IELTS exam involves four modules which are Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.
Important points for writing an effective overview
- The overview is an absolutely necessary part of the Task 1 report.
- The overview should not exceed three sentences.
- Numbers should not be mentioned in the overview. Save specific numbers for body paragraphs.
- If the graph or chart shows a time period (e.g. years), look for the overall change from the beginning to the end of the period (e.g. from the first year to the last year).
- Look for overall trends, and ignore individual figures that do not fit the trend. For example, if a graph shows a rising trend overall, a specific year should be ignored when the figure declined.
- If no time period is given, look for the highest or lowest items.
- Never look for individual ‘highest’ or ‘lowest’ figures such as a ‘peak’ on a line graph. Instead, describe the highest and lowest items overall (e.g. which line in the given question was the highest for the whole or most of the period?).
Start your overview with ‘Overall’, or ‘In general’ or phrases that can clearly show the examiner what the main purpose of this paragraph is (e.g. It is clear that… It is noticeable that…, Overall, it can be seen that…).
- If there are two different charts, write an overview sentence for each chart.
- If there are more than two charts, they are most likely connected to one another in some way, so look for two main features overall.
- If the task is to describe a diagram or map that compares two areas, you can mention the main differences and maybe the number of differences and/or similarities between the two diagrams.
- If the task is to describe a process diagram, you can mention the total number of stages in the process and say where or how the process begins.
Some questions about writing Task 1
- Can I write ‘A glance at the graph shows…’ in my overview paragraph? No, using this phrase is not recommended. It is not normal to use the word ‘glance’ when describing graphs or charts, and it seems strange to a native speaker. If you try too hard to use such words, your writing will probably seem forced, unnatural, or inappropriate to the examiner.
- Can I write ‘the rate of’ instead of ‘the figure for’? In many cases, no you cannot. The phrase the figure for can be used instead of the number of e.g. ‘the number of people who live in cities’ could be ‘the figure for people who live in cities’. But you should not write ‘the rate of people who live in cities’. You have to be careful with the word rate – look it up on Google to find common uses e.g. unemployment rate, birth rate, crime rate, rate of change. Here’s my tip: if you are not sure, do not use it.
- Can we use ‘the data of’ instead of ‘the number of’? No. you should only use data instead of the word information e.g. ‘the chart gives/shows information about…’ could be ‘the chart gives/shows data about…’.
- Is it a good idea to use statistical terms such as linear or exponential growth instead of more general phrases like gradual or significant increase? The answer is NO. It is not advisable that you write about linear or exponential growth in writing Task 1. You are not expected to have any technical knowledge of statistics in this task, and so this kind of statistics language seems a little forced and inappropriate to the examiner. Just use normal phrases. Do not try to write like a professional statistician, and do not use exaggerated language.
Do not write ‘came first’
It is seen that many candidates use words like ‘X (the figure) came first in Y (year).’ But you should not describe items on a graph or chart in terms of coming first, second or last. This makes it seem like you’re describing a competition!
For example, don’t write:
- Theme parks were first.
- Theme parks came first, and museums were in second place.
- In the last place were wildlife parks and zoos.
Instead, you should write:
- Theme parks were the most popular type of tourist attraction.
- Theme parks attracted the highest percentage of visitors, and museums were the second most visited attraction.
- Wildlife parks and zoos were the least popular of the four types of tourist attractions.
Your sentences in writing should sound natural, not forced.