Free IELTS Writing Task 1 tips & tutorials from Official Course

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ielts task 1
What is Writing Task 1?

In Writing Task 1 you need to write a short report that describes information presented in a diagram. You need to describe this diagram clearly and accurately in your own words.

How should I organise my time for Task 1?

Read and understand the task-2 minutes, Plan what you are going to write-3 minutes, Write your answer-12 minutes, Check your writing-3 minutes.

How is it assessed?

As a rule, Task 1 takes 3/9 of the total Writing Band 9, while Task 2 takes it doubled 6/9.

Step 1: The writing process for Writing Task 1

Introduction

Welcome to Step 1!

This is the first of 6 steps that introduce you to Writing Task 1 and help you develop the skills and strategies you need to successfully complete the IELTS Writing test.

Outcomes

At the end of Step 1, you will be able to:

  • understand what Task 1 is
  • organise your time for Task 1

What is Writing Task 1?

In Writing Task 1 you need to write a short report that describes information presented in a diagram. You need to describe this diagram clearly and accurately in your own words.

The diagram is usually:

1. a line graph

World oil production 1960 – 2000

2. a bar chart

Percentage of Smokers 1950 – 1990Smokers percentage of population, 1950-1990

3. a pie chart

Distribution of workforce in Great Britain 1932

4. a table of information

Share of total employment, Camba District, 1996-1999

Employment type1996199719981999
Growing crops46%48%46%38%
Factory work30%41%49%59%
Clothes production24%11%5%3%

Note that Task 1 questions may ask you to describe more than one graph, table or chart in your answer.

Writing Task 1 could also be:

5. a diagram of the steps of a process or procedure

6. a sequence of events over a period of time

History of Bobby’s Bakehouse
1930Small corner storebreads
cakes
2 staff
1938Moved business to larger location
+
Bought food production equipment
breads
cakes
muffins
10 staff
1943Investment in technology and more equipment
+
Research into health and nutrition
breads
cakes
muffins
tarts
35 staff
1950Built storage and distribution facilitiesbreads
cakes
muffins
tarts
biscuits
pies
120 staff
1970Opened 16 bakehouses in Britain and the United States 3500 staff

7. a picture of an object showing how it works

The style of your report should be formal and academic, as your reader will be an educated person such as a university lecturer.

You should write at least 150 words. You should spend no more than 20 minutes on the task.

Time plan in detail

Stage 1: Read and understand the task

(about 2 minutes)

Understand:

  • the question
  • the requirements of the task
  • the topic by reading the features of the diagram.

Stage 2: Plan what you are going to write

(about 3 minutes)

Plan:

  • locate significant data or information
  • identify overall trend or main point.

Stage 3: Write your answer

(about 12 minutes)

Write:

  • the introduction to the diagram
  • important or interesting points
  • the overall trend or main point

Stage 4: Check your writing

(about 3 minutes)

Check the content:

  • Have you interpreted the information correctly?
  • Have you included all the relevant information?

Check your language:

  • Is the language formal?
  • Are there grammar or spelling mistakes?
  • Have you used a range of vocabulary and grammatical structures?

Check the presentation:

  • Is your answer easy to read?
  • Is your handwriting neat and clear?

Identifying the features of graphs and tables

IELTS Writing Task 1 may ask you to describe a line graph, a bar graph, a pie chart or a table.

Each of these graphs and tables has different features that help the reader understand the information presented. Let’s look at the features of line and bar graphs first.

Features of line and bar graphs

Line and bar graphs have very similar features, so let’s look at them at the same time. There are five main features you should be aware of.

Click on the underlined words to see an example of each of these features.

Planning an answer for questions with graphs and tables

In Writing Task 1 you are usually required to describe information in a graph or table. Before you can start planning what you will write, you need to:

  • read and understand the task
  • locate and identify the features of the graph or table.

Graphs and tables usually present a lot of data. You do not need to describe all of this data but you should decide which data is important enough to include in your answer. Planning your answer involves finding the important or significant information presented in the graph or table.

Remember you only have 20 minutes to complete your Task 1 answer. At the most, you should only spend two minutes reading and understanding the task, and then three minutes planning what you are going to write.

Reading and understanding the task

Look at the Writing Task 1 question below.

You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.The graph below shows the percentage of employees in each occupation absent from work for at least one day in the first week of July 1999 due to injury or illness.Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.You should write at least 150 words.

The instructions are always the same, so you can read them quickly. They:

  • suggest a time limit to answer the question – about 20 minutes
  • tell you to write a report describing the graph for a university lecturer
  • tell you to write at least 150 words

You need to read the specific question carefully, because it explains what the graph is about. In this case, the specific question is:

Locate and identify the features of the graph or table

We looked at the features of graphs and tables in Step 2, but it is worth reviewing them here. To locate and identify the features of a graph or table, you should ask:

  • Is it a bar or line graph, a pie chart or a table?
  • What is the title?
  • Is a place given?
  • What does the x-axis show? What unit of measurement is used?
  • What does the y-axis show? What unit of measurement is used?
  • Is there a legend? What does it tell you?

How do you write about a graph/table/chart?

Your Task 1 graph/table/chart report should be written in 2 or 3 paragraphs and should include:

Introduction
+
Body
+
Overview

Let’s look at a sample Task 1 question and answer. First, let’s look at the question.

You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.The graph shows how many people were employed in the Australian mining industry from 1900 to 1990.Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.You should write at least 150 words.

Now let’s look at the sample answer.

Introduction:
This line graph illustrates the number of employees in thousands in the mining industry in Australia between 1900 and 1990.
Body:
At the beginning of the century more than 60,000 people were employed in this sector, but by the end of the first decade this fell to only 40,000. The number of employees continued to decline throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, but at a much lower rate than previously, reaching a low of 30,000 in 1940. This was followed by a dramatic growth to 50,000 in the next 10 years. However, from 1950 onwards the decline began again and was marked by a sharp drop at the beginning of the 1960’s after which the rate of decline slowed. By 1990, only 15,000 people were working in this sector.
Overview:
Overall, it is clear that employment in the Australian mining industry declined significantly throughout this century, although there was a peak in the number of employees in 1950.

What do you write in a Task 1 introduction?

The introduction to a graph, table or chart should be one or two sentences.

It needs to:

  • include the important information found in the question and the graph
  • be written in your own words.

Let’s look at the example question again and the introduction for it.

Example question 1
The graph shows how many people were employed in the Australian mining industry from 1900 to 1990.
Sample introduction 1
This line graph illustrates the number of employees in thousands in the mining industry in Australia between 1900 and 1990.

This is a good introduction because it:

  1. includes the important information from the question and the graph
  2. does not repeat the question word for word.

First, we’ll look at the important information you need to include in your introduction. Then, we’ll look at some ideas to help you use your own words so you do not repeat the question word for word.

Information to include in the introduction

The main purpose of the introduction is to let your reader know what the graph is about, as well as where and when it takes place. You can also include the unit of measurement used. Therefore, the information you should include in the introduction is:

  • the topic of the graph (what)
  • the time span (when)
  • the place (where)
  • the unit of measurement.

This information is located in the question, and in the main features of the graph: in the title of the graph, on the x and y axis and in the key or legend if there is one. Let’s look at the graph for Example Question 1 again, and find this information.

From this graph, we can find the following information:

  • Topic: number of mining industry employees (from the title)
  • Time span: 1900 to 1990 (from the x – axis)
  • Place: Australia (from the title)
  • Unit of measurement: thousands (from the y – axis)

Now let’s look at the sample introduction again to see how this information has been included. This information has been highlighted for you.

Sample introduction 1
This line graph illustrates the number of employees in thousands in the mining industry in Australia between 1900 and 1990.

Using your own words

It is important to use your own words in the introduction. If you copy the question word for word, those words are not counted in the 150 word total for Task 1. You will also be marked down in the Vocabulary Range section of the assessment criteria.

To make the language different you need to:

  • use words with the same meaning – synonyms
  • write part of the question again using a different grammatical structure – paraphrase the question .

Compare how the language in Sample introduction 1 is different to Example question 1. Can you find all the changes? Write them on a piece of paper and then check your answer.

Example question 1
The graph shows how many people were employed in the Australian mining industry from 1900 to 1990.
Sample introduction 1
This line graph illustrates the number of employees in thousands in the mining industry in Australia between 1900 and 1990.

Click here to compare the language of the question and the language of the introduction.

Here are some alternatives that can be used in any graph or table.

Example question 2
The graph below shows the different modes of transport used to travel to and from work in one European city in 1950, 1970 and 1990.
The
This
graph
line graph
bar graph
diagram
chart
table
shows
illustrates
describes
indicates
represents
the number of employees in the mining industry in Australia.

Now let’s look at another example question to find the important information and to change the language.

Click here to see the graph.

  • Topic: total travellers, four different modes of transport
  • Time span: 1950, 1970 1990
  • Place: one European city
  • Unit of measurement: percentage

So we could use this information to write the introduction as follows:

Here is the important information.

Sample introduction 2
This bar graph indicates the percentage of people in a city in Europe who took four different kinds of transport to get back and forth from their job in 1950, 1970 and 1990.

Now compare the language of question 2 and introduction 2 again. To help you compare, use pen and paper to write down the language that has changed. When you have finished, click here to check your answer.

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