In the previous article, we saw a brief overview of the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1. There is no better way to understand this section than by practice. Here is a sample answer for the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1:
In 1930, 70% of the total US labour force was working in farming, fishing and foresting. In comparison, just 10% of Americans were working in other services, less than 5% in sales and offices and none in the industry and technical jobs. Over the 80 years shown, we can see that this distribution of labour has changed markedly.
In the first place, the percentage of those working in farming, foresting and fishing fell steadily from 1930 until 1970 and then steeply over the following 40 years to end up at less than 5% of the workforce in 2010. In marked contrast to this decline, those employed in the industrial sector, after an initial slow rise up to 1970, then increased steeply until the 1990s before plateauing at a little under 40% of the workforce until 2010.
In a similar way, the proportion of the labour force working in two other sectors, sales and office, and technical, accounted for less than 5% of working Americans in 1930 and then rose steadily to end up at 20% and 32% respectively in 2010. Finally, the percentage of those working in the sector called other services showed little change over the 80 year period, beginning and ending at 10% and fluctuating by no more than 8% in the intervening years and not at all after 1990.
For part 2 of my blog on the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 essay, I want to make 6 main points and illustrate them using my answer to the task above.
I’ve taken these 6 points, let’s call them ‘tips’, from the IELTS Band Descriptors (public version) and they show us 6 things the examiner is looking for and which the writer needs to do well for that IELTS band 7. The first one is that the writer must ‘present, highlight and illustrate key features’.
Tip #1: Present, highlight and illustrate key features
What are ‘key features’? In my answer I have presented all of the most important information – key features – shown in the graph, things like the rise and fall in the percentage of workers in all the 5 sectors, and the years these rises and falls happened in. I’ve also highlighted certain aspects of these features such as when the change was steady, the rise steep or when there was little change. Highlighting also means comparing similar or different things as you can see I’ve done in the first paragraph. Illustrating them in this task means giving a number, that is a percentage or year, and it’s important to do this accurately and not to miss any key ones. You’re not going be able to present everything the graph, bar chart, diagram etc tells you so pick out the most significant elements. You can use this approach as you practice the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 questions.
Next, the examiner wants to see that the writer ‘sequences information and ideas logically’.
Tip #2: Sequence information and ideas logically
You can see that I’ve used the technique of comparing and contrasting information about the various areas of employment and at the same time giving a full picture of each before moving on to the next. I’ve also used various ways to link these pictures either by showing difference or similarity between them. This brings me to tip 3, which is about how the writer ‘manages all aspects of cohesion well’.
Tip #3: Manage all aspects of cohesion well
Cohesive words and phrases are used within and between sentences and between paragraphs as signposts to help the reader find their way through your writing. Some examples of these I’ve used are ‘In comparison’, ‘this’ (distribution), which refers back to what I wrote earlier and ‘respectively’, which links the 2 pieces of data back to the sectors they refer to.
Next, we come to paragraphing. To achieve that band 7, your examiner is looking to see if the writer, you, uses paragraphing sufficiently and appropriately.
I’ve used 3, whereas 2 are enough in this short response of 150 words. But, as you’ve no doubt spotted, my answer is quite a bit over length – I wanted to give you a good range of features. 🙂
Tip #4: Use paragraphing sufficiently and appropriately
My first paragraph starts with a contrast and ends with a one-sentence link to the next paragraph which again has two sentences which draw attention to contrasting information from the graph. The third paragraph continues by pointing out a similarity with the second half of paragraph two and concludes with the fifth and final sector. By writing in this way I have tried to use paragraphs to help the reader to ‘see’ the graph in words. If it does then I’ve done enough – sufficient – and done it in the right way – appropriately.
Now we come to your vocabulary. To achieve at least an IELTS band 7, your reader (examiner) wants to see that you use ‘a wide range of vocabulary’.
Tip #5: Use a wide range of vocabulary
You can see that I’ve tried to find synonyms so that I don’t repeat certain words: slow, steadily, steeply, markedly to talk about ways the graph has gone up and down; decline, rise, plateau, fluctuating, showed little change, increased to refer to movement in some way. To achieve a band 7, you’ll need some flexibility and being able to avoid repetition of significant words will show that you have that.
Tip #6: Use a wide range of structures
The nature and length of task 1 don’t give you much of a chance to really show off your wide variety of complex structures, you can do that better in task 2. I’ve done my best, as you can see in the second sentence of paragraph 2 and the two in the final one, and this is partly why my essay is so long!. You structure’s first job is to put across what you want to say clearly and simply. If you can do that with complex structures that are great but make sure your reader can understand what you want them to. Complex structures which confuse and muddle the reader won’t help your push for a band 7!
I hope that you have had a good understanding of how to answer the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 questions. Good luck! 🙂
Written by Graeme