IELTS International English Language Testing System

Three Easy Steps to Writing Academic Task 1 Reports

November 15, 2016 by Angela Rutherford Angela Rutherford

Step One - The Overview

Easy Steps to Writing IELTS Tasks 

Are you lost in the details when you try writing about graphs, charts, maps and process diagrams?

Do you go blank when composing letters for the IELTS general task?

Does the word “essay” make your knees shake and your mind shut down?

Well, relax! The “Three Easy Steps to Writing” series of blogs is here to help.

In this series, you will learn what examiners are expecting in your task responses, read about how to simplify the writing process and then be able to compose answers with confidence and ease.

Academic Task 1 Reports

The key to responding successfully to academic task 1 visuals is to show that you get the big picture, so make sure you understand the general trends before you start writing anything else.

The examiner looks for this understanding in an overview, in fact, if you don’t include one, it's almost impossible to score above 5 for your task achievement (25% of your mark). You can see band score descriptors here.

For this reason, pause and think carefully about what you see.

Note: When you write your overview paragraph, think of summarizing - don’t bother with the specific details or data because you will present that information in the detail paragraphs (Step Two).

Here are three more suggestions on how to create overviews for IELTS task 1 reports:

1) Understand what the examiner is looking for
2) Make notes before you write
3) Summarize the overall trends into a paragraph before you provide details

There are certain kinds of details you should be looking for in the different types of graphics, I'm going to give you four different examples, with advice on what to look for, sample notes and model overviews.

A. For graphs and charts that show comparisons of data at one moment in time, notice:

• exactly what is being compared

• highs and lows or most and least

• similarities and differences

• anything that stands out as exceptional



Overall, electricity in Canada comes mainly from Hydro and very little is produced from renewables. In addition, the top three energy producing provinces rely on sources differently with Quebec(1st) and Ontario (2nd) generating much more electricity than Alberta (3rd).

B. For visuals that compare data over time, notice:

• changes from the beginning to the end of period - look at first and last years

• increases and/or decreases

• fluctuations over time, highs and lows/most and least

• outstanding differences



Throughout this period, increasing amounts of Poutine and French Fries were eaten overall but Poutine, which was less popular in the beginning overtook French Fries and was enjoyed in greater quantities by 2010.

C. For visuals that illustrate a process, notice:

• number of stages

• what is produced

• materials that are used

• beginning and end of the process



The production of maple syrup starts with the collection of sap into holding tanks. This sap is then heated into a syrup using specialized equipment and finally bottled.

D. For visuals that map out changes over time, notice:

• main changes that occur over the period




 Overall, in the redesign of the Go train station, the pedestrian walkway under the tracks is removed during construction and replaced with two new levels: one for pedestrian traffic and one for shopping. In addition, the station’s supports are partially removed, rebuilt and reinforced. There is no visible change to the upper track level.


You’ve seen how to write the overview, now try elaborating on the observations using data and specifics from the graphics.

Write at least two detailed paragraphs for each task above, and then check Part Two: The Details, compare and learn.

Angela Rutherford

Angela is a professional IELTS tutor who has been teaching English for a fairly long time. Well, let’s just admit to half of her life-time! With a Bachelor of Arts in English, a Bachelor of Education, and a certificate to teach English as a Second Language, Angela has found herself in a variety of classrooms. To name a few, she’s taught in adult language schools in Ottawa, at an International high school in Hamilton and on a retreat with Spaniards in the Andalusian mountains. She currently lives and works near Toronto and is excited to share information that will help IELTS candidates prepare to do their best on the IELTS exam.