3. March 2020.

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 Info, Tips and Tricks

This page contains useful information how to write IELTS Academic Task 1 and how to achieve high score. Here you will find all about the structure, vocabulary, paragraphing and the marking criteria.

If you’ve chosen the Academic route, Writing Task 1 asks you to write at least 150 words summarising a graph, table, chart, or process. If you’ve chosen the General route, please click here.

What you need to know about the task format

In this task you will be presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram and asked to describe, summarise or explain the given information in over 150 words.

IELTS recommends that you spend no more than 20 minutes on Task 1, which makes sense because it’s worth only 33% of your total writing marks.

You will be marked on the following criteria:

  1. Task Achievement 
  2. Coherence and Cohesion
  3. Vocabulary 
  4. Grammar 

Writing 1 criteria

Criteria 3 and 4 might seem relatively straightforward, but what about the first two? What do they actually mean?

Task Achievement: Did you do the task you were asked to do?

The first thing you’re assessed on is your content. Simply put, that basically means reading the task carefully and doing what you are told to do! In other words, Task Achievement relates to whether you have done the task, i.e. whether you have verbally interpreted the graph or a chart. Specifically, it means that you must provide a clear overall trend, and you have to support this trend with the key numbers from the graph or chart, or with the most important information from the diagram or map(s).

This criteria can often be the one which causes candidates to lose points in their writing. You can learn how to avoid this and score well in my video tutorial, together with many examples, templates and practice materials. 

Coherence and Cohesion – mind your paragraphing, linkers and cohesive devices

The criteria of Coherence and Cohesion assesses how successfully you structure your writing task 1 report. The trick here is to remember you are writing a report, not an essay. The examiner wants clear and logical organisation and structure from you.

Most of the time, you need to come up with four paragraphs:

  • Introduction. IELTS will give you a description; you need to paraphrase it, which basically means write it again using your own words. Omit to do that and you’ll be penalised.
  • Overview is the second and crucial paragraph of your report. This is where you need to show you understand the bigger picture and where you include the key features of the graph or pie chart – the highs and the lows, the most significant differences. Don’t worry about specific data – you’ll cover that in the body paragraphs. 
  • Body Paragraph 1 & Body Paragraph 2 is where you put the detailed information – the dates, the numbers and all the comparisons. 

Vocabulary: Did you show off your sparkling vocabulary and sophisticated collocations?

Make sure you use formal style and show off your sparkling advanced vocabulary. IELTS just loves linking words and cohesive devices. These are bits of text like ‘firstly’, ‘whereas’, ‘in addition’, ‘however’, and so on. Properly used, they will make your writing flow and make your text easier to read. You can’t do well in IELTS without using these phrases.

Luckily, the language needed for writing an academic report is quite predictable. Please check this page for useful words and phrases for linking, cohesion and contrasting which will greatly help you in achieving a high band score.

Avoid non-academic phrases such as “Here we can see” – this is a big no-no, and so is repeating the same words over and over again. Use synonyms and most importantly forget personal pronouns and contractions. Check this page for tips on the winning vocabulary for writing task 1.

Grammar – check your sentence structure, tenses and accuracy

When reporting past data from a graph or a bar chart make sure you use past tense and for future data future forms. Pay attention to punctuation and accuracy. Where appropriate, use passive forms.

Timing and Steps for IELTS Academic Writing Task 1

Exactly how you manage your time depends on how fast you write, and how much prewriting (brainstorming, note-taking, outlining, etc…) you prefer to do. 

You can’t cook without a recipe

Jamie Oliver

Do chefs just walk into a kitchen and start cooking? Of course not!

A lot of students hate planning and think it’s a waste of valuable exam time. But do chefs walk into a kitchen and just start cooking? Of course not – they lay out their ingredients, make sure their utensils are clean, and have their recipe nearby.

Your plan is the recipe you’ll use to cook up a great piece of writing. But even at this early stage you should start planning the language you want to use. 

With that in mind, here is a pacing plan that works for many test-takers. You can make modifications to the amount of time you spend on each step, as needed:

  • Reading the prompt, planning the essay 3 – 5 minutes
  • Writing 10 – 15 minutes
  • Editing and proofreading 3-5 minutes