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In this tutorial you will learn:
- How to write an IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 answer.
This will help you in your IELTS Academic Writing exam because:
- You will learn the main steps to write any type of Academic Writing Task 1.
- You will learn invaluable vocabulary for Task 1 questions.
If you are preparing for IELTS Academic, you probably already know that its Writing section requires special preparation: you comment on a data visual in Task 1 and write an academic essay in Task 2.
In this tutorial we cover how to write IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 like a pie chart, flow chart or even a map.
Step 1: Understand what you will see in front of yourself.
You will have to write a descriptive text that comments on a visual.
This visual may be:
- a line graph
- a bar chart
- a pie chart
- a table
- a process, flowchart or cycle diagram
- a map
or even a multiple task visual, which is a combination of any visuals mentioned previously(for example: 2 pie charts, a pie chart and a bar graph, a map and a table, 2 tables, 3 pie charts, etc.).
Remember this important tip:
Practice writing for ALL types! Pie charts, maps, flow diagrams etc
All types of tasks are rotated and are not repeated from one exam to another. So, if you get a diagram or a multiple task (3 bar charts) at the exam, and you barely practised describing it, your score will be severely compromised. Make sure that you are well familiarized with all visual types and have written at least 2 practice answers for each type, including the multiple tasks.
Be aware, this is as much an EXAM SKILL as it is a LANGUAGE SKILL. Summarising a chart or graphic adequately in your own language will be a challenge.
Step 2: Understand what you need to do with that graph, chart, map or diagram.
No matter the task type, IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 will always state: “summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant”.
What does this mean? Let’s analyze these instructions in more detail and clarify what you will have to do.
- You will have to to point out only the most relevant information from the visual (=summarize, main features),
- You you will have to decide what to comment on (=selecting) based on the data in the graph,
- You you will need to use the numbers from it (=reporting) and not simply enumerate the data, but
- You will need to evaluate how they are similar or different (=make comparisons).
Keep this in mind when you get to Step 4 – building the structure of your answer.
And once again, remember this. Don’t just list data: compare, contrast, analyze minimums and maximums, identify and describe trends.
Don’t describe everything you see. Don’t make a point of writing every single figure from the graph: only choose and report the numbers that illustrate those comparisons you make.
Develop the ability to group the data. This is a non-language skill, practice looking at graphs, identifying similarities, maximums, minimums, and data points that stand out.
Step 3: Don’t waste too much time on Task 1.
Why?Because this might affect the quality of your answer to Task 2. Planning, writing and proofreading your Task 1 answer should take you no more than 20 minutes. Otherwise, you will have less than 40 minutes for the Task 2 essay, which might become quite a challenge.
Besides, IELTS Writing Task 1 is worth only about 30% of your entire IELTS Writing score. So, plan your time appropriately.
Distribute your time like this:
- 2-3 minutes for planning, deciding what to select and comment on.
- 10-15 minutes for only writing the answer (don’t add new ideas at this stage!).
- 2-3 minutes for proofreading and fixing minor mistakes. Getting feedback on your essay will enable you to identify where you lose points. While proofreading your work, look for the mistakes you made on your previous task 1 answers.
Writing more is certainly great but be careful – it might steal from your time for Task 2, the essay.
Step 4: Plan your structure
If you want to write a great IELTS Academic Task 1 answer, you should certainly think well of the structure. It is very easy when you know what to keep in mind.
It is very easy when you know what to keep in mind by following these tips:
- Read the title. You need to stop and focus on the formulation of the title to make sure that you will report the information accurately and in the correct order. Sometimes, exam takers rush into writing only to realize that they had misinterpreted the title.
- Decide what are the main features that you need to report in that chart, diagram or any other visual: what you are comparing, describing, observing. Give yourself argumentswhy those are the most important ones and support them with numbers from the visual.
- Aim to identify groups of data, maximums, minimums, peaks, and patterns.
- Plan your paragraphing: make a point of having an introduction, and at least two body paragraphs.
- Write a great introduction. The first, introductory paragraph should be only ONE sentence. Here, remember the WHAT-WHERE-WHEN logic: the intro should say WHAT the graph illustrates, as well as WHERE and WHEN the data are set.
- In the introduction you can also write your summary, just in case you don’t have time near the end.
- Write great body paragraphs. Here are some ideas on how to do that.
- Describe only the essential information from the visual: minimums, maximums, trends, comparisons, contrasts. Support these using the most relevant numbers from the graph or chart. Go back and revise our Step 2 in this tutorial.
- Group relevant information by topic. You could have a comparison body paragraph and a contrast one. Or,depending on the topic, you might have three body paragraphs: 1. minimums and maximums, 2. comparison and contrast, and 3. trends.
- Describe WHAT happened not WHY it happened. You cannot know the cause of the events or phenomena illustrated in the graph and you should not try to explain that.
- Still, be aware of the fact thatbody structure patterns are very numerous and greatly depend on task types. For example, map description body paragraphs will differ completely from table description bodies.
- Use appropriate yet various transitions /cohesive devices / connectors to make sure your ideas flow smoothly and will be understood clearly.
- Where relevant, plan to use superlatives in your answer.
- When planning, search for data to compare.
Step 5: Choose your language
The choice of your language when writing your Academic Task 1 response is also crucial. It can dictate up to 20% of your Writing score for this task. But what should you be including here?
Here are some tips on using great language in Task 1:
- Make sure you do not reuse the exact words from the Task 1 question. Use words with the same or similar meanings, be it in the introduction or in the rest of the Task 1 answer. It is important to paraphrase in your task 1. If you do reuse the exact formulations from the task, you will be penalized because doing so points at your poor range of vocabulary.
- Use a variety of words and word structures. Do not repeat the structures you use, even if you know they are awesome. Instead, use synonyms, and make yourself a point of saying it in in other words. This is a sure pathway to a good score for vocabulary range!
- Comparative structures. For a Band 7 or higher you must have the language to compare data points and groups effectively.
- Vary your sentence structures. Use both complex and simple sentences, and don’t avoid either of them. And yes, only writing long sentences makes your style heavy and cumbersome, so remember to “dilute” it appropriately with simpler sentences.
- Master the superlative. Refresh the rules, then do online quizzes, in most of the graphics you encounter you will need it. The superlative also enriches speaking test answers.
- Make sure youlook at time words when you read the visual title in Task 1. This will help you make the right choice of tenses and place your commentary appropriately in a time frame.
- Do not use any informal vocabulary whatsoever! Your IELTS exam is called Academic for a reason, so keep in mind that your style should be serious, and no slang words, idioms, contractions or conversational words should be used.
The Academic Writing exam might not be simple, but it will certainly become easier when you adopt a clear action plan. That’s why we believe that this short list of the most vital recommendations will be a lifesaver for anyone whose goal is to learn how to write IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.