Students on our IELTS preparation course are often overwhelmed when approaching the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.  But there is nothing to be afraid of – it’s much easier than it seems!  With a few basic strategies you can begin completing these tasks with confidence.

1. Decide what the graph is about.

 The first thing to do is decide what the data shows.  You can use the graph title and axis titles to do this, but remember not to copy the wording.  You can change the wording using noun phrases like ‘the number of.., the quantity of…, use of…, consumption of…’, or verb clauses beginning with how much/ how many.  You can also use the phrase ‘changes in + noun phrase.  Combine these phrases with ‘the graph shows/ illustrates/ indicates’ to write your introduction, for example:

 The graph illustrates how much fast food was consumed by Australian teenagers over a 25 year period from 1975 to 2000.


 The graph indicates the number of fast food meals consumed per year by teenagers in Australia between 1975 and 2000.

 Also, never, ever talk about ‘the line’!  What does the line represent?

2. Don’t over-complicate it

 You only have 150 words to work with, so there is no point trying to describe everything shown in the graph or table.  Instead focus on the main features, such as the overall trends, and the highest and lowest values.  Also try to group items together according to their trends – this will give your essay structure.  Most task 1 essays should be an introduction, two body paragraphs and a conclusion.  In this example, there are three main features:

  • Consumption of fish and chips decreased – body paragraph 1
  • Consumption of pizza and hamburgers increased – body paragraph 2
  • Overall consumption of fast food was higher in 2000 than in 1975 – conclusion
3.Keep your opinions to yourself

In this task there is no reason to give your opinion – and in fact you will be wasting time and word count and you might even lose marks.  In this example, you might think that the fact that Australian teenagers are eating more fast food is a bad thing, or represents a danger to public health.  That may be true, but it is not relevant to this task.  Save your opinions for writing task 2!

Check out part 2 where we’ll be looking at the specific vocabulary and grammar to complete this task.

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