IELTS Writing Task 1: An Overview

The IELTS Writing Task 1 asks you to write a summary of at least 150 words about some visual information, usually in the form of a graph or chart. You will need to pick out the main features and describe and compare the data given.

The IELTS Writing Task 1 can prove to be quite difficult, especially if you have not prepared for it. There are some things that all graph or chart types have in common and other things that make them quite distinct. The type of language you’ll need will be different depending on the graph or chart that comes up on the day of the exam. However, the one thing they all have in common is the structure.

In this week’s blog post we’ll look at the basics of writing a good IELTS Task 1 answer that we recommend here at Atlas. We will look at each of the tasks in detail in future blog posts.  

1. The IELTS task 1 structure

Here is a typical example of a question you could be asked in IELTS Writing Task 1.

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Example Task 1 question taken from the British Council Take IELTS website:

To tick all the boxes to answer the question properly, we recommend that you:

  1. Introduce the graph / chart
  2. Give an overview
  3. Describe the main features
  4. D. Give a short conclusion

A. Introduce the graph / chart.

For this, you need to paraphrase the input and state what the IELTS writing task represents. At Atlas we strongly encourage our students to practise and learn how to paraphrase throughout the course. If not, you will lose valuable marks.

B. Give an overview.

This overview should clearly state the main trend or most noticeable piece of information from the graph or chart. You should not include details from the chart just yet. At first you just need to describe what you can see in general.

C. Describe the main features.

This is where you can describe the graph in more detail. You need to refer back to the data and nothing else. We you need to state what is similar and what is different. Comparative structures can play a useful part here.

D. Write a short conclusion.

Although not completely necessary, we recommend that you include a short conclusion. This should tie the whole piece of writing together, and could even include some critical analysis as to why the trends have happened. However, be careful not to go too far off topic.

Here is an example of the structure in action.

The graphs below show the numbers of male and female workers in 1975 and 1995 in several employment sectors of the republic of Freedonia.

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Sample answer:

You will also need to show you have an awareness of being able to differentiate between formal and more informal or colloquial language

It is very clear from the overall trend that men were largely dominating the job markets both during 1975 and 1995, but women made progress in the given 20 years period.

According to the first graph that depicts the employment status in 1975, there were far more male employees in all the employment sectors than the opposite sex. Nearly half of the employees in the manufacturing industry were men. Most strikingly, 75% of finance sector employees were male. However, women appeared to be competing shoulder to shoulder against their male counterpart in the communication sectors.

Turning to the 1995 data, females had made a significant improvement in securing jobs in different employment sectors. On top of that, women outmatched the male counterpart in securing jobs in communication and the wholesale & retail trade industry. Furthermore, nearly half of the communication sector employees were women. In the finance sector as well, women were not very far behind.

Comparing the two graphs, it seems very clear that in those twenty years the number of male employees in these sectors had remained largely unchanged, but there was a considerable increase of female employees in the majority of these job sectors.

Above is a good example of what you’ll need to include to write a good Task 1.

This example answer is adapted from IELTS Mentor.

2. Understanding the Question Properly

It is vitally important that you understand how you are marked. Your final scores will range from 0 – 9. However, the criteria for those marks will look like this:

  • Grammatical range and accuracy – 25%
  • Vocabulary range and accuracy – 25%
  • Coherence and Cohesion – 25%
  • Task Achievement – 25%

Range of grammar and vocabulary refers to the variety and complexity in the language you use. Using collocations will mark you out as a higher level student. Accuracy refers to the grammar and vocabulary being used correctly and appropriately. Grammar and vocabulary use combined accounts for 50% of the marks in the exam, so make sure you are confident with your language.

Coherence and cohesion refers to the organisation of the text, for example, how you order your ideas and if use linkers to connect these ideas in a way that makes sense to the reader.

Task achievement is the easiest mark to get as this refers to reading and interpreting the instructions correctly, and writing what you are asked.

3. Getting your timing right

Timing is so important in the writing part of the IELTS test. Some people spend far too long on Task 1 and then don’t leave themselves with enough time for Task 2. You should practise writing Task 1 pieces in 20 minutes, and certainly not to go on longer than 25 minutes. If you spend too long on Task 1, we guarantee that you won’t have enough time to answer part 2 adequately.

To get your timing right, you’ll need to practise a lot. So make sure you are really prepared and ready before you take the actual exam.

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4. Know the differences between each task

As we’ve already mentioned, there will be some differences between the tasks and you’ll need to be able to differentiate between them quickly. For example, pie charts will require you to use percentages and comparative language, whereas processes will require you to use passive structures.

If you do not get this right, you’ll lose a lot of marks. We will look at these in detail in future posts.

5. Learn by example

At Atlas, we strongly recommend that you seriously prepare yourselves for what you need to do. One way to do this is to study the variety of sample answers that you can find online. Reading these, you can also pick up a lot of nice language that each graph / chart type uses.

Here is a website link that provides such answers for Task 1 in the writing paper:

By taking all this information into account, it still won’t be enough to pass the exam. At Atlas, we offer the proper guidance to help improve your writing and get the results you desire. It really is essential that you get feedback on your writing from an experienced teacher, and that you get into the habit of rewriting practise Task 1 essays on taking this feedback into account.

For further tips on the IELTS Writing Task 2 or the IELTS Speaking Exam have a look at the blog posts of our IELTS Exam Preparation Blog series:

At Atlas we offer full-time IELTS exam preparation courses for students wishing to further their English language skills to succeed in the IELTS examination. Our IELTS preparation courses are structured to give you the opportunity to develop and practise the key exam skills around different academic topics each week so you can start at the beginning of any week.

Contact us for more information and if you need help prepare for your IELTS exam.
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