IELTS Academic Writing Task 1: What To Expect

ielts academic writing task 1The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, is the standardized test for fluency and proficiency in the English language, worldwide. The test is broken up into several parts, to test the taker’s skill in different facets of the English language: listening, reading, writing, and speaking.

In the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1, part of the test’s writing module, the test taker is asked to write short, but descriptive passages that describe data and information represented in the form of visual charts and graphs. It sounds tough, but as long as you know what to expect, you can avoid a lot of struggle. Once you have an understanding of what’s expected of you from the academic writing portions of the IELTS exam, check out this course for tips on how to ace it.

Below is a breakdown of the key things this part of the exam will test you on. For each question, you will be asked to write at least 150 words. Consult this course for help writing academic essays and analyses.

Comprehend Data Visualizations

For this part of the exam, first and foremost, you’ll need an understanding of data visualizations such as bar graphs, pie charts, and other diagrams. This guide has a good run-down on the various types of graphs. For something more in-depth, check out this course on data visualization.

For each chart in the Academic Writing Task 1 portion of the exam, you’ll need to be able to identify what the chart is, what kind of information it’s representing, how its various parts are interacting and what that means for the data represented, and what the general context and importance of the graph is.

For instance, you might be shown a table graph that shows modes of transportation between two years, with numbers indicating the popularity of both. The writing task will say something like:

The table below provides data regarding changes in different modes of transportation in a small U.S. town between 2010 and 2012.

Describe the data presented in the table and make comparisons where appropriate.

Learn how to make your own pie charts with this guide. The more familiar you are with these data sets, and how they’re made, the stronger your understanding will become.

Identify Trends and Relationships

One of the best ways to prove your understanding of a data set is to identify trends within it. For instance, if the example provided in the previous section showed that 500 people in the small U.S. town walked as their primary mode of transportation in 2010, with that number increasing to 700 in 2012, you can comment on the increase in popularity of walking.

Even better, if in 2010 the table showed that 1000 people drove as their primary method of transportation, but in 2012 only 700 did, you can talk about the popularity of walking in relation to the decrease in popularity of driving. If another mode of transportation such as biking showed a similar rise in popularity, you can draw a connection between this as well.

Here are some words you can use to discuss these trends and relationships:

  • increase
  • skyrocket
  • peak
  • decrease
  • decline
  • plunge
  • fluctuate
  • vary
  • level off
  • plateau
  • remain stable
  • remain unchanged
  • in comparison
  • compared to
  • in relation to
  • despite

See this course on advanced writing strategies for more tips on writing strong, analytic essays.

Compare and Contrast Data

For some questions, you might be asked to look at two separate graphs or charts, and identify the relationship between the two. It is extremely important that you understand how to compare and contrast data sets, and how to articulate both concepts. This requires an understanding of data visualizations that goes even deeper than just a surface-level comprehension of its meaning.

It’s one thing to know what a chart is saying, but it’s another to be able to identify what it’s implying, and what those implications might mean in a relationship with another, related data set, even if that relationship isn’t clear from the start.

Discussing these kinds of complicated connections can be difficult. You might benefit from this course on advanced English grammar, which will provide you with the complex linguistic means to articulate big ideas with ease and confidence.

Stick with Your Thesis

You will be expected to have a strong argument about each data set in your answers to these questions. Present your assertions with confidence, and avoid rambling about all the different parts and details of the chart if they don’t fit into the larger picture that you’re trying to get across.

Learn how to get across a strong, logical argument in this guide to clear argument writing, which you can use as a supplement to this course on fail-safe logical reasoning tactics.