IELTS task 1 map vocabulary, grammar, prepositions and phrases

Home » IELTS academic task 1 » IELTS task 1 map vocabulary



Task 1 map questions usually consist of two maps which have undergone a change.

The maps are usually of a landscape, an island or a town.

The question rubric asks you to:

‘Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where necessary.’

The consensus is to assign around 20 mins and to write at least 150 words.

Key terms of position 

Cardinal directions (compass points)

The four cardinal directions, or compass points, are the directions north, east, south, and west.

Points between the four main cardinal directions are the intercardinal directions. These are northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest.

Also note that in English you do not need a capital letter for them – they can work as adjectives – in the southwestern corner / or simply in the north east as a noun.

Image source.

Prepositions of place 

There are currently 18,300,000 articles already published on this subject, so no need to go into detail here.

However, here are a few advanced prepositions and adverbs I couldn't resist including:

Perpendicular to - at right angles to.

The main road is perpendicular to the train station. 

Clockwise - following the rotating direction of the clock hands.

Moving in a clockwise direction from the hospital, we can see the new car park. 

Along - nearby

Along the roadside we can see a new retail area and more office developments.

Map description verbs 

Here we have included verbs for describing maps and change.

Build: Three new hospitals were built.

Construct: A new road was constructed next to the town.

Extend: The main road into town was extended by 20 meters.

Expand: The car park was expanded to accommodate an extra 50 cars.

Span: The bridge spans the width of the river.

Remove: The developers removed the old post box near the retail area.

Area: length, width, depth and height 

We use the nouns length, width, depth and height and the adjectives long, wide, deep and high to talk about area and size.


The width of the carpark is over 100 meters

The length of the pond is probably just under 20 meters.

The height of the first building is almost 70 meters.

Map specific vocabulary 

City / town 

Community greens: Shared open green spaces in residential neighborhoods.

Green belt: A policy used in urban planning to retain a “belt” of the natural environment around urban areas.

Greenfield land: Untouched and pristine land. Fields and forests.

Greyfield land: Buildings or real estate land that is economically useless. Disused car parks or abandoned factories.

Grid plan: A plan in the shape of a grid.

Pavement / sidewalk: The part of the street dedicated to just pedestrians.

Roundabout: circular intersection for leaving and entering other roadways.

Roadside: The side of the road. At the roadside there are three retailers. 

Zone of transition: An area that is moving from one status to another. The area between the city centre and the green belt.


Bay: small sea

Archipelago: a group of islands

Bog: wet spongy ground, swamp

Canal: man made navigable water way

Canyon: deep, narrow valley with steep sides, carved by a river

Hedge: row of shrubs forming a boundary

Moor: open land on hills with shrubs, heath

Strait: narrow waterway connecting two large bodies of water

Stream: very small river

Summit: highest point of a mountain

Tide: rise and fall of sea level

Tributary: stream leading to a bigger river

Valley: long depression between two hills

Useful grammar

  • Present passive

Overall there are significant changes can be found in the island particularly the new accommodation facilities.

  • Future passive

Overall, the resort will be built on the island and will include a hotel, a reception, houses, an artIficial lake and a pier.

  • Perfect passive 

Overall, the island has been transformed into a new resort which includes…

Example sentences 

  • On the western side - On the western side of the lake there are no longer any greyfield sites or wasteland.
  • In the north western corner - In the north western corner of the rubric we can see the tallest of the three buildings.
  • To the south - To the south of the lake we can see a new footpath, leading to a lake.
  • In the centre - In the center of the island there is a new hotel.
  • To the east of - To the east of the first car park we can see three new buildings.
  • Significant - There were significant developments in the second map.

Audio tutorial

Direct Download Here | Stitcher | iTunes | Spotify | Soundcloud | Transcript |

Podcast: Play in new window | Download


More useful IELTS Academic Task 1 lessons: