IELTS International English Language Testing System

Three Easy Steps to Writing Academic Task 1 Reports

December 7, 2016 by Angela Rutherford Angela Rutherford

Step Two - The Detail Paragraphs
Easy Steps to Writing IELTS Tasks

Welcome to part two of a three-part post about how to write IELTS task one reports. In Step One, we wrote overviews because it’s much easier to choose the details after you have outlined the important features or trends. We can now easily select the data or details that will demonstrate those observations. Remember that without these details, you can't score above 5 in your task achievement.

I’m going to show you how easy this is using the visuals and overviews from the previous blog.

Example One



Here is the overview that we wrote:

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).

Notice how the overview deals with the information in the pie chart in one sentence and the table in the other. So, let’s organize the detail paragraphs in the same way.

Choosing details from the pie chart is simple because there are only four statistics to report:

Hydro predominates by generating 58% of the power in Canada. This is followed by fossil fuels which contribute 23%. The bottom two, nuclear energy and renewables, account for less than a fifth of the energy generated in the country at 14% and 5% respectively.

The table, by contrast, has several statistics, so how do you choose? Think of most, least and standouts. You have to mention each province but not all of the details about them: 

When comparing the three provinces, Quebec and Ontario produce the most energy with Quebec on top at 172000 GWh. Most of this power comes from hydro (167500 GWh) with very little from fossil fuels (500 GWh). Ontario generates a little less in total at 160000 GWh but the majority is from nuclear power (85000 GWh) with the least (2000 GWh) from renewables.

Producing far less than the other two provinces, Alberta, at 59000 GWh, relies on fewer sources for its power. Its electricity is mainly from fossil fuels (55000 GWh) and it doesn’t have any nuclear power making up the remaining energy from hydro and renewables at 2000 GWh each.

Example Two



Throughout this period, more and more 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.

There are only two subjects being compared and both increased so it’s easy to organize the details by writing one paragraph for each. If there were more, you could organize by similar trends – those that went up, those that did not change, those that went down, etc.

This study covers a twenty-year period so it would be a mistake to report year by year. Again, look for trends – increases or decreases and the degree to which these happen:

In 1990, 110 grams of French Fries were eaten each week by each person in the study, which was 30 grams more than Poutine at the time. The amount of Fries consumed increased gradually over the next ten years reaching 140 grams in 2000. From this point forward, the amount rose more rapidly to 300 grams in 2010, but this increase was less than that of Poutine. 

Although Poutine was eaten less in 1990 (80 grams/person/week), it experienced a growth in consumption that surpassed French Fries in about 1998 and by 2000, Poutine was 10 grams above at 150 grams per person. Similar to French Fries, Poutine experienced its greatest growth over the next ten years more than doubling to 350 grams by 2010.


Example Three


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.


This is a really fun one! We have already identified the three stages, now we can just talk about what happens in each - tell what it produces, mention materials that are used and/or discuss how the stages relate to each other. Usually, two paragraphs are enough to outline the process details:

First of all, sap is collected and kept in a large vat. When it is time to make syrup, the liquid flows through a pipe from the tank into a rectangular flue pan which distributes the substance into five equally divided rows. Underneath the pan and below each of these five sections, there are flues.

Following a systematic heating procedure using flames to heat the flues and boil the sap, the liquid turns into the sugary topping we enjoy on our pancakes. The syrup then flows into a syrup pan and through a faucet into bottles. A label is added and the maple syrup is ready for the store.

Example Four

Redesign of Toronto Go Train Station in Stages



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.

The examiner expects you to clearly describe where things were in the beginning and the changes that occurred over time. So use the first paragraph to establish the basic picture and subsequent paragraphs can focus on what changes:

Before construction, the station had two levels. The upper was where trains arrived and departed and the lower was a pedestrian walkway passing under the train. A large supporting pillar centred below the tracks passed through the level below and was buried deep in the ground beneath it.

During construction, the bottom concourse was dug out and lowered to a new depth exposing the base of the buried support column. A temporary support system was built while a section of the main support post was removed. It was then replaced and reinforced to include a new floor level between the upper and lower decks. The lowest level provided space for shops and the one above it remained a walkway for pedestrians to pass under the tracks. The upper track level was visibly unchanged.

In the next post, we'll look at how to wrap up the reports with a great introduction.


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.