IELTS Writing Task 1 in the IELTS Exam asks you to look at some information – usually displayed in the form of a graph, chart or table.
Your job is then to analyse the information and to select and report the most important features clearly and coherently.
Let’s look at an example of an IELTS writing task 1 question.
The table below illustrates the takings of three different branches of a supermarket in the same English city.
Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and making comparisons where relevant.
You should write at least 150 words.
Important : Read the question carefully!
As always, the most important piece of advice is this: always read the question carefully!
Here there is one main instruction —summarize—and there are three subordinate instructions:
Let’s take (1) and (2) together, and then move on to (3).
1. Selecting and reporting information
The first element of summarizing the information in the table is to select from it. You are not expected to report every fact from the table, only “the main features”. The first thing to do, then, is to decide what are the “main features” of the information given in this table.
What are the ‘main features’ of the information given in the table? The first main feature is to find out what the table is about. In any table, the two axes, horizontal and vertical, are the main features to talk about first.
The horizontal axis names three branches of the same supermarket placed in different locations in the same city. The vertical axis gives a series of comparators for these three branches. So these two features can make up the first two sentences of your essay. This is a logical place to start: unless you tell the reader what the table is about, the rest of what you say will mean very little to them!
Let’s try now, to think what those first two sentences might look like in practice.
1. “The table compares three different branches of the same supermarket chain which stand at different locations in the same city.”
2. “A range of comparators is given for the three branches, showing their relative size, how much money they bring in, and what proportion of their takings is formed by cash and credit card transactions respectively.”
An ideal start! The reader now knows every aspect of what the table is about. Now you can begin making comparisons in terms of the individual items of information listed on the table. The obvious place to begin here is with the most striking differences between the stores.
One way to do this is to read the table across horizontally, and to make each line the subject of a sentence. At the same time, try to think which set of comparisons makes the most natural starting point. It will not necessarily be the first line of the table! Here, the most obvious place to start your analysis is actually with information which comes in the last line of the table: the size of the different shops.
Let’s think what a good first sentence for the comparative part of our answer might look like, then. “Of the three different shops, the largest in terms of physical ground area is the Green St shop, and the smallest, the shop at the station.” You do not need to say that the “Tesco Express” is the shop in the middle, because this follows from what you have already written!
Now it makes sense to move on to a comparison of the takings. Here you have the opportunity to make a connection and a contrast, rather than just to make a list. Let’s see how. “Not surprisingly, the largest store in terms of its physical size also takes the most money each day: the shop on Green St.” “Although the store at the station is the smallest, however, it takes more money each day than the ‘Tesco Express’.”
Here we have shown that we are thinking not only about each individual line on the table, but also about the relationship between different pieces of information which the table gives. The largest store takes the most money, just as you might expect. Despite this, however, the smallest shop does not take the smallest amount of money.
This ability to link and compare different lines on the table is especially important when we come to the two lines which we have not yet dealt with, showing the relationship between credit card and cash transactions.
These two pieces of information obviously only becomes meaningful in relation to each other.
Let’s try, then, to summarize that information in a way which brings out the most important and interesting features.
“There are comparatively few cash transactions at the largest store, whereas there are relatively few credit card transactions at the ‘Tesco Express’. At the station shop, however, credit card and cash transactions are more or less evenly balanced.”
We have also discovered some useful items of vocabulary for this exercise: “comparators”; “comparatively”, “relatively”; “however”.
The task of selecting and reporting the main features of the information in a table chart may look very complicated when you start. As we have seen, though, if we break the question down into its component parts, and allocate a certain number of sentences to each, we can acquire a natural and logical structure for our essays.
If you need more help preparing for your Academic Task 1, have a look a the following resources:
- How to get Band 9 in Academic Writing Task 1- 2020
- Easy Steps to Writing a Great Academic Task 1
- How to Answer Map Questions
- Academic Task 1 Marking Criteria
- Task 1 Sample Essays
- Checklist for Academic Task 1
- How to Describe a Pie Chart
- How to Describe a Bar Graph
- Essay Correction Service
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