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What are the various questions in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1?

This blog briefly explains the different tasks you may encounter and a few tips and tactics in the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.

In Writing Task 1, the visual information may be in the form of a chart, a graph, a table, a diagram or a map /plan. Your task is to look carefully and decide what the most important information and striking features are and describe the information in your own words

Tip: Remember that you should not give your opinion about the data nor interpret it in any way.

We will have a look at each one separately and I’ll give you tips about what you should do to satisfy the requirements of the band descriptors.

How your writing is marked in the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1: 

  • Task Achievement

Here the examiner focuses on whether you have fulfilled the task. For example, have you included all the key features clearly? Have you written at least 150 words?

  • Coherence and Cohesion

Have you sequenced the information logically? Have you used paragraphs appropriately? Learn more here.

  • Lexical resource

Have you used a wide range of vocabulary to convey precise meanings?

  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy

Have you used a range of structures? Have you used punctuation correctly? Learn more here.

Tip: Don’t waste time counting words in the exam. With practice, you will get used to what 150 words looks like in your own handwriting.

Let’s now look at some basic rules to describe a line graph, one of the tasks in the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1

Line Graphs show trends which can be rising-falling or level. A trend is a movement of data in a general direction over a period of time. So, a trend may be; upward or rising, downward or staying at the same level.

The horizontal axis usually shows units of time, such as days, months and years, whereas the vertical axis can show all kinds of data, such as population figures, amount of rainfall, temperatures etc.

Begin your writing with an introductory sentence that describes the graph but do not repeat the words in the exam question.

Some introductory verbs are: indicate, show, explain, illustrate, compare, provide data/ information about….

For example: 

  • The line graph illustrates the number of viewers who …….
  • The line graph compares the amount of time that viewers spent watching TV in three different cities over a ten-month period.

Tip: Specific details should be in your main body paragraph(s) but not in the overview

Try to vary your grammatical structures by using; an adjective + noun and a verb + adverb.

For example;

There was a significant fall in the number of viewers in both London and Paris between …. and …..

The number of viewers fell significantly in both London and Paris between …. and …..

Describing trends: You will need to practise describing upward, downward, stable and up and down trends to prepare for the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1. A good way to do this is to make a table and add the different forms of verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs that are typically used to describe data in line graphs.

This is an example.

verb noun Adjective + noun    Verb+ adverb
Increase(d) An increase (in … A sudden increase …. increased suddenly
Drop(ped) A drop (in … A sharp drop ….. dropped sharply
Fall / fell A fall (in …. A steady fall in fell steadily
fluctuate(d) Some fluctuation    

Describing a Bar Chart

Bar charts typically represent data with rectangular bars. They can present the same sort of information found in line graphs but in the form of bars instead of a line or lines.


Describing a Table

The columns and rows in the table may represent different countries, types of cell phones, numbers of passengers and so on. Your task is to look at the table carefully and identify the most striking features, such as a significant difference in the number of passengers who fly from Heathrow airport from those who fly from Luton airport on a daily basis. Select the highest and lowest numbers in each set of figures and the difference between them but also look for similarities.

Tip: Make sure you work out what tense you need to use, this should be obvious from the exam task or the data itself.

Describing a Pie Chart

You may have more than one pie chart or even a pie chart and a bar or line graph together in the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.

Tip: A pie chart shows the relationship between the parts and the whole. Imagine a pizza that you have cut into slices, some pieces may be bigger than others and some pieces may be the same size.

The circle represents 100 per cent of something and each segment or slice is a certain percentage of the whole.

Tip: If there are two or even three different types of chart, graph or table first identify the type then connect them with link words such as Whilst/ Whereas/ On the other hand.

For example:

The pie chart illustrates …….., while/  whilst/ whereas the bar chart shows …….


Whilst/ Whereas the pie chart illustrates ……..,  the bar chart shows …….

Other linking words to show difference or contrast are:

  • However…….
  • The rate of inflation was fairly low in France in 2014; in contrast, the rate increased significantly in Spain
  • Although ……, …….
  • ……, but……

Comparison (Similarities)


e.g. The rate of inflation was fairly low in France in 2014; likewise, the rate in Germany did not increase much

Describing a Diagram

These are usually a series of pictures connected by arrows. The picture is often labelled to explain it. The pictures and text explain a process, which may be:

  • An industrial process, for example; how plastic bottles are manufactured
  • Biological for example; the life cycle of a fish
  • Physical, for example, the water cycle
  • Or even an intellectual process.

When describing a process begin with an introductory sentence that describes the process in general but remember to paraphrase the exam question as much as possible.

Then write an overview that describes the entire process. You can say how many steps or stages are involved in the process.

For example; Overall there are seven stages in the production of coffee, beginning with the harvest and ending with ….

Tip: Remember to follow the order of the steps in the process and use sequencing words and phrases to describe them. Some examples include:

  • The first step…
  • Following this ….
  • Once (when) …
  • Finally …

Describing Maps and Plans

You may see one or two maps or plans. These may be of a city or town, an island, a shopping centre, a building and so on.

There are typically two plans or maps, which show the same place or site but at different points in time. Your task is to describe the changes that either took place or will take place during a given time period.

Tip: In order to do well in the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1, you will need to be able to use prepositions of place (opposite/ between etc) accurately and verb tenses in the passive voice.

E.g. The old factory has been converted/ The factory was converted into a hotel in 2012.

Written by Janet Wilson

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