence and cohesion’ and therefore you must deploy a range of these linkers in order to organise your writing.

Below are a list of ones you could use:

Despite /in spite of

In spite of and despite have a similar meaning to although or even though. They both are more common in writing than speaking and used to show a contrast between two things. They are both more common in writing than in speaking.These two prepositional expressions are followed by nouns or gerunds (verb + ‘ing’). They are not followed by clauses (subject + verb). Despite is a little more formal than in spite of.

For example:

  • Despite being one of the most successful people in the world, Mike has never felt happy.
  • In spite of studying hard, Mike didn’t get a good grade in the final exam.

If you want to use a clause with despite and in spite of, you need to add ‘the fact that’.

For example:

  • Despite the fact that Mike is one of the most successful people in the world, he has never felt happy.
  • In spite of the fact that Mike studied hard, he didn’t get a good grade in the final exam.

While / Whereas

We use the conjunctions whereas and while to indicate a contrast between two facts or ideas in one sentence. These words can be placed at the beginning of the sentence or in the middle.

For example:

  • While I accept that she’s not perfect in many respects, I do actually like her.
  • He must be about 60, whereas his wife looks about 30.
  • She likes going to parties whereas I prefer somewhere quiet.

On the other hand

You use on the other hand to introduce the second of two contrasting points, facts, or ways of looking at something.

For example:

  • She lacked experience, but on the other hand she was hard-working and willing to learn.

Yet

Yet as a conjunction it means ‘but’ or ‘nevertheless‘. We use it to show contrast. It often occurs after ‘and’.

For example:

  • So many questions and yet so few answers.
  • It’s hard to stay focused. And yet, we know we’ll only do our best work if we stay focused.

By contrast / In contrast

These two conjunctions are exactly the same and are used in a similar way to however or on the other hand to introduce a contrast or a comparison. Put By / In contrast at the beginning of a sentence, with a comma (,) after contrast.

Example

  • Unemployment rose in the UK. By contrast, the number of unemployed people in Canada fell.

On the contrary

We use on the contrary to deny that something is true and to explain that the opposite is true.

For example:

– Mike:  “You didn’t like the movie, did you?”

– Lauren: “On the contrary, the movie was great. I think I’ll watch it again.”

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