How to Master IELTS Writing Task 1

You can follow the 3-step process below to get a higher score in writing task 1
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  • In IELTS Writing Task 1
writing task1
  • You must be able to answer the task within the 20 minutes recommended time, to ensure that you leave at least 40 minutes for Writing Task 2. For Task 1, most test papers ask you to describe data (the other possibilities are maps, flow diagrams or image comparison tasks). As it is most probable that you will get a data task, we have developed a 3–step process for dealing with data quickly, which many of our candidates have used to get very high IELTS Bands.
  • Let’s introduce this process and show you how it works, using examples from the sample essays given here:
Step 1: Analyse the task and data
  • Read the task 1 instructions, and look at the chart(s), graph (s) or table(s) with it, for about 1 minute. Make sure that you understand the following:
  • Is this ‘static data’ or ‘movement data’? What are the timescales?
  • The difference is that static data shows 1 timescale only, while movement data shows a number of different timescales. For example, a static data chart may show the population of 5 different cities in 2002, and you need to compare the numbers. A movement data chart would show the 5 cities in 2002 and 2012, and you need to compare the changes in the situation from one timescale to the other.
  • Example Chart 1 (below) is an example of static data:
  • IELTS Writing Task 1 - Line chart Essay
  • Example Chart 2 (below) is an example of movement data:
  • IELTS Writing Task 1 - Line chart Essay
  • It is essential to be clear about this difference, because the way that you write about the data will be different. In a static chart, you will compare the sizes and proportions of the figures. In a movement chart, you will also compare the changes in the figures over time.
  • Remember that in Task 1 data, the information could be all static, or all movement, or occasionally a combination of both. This book gives you lots of examples of describing both static and movement data.
2. What do the TWO axes show? What units are shown?
  • Is there a timescale on one axis? (eg years, months, hours etc)
  • If there is a timescale, is this showing the past, present, future; or a combination?
  • (eg 000 of people, or degrees centigrade, or prices in $ etc)
  • Be clear about any ‘multiples’ in the figures (eg “000 people” or “millions of tonnes.”)
  • To illustrate this, look at Example Chart 3 below:
  • IELTS Writing Task 1 - Line chart Essay
  • This is a movement Chart (because the timescale shows 7 different days). No year (eg 2012 etc) is shown, so you should use the present simple to describe the data. The axes are days of the week and 5 separate countries. The units shown are electricity megawatts (but not in thousands or millions.)
  • Remember that the information about the timescale(s), the axes and the units may be located on the chart itself, or it may be in a caption, and/or contained in the Task description. Check everywhere!
  • Remember that in the IELTS test, you can of course write your notes on the test paper as you wish.
  • Don’t be distracted by the fact that some Tasks have bar chart formats, while other Tasks have line graphs, pie charts or tables. The way that the data is presented could be any of these formats, and you need to practise analysing data from all formats. You should approach the data in the same way, using the 3-step process.
  • In the Test, you have now completed Step 1, and you are sure about these vital points. You can now go to Step 2 of the process.
Step 2:
1. Group the data
  • This means deciding which groups of the data are similar to each other. For example, look at example chart 3 again and ask yourself which countries have a similar pattern in their use of electricity? Are any of the countries very different?
  • IELTS Writing Task 1 - Line chart Essay
  • The answer is that we can group France and Japan together, because their pattern is similar (their electricity figures fluctuate during the whole week.)
  • We can also group Canada and Russia together, because they have a similar pattern (their electricity figures rise considerably towards the weekend.)
  • Argentina is different from these 2 groups, because it declines towards the weekend.
  • This is a classic example of grouping data together. It’s essential for you to be aware that all IELTS Task 1 data Tasks include this concept of groups, because the examiner wants to see that you can identify groups, trends and exceptions.
2. Identify trends and exceptions
  • When you have decided on the groups of data, identify the trends and exceptions that the groups show. A trend means a pattern which is common or shared by a group. An exception is a group or an element which behaves differently from the trend(s).
  • IELTS Writing Task 1 - Line chart Essay
  • This is a movement chart (it shows 9 different timescales along the top axis.) The units shown are number of passengers and dollars per ticket. We can group the figures into two groups (passengers and ticket prices), and we see that the higher the passenger number, the higher is the cost of the ticket. This is true from 6am to 4pm and again from 8pm to 10pm. However, the situation for the two groups at 6pm is different. Here, a high number of passengers pay a very low-ticket price.
  • We can now decide on the trend and the exception. The trend is for high passenger numbers to match high ticket prices. The exception is the 6pm time, when the reverse is true. Remember that in the test, you should look for trends and exceptions within each chart and also when comparing 2 or 3 charts together. The sample essays here have examples of how to do this.
  • When you have grouped the data and decided on the trend(s) and the exception(s) in this way, you are ready to select some figures to use in your essay.
3. Select the main features using figures
  • Remember that the Task 1 instruction always says “Summarise the information. Select and describe the main features, and make comparisons where relevant. Write at least 150 words.” Main features in data Tasks means the key figures which demonstrate the groups, trends and exceptions which you have identified. It is impossible (and totally unnecessary) to select more than a few figures to use in your Task 1 essay.
  • For example, the example chart 3 (electricity in hospitals) contains 35 figures; example chart 4 has 18 figures. In Task 1 you may have up to 3 such charts to describe!
  • You should use your red pen to highlight the figures on the charts which show the most noticeable figures in each group of data, because this will give you the trend. For example, in example chart 3, you should not list all the figures for France and Japan. If you say “France and Japan fluctuate around 32, this shows you understand the trend and have selected a key figure in each country to demonstrate this.
  • Taking example chart 4 as another example, you do not need to list all the figures in the ‘Ticket price’ group. If you say “The 8am passenger surge is matched by a high price of $29, followed by a peak of $31 at midday and a decrease to $17 by 4pm” or similar, you show that you have seen the trend and can select the figures.
  • It is very important to avoid the mistake of simply listing the figures that you see in the charts. You should never describe the figures in sequence from left to right, or from top to bottom. You must show that you can group data, identify trends/exceptions, and select the key figures. If the examiner feels that you have done this in your essay, you will increase your Band score considerably, even if there are some mistakes in your English.
Step 3: Writing the essay
  • You should spend about 5 minutes maximum on Steps 1 and 2 in the process. By this stage, you have about 15 minutes remaining for Task 1, so you need to work rapidly now.
  • By this stage, you should have plenty of notes made with your red pen on the Test paper itself. We recommend that you do not make a plan for the Task 1 essay, because this would take too long, and your notes should be sufficient now. Using your notes, you can start writing your essay, and complete it in about 10 to 12 minutes.
1. Write the introduction sentence
  • For your introduction, the examiner wants to see a clear, single sentence that shows you have analysed and understood the data, timescales and units involved. To do this, take the explanatory part of the Task instruction, and paraphrase it in your own words.
  • For example, if the Task instruction includes the information:
  • “The first graph below shows the weight (in tonnes) of fruit produced by a farm during each month in 2013, and also the amount (in tonnes) of fertiliser used. The second graph shows the volume of rainfall in each month (in millimetres.)”
  • You can paraphrase this as:
  • “The charts give data regarding the tonnage of fruit produced in a farm per month in 2013, the fertiliser used and the monthly rainfall in that year.”
  • Another example Task is:
  • “The table shows data about the average length of time (in minutes) that people of different ages spend in a consultation with family doctors in a number of countries.”
  • Which you can paraphrase as
  • “The chart gives information about the typical time that patients spend with doctors in various countries, split by age group.”
  • In these two examples, the candidate has replaced as many words as possible from the Task with his own words. For example, “data > information, average > typical, a number of > various” etc. He has also varied the structure of the sentences, condensing the first example into one sentence and making the sentences slightly shorter.
  • Doing this will be enough to start your essay successfully. Remember that in your introduction sentence you must:
    • NOT include any figures or data (except the year(s) if given)
    • NOT give any background to the topic or add any knowledge, opinions or ideas of your own. Save that for Task 2, where it is needed!
    • NOT copy the complete Task instruction from the Test paper without changing/paraphrasing it. If you practise this, you should be able to write a good introduction sentence in about 1 minute, leaving enough time for the main body of the essay. Don’t spend longer than about 1 minute on this, because you need plenty of time to write the main body.
2. Write the main body paragraphs:
Explain the group trends, give selected figures, compare groups and explain exceptions
  • You will gain marks by having a very clearly structured essay. To achieve this, you should describe each chart, table or graph in turn, explaining any trends or exceptions that you have seen between the groups of data.
  • You should explain the trend at the beginning of each group, and then give your selected figures to illustrate. A simple example is:
  • “Regarding x, the trend is a slow rise and then a fall, going from 100 to 10 and then down to 80.”
  • You should try to compare any trends and/or exceptions that exist between the different charts and/or the groups. You should use the notes you have made on the test paper to remind you what to write, including the key figures you have selected.
  • Here is an example, based on the example chart 3 (hospital electricity) that we mentioned in Step 2.
  • “Regarding electricity, we see that consumption in the French and Japanese hospitals is roughly stable during the week, fluctuating around 32 and 18 mw for ( $i = 1; $i <10; $i++ ) {. In Canada and Russia, electricity use climbs dramatically towards the end of the week, going from 26 to 38 mw and from 12 to 24 mw. In Argentina, however, the use actually declines by almost half.”
  • Please notice how this paragraph is organised. The candidate identifies the first group of data (French and Japanese hospitals), explains the trend (fluctuation) and gives just 2 figures to show how they fluctuate. He then identifies the second group (Canada and Russia) and explains the trend (increase), giving the start and end figures to illustrate the extent of the increase. He points out that Argentina is the exception, and has decided not to use a figure to illustrate this. This is acceptable, as he shows his understanding of the figures by writing “declines by almost half.” This demonstrates that he can see the proportion of the decline.
  • A paragraph such as this will achieve a very high Band score in Task 1, provided the whole essay is of a similar standard.
  • Your essay should then move on to discuss the next chart or the next group of data.
  • A further example of a successful main body paragraph is this one, based on example Task 4 (the passenger numbers and ticket prices):
  • “Passenger numbers peak 3 times during the day. For example, the number at 6am is 480, rising to 690 by 8am before falling again. There is then a peak of 700 at midday, followed by an afternoon decline to a low of 230 at 4pm. A third spike is at 6pm, reaching 670 before tailing off.”
  • In this example, the candidate has used the first main body paragraph to describe the passenger numbers group. He has started by explaining the trend (showing that he sees 3 peaks), and then he describes each peak using a figure from the chart. He uses a variety of phrases to describe the changes (“peak/rise/fall/decline/spike/tailing off”) to show that he can use a wide range of vocabulary.
  • The next paragraph in this essay is the following:
  • “The ticket prices partially follow this pattern. The 8am passenger surge is matched by a high price of $29, followed by a peak of $31 at midday and a decrease to $17 by 4pm. However, the 6pm spike in passenger numbers is accompanied by a low of $1 in prices, with a subsequent rise to $22 at 8pm and a final levelling off.”
  • Here, the candidate starts the paragraph by saying that he sees a trend (“ticket prices partially follow . . .”) and he then gives 3 figures to demonstrate this. He then introduces the exception by saying “However” and explains how the 6pm figure is different from the normal pattern, using the contrast between “spike” and “a low of $1 . . .” to illustrate.
  • A good Task 1 data essay will have a main body containing between 1 and 3 paragraphs, depending on how many charts or groups you need to describe. Remember to make it very clear which chart or group you are describing at each point. You can do this by starting the sentence with the name of the group you are describing (eg “x declines dramatically”) or by saying “Regarding x” or “looking at x, we see that . . .” or “Turning to x, it is clear that . . .” or similar.
  • Remember the Task instruction always says “Summarise the information. Select and describe the main features, and make comparisons where relevant. Write at least 150 words.” This means that you should make it clear that you see the trends and the exceptions.
  • To introduce the trends, use phrases such as “similarly/likewise/in the same way/a similar pattern or trend.” To introduce the exceptions, use contrast phrases such as “however/ by contrast/ by comparison/conversely.”
  • Be careful of the tenses you use in the essay. If the data shows a past timescale which is finished, use the past simple. For example, if the data shows 2002 or 2002 plus 2012, use the past simple. If the timescale is the current year, or if no year is given, use the present simple. For example if the data shows the months January to June without giving the specific year, use the present simple. If the data includes a prediction about the future (eg ‘2030 estimate’) use phrases such as “The 2030 figure is predicted to be x’ or ‘the number for 2030 is estimated to be x.”
  • While you are writing the main body (in paper-based test), try to count the number of words you have written at least twice, to make sure you aim for at least 150 words, but in (computer-based test) there is no need to count the number of words because you will find a word counter that counts what you type.
3. Writing the summary sentence and checking your work
  • After about fifteen minutes in the test, you should be finishing your main body paragraphs and starting to write the summary. This will usually be 1 sentence (a maximum of 3 sentences if there are several charts or groups in the Task.) The summary in a Task 1 essay is very different from the conclusion in a Task 2 essay. In Task 1, you must not give your opinion, or make any suggestions about the causes of the data in the Task. Instead, you should summarise the key trends and the key exceptions that you have described in the main body.
  • An example (based on the example chart 4) is:
  • “In summary, ticket prices increase broadly in line with passenger traffic, except during the evening rush hour when they actually fall.”
  • This summary is simple, but it succeeds because it sums up the key groups, the trend and the exception in the data. Notice that the summary does not include any figures. Neither your introduction nor your summary should include figures.
  • Another example of a very good summary is:
  • “In summary, this farm generally employed the most fertiliser at seasons of high rainfall, and by contrast it produced the most fruit when both rainfall and fertiliser use were around their lowest.”
  • This summary uses the phrase “by contrast” to emphasise the exception which exists in the data.
  • Remember to start your summary by saying “in summary/to sum up/overall/to summarise.” Try to use a different phrase to begin your Task 2 conclusion when you come to write the Task 2 essay.
  • When you have finished the Task 1 essay, you should have about 1 or 2 minutes remaining to check your work for grammatical and spelling errors, before putting it on one side so that you can start on Task 2. You need to make sure you finish Task 1 completely in 20 minutes so that you have enough time for Task 2.
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Ali AfsharFeb 19, 2024
Very practical tips! thanks a lot
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Mahammad SirajJan 04, 2024
Thank you
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Amir HoushmandJan 04, 2024
Very useful!Thanks, indeed.
You're welcome.
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Zahra AzadvariMar 04, 2024
Thank you. It was so beneficial.
Our pleasure.
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Raka ReviatnaJan 17, 2024
Thank you
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Parisa MirzakhaniMar 29, 2024
Hello. I have a question , here we coulde not parctice writing ?
Hello Parisa. This service is not available yet.
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Isaac BagiaMar 01, 2024
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