Top Tips for IELTS

IELTS task 1

A quick introduction to the IELTS task 1 visuals

Each type of visual has its own problems. This is a very quick introduction to how to approach each one. There are much more detailed lessons below.

Pie charts

This is a pie chart.

Note that you need the language of percentages and proportion here.

Pie charts always show 100%

Note that if you have two pie charts showing different times, then you may also need trend vocabulary

Always remember to compare and contrast 

Bar charts
holiday bar chart

This is a bar chart.

Sometimes the bar chart is about time and then you need trend language

When the bar chart is not time-based then you simply compare

A key skill here is to group similar items together

Look at the x and y axes to see what exactly is shown.

Line graphs

This is a line graph.

These are always about changes over time. You need trend words.

Do not just describe what happens, remember to summarise the overall trend.

Look at the x and y axes to see what exactly is shown.

IELTS table

This is a table.

These are hard because you have no picture to help you.

You need lots of number language here.

Remember to make comparisons between the different items.

Try to re-order the table to se what are the biggest and smallest numbers.

Think about grouping similar items together.


Process diagrams
Carbon dioxide returned to the atmosphere

This is a process diagram.

Here you need to order the information.

Look for the beginning and the end of the process

Summarise the process logically by going through each step in turn

Do not forget to summarise what the general process is

IMAGE SOON – you get a picture showing the same thing in different times

Here you need to look for changes over time.

You need to compare and contrast the two times.

Remember to give an overall summary of the change

 Line graphs







Advice on how to write an IELTS task 1 report from a graph

How to identify main points in a line graphthe key is to look at each line in turn and then look for the comparison. 

Basic vocabulary to describe line graphs in task 1 : some basic variations with tips on how to avoid some common mistakes

More advanced vocabulary to describe charts and graphs: a list of words and phrases to boost your band score

IELTS writing – graphs – recommended website – a link to an excellent interactive site to practise tend language for graphs

Bar charts

bar chart past tense

Advice on how to write an IELTS task 1 report from a bar chart

Identifying patterns in bar charts – a sample report with advice on how to read bar charts and to help you organise your answer

IELTS writing – task 1 – some tips on selecting main details in bar charts – a video tutorial with an exercise on how to select the main details in bar charts

Exercise on selecting the correct details in a bar chart: a sample bar chart with a quiz and number of exercises to help you select the correct details to improve your task response band score

IELTS writing – a bar chart – how to organise your answer: an example of how use paragraphs when describing a bar chart

IELTS writing – bar charts – an interactive lesson – a lesson on how to approach a bar chart with a quiz

 Pie charts

 IELTS pie chart- poster source

Advice on how to write an academic task 1 report from a pie chart

IELTS writing – task 1 – pie charts – a video tutorial on how to select the correct detail from a pie chart

IELTS writing – task 1 – pie charts (2) – how to use the language of percentages to describe pie charts with 2 exercises.

A pie chart step-by-step: two model pie chart answers with extensive vocabulary help and a suggested approach to write your answer


IELTS table

Advice on how to write an academic task 1 report from a table

How to organise your answer in a task 1 table: you’ll find two model answers and advice on writing in paragraphs

IELTS writing – finding the key information in task 1 tables – how to find the right information on tables: tutorial with exercise

Using columns and rows : sample answer with advice on how to use columns and rows in a table to organise your answer

Comparisons in tables – how to make comparisons and vary your language  in task 1 tables with a quick quiz

Process diagrams

food chain

An introduction to process diagrams: The basics on how to deal with process diagrams with a helpful list of grammar and vocabulary to download.

Describing a natural cycle: the process cycle: a sample task with advice on how to read the process diagram when it shows a natural cycle and on how to make your description coherent.

Lesson with model answers

Energy production bar chart; lesson with advice on structuring the answer, avoiding repetition and comparisons

Transport in Milan: a sample summary with a table

The Olympics medal table – a sample summary with a lesson illustrating a step-by-step approach for analysing tables

Two pie charts and a line graph – a sample summary about data about farming in the UK

Families in Canada – a sample summary with two pie charts

Look at a sample task 1 question

The question is always in the same format. You are given a visual and then asked to

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

A complete question may look like this:

The charts below show the distribution of families with children by employment status in Canada in 1976 and 2014
Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, making comparisons where relevant

couples in canada pie charts


Look at a model task 1 answer

This is what you are trying to write!

These charts show how there was a significant change in the working status of parents in Canada between 1976 and 2014. It is clear that there was a major shift from fathers being the sole breadwinner to more dual income families and single mothers.

In 1976 a huge majority of families were financially supported either by the father or by both parents: 51% and 33% respectively. None of the other categories of couples with no income, single fathers, single mothers and couples where the mother was the only earner accounted for more than 8%.

This situation was quite different in 2014. By that time, dual income families had become easily the largest category at 55%. It is also striking how the father being the sole earner had fallen dramatically to only 17%. Equally notable is how the proportion of lone mothers had doubled to 16%. The figures for couples with no income, single fathers and the mother as the major breadwinner all rose but still only accounted for only 8% of the total.

Key points in task 1

Summarise the chart – don’t describe it all or give your opinions

Write at least 150 words

Use varied and accurate vocabulary

Give yourself time to check grammar

Remember to organise logically and use paragraphs

Common questions on task 1

How many words do I need to write?
You must write AT LEAST 150 words
How long do I have to write?
You have approximately 20 minutes. 


You have one hour to write this and the essay. The essay counts for twice as much so you spend 40 minutes on that

What type of writing is it?
It is a summary of a visual diagram or chart.
Is it a description task?
No. You need to write a summary of what you see. This means looking for


the main points

key details

You do NOT describe everything you see

How is it graded?
It is graded on 4 criteria:


  • task achievement
  • grammar
  • vocabulary
  • coherence and cohesion

They all count for 25% of your mark

Can I give my own opinions?


Any opinions you give will be ignored by the examiner and will not count to your word total

Do I only get one visual?
No sometimes – quite often in fact – you have two or more to compare and contrast
What vocabulary do I need to learn?
You need a range of different vocabulary for IELTS task 1. Here are some of the more important categories:



comparing and contrasting

trend/changes over time


identifying main points

I have lessons on all these below.

Do I need to write a conclusion?
You don’t have to write a conclusion. They see normally found in essays.

You do need to write a summary statement though. This is an overall statement of what the visual shows.

This summary statement can either come at the start or the end.

Can I repeat words from the question?
Yes and no.

You can repeat some words – especially technical words that cannot be replaced. It is better to use a correct word that is repeated than a wrong word.

You should not though repeat whole sentences from the question.

General IELTS task 1 writing skills and vocabulary


A strategy for planning task 1 – learn how much time you need, how to spend it and how to make notes


Describing numbers – understand the maths –  how to describe numbers for academic task 1 using some basic maths

Numbers exercises  – a series of exercises to help you use number language accurately

How to compare and contrast numbers – useful language with examples and an exercise to help you compare and contrast numbers

Different ways to describe percentages in pie charts: pie charts are all about percentages, you need different words to describe them

Countables and uncountables with numbers – how to avoid some very common mistakes using words such as much and fewer


Some more advanced comparison language to describe charts and graphs: how to qualify your comparisons by using words such as considerable

Avoiding repetition

How to avoid repetition in task 1: advice on how to group information and use words such as both, similar and respectively to avoid repetition of words and structures


Advanced tend vocabulary for time charts: charts and graphs based on time require the language of trends. Does that line rise or fall?


Using tenses to describe charts and graphs – an introductory lesson on which tenses to use to describe charts and graphs


IELTS writing – academic task 1 – conclusions – how to write a conclusion for IELTS task 1.

Types of chart

IELTS writing – academic task 1 – thinking about charts and graphs – a brief video introduction to the different types of task in IELTS task 1 – looking at the type of language needed


Practice materials and recommended sites


IELTS writing – academic task 1 – a daily exercise – a link to the Daily Chart from the Economist to practise the langauge of charts and graphs

Take a look through all my IELTS task 1 lessons

Two pie charts about employees

A model task 1 summary for a graphic showing two pie charts with advice on avoiding repetition, structuring your answer, using better grammar and finding the key points.

Energy production bar chart

A sample answer for an energy production bar chart. With a lesson to help read the chart, structure the answer and use better vocabulary

9 Responses to IELTS task 1

  1. Vignesh September 7, 2016 at 3:57 am #

    Dear Mr. Cole,

    Thank you for your valuable lessons.

    I have referred to your notes and prepared for IELTS for a month.

    My score is L:8.5, R: 6.5, W:6.5, S:7.5.

    I have a suggestion, in writing section (part one question) if possible please add notes on figure explanation (not flow or graphical essay). During my exam, I got a quiet unique figure showing a street with almost 19 landmarks in 1960 and another with 16 landmarks in 2011, with compass directions at the top. The question required us to explain the figure.

    This may be helpful for future students learning IELTS here.

    Once again, thank you for your efforts and we as students really appreciate it!

  2. SuperMark September 15, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

    Brilliant revamp Dominic.

  3. adil October 16, 2016 at 6:48 pm #

    hello Dominic, i have been following your website and tutorials from last month and it’s my pleasure to have such a nice tutor to me…After deep view on your notes and i learned everything in writing task like grammar,vocabulary and tenses very deeply but now i’m getting some confusion is “do i need to learn complete English language?”or “English which help me to get enough score to achieve IELTS?”

    please help me Dominic…?

    • Dominic Cole October 17, 2016 at 2:06 am #

      It all depends on where you are now with English and what you need. It of course makes sense to focus your studies on the English you need most for IELTS and that’s the language you find on my site. But if you take the test and find you are a long way off your target score, then you may need to do more general English work.

  4. Fenestra October 19, 2016 at 9:53 am #

    Hi Dominic. I’m following your epic blog and FB page for the past few days and it has worked wonders to enlighten me. I must say that you are truly amazing and please keep up the great work. Actually, I’m reviewing on my own for IELTS Academic with 3 weeks preparation only since the exam will be 1st week of November. I would like to solicit your kind help to grade my 2 essays below if which band I belong. Thank you so much for the noble assistance.

    Writing Task 1:

    The graph and table show the average monthly temperatures and the average number of hours of sunshine per year in three major cities. Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.

    My Essay 1:

    The graph and table examine the median temperatures per month and the median amount of hours of sunshine yearly in several urban areas such as London, New York and Sydney.

    Generally speaking, it can be interpreted that the highest and lowest recorded temperature is in New York.

    It can be noted in the graph that the hottest month for both New York and London is July with an average temperature of 29 degrees Celsius and 23 degrees Celsius respectively. On the other hand, Sydney is hottest in January with the median count of 26 degrees Celsius. Moreover, the lowest recorded number is January for New York and London with 4 degrees Celsius and 7 degrees Celsius respectively. In contrast to Sydney wherein the coldest month is July with 16 degrees Celsius.

    Furthermore, temperatures significantly rise from June to August in New York and London. However this is in opposite with Sydney since these months have relevant decline in count.

    As evidenced by the table, New York has the highest amount of sunshine with 2,535 hours; followed by Sydney with 2,473 hours; and the least London with 1,180 hours.

    Writing Task 2:

    In some countries an increasing number of people are suffering from health problems as a result of eating too much fast food. It is therefore necessary for governments to impose a higher tax on this kind of food. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion?

    My Essay 2:

    It is certainly true that life is extremely busy and always on the go. It seems that everyone is in a hurry to their destination and so fast food has become the trend nowadays. Stores like McDonalds and KFC among others have become very popular in all age groups from dusk until dawn due to the fact that the meals are cooked instantly without too much waiting time needed. One way or the other, we cannot deny the fact that they have somehow contributed to filling in our empty stomach while we don’t have the time to cook our own food due to constraints in schedule. A good illustration of this is my boyfriend, who is an Investor Relations Manager in London, hopping from several non-stop appointments throughout the week. He has become a regular customer of Burger King to grab his instant sandwich rather than be hungry during the day.

    On the other hand, one relevant sad realization is that these food groups are so rich in bad cholesterol that might lead to abnormalities in lipid profile and cause heart diseases. The ingredients used will clog the cardiovascular system resulting to heart attacks. For instance, my patient who is a 25-year old obese man has suffered from myocardial infarction at a young age because of hypertension and hyperlipidemia caused by improper diet full of fat since his teenage years.

    In my point of view, fast food has become a way of living in this modern world. In conclusion, I firmly believe that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. To regulate this properly, the government must assign a department specializing in thoroughly checking the ingredients being used in these centers. Virgin olive oil for example is a healthy alternative because of zero cholesterol. Overall, government imposition of higher tax rates is by far the best way to prevent the possible health havoc of these cholesterol-rich foods. Indeed, prevention is better than cure.

  5. Roy April 21, 2017 at 4:36 am #

    Hi Dominic,

    I have recently taken an IELTS test after taking several private lessons, but surprisingly only received 6.5 in my writing.
    In those private lessons, I was advised to use sentences such as “To begin with” or “As far as the second chart/diagram is concerned…” to start the main paragraphs in Task 1.
    Despite receiving some good feedbacks and my tutor insisting the use of such sentences, I doubt whether those sentences are appropriate and adequate in getting 8.0.

    What are your opinions regarding the use of such opening sentences for main paragraphs in Task 1?



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