By Anna Hasper

08 February 2024 - 12:52

Test takers during the IELTS Writing section at a test centre

In this article you can get an overview of the most popular Writing Task 1 topics, question types and answers in the IELTS Academic test.

Lots of people who take IELTS Academic think that, of the two writing tasks in the test, Task 1 is the most challenging. Perhaps this is because it involves a visual image and often numbers, too. 

While it’s impossible to predict which topic you’ll be assigned, you can prepare for this task with some concrete steps that will help you develop a good strategy and get the score you need. So, let’s look at what you can expect in IELTS Writing Task 1, and provide you with a structure for completing this task successfully. 

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IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 topics and answers

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 is an information transfer task. The test paper shows you an image (a graph, table, chart or diagram) with certain information, and you will need to present this information in at least 150 words.

So, how can you get a good score in this task? Let’s take a step-by-step approach to Writing Task 1 preparation: 

1. Learn the requirements of Writing Task 1

Before taking the test, it is important to fully understand what the task expects you to do: 

“Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.”

Let’s break it down: 

  • Summarise. So, avoid writing about every detail. You are writing a summary report. 
  • Select the main features of the image. Choose three to five aspects of the image and write about these with some detail. 
  • Report, i.e. write about what is visible in the image. Do not give your opinion - stick to the facts! 
  • Make comparisons where relevant: look for similarities and differences in the image if appropriate. 

2. Read about common topics 

In this task, you might see images that present information about current topics such as education, the environment, technology use, health, tourism, infrastructure, economic developments - there are lots of potential topics.

So, it’s a good idea to keep up to date with current affairs and read quality newspapers in English to help expand your vocabulary around these topics. That way, you’ll be prepared for IELTS Writing Task 1 Academic topics. 

3. Research the language you’ll need in your answer

Common images you might see in the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 are:

  • Pie charts
  • Line graphs
  • Bar charts/ graphs
  • Tables
  • Processes
  • Maps
  • Plans
  • Or a combination of the above

 It's important to research the language you’ll need to talk about these types of images. Check if the images show information about the past, present or future.  

For pie charts, line graphs, bar charts or graphs, and tables, you’ll probably use language of comparisons and superlatives. For example: The amount of renewable energy accounted for quite similar proportions for both countries. However, in New Zealand most renewables consisted of wind energy.

For processes, it might be appropriate to use the passive, and the language of sequencing. For example: Once the coffee beans have been dried, they are roasted in industrial roasters. Finally, after they’ve been roasted, they are ground into a fine powder.  

For maps and plans, you’ll need to use language of location and directionality, for example:  A new school building, which will be double the size of the current one, will be built to the north of the student parking area.  

Learning the language you need will help to prepare you to write detailed answers about the IELTS Writing Task 1 Academic topics. 

How to answer IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 

Your examiner will be looking for three key elements in your report:

  1. An introduction
  2. An overview
  3. One or two body paragraphs with details about the image 

Let’s look more closely at what you should include in each section of your answer to IELTS Writing Task 1 Academic topics. 

1. The Introduction

The introduction answers one or more of the following three questions: 

  • What? 
  • Where? 
  • When? 

Keeping these questions in mind, write a brief introduction on the subject of the images. Now, there might not always be a where or a when, but there always is a what! 

2. The overview

Here it is useful to group the common images mentioned above into two main categories:

  • Images that are data-related, such as pie charts, line graphs, bar charts/ graphs and tables. In other words: images with numbers.
  • Images that show processes of change: such as processes, maps and plans.

You’ll need to adopt a different approach, depending which category your image belongs to. Let’s take a look: 

Data-related:  The overview presents the big picture; what are the most significant trends or developments? You do not need to present data, such as exact numbers or percentages here. It’s fine to keep it general. 

Processes of change:

  • Processes: highlight how many steps you can see in the image and try to categorise related steps into three or four main stages. Doing this shows that you can see the relationships between the different steps. 
  • Maps and plans: highlight the main changes or developments. Around three to five aspects should be enough.

If you are presented with more than one visual, for example two line graphs, your overview needs to highlight the main trends or changes for both, and make general comparisons.

You can write the overview at the end, as a separate paragraph or connect it to the introduction. Ideally, write the overview directly after the introduction to make sure it is included.

3. Paragraph(s) with details about the image 

Write one or two paragraphs in which you present the noticeable features in more detail. Here you need to use the data, e.g. the numbers,  to support your description and use comparisons where relevant. 

For data-related tasks write details such as the highest, the lowest, the biggest difference, similarities and significant exceptions. 

For processes of change provide details about the three to five stages (process) or main changes or developments (maps and plans) you mentioned in your overview. 

“Read” the visual(s) and use the changes in location, direction, size etc. as data. Don’t forget to compare and contrast where relevant!

How is Writing Task 1 marked? 

Writing task 1 in IELTS Academic is worth around 33% of your total writing score. To give you an appropriate score, the examiner will look at the following four areas according to the descriptors:

1. Task achievement

The examiner looks at your ability to answer the question properly. You need to write in prose, include an introduction and a general overview, as well as talk about the main features using the data from the task. 

2. Coherence 

The examiner assesses your ability to logically group and organise the information. You need to use a range of cohesive devices to make the connection between your sentences and paragraphs clear.

3. Lexical resource

The examiner assesses your ability to use a variety of vocabulary items with precision. You need to show you can use collocations and synonyms appropriately. Correct spelling is also important.

4. Grammatical Range and Accuracy

The examiner looks at your ability to use a variety of sentence structures and different grammar items accurately and appropriately. You need to use appropriate punctuation.

To read more about the updated IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 descriptors check here.

Preparation is key for success

When it comes to Writing Task 1 in IELTS, preparation is the key to success! Prepare yourself thoroughly for IELTS Writing Task 1 Academic topics, and you won’t be taken by surprise in the test. If you approach the task in a systematic way, you’ll get the best score you can. For more insights and IELTS test strategy, sign up for our free weekly IELTS preparation webinars

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