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SLC IELTS Writing Exam Guidelines Task 1

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IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 requires you to write a report on a set of data in 150 words in 20 minutes.

Types of IELTS Task 1:

There are 6 different types of data graphs/charts/diagrams that can come up in the exam and these are shown below.


How to Structure your Task 1 Answer

  1. It is very important that you (a) read the instructions carefully to understand what is required and (b) fully answer the question. A typical Task 1 answer should have:

    1. Introduction
    2. Overview
    3. Main Body

1. The Introduction

The introduction is usually very simple to write, as it should only explain what the chart/graph shows. To do this, the question should be paraphrased. This means it should be rewritten using your own words. 1 or 2 sentences is enough!

For example, if task description is: ‘The bar chart shows the number of overseas students enrolled in a Computer Science course at a Canadian college in 2010’.

A good way to paraphrase it would be: ‘The bar graph illustrates how many overseas students took a course in Computer Science at a specific school in Canada in a given year, 2010’.

Let’s have a look at another example:

Task description: The line graph shows the proportion of the population aged 65 and over between 1940 and 2040 in three different countries.

Introduction (paraphrase): The given line chart details the percentages of the elderly population in three different countries over 100 years, from 1940 to 2040.

The introduction should only take a maximum of 2-3 minutes to write!

2. The Overview

The overview is a paragraph which contains the key points and features of the chart/graph. It is very important as it directly affects the criteria called Task Achievement. In fact, it will be impossible to get above band 5 in that criteria if there is no overview.

The overview statement can go at the beginning or the end of the report. It shows that you can identify the most important points from the graph. No numbers/percentages are needed, only the most significant features.

Below is an example.

The line graph shows thefts per thousand vehicles in four countries between 1990 and 1999.

Line Graph 1990 and 1999

To show the key points, you should point out that in the given period,

  1. car theft in Great Britain was a lot higher compared to the other countries and
  2. Sweden was the only country to have more car thefts at the end of the decade compared to the beginning and therefore show an overall upward trend.

So, in this case, a good overview could be:

Overall, it can be seen that car thefts were far higher in Great Britain than in the other three countries throughout the 1990s, but that Sweden is the only country that showed a rise in numbers of thefts over the time concerned.

Writing an overview should take 3 minutes maximum!

3. The Main Body

The main body is where all the details are described – numbers, dates, percentages, and comparisons.

It is important to have 2 paragraphs and to identify similarities as well as differences. To do this you should group data together where there are trends or patterns. It is important that you bear in mind the time period described in the graph as this will determine the correct tenses to be used.

Here is an example (using the same line chart as above) of how to start the first paragraph:

What can be seen from the graph is that car thefts in Sweden, France and Canada started at a similar level at the beginning of the decade, at around 6 to 8 incidences per 1,000 vehicles. However, whereas the trend in Sweden was generally upwards, numbers in France and Canada saw a steady decline. By 1992, car thefts in Sweden overtook those of France and Canada and then rose steadily to around 13 per 1,000 cars by 1999. In France and Canada, there was a slight increase from 1993, with France rising more quickly to 1995, at which point it dropped gradually to equal the rate for Canada by the end of the decade at around 6 vehicles.

The second paragraph could then talk about Britain, describing the key trends and comparing it briefly with the other countries.

You should spend around 10 minutes on writing the Main Body.

Plan your Time in the Exam

You should spend 20 minutes on Task 2 in the exam. It is important that you organise your time well, you need enough time to brainstorm, plan, write and check/edit your essay.

Here is an example of how to plan your time

Brainstorm/Understand the question2 min
Plan1 min
Write15 min
Edit/Check2 mins

How is IELTS Task 1 graded?

IELTS Task 1 is graded on 4 criteria.

  1. Task Achievement – did you answer the question?
  2. Coherence and Cohesion – does your answer make sense? Have you organized the information clearly?
  3. Lexical Resource – have you used a wide range of vocabulary? Have you paraphrased well?
  4. Grammatical Range and Accuracy – have a you used a good range of grammar? Is your grammar accurate?

How can you Prepare for Task 1?

  1. Practice, practice, practice! Practice is the best way to improve. Also, reading past papers is very useful. There are many websites/course books/YouTube videos where you can do this!


  1. Learn the words which describe trends, for example:


  • A steady/gradual/sharp + noun in..
  • A rise/increase/growth in
  • A fall/decrease/drop in


  1. Learn different ways of comparing things, such as:


  • Whereas (idea 1), (contrasting idea 2)
  • Although/even though (idea 1), (contrasting idea 2)
  • Compared to (idea 1), (contrasting idea 2)
  • (Idea 1). However, (contrasting idea 2)

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