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The IELTS Academic Writing test is made up of two tasks, Writing Task 1 and Writing Task 2. The questions in the Academic Writing test are different from those in the General Training Writing test.

In our previous article on how to score a band 7 and higher in Writing Task 1 , we explained the importance of writing an overview.

We also explained that you will lose marks if you omit an overview or if the overview is unclear to the reader. Here, we will take a closer look at what else is included in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.

In IELTS Academic Writing Task 1, you will be shown a visual representation of information; a graph, table, chart, or diagram, and you will be asked to summarise, describe, or explain the information you see. Make sure you organise your response into three main parts, the introduction, an overview, and the main features supported by figures from the diagram.

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1: Introduction

The reason for an introduction is to tell the examiner what you are going to write about. It is basically the question paraphrased. For example, what the visual diagram is, the data source, and when the data was collected.

Remember, if there are two diagrams in your task, you need to introduce both. This can be done in one or two sentences.

Let’s look at some sample introductions and see how you might introduce them.

Table

The table illustrates employment numbers in Australia over a thirty-year period from 1970 to 2000.

Chart

The chart compares the number of cars that were made in France, Germany, and Norway over a decade from 2000 to 2010.

Diagram

The diagram shows how car parts are assembled.

Process

The cycle shows how man-made fibres are produced.

Map

The maps illustrate changes in an English village over a century from 1915 to 2015.

Graph

The graph presents data from Ireland showing cinema attendance in major cities in 2016.

Two charts

The pie charts show the main energy resources used to generate power in a town in Australia, while the table shows how much energy was consumed by the community in 1989.

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1: Overview

A clear overview needs to be presented to reach a band 7 and higher. Let’s look again at the Task Achievement band descriptors to see how important a clear overview is in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.

Task Achievement

Public Band Descriptors

5

Recounts detail mechanically with no clear overview

6

Presents an overview with information appropriately selected

7

Presents a clear overview of main trends, differences, or stages

What is an overview?

In simple terms, an overview is a summary of what you see. In Academic Task 1, you will see a visual that you have to describe. There might be one visual (one graph) or you might get more than one visual (a chart and a graph).

The overview in your response should summarise what you see in the visual diagram. It should summarise the main:

  • Trends

  • Changes 

  • Developments

  • Stages

  • Noticeable features

If you have more than one visual, your overview needs to summarise both of them. You have to present the whole picture and not just part of it.

Remember that you are writing an overview, so you do not need to present data (e.g., numbers, statistics).

Where should the overview appear?

The overview is a short paragraph that describes the overall picture of what you see, so it often appears after the introduction.

The introduction tells the examiner what you are going to write about. It is basically the Writing question paraphrased. For example, you will say what the visual is, the data source, and when the data was collected - WHAT, WHERE, WHEN.

The first short paragraph is the introduction. If there are two visuals in your task, you need to introduce both. This can be done in one or two sentences.

The second short paragraph is the overview. If there are two visuals in your task, and you can see a relationship between them, your overview should summarise both.

The overview could also appear at the end of your response as the last paragraph acting like a summary of what you have written. IELTS teachers will often tell you to put the overview at the end like a 'conclusion'; however, an IELTS Task 1 response does not need a conclusion.

Our expert advice to you is to write an overview after your introduction as your second paragraph. This way, if you run out of time, your overview is included in your response.

How do I write an overview?

It's easy to write an overview if you follow these two steps:

  1. Use linking words or phrases to introduce a summary of what you see. (e.g., Overall, To summarise, In summary, In brief, It can be clearly seen that...).

  2. Write the main trend(s) or overall picture of what you see in the visual(s). Depending on the type of visual, ask yourself these questions:

  • Can you see an overall increase, decrease, or fluctuation in the visual diagram?

  • Can you see very high or very low points?

  • Can you see more or less of something (e.g. more males, fewer females, more employed, less employed)?

  • Has the map or plan changed over time?

  • Have features been added or taken away?

  • What is the main relationship between the visuals?

  • Is there a predicted change that will happen in the future?

What do overviews look like?

Look at the following overview examples for a range of different visuals. These overviews will appear as a paragraph following the introduction.

These overviews do NOT include data or figures, only a summary of what you see, i.e., the most noticeable features.

Visual Type

Overview Example

Table

Overall, the total number of people employed has increased over the period, whereas the number of women employed has decreased.

Chart

In brief, Germany was the major producer of vehicles over this period followed by France and then Norway.

Process

It can clearly be seen that there are six steps involved in the production of cloth starting with the raw materials and ending with the final product.

Map

In summary, in one hundred years, the village has experienced major changes transforming it from a small farming village into a tourist destination.

Plan

Overall, though the area size remains the same, there are significant changes planned for this company as it moves from single offices to an open-plan design.

Graph

To summarise, the younger age groups visit the cinema the most, whereas older people rarely attend.

Two visuals

Overall, oil is used the most as an energy source in this town and that most power is required for domestic cooling.

Three visuals

It can be clearly seen that of the three meals consumed, breakfast contains the lowest amount of sodium, saturated fats, and sugar, while dinner contains more saturated fats and sodium than lunch.

So, remember to include an overview in your IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 . Make it clear to the examiner that you are describing an overall trend or an overall picture of what you see. Use a linking word or phrase to signal to the examiner that this is your overview.

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1: Key Features

In your IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 response, you must present the key features and use data to support your description.

The table below outlines examples of visual diagrams and what the key features may be for each.

Visual 

Key Features

Graph showing 5 age groups over two years

- The 5 different age groups
- Major trends
- Noticeable features (e.g. highest peaks, lows, etc.)
- The two-year period

Pie chart showing 5 types of fuel

- The 5 different types of fuel
- Major fuel type, least used fuel type

Map showing a town 50 years ago and a town now

- The 2 maps
- Features in the town that have remained the same
- Features that have changed (e.g. location, renovation, removal, etc.)
- Features that are new (e.g. building, roads, facilities)

Process showing 7 stages

- Each of the 7 stages
- Any extra step that is part of the process
- The total duration of the process as a whole

Chart showing three products over 3 years

- The three different products
- The three-year period
- Numbers that are noticeable (e.g. highest, lowest, unusual trends)

To successfully address the task, you need to:

  • Describe the key features in the visual diagram

  • Use data from the visual diagram to support each key feature (e.g. figures, numbers, percentages, buildings, structures, rooms, etc.)

If you feel that you are now ready to practice for the Writing test, why not try an official IELTS practice test: IELTS Progress Check . If you do not include an overview, or if it is unclear, our expert IELTS markers will give you feedback on your performance.