2.1.1 IELTS Academic Writing Task 1
Length: Write at least 150 words.
Time: You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.
2.1.2 Summarizing facts or figures from graphic information
If you are writing the Academic test, your first job may be to compose a report identifying the most important and relevant information and trends using the facts or figures presented in a chart, graph, tables or a combination of such graphics.
It is also possible that you will instead be given a diagram of a machine, device or process and be required to explain how it works.
Other graphics that can sometimes appear on the test are two maps or structural drawings of an area from different times showing changes that have occurred. You will need to summarize the major changes or differences between them.
The key to responding successfully to any of these task one visuals is to show that you understand the big picture by identifying the main trends, major parts or stages and/or important differences that are evident in the graphic. So, rather than mechanically describing all the data, select and report on the most important and the most relevant aspects that appear.
As you can probably guess, there are specific kinds of details you should be looking for in the different graphics that appear on the test. Here is a more detailed breakdown of question types with some tips for how to examine and complete each of them.
2.1.3 Charts, graphs or tables
Generally, the charts, graphs and tables can either show comparisons of data at one moment in time or compare data over a fixed period of time.
Showing comparisons of data at one moment in time
When you are reporting on a graphic you will need to show that you understand exactly what data is about. Using this example, you can see a comparison between the percentage of men and women living in poverty in 10 different age groups in the USA in 2008.
Besides giving a general summary of what the data shows about men and women in poverty at this time and in this place (more females were in poverty than men at all ages with lower rates for men and women in the mid ages), you should note any outstanding highs (highest rates were under 5 for both males and females – 20 and 21% respectively) and lows for each (lowest poverty rate for men were those 75-up at just over 5%, and for women it was between the ages of 45-54 at about 9%).
Look also at similarities (the higher rates of poverty for both men and women were under the age of 24) and/or differences (females had higher rates of poverty throughout and especially those over 75) and data that stands out as exceptional (higher rates of women ages 18-24 and 75-up).
For advice on how to properly organize these reports, see the general tips for Academic task 1 questions below.
Comparing data over a fixed period of time
As with the previous example, when you write your report, it is important to indicate exactly what is being illustrated by this visual. Here you see a comparison of the energy consumption, measured in quadrillion units, by the use of six different types of fuel in the U.S from 1980 until 2014 with projections to 2030.
Obviously it is important to note which fuel or fuels are consumed the most and the least and how this will change as time goes by.
For this example, it’s clear that Petrol and Oil will remain on top, and coal will climb to second from third taking over Natural Gas. In 1980, Nuclear, Solar/Wind and Hydropower were equally underused and show much less consumption than the others. In the future, although it is predicted that Nuclear will be consumed more than Solar/Wind and both will outdo Hydropower (the only fuel predicted to drop), all three will continue to be consumed far less than the top three fuels.
Besides an overall summary, you will report on the main changes over time for each of the key features (Coal, Natural Gas, Nuclear, Solar/Wind and Hydropower) using the given data.
If you are given a diagram or diagrams, note what is being produced or demonstrated in the picture (in this example we are shown how cement is made and used in the production of concrete). The prompt will provide you with a general idea so use it in combination with what you see to write a description in your own words.
Look to break down the process into specific stages noting how many there are. For cement production, one could say there is crushing, mixing, heating, grinding and bagging (5 steps), and for concrete there is combining and mixing (2 steps).
Once you have summarized the main steps in production you need to outline the process from start to finish including specific details, for example the percentages of cement (15%), water (10%), sand (25%) and gravel (50%), used to make concrete.
Consider the main materials as key features because without them, the process is not complete so limestone and clay must be mentioned in the production of cement, and cement, water, sand and gravel are key in the making of concrete. In addition, each step in the process is also important so be careful not to leave any essential parts of the process out.
Maps usually come in pairs and illustrate changes and developments in a place over time. Once again, it is important to begin your report by noting exactly what the maps show. You can use the prompt and what you see to write a description in your own words. For example, the maps in this task illustrate the changes to an uninhabited island after it was developed to accommodate tourists.
A good way to approach this task is to describe the main features of the first map and then use that description to reference the main changes that occurred in the second.
Notice that there is a tool to help you describe the size of the island. Given this tool, it would be expected that you estimate the size of the island in metres in your report. Details like the amount and placement of the accommodations, the positioning of the restaurant, reception, location of new footpaths and vehicle tracks, pier and swimming area would be important to note.
Remember to also include an overview as described in the tips below.
2.1.6 Writing format
An efficient and fast way to organize the report is into three main parts - an opening statement, overview and detail paragraphs:
The opening statement is your first paragraph where you state exactly what is being illustrated or compared in the graph, chart, table, diagram or map. You can use the prompt in combination with the graphic but write this in your own words.
The overview outlines the important and relevant information and trends that are evident in the graphic. Think of the big picture here. This is a general summary of what can be taken away from what you see. Details will follow.
In the detail paragraphs you logically divide the information so that the trends you identified in the overview can be clearly seen. You must include specifics here (dates, numbers, percentages, measurements, etc.). Try to use logic when you organize these paragraphs. Using the sample graphics above you could divide the details for each example into two paragraphs as follows: the island before changes and then after, the production of cement and then concrete, the trends for men in poverty and then women, the highest energy consumption fuels and then the lower ones.
You will improve your score if you:
1. Write an overview.
2. Use data/measurable/specific details when clarifying the important trends.
3. Include all of the key features.
4. Write only about what you see and DO NOT add any additional information that you may have about the subject that is not apparent in the graphic. So, for example, it would be a mistake to explain why you believe more women are in poverty when writing about the graph given above.
5. Use the correct format (NOT using point form, bullets or an essay style). It is expected that you will organize the summary in a way similar to the format given above.