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【Tips for IELTS】Writing Task 1



The University Timesで好評連載中の「IELTSテストのコツ」。こちらはBritish Councilの人気講師が毎回執筆しています。「英語版で読んでみたい!」という声にお応えして、英語版をシリーズで公開します。

今回はThe University TimesのVol.31で掲載された、「Writing Task 1」に関しての【Tips for IELTS】です。



Tips for IELTS Writing Task 1


One of the most common mistakes that people make in the writing task 1 is forgetting to include an overview of the graph or diagram. An overview is the main trend or general description of the task.  More often people jump right into describing the details of graph and miss seeing the big picture. In this article, I will explain how important this overview is for your grade and give you some ideas on how to write a clear overview.


First, let’s look at how important this step is. The overview falls under the grading section of Task Achievement. If we look at the public band descriptors available online, we can see that if you don’t have an overview, you can’t go above a band 5 in Task Achievement. At that band, it states that the writing has “no clear overview.” So if you miss it, you can’t go any higher than 5 for this part of the marking.  At band 6 we can see that you need “an overview with information appropriately selected”. Band 7 and above needs “a clear overview that presents the main trends, differences or stages”. A good overall statement is a summary and can include two parts: an overall trend and the most significant change that you see.  So it is clear how important this overview is for your final grade in the Task Achievement section.


Now I’d like to show you how to recognize the main trend.

When looking for the overall idea, ask yourself these questions


  • If it is a line graph, do all the lines go up or down or down over time?  Are the rankings consistently in the same position?
  • Is there one very big change or point that stands out in a bar graph?
  • If there are two graphs or tables, what is the main relationship(s) with each other?
  • If it is a flow diagram, is it simple or complicated? Does the diagram have a crucial step or steps?


Have a look at the graph below. What is the overall trend? Is there anything that particularly stands out?



The graph below shows the percentage of home ownership in three countries: Norway, Sweden and Finland from 1999 to 2004.




In the graph, it is quite interesting that while Norway and Finland gradually increase in home ownership, Sweden goes up and down and finishes in the top spot once again. However, a more overall trend is that home ownership has improved in all three countries over the time period. A good overall statement would include one of these trends. A strong and clear overview statement demonstrates both an overall trend and the most significant change or consistency.



Please look at the following introduction and pay attention to the overall trend and the most significant consistency.


This graph shows the percentage of people who own their own homes in Scandinavian countries in a five-year period beginning in 1999.   Overall, the most significant trend is that home ownership has improved in all three countries during these years.  Another interesting point is that Sweden had the highest level of people who were homeowners at the beginning and end of the time period, followed by Norway and Finland although Sweden does fluctuate quite dramatically during this time.


You may notice that there are no details in the overall statement. You should save the details for the other paragraphs. It is just necessary that you are able to recognize the main trends that the graph shows. Also some people only look for big changes but things that stay the same over time could also be very significant.


To make the overall statement really stand out you can use introductory phrases. These phrases make it clear to the reader that this point is what you consider the most important bit of information. You could try to use the following phrases to introduce your overall statement.


  • The most noticeable trend …
  • One of the most significant trends is…
  • Overall, the graph shows …
  • The most important point to note is…
  • It is clear that…


Some test takers wonder where this statement should go. Is it better at the beginning or the end? Both options are fine. The overall statement can be a nice part of the introduction or it could conclude your writing. It’s just important that you include it and make it clear.


Some advice

  • Don’t forget to include an overall statement
  • Try to make it clear that this is the overall statement by using some introductory language
  • Look at the big picture and don’t just focus on one detail
  • Don’t only look at big changes. Do some things stay the same?
  • The overall statement is not a conclusion. Don’t try to interpret what the information means or possible causes. Just describe the main trend.
  • Look at model examples of writing Task 1 and see how they include an overall statement and how they introduce it.


Good luck with your exam!


By John Grant










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