Test takers often struggle with deciding what to present and how to present in an IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 response.

Today we will take a closer look at IELTS Academic Writing Task 1, task achievement and the features you need to include in your response to get band 7 or above.

In IELTS Academic Writing Task 1, you will be shown a diagram, a visual way to represent information. You may be shown one or more than one diagram. This visual information can be shown as a:

  • Table

  • Chart

  • Diagram

  • Process

  • Graph

  • Map

You will also be given the following instructions:

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.

You will need to do an information transfer task – the visual information you are given needs to be presented in the form of text.

As part of the task, you will need to:

  1. Write an introduction

  2. Write an overview (a summary of what you see)

  3. Present and highlight the key features with figures (data)

Let’s take a closer look at the last three points – the introduction, the overview and the key features that need to be presented.

Write an 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.

The introduction:

  • Can be one sentence

  • Is the question rewritten into your own words (paraphrased)

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

DO DON'T
Write a clear introduction to describe what you see. Present irrelevant information (E.g. the x-axis, the y-axis, the grey line represents female unemployment, the black triangle is males)
Paraphrase the question prompt. Use synonyms and phrases for non-key information. (E.g. unemployed = people who are unemployed / 1970-2000 = over three decades from 1970 to 2000.) Copy the question prompt word-for-word (E.g. phrases from the question)
Use keywords in your introduction (E.g. dates, times, countries, genders). Change the keywords in the question to inaccurate synonyms (E.g. unemployed females in Australia to unemployed girls in Oz.)
Introduce all charts, diagrams or tables.

Let’s look at some sample introductions and see how you might introduce them if you apply the above tips.

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.

The overview

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

You need to present a clear overview to reach a band 7 and higher. Let’s take a closer look at the task achievement band descriptors to see how important a clear overview is in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.

Band descriptors - Task achievement

Band 7 Presents a clear overview of main trends, differences or stages
Band 6 Presents an overview with information appropriately selected
Band 5 Recounts detail mechanically with no clear overview
DO DON'T
Use linking words to summarise what you see. (E.g. Overall, To summarise, In summary) Include data or figures in your overview. Only include a summary of the main trends or features.
Look for trends in the diagram(s). Is there an overall increase, decrease or fluctuation in the visual diagram? Are there any high or low points? Is it stable? Identify everything in the overview. It should just be a summary statement of the most noticeable features in the diagram.
If the visual diagram shows future predictions, summarise the future trends in your overview. Highlight key features with data (figures).
Highlight any change in the overall trend of the visual diagram. (For example, a dip)

If we apply the above tips, here are some examples of how an overview might look.

Introduction | Overview

Table The table illustrates employment numbers in Australia over a thirty-year period from 1970 to 2000.
Overall, it can be clearly seen that the numbers of people employed have increased over the period, whereas the unemployed figures have remained stable.
Chart The chart compares the number of cars that were made in France, Germany and Norway over a decade from 2000 to 2010.
In brief, Germany was the major producer of vehicles over this period followed by France and Norway.
Diagram The diagram shows how car parts are assembled.
It can be seen that there are four main stages to car manufacturing. To be specific, these are moulding, machining, joining and shearing.
Process The process shows how man-made fibres are produced.
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 The maps illustrate changes in an English village over a century from 1915 to 2015.
In summary, in one hundred years, the village has experienced major changes transforming it from a small farming village to an industrial town.
Graph The graph presents data from Ireland showing cinema attendance in major cities in 2016.
To summarise, it can be seen that the younger age groups visit the cinema most, whereas older people rarely attend.
Two charts The pie charts show the main energy resources used to generate power in a town in Australia, while the chart shows how much energy was consumed by the community in 1989.
Overall, by looking at the charts it can be seen that oil is used the most as an energy source in this town and that most power is required for domestic cooling.

Key features

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

The key features are the features that stand out the most in the diagram. For example, if a diagram shows 5 countries, then these 5 countries are the key features. If you miss a country, your description will be incomplete, and you will receive a band 4.

If we look at the band descriptors below, you will notice that you need to clearly present all key features to achieve a band 7 or higher.

Band 7 Clearly presents and highlights key features
Band 6 Presents and adequately highlights key features
Band 5 Presents, but inadequately covers, key features
Band 4 Attempts to address the task but does not cover all key features

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
  • 5 age groups
  • Major trends
  • Outstanding figures (E.g. highs, lows)
  • Two years
Pie chart showing 5 types of fuel
  • 5 different types of fuel
  • Major fuel type
Map showing a town 50 years ago and a town now
  • 2 maps
  • Things that have remained the same
  • Things that have changed (E.g. location, renovation, removal)
  • Things 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
Chart showing three products over 3 years
  • Three products
  • Three years
  • 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)

If you do not use data in the visual diagram to support the key features, your response will match the band 5 description.

Band 5 (Academic) recounts detail mechanically with no clear overview; there may be no data to support the description
What data should you present to get a band 7 or higher?

  • Supporting data for each element (E.g. age groups, products, years)

  • Noticeable figures that stand out (E.g. Highs, lows, fluctuation or period of stability)

  • Figures that have increased or decreased

  • Figures that have not changed at all, that remain the same

  • Names of buildings on a map (E.g. Shop, post office, library)

  • Roads, pathways or bridges shown on a map

  • Things that have changed within the visual diagram (E.g location, renovation, removal)

  • Things that are new (E.g. buildings, roads, facilities)

  • Each stage in a process

  • Any extra step that may be part of a process

  • The materials or equipment used in the process

DO DON'T
Present the figures given in the visual diagram Present the data mechanically (E.g. In 1992, it was 2%. In 1993, it was 3%. And in 1994, it was 6%...)
Present the correct number scale shown on the visual diagram (E.g. hundreds, thousands, ten-thousand, hundred-thousand, millions, tonnes) Present data inaccurately. Make sure you read the Y-axis carefully to see what data is shown.
Write the correct number format when presenting figures from the visual diagram (E.g. 100; 1,000; 10,000; 100,000; 1,000,000) Use calculations to respond to the task (E.g. calculate averages, add or subtract numbers). Remember to present the data as given.
Use the correct data set represented in the visual diagram (E.g. percentage, number, barrels per day, grams, kilograms, people) Misread the data and present it incorrectly. (For example, saying females instead of males - 72% of females play football)
To recap on what we have learned here today, remember these three things, and you’ll be on your way to achieving a band 7 or higher in task achievement IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.

  1. Write a clear introduction . But don’t copy the question.

  2. Write a clear summary of what you see in the overview

  3. Present and highlight all the key features with figures (data)

And remember, Academic Task 1 does NOT need a conclusion.