Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons Task 1

The overview is probably the most important paragraph in the whole essay. In fact, as we will see later in this post, it is very difficult to score 7 or above without a good one.

An overview is simply a summary of the main or most important points in a graph, chart, process or map. It is normally 2-3 sentences long and should be the second paragraph you write in your essay. As we will see below, it also influences what you write in the rest of your essay.

Learn how to write a good one and you are much more likely to get a high score.

What does the examiner want? 

An overview is one of the first things an examiner looks for because it shows them that you can identify the most important information from the graph or chart and clearly identify overall trends and comparisons.

If we look at the official marking scheme we can see that the word ‘overview’ is mentioned three times:

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons Task 1

This means that to get at least a 5 for task achievement we must give some kind of overview. If we do not give any overview we will always get below a 5. If we select the appropriate data to include in our overview we get a score of 6 and if it is ‘clear’ we get a 7 for this part of the exam.

If you know how to select the appropriate data and you practice writing a clear overview, then you are likely to get the score you deserve in this section.

What is an overview?

To understand this we must look at the question. The question for academic task one is always the same:

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

We, therefore, need to provide a short summary of the main features. You do this in the overview paragraph by picking out 3-4 of the most significant things you can see and writing them in general terms. By general, I mean you do not support anything you see with data from the graph or chart, just write about what you can see visually.

How do I select the correct features? 

To understand this we have to think about the different types of graphs and charts we might see. There are generally two different kinds of charts and graphs: dynamic and static.

Dynamic charts show data over time and static charts show data at just one point in time. This will affect the type of data we select.

When we are looking at dynamic graphs we should be looking out for:

  • What does the data do from the start to the finish?
  • Do they generally go up or down or do they fluctuate?
  • Any significant difference from the general trend?
  • Overall increase/decrease?
  • Peaks/lows?

When we look at static graphs we should be looking for:

  • What are the highest/lowest values?
  • What are the most noticeable differences?
  • Any similarities?
  • Any significant exceptions?

Is there any special grammar? 

You should try and make a complex sentence by making a subordinate clause. Complex sentences are sentences with more than one clause and they help increase our marks in the grammatical range part of the marking criteria.

You can easily make a subordinate clause structure in the overview by joining two pieces of information with the words ‘while’. ‘although’, ‘with’, ‘even though’, ‘whereas’ or ‘and’. However, make sure you know the meaning of these words and how they are correctly used in a sentence.

How does an overview fit into the rest of my essay? 

The overview should be the second paragraph of a four-paragraph structure:

Paragraph 1- Paraphrase Sentence

Paragraph 2- Overview

Paragraph 3- Details

Paragraph 4- Details

I tell my students to write the overview before the details because it makes it clear to the examiner that you have identified the main features and it also helps you write the details paragraph. In the details paragraphs, you will simply take the statements you made in the overview and support them with data.

Shouldn’t I write a conclusion? 

No. Conclusions are really a summary of what you think or opinions. This is not an opinion essay and you, therefore, do not need to write a conclusion. Save your conclusions for task 2.

Example

Below is one final example following the structure I used above. I have highlighted the overview in yellow.

Notice how I have picked out the most significant/noticeable/important features and talked about them very generally in the overview. I have not used any data in the overview. However, I have taken the features from the overview and supported them with data in paragraphs 3 and 4.

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons Task 1

Source: Cambridge English IELTS Past Papers.

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons Task 1

Next Steps

I hope you found this post useful! If you have any questions please let me know in the comments section below.

Alternatively, always feel free to email us here: .

You may also find my grammar guide for IELTS task 1 useful. It has lots of phrases to help you describe data.

For more help with IELTS Writing Task 1, check out my video lesson below:

This page covers all the basic information you need to know about IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.

It includes:

  • Assessment & marking criteria


Once you have a good understanding of Task 1, I’ll show you step-by-step how to produce high scoring essays for each of the 7 types of questions. You’ll find all these important lessons by following the links to the related pages. 

Key Information


1)  You are required to write 150 words or more.

If you write less than 150 words, you are unlikely to get more than a Band 5 for ’task achievement’ as you won’t have fulfilled the marking criteria.

2)  You have around 20 minutes to plan and write your essay.

3)  You should use a formal style of writing.

4)  Task 1 contributes half as many marks to your score as Task 2. So, Task 1 is worth 33% of the total mark in the Writing test.

Task Overview


You will be presented with one of the following graphics:


You are required to write a short report about the main features. For example, you may be asked to:

·        summarise data

·        describe the stages of a process

·        explain how something works

·        describe an object or event


The format of the question will always be the same. It will include:

·        A brief description of the graphic

·        The instructions

·        The graphic – chart, graph, table, etc.


Here’s a typical question. The highlighted words are always the same no matter what type of question you get.

The line graph below shows the consumption of 3 different types of fast food in Britain from 1970 to 1990.

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

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons Task 1

With the format of the question always the same, this means that you can use the same basic method and essay structure to write any essay for IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.

We’ll be looking at a model method and structure in the lesson on Planning an IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 Essay


Assessment & Marking Criteria 


As with all parts of the IELTS exam, Task 1 is marked according to four criteria.

These are:

  • Task Achievement – appropriate response to the task
  • Cohesion & Coherence  – the ability to present a well-structured essay
  • Lexical Resource (Vocabulary)  – the ability to use a range of appropriate vocabulary and to use it correctly
  • Grammatical Range & Accuracy  – the ability to use grammar correctly and to use a range of grammar forms

Each carries 25% of the marks.

I’ve created separate lessons on Vocabulary and Grammar for Task 1, so here, we’ll look in more detail at just the marking criteria for Task Achievement and Coherence and Cohesion. We’re going to focus on Bands 6 - 8 as these are the levels most students are aiming for.

You can see a full table of all the band level marking criteria for Writing Task 1 by clicking this link – Task 1 Marking Criteria

Here are the marking criteria for Task Achievement and Coherence and Cohesion. Don’t worry if the detail seems rather complex. Don't feel overwhelmed. If you follow my advice in all the lessons on how to write essays for IELTS Academic Writing Task 1, you’ll be able to meet these criteria and get a good score.


Marking Criteria  Task Achievement 

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons Task 1

Marking Criteria   Cohesion & Coherence 

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons Task 1

The 7 Types of Task 1 Questions


Now, we’re going to look briefly at the different type of questions for IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 and a sample question for each.

The biggest challenge for many students is that they are not used to working with charts, graphs and tables and don’t know how to interpret this type of data. Don’t worry about this for now as I’m going to show you how to do this in the step-by-step guides.

On this page, I just want to familiarise you with the question structure and the different types of graphics you might get.

First, a reminder of the 7 question types:


Click the links for step-by-step instructions on how to write each type of essay, including a model answer. 

1) Bar Chart

Bars charts or bar graphs are very common Task 1 questions. The data can be presented vertically, as in the example below, or horizontally.

Example:

The bar chart below shows numbers of seals, whales and dolphins recorded in the Gormez Straits from 2006 to 2018.

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

Write at least 150 words.

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons Task 1

2) Line Graph

Line graphs are also common in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1. They are easier to interpret than they may look.

Example:

The graph below shows the population for India and China since the year 2000 and predicts population growth until 2050.

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

Write at least 150 words.

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons Task 1

Source: Official website IELTS Essentials


3) Table

Tables also come up regularly in Task 1. Some students find these harder to interpret as they are just sets of numbers with no visual representation. However, they are never very complicated. Remember, the IELTS exam is designed to test your language skills, not your mathematics ability.

Example:

The tables below give information about the world population and distribution in 1950 and 2000, with an estimate of the situation in 2050.

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

Write at least 150 words.

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons Task 1

Click this link for step-by-step instructions on how to answer this question including a model answer:

Table Chart – Instructions & Model Answer

4) Pie Chart

Although pie charts are not as common as bar charts and line graphs, you need to know how to answer this type of question in case you do get one. They are just another way of visually presenting data.

Example:

The chart below shows the reasons why people travel to work by bicycle or by car.

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

Write at least 150 words.

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons Task 1

Source: Official website IELTS Essentials


Click this link for step-by-step instructions on how to answer this question including a model answer:

 Pie Chart – Instructions & Model Answer

5) Process Diagram

Another less frequent question type is the process diagram. It could be a natural process such as the water cycle, a manufacturing process or the diagram of a system such as the central heating system in a house.

Example:

The diagrams below show a structure that is used to generate electricity from wave power.

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

Write at least 150 words.

Generating Electricity From The Sea

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons Task 1

Source: Official website IELTS Essentials


Click this link for step-by-step instructions on how to answer this question including a model answer:

Process Diagram – Instructions & Model Answer


6) Map

Occasionally, the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 question will be about a map. It may ask you to compare two or three maps of a place over a period of time as in this question.

Example:

The diagrams below show the changes that have taken place at Queen Mary Hospital since its construction in 1960.

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

Write at least 150 words.

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons Task 1

Source: Official website IELTS Essentials

7) Multiple Graphs

Multiple graph questions have more than one type of diagram and are fairly common. They usually include two diagrams such as a bar chart and a line graph or a pie chart and a table as in this sample question.

Example:

The diagrams below give information on transport and car use in Edmonton.

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

Write at least 150 words.

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons Task 1

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons Task 1

Source: Official website IELTS Essentials

Now that you have a better understanding of IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 and are familiar with the 7 different question types, you’re ready to learn how the write a Task I essay.

Just follow the links below to the individual lessons.


Want to watch and listen to this lesson on IELTS Academic Writing Task 1?

Click on this video.


Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 – All Lessons

IELTS Academic Writing –  A summary of the test including important facts, test format & assessment.

Academic Writing Task 1 – The format, the 7 question types & sample questions, assessment & marking criteria. All the key information you need to know.

Understanding Task 1 Questions – How to quickly and easily analyse and understand IELTS Writing Task 2 questions.

How To Plan a Task 1 Essay – Discover 3 reasons why you must plan, the 4 simple steps of essay planning and learn a simple 4 part essay structure.

Vocabulary for Task 1 Essays – Learn key vocabulary for a high-scoring essay. Word lists & a downloadable PDF.

Grammar for Task 1 Essays  – Essential grammar for Task 1 Academic essays including, verb tenses, key sentence structures, articles & prepositions.

  1. Home
  2. IELTS Writing
  3. Academic Writing Task 1