__CONFIG_colors_palette__{"active_palette":0,"config":{"colors":{"eb2ec":{"name":"Main Accent","parent":-1}},"gradients":[]},"palettes":[{"name":"Default","value":{"colors":{"eb2ec":{"val":"var(--tcb-color-4)","hsl":{"h":206,"s":0.2727,"l":0.01,"a":1}}},"gradients":[]},"original":{"colors":{"eb2ec":{"val":"rgb(57, 163, 209)","hsl":{"h":198,"s":0.62,"l":0.52,"a":1}}},"gradients":[]}}]}__CONFIG_colors_palette__

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 Guide for 2021: Step-by-Step Instructions, Tips, and Sample Answers for the Academic Writing Task

Hi, I'm Jan. I'm a former IELTS examiner for IDP in Toronto and I help students crack the code on Band 7+ writing.

This IELTS Writing Task 1 Academic guide was developed by myself and other former IELTS examiners to eliminate the confusion that students face. It will teach you the SIMPLEST possible way to describe a graph, before-and-after map, and process diagram for the IELTS academic exam. We'll go over the marking criteria, best structure, powerful writing tips, and several model answers.

For the Writing Task 1 General guide, click here.

For the Writing Task 2 guide, click here.

Jan Waginski - IELTS instructor

Table Of Contents

Instructions and Requirements

What are the requirements for IELTS Writing Task 1 Academic?

  • You have 20 minutes to describe a graph, before-and-after map, or process diagram.
  • Your description must have a minimum of 150 words. 200 words is a typical word count for a high-scoring response.
  • Your description must satisfy the marking criteria for content (Task Achievement), arrangement (Coherence and Cohesion), vocabulary (Lexical Resource), and grammar (Grammatical Range and Accuracy). We will go over the most important criteria below.
  • Your description must be written in a formal style.

Marking Criteria & Scoring

Your IELTS diagram description will be marked according to four criteria: 

  1. Task Achievement: Including the required content at the required level of detail
  2. Coherence and Cohesion: Organizing your ideas in a reader-friendly structure
  3. Lexical Resource: Using vocabulary that's appropriate and precise
  4. Grammatical Range and Accuracy: Using a good variety of grammatical forms and sentence structures, and ensuring that 40%+ of your sentences are COMPLETELY error-free

It's important to understand these criteria so that you know what to focus on. You have to include a lot of information in the right order for a high score.

IELTS Writing Task 1 marking criteria_Band 6-9


Marking Criteria - Task Achievement

IELTS Letter - Task Achievement Criteria - Band 6 to Band 9

Task Achievement criteria tell us what CONTENT we MUST include:

1. “covers the requirements of the task”

  • This means that you must include everything required by the instructions. The instructions always state “Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.” 

People lose marks in two main ways. First, they often neglect to support their descriptions with data. You must first describe the main patterns, and then you must back up your descriptions using data from the graph.

Second, people often neglect to make relevant comparisons. Instead, they simply describe the graph. Just describing the graph without talking about patterns will get you a low mark. Making comparisons shows you can think; it shows you’re not a robot.  

We’ll talk about the different ways of making relevant comparisons below. 

2. “(Academic) presents a clear overview of main trends, differences or stages”

  • In the academic IELTS task 1 introduction, you have to write an overview. This is the equivalent of a thesis statement in an essay, but since this isn’t an essay and there is no argument, we don’t call it a thesis. We call it an overview and it summarizes the main trends in a graph, differences in a before-and-after map, and stages in an industrial process, natural process, or lifecycle. We’ll talk about the right way (and the wrong way) to do this below.

3. “clearly presents and highlights key features/bullet points but could be more fully extended”

  • For Band 7, you need to cover ALL the main trends, differences, and stages. If you neglect to include any, you’ll be limited to a Band 6 on Task Achievement. 
  • For a higher Band score, a higher level of detail is expected. 

4. “presents and adequately highlights key features/bullet points but details may be irrelevant, inappropriate or inaccurate”

  • Any inaccuracy or error in your description will limit your Task Achievement score to a Band 6. It is true that examiners speed read your work, and as a result they sometimes miss errors. However, if they notice even one error, they are REQUIRED to limit your Task Achievement score to a Band 6. You MUST be careful and double check your numbers.
  • DO NOT INCLUDE any background information about the topic from your own knowledge or experience. Do not provide any analysis of the data, or any possible reasons for what is visible in a diagram. This is considered “irrelevant/inappropriate” and your Task Achievement score will be limited to a Band 6.

Marking Criteria - Coherence and Cohesion

IELTS Letter - Coherence and Cohesion Criteria - Band 6 to Band 9

Coherence and Cohesion criteria tell us that our content must be clearly organized and use abundant cohesive devices (transitions) to clearly show the reader how ideas are related to each other.

1. “Skilfully manages paragraphing”:

  • This means that each paragraph has a SINGLE controlling idea. 
  • In general, Writing Task #1 Academic requires 2-4 paragraphs, with 3 on average. You need an introduction and 1-3 body paragraphs, depending on how the data is presented.

2. “Sequences information and ideas logically”:

  • Paragraphs proceed from general to specific. Do not put the overview paragraph at the end - that's stupid advice on a lot of IELTS websites.
  • The order of ideas in your overview sentence MUST match the order of ideas in the body paragraphs. If not, this confuses the reader. For example, if your overview states “sales of organic apples rose while sales of organic watermelons fell during the period of the study,” the reader expects your first body paragraph to be about organic apple sales and your second body paragraph to be about organic watermelon sales. However, making your first body paragraph about watermelons would confuse the reader. Be consistent.
  • Sentences within paragraphs flow from general to specific. Start your paragraphs with general descriptions, and then support those descriptions with data and details. Don’t start a body paragraph by jumping into data and details.

3. “Uses a range of cohesive devices appropriately”:

  • IELTS wants to see a variety of transitions. In general, MOST of your sentences (about ⅗) should begin with a transition (In general, First, Next, Finally, For example, As a result) that clearly indicates the purpose of the sentence as well as its connection to the previous sentence.

Marking Criteria - Lexical Resource

IELTS Letter - Lexical Resource Criteria - Band 6 to Band 9

Lexical Resource criteria tell us that we need to use a wide range of vocabulary, including low-frequency words and expressions.

1. “Uses a wide range of vocabulary fluently and flexibly to convey precise meanings”:

  • You cannot be repetitive with vocabulary. 
  • Use one word instead of five to express an idea.

2. “Skillfully uses uncommon lexical items”:

  • This DOES NOT MEAN that you need to use BIG words. “Uncommon” is a technical definition that refers to how frequently vocabulary is used. For example, “address a problem” is considered  upper-level vocabulary compared to “deal with a problem.” Why? It’s considered upper level simply because it's less common to say “address a problem” than it is to say “deal with a problem.”

The examiner does not have a list of vocabulary that they are looking for. They are looking for vocabulary that is appropriate and precise. It is a TERRIBLE STRATEGY to use big words where small words can be used. Your main goal as a writer is to clearly convey your ideas to the reader. IT SHOULD NOT BE YOUR GOAL to impress the reader/examiner with your vocabulary.

Your goal is to avoid any chance of misunderstanding, and complex language guarantees misunderstanding. You should pretend you are writing for an intelligent 12-year-old, which will prevent you from using long, wordy explanations. If you wouldn't use that kind of language with a 12-year-old, don't use it with an adult either - it will confuse them too.

3. Although it is not stated here, use formal language ONLY.

Marking Criteria - Grammatical Range and Accuracy

IELTS Letter - Grammatical Range and Accuracy Criteria - Band 6 to Band 9

Grammatical Range and Accuracy criteria tell us that we need to use a wide variety of grammatical structures and that a high percentage of our sentences need to be completely error-free if we want Band 7 or above.

1. “Produces frequent error-free sentences”:

  • Roughly half your sentences (40%+) need to be completely error-free for Band 7. This means they need to be free even from minor errors like punctuation and article issues. For this reason, your sentences should not be too long as this increases your chances of making mistakes. There is no need for sentences that are longer than three clauses. 

2. “Uses a wide range of structures”:

  • You need to use a variety of grammar and complex sentence structures. Examiners are on the lookout for the structures below, which are COMMONLY used:
  1. Passive voice
  2. Subordinate clauses
  3. Embedded subordinate clauses
  4. Unreal conditional
  5. Relative clauses
  6. Semicolon sentences
  7. Participial phrases
  8. Colon sentences
  9. Appositives

These are described in more detail below.

IELTS General Writing Task 1 Scoring - IELTS Rounds Down!

Most people don't know this but IELTS calculates your overall score and your writing score differently. 

Your overall IELTS score is rounded the same way that we are taught to round in math class. If you get Band 7 on reading, Band 7 on listening, Band 7 on speaking, and Band 6 on writing, you will end up with Band 7 overall. 

Overall Band Score: (7+7+7+6)/4 = 6.75 > Rounded UP to 7

However, your writing and speaking score are calculated differently. For writing and speaking, IELTS ROUNDS DOWN!  On writing, if you get Band 7 on Task Achievement, Band 7 on Coherence and Cohesion, Band 7 on Lexical Resource, and Band 6 on Grammatical Range and Accuracy, you will end up with Band 6.5 overall. 

Writing/Speaking Band Score: (7+7+7+6)/4 = 6.75 > Rounded DOWN to 6.5

How to Write an IELTS Writing Task 1 Academic Description

The best structure for the IELTS diagram description

IELTS Writing Task #1 Academic diagram descriptions are typically 3 paragraphs in length, but we often see 2 and 4 paragraph descriptions. 

The introduction includes the context and general overview.

  • For the context, just as with the essay, simply paraphrase the graph description provided by IELTS. You'll also find additional information in the Y and X axes, legend, headers, and source.
  • Next, the general overview describes the main patterns in the graph. Avoid specific data and details in the overview as the overview is general by definition. You will LOSE MARKS by adding details. Just describe the main patterns in very general terms. Save the details and data for the body paragraphs.
  • The general overview performs the same function in Writing Task #1 as the thesis does in Writing Task #2. It belongs as the last sentence in the introductory paragraph. This is the one spot where the reader expects to find it. It does not belong anywhere else.

There is a lot of stupid advice about where to put the general overview:

  •  Some teachers tell you to write it as its own separate paragraph after the context sentence. Don’t do this. The context sentence and the general overview belong together as the introductory paragraph.
  • Some teachers tell you it’s okay to put the general overview at the end. This is stupid too so don’t do it either. All nonfiction writing proceeds from general to specific and the general overview is the most general description of the data. It doesn’t make any sense to put this after you have provided detailed information. 

Body paragraphs have a single controlling idea.

  • Each body paragraph focuses on one of the main patterns in the graph, and the body paragraphs should be in the same order as the items in your overview.
  • On average, our model responses have two body paragraphs, although we also see effective responses with one or three body paragraphs, and sometimes even four very short ones.

There is NO CONCLUSION.

  • There is nothing in the success criteria that indicates you need a conclusion. Don't spend any time doing something that isn't worth any marks.

The best process for writing the IELTS diagram description

Use the ABCDE writing process for all writing tasks:

  • ANALYZE the prompt: Be 100% clear about what you MUST write about. Look at the graph and ask yourself what the big patterns are. These big patterns will be the main ideas in the body paragraphs.
  • BRAINSTORM in bullets. What are the supporting details and data for the main patterns? Write these down in POINT FORM! You'll transform your point-form bullets into full sentences later.
  • CHECK to make sure that you haven't missed any items. You CANNOT ignore any of the data. Note that this does not mean that you have to write down every value. If you see a steady pattern like constant growth, it's enough to describe the first and final values.
  • DEVELOP your point form ideas into full sentences and paragraphs.
  • EDIT. Read your work out loud and trust your ears to notice anything that sounds awkward.

How to find patterns to write about

These are the major patterns you'll encounter. We'll see examples of these for each specific diagram type further below.

  1. Describe the overall pattern of growth or decline for the entire group.
  2. Describe the largest individual item. People are most interested in what's the biggest, fastest, or most expensive.
  3. Continue with the next biggest item, and go down the list until you reach the smallest item.
  4. Compare absolute growth vs. percentage growth. Comparisons between absolute values don't tell us much about performance. Consider this example: X goes up in price over 1 year from $10 to $11; Y goes up in price over 1 year from $20 to $21. They've both gone up in price by $1. That's not helpful. However, notice that for X, $1 represents a 10% increase ($1/$10 = $10/$100 = 10%), while for Y, $1 represents a 5% increase ($1/$20 = $5/$100 = 5%). Thus, in comparison to Y, X grew twice as quickly in price over 1 year.
  5. Compare parts with the whole, e.g. sales of digital books over time as a percentage of total book sales, percentage of the household budget spent on food over time
  6. Inflection points - peaks and troughs: when an item changes over time, mention the highs and lows
  7. Inflection points - pattern reversals: an item that had been increasing changes course and starts to decline, or vice versa
  8. Inflection points - dramatic pattern changes: e.g. an item that had been increasing slowly suddenly starts increasing quickly
  9. Outliers - irregular change: an item might fluctuate instead of rising or falling steadily
  10. Rank changes: e.g., an item goes from 3rd place to 1st place

Q. How do I increase my Task Achievement score? 

The more detail you include in your description and the more thorough it is, the higher your Task Achievement score will be. This would be easy if you had a lot of time. However, you only have 20 minutes so your ability to do this depends on your ability to spot patterns quickly and write about them precisely (and very quickly). The best way to prepare is to read a lot of high quality examples. This course includes over 40 sample responses for Academic Writing Task #1 (and over 60 Writing Task #2 models) written by native speaker current and past IELTS examiners.

What kind of grammar and complex sentences should I use?

To get Band 7, you need to use a good variety of complex sentences. Use of passive voice should also be evident. Typical common complex sentence forms include subordinate clauses and relative clauses. Subordinate clauses in the middle of sentences rather than at just the beginning or end are evidence of strong writing skills. The example below also includes appositives and compound sentences.

Further below, you'll find a list (with examples from the sample responses) of 9 grammar and complex sentence structures you should know for Band 7 or higher writing. You will find these structures useful for describing different features of the 10 different diagram types.

10 Types of Diagram Descriptions with Sample Responses

The diagrams used for Writing Task #1 Academic fall into 10 specific categories:

  1. Line graphs
  2. Bar and stacked bar graphs
  3. Pie charts
  4. Tables
  5. Mixed graphs
  6. Industrial process diagrams
  7. Natural process diagrams
  8. Energy production diagrams
  9. Lifecycle diagrams
  10. Before-and-after maps

1. Line Graphs

Patterns in line graphs: up vs. down

We have to identify the most salient features of the graph:

IELTS Writing Task 1 - Music Sales
1. OVERALL TRENDS: Hold the graph far from your face, squint your eyes, and just LOOK: what patterns does the graph designer want you to notice? What are the BIG differences?

Talk about the big, obvious trends in the graph:

  1. Overall, total music sales went up. A quick calculation tells us that in 2011, sales were about $7 billion; in 2018, sales were about $9.5 billion.
  2. Streaming rose dramatically.
  3. Downloads and CDs dropped in sales.
  4. Vinyl sales rose.
2. GROUPS and ORGANIZATION: Can we group the information in any way? Are any items similar in the way they change?

Two media went up; two media went down. This is our grouping.

  1. Streaming went up the most. Vinyl sales also rose. Since readers are mostly interested in what's the biggest/fastest/most expensive, it makes sense to start by describing streaming. Then talk about vinyl.
  2. Cover downloads and CDs in one paragraph - they follow the same general downward trend.
3. MAKING COMPARISONS: According to the instructions, we have to "make comparisons where relevant."

You need to describe the size of the increase AND the percentage change for a meaningful comparison.

  1. Streaming went from about $0.8 billion in sales to $7.3 billion. If you round, you can say that streaming sales went up just over 9 times (0.8 x 9= 7.2). You can also note that, by the end of the study period, streaming accounted for 3.5 times as many sales as all other media combined.
  2. Vinyl, although it seems insignificant, showed large relative growth. From $0.1 billion in sales to $0.5 billion is an increase of 5 times (or 400%). You'll often find these huge growth rates with values that start low.
  3. Downloads dropped from $3 billion to $1 billion, and CDs dropped from just under $2.8 billion to $0.8 billion. If you round, you can say that both ended up with about 1/3 of their initial sales.
4. OTHER THINGS WORTH NOTING: If you see any patterns changes, mention them.

Two noteworthy patterns can be found in this graph. Different graph types will show other pattern types (in the course, we use a checklist when searching for patterns).

  1. Inflection points are places where patterns dramatically change. We see an inflection point with streaming in 2015, when its growth rate shot up.
  2. Rank changes are worth noting. Streaming went from 3rd to 1st place.

Which verb tense should I use?

Use present simple to describe the features of the graph in the introduction. Then, in the case of this graph, describe the data in past simple and past perfect.

Sample response - line graph

The line graph shows music sales in the US from 2011-2018 across 4 different formats (downloads, streaming, CDs, and vinyl), according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Overall, it can clearly be seen that although music sales increased over the 7-year period, streaming came to account for most of the revenue while downloads and CDs dropped sharply in sales.   

Over seven years, total music sales rose from about $7 billion to about $9.5 billion. The largest increase was in music streaming, which had started off in 3rd place. In 2011, streaming brought in 0.8 billion dollars and this climbed gradually until 2015 when it made approximately 2.3 billion dollars. By 2018 though, sales had shot up to 7.3 billion dollars, which was about 3.5 times more than the other three music formats put together. Notably, vinyl also showed a slight upward trend. It had started at 0.1 billion in sales in 2011 but reached just under half a billion dollars by 2018, an increase of approximately 400%. 

Downloads and CD music sales followed a similar downward pattern. In 2011, downloads accounted for 3 billion dollars’ worth of sales with CDs just below at around $2.8 billion. From here, both experienced a gradual decline until 2018 when downloads brought in 1 billion dollars and CDs $0.8 billion, roughly 1/3 of their initial sales.


2. Bar and Stacked Bar Graphs

Patterns in stacked bar graphs: relative change

We have to identify the most salient features of the graph:

The chart below shows the percentage of total US population aged 65 and over between 1900 and 2000.

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant. Write at least 150 words.

IELTS Stacked Bar Graph
1. OVERALL TRENDS: Hold the graph far from your face, squint your eyes, and just LOOK: what patterns does the graph designer want you to notice? What are the BIG differences?

Talk about the big, obvious trends in the graph:

  1. Overall, the total percentage of elderly increased steadily (except in the last period). This demographic segment tripled in size (4.1 to 12.4%)
  2. The percentage of 65-74-year-olds increased steadily, more than doubling in size (2.9 to 6.5%).
  3. The percentage of 85+-year-olds increased the most (7.5x)
  4. The percentage of 75-84-year-olds also increased quickly (4.4x).
2. GROUPS and ORGANIZATION: Can we group the information in any way? Are any items similar in the way they change?
  1. Start with the overall increase, and then talk about 65-74-year-olds in the first body paragraph.
  2. Talk about 75-84-year-olds.
  3. Talk about the oldest age group.
3. MAKING COMPARISONS: According to the instructions, we have to "make comparisons where relevant."

You need to describe the size of the increase AND the percentage change for a meaningful comparison.
65-74 

  • % of US population: 2.9 > 6.5 (3.6 percentage point increase) 
  • % change over period: it more than doubled (over 100% increase) 

75-84 

  • % of US population over period: 1 > 4.4 (3.4 percentage point increase) 
  • % change over period: over 300% increase 

85+ 

  • % of US population over period: 0.2 > 1.5 (1.3 percentage point increase) 
  • % change over period: 650% (7.5x)
4. OTHER THINGS WORTH NOTING: One noteworthy pattern can be found in this graph. Different graph types will show other pattern types (in the course, we use a checklist when searching for patterns).
  • One vs many: The percentage of seniors was always more than the combination of the other two groups.
  • Note: This pattern is not mentioned in the model response below. It's not needed given the other comparisons.


Which verb tense should I use?

Use present simple to describe the features of the graph in the introduction. Then, in the case of this graph, describe the data in past simple.

Sample response - stacked bar graph

This graph illustrates the proportion of Americans 65 and over divided into three age groups (65-74, 75-84, and 85+) during a 100-year period starting from 1900, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Generally speaking, it can clearly be seen that each age group increased as a percentage of the total U. S. population, with the most significant growth seen in the oldest group. 

In terms of the total population, the proportion of seniors grew steadily over most of the studied period. Indeed, their proportion more than tripled from 4.1% in 1900 to 12.6% in 1990, before slightly dropping to 12.4% by 2000. Among seniors, the youngest group (65-74) comprised the largest proportion, more than doubling from 2.9 to 7.3% by 1990, before dipping to 6.5% of the population in 2000. 

A similar trend was seen with the second age group (75-84). Starting at only 1% of the U.S. population in 1900, this group gradually quadrupled in proportion to 4.4 percent by 2000. 
 
Finally, while the oldest age group made up the smallest proportion of the population, it showed the largest percentage increase. In the first three decades, this group remained at 0.2% of the population; then, it grew 50% to 0.3 percent and maintained the same proportion over the next three decades. From 1960, the percentage of 85+year-olds rose quickly, peaking at 1.5% of the population in 2000, which represented an increase of 650% since the beginning of the study. 


3. Pie Charts

Included with full course access.

4. Tables

Patterns in tables: absolute vs relative increase 

We have to identify the most salient features of the table. 

The table gives information on the sales of Fairtrade*-labelled coffee and bananas in 1999 and 2004 in five countries.

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant. Write at least 150 words.

*A Fairtrade label indicates that farmers were paid a living wage for their produce, rather than the market rate.

IELTS table

Source: IELTS

1. OVERALL TRENDS: What patterns does the table designer want you to notice? What are the BIG differences?

Talk about the big, obvious trends in the graph:

  1. Overall, coffee sales went up across the board.
  2. Coffee sales in the UK went up the most by far.
  3. Banana sales went up in 3 places and down in 2 places.
  4. UK banana sales rose the most in absolute terms, but there was much greater growth in sales in Switzerland and Denmark.

Important comparison to make: absolute increase vs relative increase

One very effective comparison is between absolute growth and percentage growth. They are often opposite to one another: one item shows the greatest amount of change if you compare absolute values. However, if you look at items that start with the smallest initial values, any kind of growth is going to be very large in terms of percentage.  

In this case, we find the absolute-vs-relative pattern with bananas: banana sales slightly more than tripled in the UK (15 - 47 million euros), an increase of 32 million euros. That's the biggest increase we see in banana sales. However, if we look at Denmark, sales went from 0.6 to 4 million euros, an increase of about 6.5 times. In Switzerland, sales went from 1 to 5.5 million euros, an increase of 5.5 times.

We often see this pattern in graphs because when you start with a small initial value like 1 in Switzerland, even a small increase to 5.5 million euros results in a huge percentage jump:

  • UK: 15 > 47 million euros = an increase of 32 million euros / an increase of just over 3x (15 x 3 = 45)
  • Switzerland: 1 > 5.5 million euros = an increase of 4.5 million euros / an increase of 5.5x (1 x 5.5 = 5.5)

You could write it like this: 

  • While the UK saw the highest total sales in both years of the study, sales grew by only 200%* in comparison to Denmark, where sales jumped by over 550%*, the largest proportional sales increase during the period of the study.

*Note that a change from 100 to 300 can be called a 200% increase, or you say it increased by three times. An increase of 100% means that something doubled, so 100-200 = a 100% increase, 100-300 = a 200% increase, etc.

2. GROUPS and ORGANIZATION: Can we group the information in any way? Are any items similar in the way they change?

Coffee

  1. Sales in the UK skyrocketed.
  2. Sales in Switzerland and Belgium doubled/nearly doubled.
  3. Sales in Denmark and Sweden went up only a little compared to the others.

Bananas

  1. Again, sales in the UK increased the most in absolute terms.
  2. Sales in Switzerland and Denmark, although they increased less than in the UK, increased far more in proportion (5.5x and over 6x vs 3x)
3. MAKING COMPARISONS: According to the instructions, we have to "make comparisons where relevant."

You need to describe the size of the increase AND the percentage change for a meaningful comparison.

  • Sales of bananas in Switzerland and Denmark, although they increased less than in the UK, increased far more in proportion (5.5x and over 6x vs 3x).

Which verb tense should I use?

Use present simple to describe the features of the graph in the introduction. Then, in the case of this graph, describe the data in past simple.

Sample response - table

The tables provide data about purchases of Fairtrade coffee and bananas in two different years in five nations. Generally speaking, Fairtrade coffee sales increased across the board while banana sales rose only in the UK, Switzerland, and Denmark. 

Fairtrade coffee sales rose in all five countries. The UK’s skyrocketed more than 1200% between 1999 to 2004, from €1.5 million-€20 million, while Switzerland’s doubled from €3 million-€6 million over the same period. Coffee sales in Belgium increased 70% (from 1 to 1.7 million euros), but Denmark’s and Sweden’s increased much less, from 1.8 to 2 and from 0.8 to 1 million euros, approximately 10% and 25%, respectively. 

With regard to Fairtrade banana purchases, these rose in three countries and fell in two. As with coffee sales, banana sales in the UK also ranked first in total sales volume in both years, increasing from €15 million in 1999 to €47 million in 2004. That being said, Denmark experienced the highest proportional sales increase of about 550%, jumping from €0.6 million-€4 million. Switzerland’s sales also rose quickly, by 450% from €1 million to €5.5 million over the period of the study.  In contrast, Belgium’s and Sweden’s sales fell by roughly 50% between 1999 and 2004, from 1.8 to 1 and from 2 to 0.9 million euros, respectively.


5. Mixed Graphs

Included with full course access.

6. Industrial Process Diagrams

Included with full course access.

7. Natural Process Diagrams

Included with full course access.

8. Energy Production Diagrams

Included with full course access.

9. Lifecycle Diagrams

Included with full course access.

10. Before-and-After Maps

Included with full course access.

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 Tips

How to edit your own writing

Read aloud

Research shows that grammar is largely auditory. Your ears play a very important role! It’s just like listening to an instrument that you don’t know how to play: if the musician hits the wrong note, it just SOUNDS awkward even though you may not know why. In the same way, when you read your work out loud, if ANYTHING sounds awkward, change it to a simpler construction that SOUNDS good. Trust your ears!

If any grammatical construction sounds awkward, use a simpler verb tense.

If any vocabulary sounds awkward, describe your idea using simple words.

When editing, look for different issues separately

The brain is not good at finding problems unless you give it specific instructions. This is why doctors, even though they are super smart, have checklists to make sure they didn't forget any tools inside the patient after surgery. There are just too many things to think about so sometimes we need a small checklist to remind us what to look for. 

For that reason, for example, if you often have punctuation issues, you need to go through your writing specifically looking for punctuation problems. As mentioned previously, read your work out loud and where you find yourself pausing (to take a breath between ideas), you need punctuation.

Once you’ve gone through your writing looking for that first problem, go through your writing again looking for the next problem. Then read it out loud for a third time looking for a 3rd issue your writing typically has. 

This process is slow initially, but once you start looking for these specific problems on a regular basis, you’re training your brain to automatically look for those problems. Your brain will get faster and more accurate at identifying those problems, and pretty soon you're not going to have them. Then you can move on to the next problem. 

Take it step-by-step and look for a couple things at a time rather than looking for 10 different problems at once, which is overwhelming and doesn’t work.

Top 8 Grammar Structures for IELTS Diagram Descriptions

A Band 7 on Grammatical Range and Accuracy requires "a variety of complex sentences." A Band 8 on Grammatical Range and Accuracy requires "a wide range of structures."

There are 9 grammar structures you MUST know to get a Band 7+ on IELTS Writing Task 1 General. Examiners are on the lookout for these. These structures are COMMONLY used in English and are often appropriate for describing graphs and charts, and making comparisons. Band 7 means your English is at an advanced level. At this level, these structures are necessary to express yourself precisely and fluently:

  1. Passive voice
  2. Subordinate clauses
  3. Relative clauses
  4. Semi-colon sentences
  5. Colon sentences
  6. Participial phrases - active voice
  7. Participial phrases - passive voice
  8. Appositives
IELTS Letter - Grammatical Range and Accuracy Criteria - Band 6 to Band 9

IELTS Writing Grammar Tip - Best Sentence Length for Band 7 Level Grammar

Many students write very long sentences because they believe this will impress the examiner. This certainly will impress the examiner, but ONLY if your long sentences are grammatically flawless. However, the Band 7 criteria very clearly state “produces frequent error-free sentences.” Even a SINGLE MISTAKE in a long sentence means that the entire sentence is no longer error-free.

For example, one student recently wrote Task #1 Academic in four sentences (his sentences had 45 words on average)! He was very lucky as 2 sentences were flawless; therefore, half his sentences were error-free so he received a Band 7 rating on grammar.

However, even among professional writers, this is not a normal way to write. While two of these monster sentences were technically flawless, they had so many clauses in them that I had to reread his work several times to make sure I understood it correctly. In other words, these long sentences were not at all reader friendly. Don’t take chances like this! I strongly recommend limiting sentences to three clauses. You don’t need anything longer for Band 7 performance.

In short, your #1 goal as a writer is to be clear, and long sentences do not help with clarity. In general, you can limit sentence length to 3 clauses.

As another example, Dr. Bruno had taken IELTS repeatedly and failed to get at least Band 7 on writing, which he needed to work as a doctor in Canada. After training with Toronto IELTS Prep, Dr. Bruno simplified his approach to writing and finally got the Band 7 he needed:

I appreciate all your corrections and tips. It made a huge difference to notice that [not enough] “error-free” sentences were pushing my score down. I tried to control those errors during my last test, and it seems everything went well!”

“I just wrote the texts in a simple way instead of using complex structures to give a good impression. I also paid more attention to subject/verb and tenses, avoiding those basic single/plural errors. I didn’t have time to read and correct my texts at the end (like always), but I believe that I controlled my errors during the writing process.

Dr. Bruno E.

1. Passive Voice

Passive voice is useful when the subject is too obvious: 

Baby English: People purchased more hot chocolate during the winter months.

  • This is baby English. Only people, not cats or dogs, buy hot chocolate!

Better: More hot chocolate was purchased during the winter months.

  • In this case, passive voice is better. The focus of the sentence is now on when the hot chocolate was purchased. We don’t need to be reminded that people bought the hot chocolate. 

2. Subordinate Clauses

Using a subordinate clause is the most common way to make a complex sentence. 

If the subordinate clause comes BEFORE the independent clause, ALWAYS place a comma AFTER the subordinate clause. 

If the subordinate clause comes AFTER a short independent clause, do not use a comma. If the subordinate clause comes after a long independent clause, it’s your choice whether or not to use a comma between them. Use your ears to make this decision: read the sentence out loud and if you find that you need to pause between the two clauses, then you should probably use a comma.  

  • Subordinate clause 1stAlthough music sales increased over the 7-year period, streaming came to account for most of the revenue.
  • Subordinate clause 2nd: Streaming came to account for most of the revenue while downloads and CDs dropped sharply in sales.

IELTS Writing Grammar Tip - Use a Subordinate Clause in the Middle of a Sentence

It's easy to add a subordinate clause at the beginning or end of a sentence like in the examples above. It's less common to use a subordinate clause in the middle of a sentence. This is considered ADVANCED usage:

  • Overall, it can clearly be seen that although music sales increased over the 7-year period, streaming came to account for most of the revenue.

3. Relative Clauses

The second most common way to make a complex sentence is to use a relative clause.

Relative clauses are also called adjective clauses because they describe a noun/noun phrase (person, place, thing, or idea). They provide details just like adjectives do, but they come after the noun instead of before it. Relative clauses generally begin with who, that, or which.

  • The largest increase was in music streaming, which had started off in 3rd place.
  • By 2018 though, sales had shot up to 7.3 billion dollars, which was about 3.5 times more than the other three music formats put together.


Relative clauses follow 2 punctuation patterns. 

1. Use commas around the relative clause if it’s an extra detail: 

  • Jim, who lives in Montréal, is visiting next weekend. 
  • The X501, which we ordered last week, has finally arrived.

These are called "non-defining relative clauses" because the audience knows who you’re talking about ("Jim") or what you're talking about ("the X501") without the relative clause, so the information about where Jim lives or when the part was ordered is an extra detail. If we remove the relative clause from the sentence, we still know who/what you’re talking about:  

  • Jim is visiting next weekend. 
  • The X501 has finally arrived.

IELTS Writing Grammar Tip - Read Aloud to Hear the Commas

You can hear these commas! When you read your work out loud, you will find yourself pausing naturally on both sides of these kinds of relative clauses. Use your ears to help with grammar! 

2. Don’t use commas if we need the relative clause to understand what the noun refers to: 

  • My friend who lives in Montréal is visiting next weekend. 
  • The part that we ordered last week has finally arrived.

These are called "defining relative clauses" because you need the information in the relative clause to understand which noun the speaker is referring to. The audience doesn’t know who you're talking about ("my friend") or what you're talking about ("the part") without this information in the relative clause. It’s NOT just an extra detail like in the previous example about Jim.

  • My friend is visiting next weekend. Which friend?
  • The part has finally arrived. Which part?

IELTS Writing Grammar Tip - No Pause, No Comma

In these examples, when you read your work out loud, you will NOT pause on both sides of the relative clause. Use your ears to help with grammar! 

Which vs that 

In a defining relative clause, you can use either “which” or “that”:

  • The part which/that we ordered last week has finally arrived. 

 

In a non-defining relative clause, DO NOT use "that":

  • The X501, which/that we ordered last week, has finally arrived. 

4. Semi-Colon Sentences

Another way to join simple sentences is to use a semi-colon + conjunctive adverb combination. Just remember that both sides of the semi-colon MUST be independent clauses (i.e., stand-alone sentences). 

  • Some rainwater becomes surface runoff that returns to the sea via rivers or lakes; however, some infiltrates the land and becomes ground water below the surface.
  • In the first three decades, this group remained at 0.2% of the population; then, it grew 50% to 0.3 percent and maintained the same proportion over the next three decades.

5. Participial Phrases - Active Voice

Participial phrases are a common construction that you can think of as a compressed version of a subordinate, relative clause, or independent clause.

Subordinate clause > participial phrase:

  • Subordinate clause: While we were walking through the woods, we saw several deer.
  • Participial phrase: Walking through the woods, we saw several deer.

Relative clause > participial phrase:

  • Relative clause: We saw several deer that were walking through the woods.
  • Participial phrase: We saw several deer walking through the woods.

Independent clause > participial phrase:

  • Independent clause: As with coffee sales, banana sales in the UK also ranked first in total sales volume in both years. They increased from €15 million in 1999 to €47 million in 2004. 
  • Participial phrase: As with coffee sales, banana sales in the UK also ranked first in total sales volume in both years, increasing from €15 million in 1999 to €47 million in 2004.

6. Participial Phrases - Passive Voice

Participial phrases also come in passive voice:

  • Given the current situation, it's probably best to stay home.
  • Based on your personality, I'd say going to work makes more sense than going to school.

7. Colon Sentences

Use a colon for lists or instructions:

  • You should definitely bring these items on your trip: bug spray, bear spray, and a flare gun.
  • The recipe will turn out better if you do things the other way around: first mix the wet ingredients and then add the dry ingredients.
  • The process involves four stages: evaporation, cloud formation, precipitation, and water run-off.

8. Appositives

In many cases, it's not necessary to use a relative clause for important details, in particular when the detail is another name for that noun. Instead, use an appositive:

  • The largest budget item, salaries, increased by 25% between 1990 and 2000.
  • I'll be taking a new course, Fundamentals of Accounting, in the fall.

In these cases, the appositive is another name for the noun:

  • The largest budget item = salaries
  • a new course = Fundamentals of Accounting

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is IELTS Writing Task 1 General Easier than IELTS Writing Task 1 Academic?

Yes. Average scores for the General exam are higher than for the Academic exam. It is Writing Task #1 Academic that brings down people's scores. Writing Task #1 General is much easier.

In fact, Writing Task #1 Academic is harder for most people than the essay. This is because we all write essays in our native language, so at least the structure of an essay is familiar to most people. However, describing statistics requires a much higher level of precision in language than writing an argument. This is difficult even for native speakers.

Should I use a lot of high level vocabulary on IELTS?

Yes, but "high level vocabulary" doesn't mean what you think it means. "High level vocabulary" refers to less frequently used vocabulary - it is not related to how big a word is. 

  • Calling something "inexpensive" is considered basic vocabulary (Level B1 if you are familiar with CEFR)
  • Calling something "cheap" is considered advanced vocabulary (Level C1 on CEFR).

In general, trying to use big words is a terrible strategy on IELTS and in real life. Your #1 goal as a writer is clarity; your goal should NOT be to impress the reader with your vocabulary knowledge. Professional writers will always tell you to use the simplest, most direct words to communicate an idea.

IELTS assesses your vocabulary on whether it is accurate and precise. The examiner does not have a list of words they are looking for.

What should the level of formality be for Writing Task 1 Academic?

Formal

How do I get my IELTS writing checked online?

In my humble opinion, the best IELTS writing program is the Toronto IELTS Prep online writing program. It starts with a diagnostic assessment and 1 hour consultation & training session to make sure you understand why you're not getting Band 7+, and EXACTLY what you need to do to get Band 7+ on writing. 

For many people, this one-hour consultation is enough to help them get the Band score they need. This often happens because they simply misunderstand what IELTS wants to see. The consultation clarifies exactly what IELTS is looking for.

This is not a writing correction service! WRITING CORRECTION SERVICES DO NOT WORK for the same reason that a swimming coach simply showing you how she swims is not going to help you learn how to swim. If a swimming coach shows you how to improve your swimming technique, she is then supposed to check whether YOU know how to apply the new technique.

In the same way, when you practice writing with Toronto IELTS Prep, your work is checked twice: 

  • When you first submit your writing, you get a Band score and detailed, descriptive feedback. This is colour-coded by problem type so we can see where you are losing the most marks, and thus what you need to focus on. You also receive links to mini follow-up lessons in our grammar and sentence structure lesson bank.
  • You then revise your work based on the feedback and re-submit it.
  • Your writing is re-checked to see if you understand how to correct the areas you are having trouble with. At this stage, your work is corrected and additional explanations for changes are provided.


Jan Waginski, OCT

About Jan Waginski

Certifications & Qualifications

  • Certified Ontario teacher with Ontario College of Teachers (OCT)
  • Certified Ontario ESL teacher with Teachers of English as a Second Language (TESL Ontario)
  • Former IELTS examiner with IDP Canada
  • York University: B.A. Psychology and Politics
  • University of Toronto: B.Ed.
  • Former essay writing instructor at Seneca College
  • Former essay writing instructor at University of Ontario Institute of Technology (CultureWorks@UOIT)
  • Join the TIP Online IELTS Writing Course 

    The only program with 2-stage detailed feedback

    1. Write: Complete your writing after reviewing lessons and Band 9 models.

    2. Feedback #1: Receive a Band score, detailed feedback, and links to follow-up lessons.

    3. Revise: Revise your writing based on feedback. Without this step, neither you nor the teacher knows whether you understand how to fix your problems.

    4. Feedback #2 & Corrections: Receive a 2nd round of feedback and corrections.

    TIP Online IELTS Writing Course

    Why People Love the Specific Feedback They Get from Toronto IELTS Prep

    Dr. Ghazaleh P. from Iran now has the Band 7+ she needs to practice medicine in Canada. Congratulations, Dr. Ghazaleh!

    “You’re really different from my previous IELTS teacher. He was ok, but the advice was too general – it didn’t help me improve. You give very specific advice on what I should do to fix my writing. It’s really helpful! As well, the way that you explain the scoring process for each writing task is very helpful. Nobody before explained it as clearly as you explain it. “

    1. Sign up today for instant course access. Start reviewing the lessons and writing models.
    2. Choose one of the diagnostic prompts for Task #1 and Task #2, and submit your writing. You will get your Band score with detailed feedback within 24 hours.
    3. Your 1-1 consultation will take place 1-3 days after you have submitted your writing. Your consultation will go over your writing on Task #1 and Task #2 in depth, and you will understand EXACTLY what you need to do to get Band 7+.
    • Developed and taught by former IELTS examiners
    • 40 Task #1 and 60 Task# 2 model responses written by native-speaker IELTS examiners
    • Unique 2-stage writing feedback system: you receive detailed feedback on your work TWICE to make sure that YOU understand how to fix the errors
    • Grammar and complex sentences mini course with the top grammar and sentence constructions you MUST master for Band 7+
    • Unlimited QA
    • BONUS #1: 24 reading comprehension texts with practice questions
    • BONUS #2: Build your academic vocabulary for IELTS with over 1200 high frequency and advanced academic vocabulary items. All of this vocabulary should be on your need-to-know list!

    What People Are Saying About Toronto IELTS Prep

    After ONE training session, Lev K. from Ukraine now has the Band 8.5 he needs for PR (permanent residency). Congratulations, Lev!

    "Just got my results. They are what I was hoping for!"


    Q. What helped you the most from our one session together?


    A. "From our session, the most useful part was to hear you explain the format, and to compare it to all the different types of essays. It was also extremely useful to have you go over my essays scoring them according to the score guide. This gave some key points to focus on."

    After ONE training session, Mohit G. from India raised his writing score from 6.5 to 7.5, which he needs for immigration to Canada. Congratulations, Mohit!

    "I am writing to express my gratitude for your help in reaching my desired goal in writing.


    I scored 7.5 in writing this time, which is quite amazing compared to my previous score of 6.5. I followed the TREES pattern you suggested and wrote in the simplest manner I could. Also, I believe the one on one feedback session was very helpful in clearing all my queries. I would suggest to never abandon this approach.


    Thank you again for all your input."

    After 5 weeks of training, Roman Z. from Ukraine now has the Band 7+ he needs for permanent residency (PR). Congratulations, Roman!

    "I asked Jan for help with my IELTS exam preparation because high score was extremely important for my immigration process. Jan’s approach is very different from what I’ve seen before. Jan pays a lot of attention to details and accurately identifies the systematic mistakes. For each of them Jan has a  respective course with both theoretical part and practical assignments. With Jan’s course I boosted my Writing from 6.0 to 7.0 in 5 weeks! I strongly recommend you take Jan’s course to prepare for IELTS exam properly and to get the highest score!"

    Join the TIP IELTS writing class now for instant access to all materials

    Get your Band score with detailed feedback within 24 hours, followed by a 1-1 consultation (within 1-2 days) to go over your writing in depth. Understand EXACTLY what you need to do to get Band 7+.

    • Developed and taught by former IELTS examiners
    • 40 Task #1 and 60 Task# 2 model responses written by native-speaker IELTS examiners
    • Unlimited QA
    • Unique 2-stage writing feedback system: you receive detailed feedback on your work TWICE to make sure that YOU understand how to fix the errors
    • Grammar and complex sentences mini course with the top grammar and sentence constructions you MUST master for Band 7+
    • BONUS #1: 24 reading comprehension texts with practice questions
    • BONUS #2: Build your academic vocabulary for IELTS with over 1200 high frequency and advanced academic vocabulary items. All of this vocabulary should be on your need-to-know list!


    100% Satisfaction Guaranteed

    Secure Payment

    >