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IELTS Academic Writing Part 1: The task and overview

20 minutes goes fast, especially under test conditions, as those of you who have taken the test already will have experienced. So how can you make the most of the time you have and also do everything you should do to make sure that the examiner will give you that band 7 you are looking for? Look no further as here are the best tips to ace the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1

Tip #1. Understand what the task is asking you to do.

Before we dive into the detail let’s think for a moment about what you’re being asked to do in the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1. One way of looking at it is this: you have in front of you a kind of picture. Although there are also words to help you understand what the picture is telling you, the visual part, the lines, pie charts, maps and so on, give you a lot of information. As we say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’. So imagine you’re on the phone and you have the ‘picture’, that’s the task diagram, in front of you and you have to tell your friend on the other end all about what the graph, bar chart etc. shows you. But your friend can’t see what you can see. So, in words, you try to ‘paint a picture’ so she can ‘see’ what you are looking at. That’s close to what you are trying to do for the examiner when you write your Academic Task 1 essay.

Tip #2. Don’t start writing immediately

There is a temptation to want to start writing as quickly as possible but taking a few minutes before you begin your answer can save you time later, and also help you to produce a better response to the task.

Tip #3. Write the task in your own words

First of all, read the title of the graph, bar chart etc. carefully and look at what the bar chart, graph etc. shows. Next write out what it says, as far as you can, in your own words. Here’s an example we’re going to use. The title of the graph is:

The graph below shows labor force employment in the USA between 1930 and 2010.

Under the graph, you can see that the employment it is talking about is in various different areas of work – Industrial, Technical etc.

IELTS Academic Writing Graph

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Tip #4. So start your answer by writing one line

The line graph represents the percentage of workers in the USA who were employed in different types of jobs from 1930 to 2010.

Tip #5. Next, write a clear overview.

Without a satisfactory overview, you are unlikely to get a 7. Have a look at the Band Descriptors – Public Version, which IELTS makes available to everyone here

You can see in the first column called Task Achievement in the band 7 line the phrase:

  • presents a clear overview of main trends, differences or stages

Your examiner will be looking for the overview when he/she’s deciding what score to give you for Task Achievement.

Make it easy to find your overview by putting it after the summary of the task that you wrote first.

So how do you write an overview?

Look back at our graph showing the percentage of Americans who worked in different industries over the 80 year period covered.

As this is a graph, and it shows what has happened over a period of time, first look for the most obvious trends.

A trend always happens over time. You can see in our graph that there are certain trends which are more obvious than others. The one that stands out most is the purple line representing people who worked in farming, fishing and foresting and the lime green line catches the eye too.

So let’s write an overview of those two first:

Overall, employment in farming, fishing and foresting declined markedly over the period shown while the percentage of workers in industry and technology increased substantially.

And now let’s put the other three lines into one sentence so that we have a two sentence overview. It’s best to write two sentences so that you make sure you cover the key elements of the graph, or bar chart, map etc.

Employment in the other three sectors fluctuated but generally grew over the time frame of the graph.

So that’s your description of the task and your overview successfully done for Writing Task 1.  We’ve made a good start and given the examiner what he’s looking for. In my next post, I’ll show you how to finish off the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 to give yourself the best chance of scoring at least a band 7. Sign up for a paid package! Prepare for PTE, OET, IELTS, and TOEFL Exam anytime, anywhere. Get a high score on your exam with E2Language’s full online English Test Preparation Courses.

Written by Graeme

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