Top Tips for IELTS

How to organise information in task 1 writing

This lesson aims to show you a key skill in writing better academic task 1 summaries. The idea is to show you that it helps to organise information in task 1 writing before you write.  What this means in practice is that you need to do is to learn to group similar items together in the thinking stage when you are analysing the chart.

See the common mistake

The first step is to understand a common mistake. This is to simply describe the information shown without picking out the main points. This makes it hard for the examiner to give you a good score for two reasons:

  1. the coherence score will fall because you need to organise the information logically
  2. the task response may also fall because you also need to present a clear overview of the main trends/differences.

A double whammy as we say.

Find a solution – group information

The solution is luckily at hand and not that difficult to learn. It is to put similar items together when you write. This way the examiner should see that you have organised logically and it is much easier to make comparisons this way too.

Look at an example

Look at this example that shows the different sources of funding for the London Olympic games. As you look at it, you should see that there were 8 different sources of funding and that you need to mention all of them. How can you do this without just writing a list? Try looking at the different sources and decide which logically fit together. What you don’t want to do is just follow the chart and start with “central government” and finish with “local government”. Surely central government and local government belong together.

I think that I can put the 8 items into the 4 different groups – that is much easier to summarise.

london olympics - funding

See my answer

Here are my groups. I think they are logical. You may have another answer. That doesn’t really matter. There is often more than one way to do this. You just want to make sure that you do group information and that there is a clear logic behind it.

Government: central government + local government

Sponsorship: domestic sponsors + international sponsors

Sales ticket sales + merchandise sales

Other: IOC and national lottery

Now organise the information

Look at my paragraph summarising the chart. You should note how I have organised the information using the groups. In particular, note:

  • it is a paragraph – don’t forget to write paragraphs
  • I start with a simple sentence outlining the main idea: there are a number of different sources
  • I mention all the different sources, but I group them together
  • I organise from high to low – starting with the largest amount and ending with the smallest. That seems logical. It also allows me to make comparisons
  • The eight items are grouped into 4 sentences – one sentence for each group

We can see that the total cost of the London Olympics was in the region of £11.5 and that this was funded from a variety of different sources. An overwhelming majority of the money was provided by government, with central government paying over £6 billion and local councils around £800 million respectively. The next highest amount of just over £2 billion was contributed by the national lottery, while the IOC also gave around £800 million. Another significant source of funding was sponsorship with domestic and international sponsors donating approximately £1.2 billion. The rest of the finance came from sales of tickets and merchandise, but this only amounted to less than £1 billion, with merchandise being responsible for a small fraction of that.

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9 Responses to How to organise information in task 1 writing

  1. zara March 2, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    Hi Dominic
    Could you please post some lessons about letter writing and task 2 as well?

    • Dominic Cole March 2, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

      There will be something on both letters and task 2 appearing later this week. The essay lesson will be about linking the main topic paragraphs

  2. zara March 2, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    Thanks, I hope they are before the weekend as i’ve my test on coming Saturday. Feeling a bit nervous and underprepared !
    If you have time, would you mind replying to my post dated 25th Feb about the essay i posted? It would be much appreciated as it will help me spot the mistake i’m making in regard to the use of articles.
    For your convenience, i’ve pasted it here:

    “I think i mentioned earlier that articles is a major area i need to improve. Can you suggest me any good website or any other source which could be used to work on this area? Yes i think i’ve a bad habit of trying to write unnecessarily complex words. Thanks for pointing out and I am working on this and pushing myself to write simpler as per your instructions.
    In the first paragraph, i think ‘the’ is not required with ‘advancement’ and ‘unhealthy lifestyle’.
    Do you think that starting the second body paragraph with a phrase like ‘this situation’ is acceptable or should it be changed with some other simple sentence like ‘Overall level of health can only be improved if …’? Is there any harm in using the phrase from the essay topic at any stage?”


  3. Ed March 4, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    Thank for these excellent tips here. However, I have questions about the word choice on the last sentence.

    1. I don’t get why you used ” being responsible for ” Why don’t we use ” accounting for ” or “contributing”? Can you explain why you prefer the expression ” being responsible for”?
    2. In the first sentence, you wrote ” the London Olympics”. Most of time we see “London Olympics” without the article “the”. Any reason to add ” the ” here?
    3. There is a missing word “million” right after “£800” in the red sentence. I think you might have written it fast.

    Thank you.

    • Dominic Cole March 4, 2014 at 9:35 pm #


      1. You could use ‘accounting for” – being responsible for is a synonym.
      2. You only see London Olympics in headline type language where the rules of grammar change. Here it must be THE London Olympics because we are talking of a specific event. Alternatively, you could just say that it is always “THE Olympics”.
      3. Thank you. Now amended – the problems of working without an editor.

      • Ed March 4, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

        Thank you for help me clarify my questions. I really appreciate and am impressed with your kindly sharing and excellent teaching.

  4. Aamir March 30, 2014 at 2:02 am #

    First of all, thanks for all this brilliant stuff. can you guide about the complex questions of writing task one in which two or three graphs are given. For example, there may be a bar chart, table and pie chart all together. it becomes difficult to summaries it in just 150 words.

  5. shohruh April 10, 2014 at 2:31 am #

    thanks dominic my ielts score has been announced today and it is 7, Listening;7.5, Reading;7.0,writing;6.5, speaking;6.0.I only followed your suggestions.Thank you again!!!!

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