IELTS preparation teacher Richard Allen on how to prepare the report required for Task 1 of the IELTS Writing module.
In Academic Task 1 of the IELTS Writing module you are expected to write a short descriptive report based on visual information or data.
The good news about IELTS Writing Task 1 is that all the content that you need to include in your answer will be contained in the diagram(s) that you are given.
These could be pie charts, bar charts, line graphs, tables or a mixture of two or three of these diagrams.
You are not required, nor should you attempt, to explain or interpret the data in front of you.
Even if you happen to know, for example, that the number of Chinese students studying in Australia increased dramatically in 2002 due to an immigration loophole, don’t mention it; just report the facts in front of you.
The not so good news is that even English teachers struggle with this kind of writing as, strangely enough, the reason that we use the pictorial diagrams in the first place is to avoid having to write about the information contained in them.
How to describe the diagrams
Try to begin your writing with the following hypothetical task in mind.
Imagine that after you have finished Task 1, the examiner will attempt to recreate the diagram you were given from your description of it.
In order for the examiner to do this, you will need to include some or all of the following:
- Describe trends: E.g. The rate of inflation rose steadily between 1970 and 1980.
- Make comparisons and group information: E.g. In both London and Paris slightly less people used the train in 1970 than in 1980.
- Point out notable features: E.g. It is interesting to note that despite a downward slump, there was a sharp rise in sales in1975.
- Report numbers and values accurately: E.g. In 1970 64% of men and 17% of women voted for a change in policy.
- Provide an overview: E.g. The life expectancy of both men and women has increased since1950.
If you can manage this, you will be well on your way to completing the task successfully.
Organise your paragraphs
This is a very easy thing to do but it can have an enormous effect on the intelligibility of your writing.
Very often people use no paragraphing in the IELTS writing task and the examiner is faced with a "sea" of writing with no breaks from start to finish.
I strongly recommend that you make your paragraphing as clear as possible by separating each paragraph with an empty line. This will leave the reader with no doubt where one paragraph ends and another begins.
It organises your writing and makes it more readable.
For the IELTS Academic Task 1 Writing, you should have a paragraph for your small introduction, a paragraph for each graph that you are describing and a paragraph for your ending.
If there's only one graph to be described, then you should split your writing into 2 or maybe 3 paragraphs for the one graph.
Remember when you begin a new idea, a point that contrasts one you were just discussing, or when you are raising a related but separate point, it's probably time to start a new paragraph.
Structuring your IELTS Writing Task
1 - The introduction
Paraphrase/re-state the description of the diagrams you were given. You don’t need to do too much here – look for key verbs and nouns then consider how you could transform them into other parts of speech to demonstrate grammatical flexibility and exam understanding.
2 - The main body of your essay
This needs to provide the detail of what the diagrams show. This is likely to include some or all of the following features and will depend on the type and number of diagrams you are given.
You can make your own decisions about paragraphs but when writing about the details of your pictures remember to describe trends, make comparisons, group information, report numbers and values accurately and point out anything that is notable.
3 - In your conclusion
You can give your overview – this should be one or two sentences reporting the main features or trends. It should avoid detail and provide an overview of the diagram.
More IELTS preparation guides
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