Top Tips for IELTS

How to write a better IELTS task 1 summary

Today’s lesson is a quick one but perhaps a useful one. It’s all about a key skill in academic task one – one that can really help you improve your score. Let’s start.

Understand the IELTS task one summary

Step number one is to see that task one is not an essay. It is a summary. Read the instructions:

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

Why is this important? Because in a summary you do what the question asks you to: select and report the main features and then compare the important bits.. This is the key skill you need. It is a thinking skill in many ways. You need to select the obvious things. What I call the big picture. Then you report them with a little detail.

To understand time-based charts and graphs – think about change

The next step in writing a good IELTS task 1 summary is to see that there are two main categories of charts and graphs.  Static ones with no time and ones with time. In time charts and graphs, the main features are almost always about change. To summarise the main features of the chart you need to say what has changed.

Top tip focus on the big changes

Here is where many candidates go wrong. They do describe change but they only describe the detail – they forget the big picture. That means they don’t give a good summary. That means poor task response. The examiner will deduct marks if you do not include the big picture you want something more practical? Look for

tops and bottoms

beginnings and ends

It is almost always true that you need to include the high point, the lowest point, where it started and where it ended. Why? That will tell the examiner you have understood not just little changes but the big changes – the overall trend.

A quick exercise

Look at this chart below and decide which summary is better. They both use good English, but one misses the big picture. Don’t worry that they are not in exam format – we are just practising skills here:

A

We can see from this chart that the amount of bonuses fluctuated considerably during this period. In 1985, approximately 10 billion dollars were paid in bonuses. This figure dropped slightly until 1990, at which point it fairly dramatically and amounted to just under 30 billion dollars in 2000. The amount then dropped slightly between 2000 and 2002, before reaching a peak of around 40 billion in 2009. It then fell before rising again at the end of this period.

B

It is evident from this chart that amount of bonuses increased significantly between 1995 and 2013, rising from around 10 billion dollars to approximately 35 billion dollars. It should also be noted though that there were fairly major fluctuations in this trend. From between 1985 and 1990, the amount paid in bonuses remained fairly stable at around 10 billion. After that, however, there was a very marked increase until it reached a peak of nearly 40 billion in 2005, despite a temporary fall from 2000 to 2000. At the end of the period, there was another more major fall less than 30 billion before a recovery to approximately 35 billion.

bonuses to bankers

See the answer and explanation

See how you did

I hope you chose B.

A has lots of good language and is quite well-written, but it makes one mistake. It misses out the big picture. It doesn’t tell you that the overall trend was up. That makes it a bad summary as it misses out on a key point. It just describes the changes from A to B to C etc. Task 1 is not a description, it is not an essay, it is a summary.

B is much better.

  1. It gets the main point in first (it went up). Note that just like in other forms of writing, you put the big ideas first normally. I could include this, because I remembered to look at beginnings and ends.
  2. It then goes onto the other main point (it fluctuated). i could include this because I looked at tops and bottoms.
  3. Only then does it get into detail.

 

It is evident from this chart that amount of bonuses increased significantly between 1995 and 2013, rising from around 10 billion dollars to approximately 35 billion dollars. [MAIN IDEA 1]It should also be noted though that there were fairly major fluctuations in this trend.[MAIN IDEA 2] From between 1985 and 1990, the amount paid in bonuses remained fairly stable at around 10 billion. After that, however, there was a very marked increase until it reached a peak of nearly 40 billion in 2005, despite a temporary fall from 2000 to 2000. At the end of the period, there was another more major fall less than 30 billion before a recovery to approximately 35 billion.[details]

 

My other blog has more exercises like this

I have now started posting daily lessons on my FB page too. They are shorter than this, but should help you think in the same way. They are 5 minute exercises where I send you to read something online and then answer an IELTS style question. A good 5 minutes can be better than a bad hour! To get them, all you need to do is like my page there.

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