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IELTS writing task one rubric – understanding the question

This is a short lesson, but still an important one. Many candidates go wrong with writing task one in IELTS because they don’t quite understand what they need to do. This is not very surprising because it may well be an unfamiliar task that you have never had to do before the IELTS horror started. That said, task one need not be too hard: what you need to do is understand the rubric – and that’s just code for “the question”.

I should add that this lesson is mostly about the skills needed to describe charts/graphs/tables in academic IELTS. Process diagrams are slightly different.

See how well you understand task one

There are only three questions here – answer them correctly and you probably have a good understanding of what you need to do

How well do you understand task 1?

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What the question asks you to do – understanding IELTS task one rubric

As I say, the best way to understand task 1 is to read the question and think about what it means. It reads:

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

1. Summarise the information

A summary is not a description of all the information – by definition. This should tell you that there are some pieces of information you should leave out

2. by selecting 

If you are selecting, you are leaving things out too. This means that before you write you need to sit and think about what bits to include and which to leave out.

3. and reporting

If you report something, you simply say what you see. This means that you do not “add your opinion” or “say what you think”.

4. the main features

This is what you should be concentrating on – the main features. The skill is to be able to see what these are and this where task 1 becomes quite academic. What the main features are will vary from question to question, but some useful ideas are:

tops and bottoms

beginnings and ends

averages

common patterns

changes

5. make comparisons where relevant

How you do this will vary slightly form chart to chart, but the idea is to see that comparing is an important part of the task. It may aslo help to think about the different ways you can compare and contrast, it is not just a case of “more” or “less”. This can wrong because you think compare just means “more” and “less”. Not so. Think also about:

similarities

equalities

differences over time

differences in proportion

the most/the least

What the question does not ask you to do

Write an essay

An essay has its own conventions (which vary slightly from culture to culture). Almost always though the idea is that an essay gives the writer’s point of view and for that you need ideas. Task 1 is not like that – all you need to do is write down what you see – all the ideas are there in front of you.

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