Tag Archives: IELTS Writing Task 1

IELTS Writing: Overviews Task 1

The Cambridge University Press materials are inserted here, under fair use policy, for demonstrations purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended.

CORK IELTS Teacher William's blog

Hello everyone,

Image under Creative Commons from: http://www.google.com

Here is our latest podcast. It’s on overviews- an extremely important part of task 1. According to the Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS by Cullen, Jakeman and French “It is very important to give a one-sentence overview or summary of main trends in the chart of graph. You will not achieve a good Task Achievement score if your answer does not include an overview sentence”.

Overviews on Band Descriptors Public IELTS Band descriptors http://www.ielts.org

The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS Student's Book with Answers with DVD-ROM The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS Student’s Book with Answers with DVD-ROM

Cambridge IELTS 8 Self-study Pack  Official Examination Papers from University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations Cambridge IELTS 8 Self-study Pack Official Examination Papers from University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations

Cambridge IELTS 2 Self-study Pack Official Examination Papers from University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations Cambridge IELTS 2 Self-study Pack Official Examination Papers from University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations

Cambridge IELTS Self-study Pack Official Examination Papers from University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations Cambridge IELTS Self-study Pack Official Examination Papers from University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations

Match the overviews/sample answers to the questions:




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Useful language for IELTS: Writing Task 1

In this post I’d like to look at language that is very useful for describing how something falls or rises, a very common feature of almost all types of IELTS Writing Task 1. As can be seen below, in order to get Band 6 (which is what a lot of students are aiming for), the student needs to at least ATTEMPT to use less common vocabulary.

lexical resource IELTS
From IELTS Assessment criteria (Public version) available here. Underline mine.

Band 7 and up requires the student to use less common lexical items and to show an awareness of collocation. As a result, it is important to show students some synonyms of verbs and nouns such as ‘rise’ and ‘fall’, as well as the respective adverbs and adjectives which collocate with them.

Write two sentences on the board (IDEA: use a model you’ve recently analysed, or one of the tasks the student has written):

  1. The sales grew substantially.
  2. There was a substantial growth in sales.

Ask students to brainstorm other words which can be used to replace the underlined ones. Then get them to brainstorm synonyms for the words in bold.

Below are two charts which show various possible synonyms for sentences 1 and 2.

While you’re looking at them, I also wanted to highlight some practical considerations:

  1. Point out the differences in structure
  2. Apart from DIP all the nouns and verbs can collocate with all the adjectives and adverbs.
  3. Elicit the differences in use between the prepositions BY, TO and AT (students tend to confuse them a lot)
  4. You might want to elicit which adjectives/adverbs mean:
  • a lot
  • a little bit
  • quickly
  • slowly

Here are the charts:

  1. Subject + verb + adverb

verbs and adverbs2. There + be + +adjective + noun + IN

adjectives and nouns

Some activities:

  1. Transformation dictation: T (or st) says a sentence using structure #1 and the student changes it to structure #2 without changing the meaning or tense
  2. Substitution dictation: as above, but instead of changing the structure the student substitutes one of the words for a synonym, but keeps the meaning the same, e.g. There was a substantial rise in sales -> There was a significant rise in sales (IDEA: to make it more challenging, the student has to substitute both the adjective and the noun, or the verb and the adverb).
  3. Sentence extension: sales/rise/steep/last year
  4. Mingle and flash sentence extension: a variation on the above in which each student has a slip of paper with a sentence extension; sts mingle and show the slips to each other – the other student has to produce a correct sentence
  5. Mingle and flash substitution: same as above, but instead of extension, students show each other slips of paper with example sentences and their partner has to rephrase the sentence using synonyms, but keeping the meaning the same
  6. Error correction: these can be isolated sentences or embedded in an example Task 1. You might take them from previous writing done by students. Lots of variations possible: dictation, snap, mingle and flash, etc.
  7. Gap fill: take a model Task 1 response (together with the task) and delete the adj/noun and verb/adverb combinations. Students complete and check with the original to notice differences.
  8. Speed writing: students write minimum 4 sentences describing a given graph/chart in 3 minutes. If you’re looking for some interesting graphs, check out this post by James Taylor.

Did you find these ideas helpful? How do you teach IELTS?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

And don’t forget to follow the blog on the right hand side to receive the latest posts by email.

IELTS Writing: Checklists for Task 1 (2nd half)

Hello everyone,

Here is the second section of the post that I did recently on checklists for IELTS Writing Task 1. I hope you find this usefRobert Williamul. We will do checklists for task 2 at another time. Thanks for listening. Please leave your comments below.

For more tips on what you should and shouldn’t write in the Task 1 follow this link.

Don’t forget to Follow the blog to receive the latest posts by email.


IELTS Writing: Checklists for Task 1

Hello everyone, Rob3

Here is our latest podcast on IELTS Writing Task 1. This time I discuss Task Achievement and in the following post, I’m going to discuss the other assessment criteria. If you’d like to find out more about Task 1 assessment, read this post.

While you’re listening, you might find it helpful to look at the checklist below which shows the items that must be included if your response is to be better than band 6.


For more tips on what you should and shouldn’t write in the Task 1 follow this link.

Don’t forget to Follow the blog to receive the latest posts by email.

If you have any comments or suggestions for future posts, please comment below.

IELTS Writing: Task 1 Assessment criteria and its implications for teaching

Image under Creative Commons from: http://www.google.com
Image under Creative Commons from: http://www.google.com

I often get students who need to, for example, improve from 5.5 to 6.5 in writing, but only have a week or two before their exam.  At first it sounds a bit like mission impossible, because in such a short time there is very little we can do to improve students grammar and vocabulary. Fortunately for our students, IELTS is not just about correct and varied language.

In this post I’d like to discuss the IELTS Writing Task 1 assessment criteria and its implications for preparing students for the exam. We’ll identify the most common mistakes students make that stop them from getting the desired band, which can at the same time be very easily fixed in a relatively short time. I’ll focus on Task 1 here, because for most students it is something completely new, and can turn out to be quite challenging.

Let’s get started then. Below you can see the assessment criteria (public version – the one the examiners get is super top-secret). You can easily download the public assessment criteria in pdf from for example the official IELTS site. You can click on the image below to enlarge it.

band descriptors task 1

As you can see, there are four criteria, each of which is marked completely independently. That means you could (in theory) get a 9 in LR (Lexical Resource), but only 5 on TA (Task Achievement). The final score for the task is an average of all four criteria. The score is rounded down. This means that TA: 6, CC: 6, LR: 6 and GRA: 7 would give you a 6, while TA: 6, CC: 6, LR: 6 and GRA: 5 would give you 5.5. Of course, TA: 6, CC: 6, LR: 7 and GRA: 7 would add up to 6.5.

It is important to know which band your student needs as this will determine the areas you should focus on in the classes. In most cases (e.g. for visa or study reasons), students need a 6.5. As a result, we’ll focus our attention on the descriptors for band 5, 6 and 7.

In this post, I’ll look at TA first, because:

  • students usually don’t know how to approach the task
  • the most common mistakes are very easy to fix
  • even students whose language is very good, often get low scores on TA
  • it’s relatively easy to bring a student up from 5 to 7 in a short time

I crossed out points which refer to IELTS General Training Assessment as we will only focus on the Academic IELTS, which is the format 90% of candidates choose.

When you look at the criteria, decide:

  1. which two points stop you from getting band 6?
  2. what is an overview and why is it important?
  3. what could be classified as irrelevant, inaccurate and inappropriate details?
  4. how is band 7 specifically better than band 6?

TA task 1Suggested answers:

  1. No data (i.e. no numbers) in the description and/or no overview. The student also focuses too much on detail.
  2. An overview presents the main or general trends that can be seen in the graph, e.g. Overall, the sales of desktop computers declined significantly during the period. Without an overview, the student will not get band 6
  3. Inappropriate: any evaluation or personal comments on the data. Irrelevant: data that is not presented, comments which do not relate to the graph. Inaccurate: factual mistakes in the description (e.g. with dates or numbers)
  4. The overview is clear and there are no inaccurate or inappropriate information as described above in point 3.

How should this inform our teaching?

When checking my students’ writing, I sometimes want to cry when I get a Task 1 which in terms of CC, LR and/or GRA could be easily 7, but the student didn’t include any data. Or there’s no overview. Or the student interprets the data. It’s such a shame, because all these mistakes limit the work to 5 on TA. They’re also very easy to fix. In one of the next posts I’ll show you an example lesson which does  exactly that.

Another important point we need to highlight to our students is that they should not focus on all the details. For example, describing what exactly happened in every single year in the graph or chart is not a good idea. Instead, the student should notice the main features of the graph, i.e. the most salient features, such as the high/low points, the starting/end values, the rises and falls, and describe these accordingly.

So, to sum up, in order to get band 6 or 7, the student should:

  • present an overview of the main trends (preferably in the conclusion)
  • use data accurately
  • NOT comment on the data, nor interpret it in any way
  • NOT focus on all the details
  • notice key features and describe them accordingly

If you’re interested in other tips for IELTS Writing Task 1, you might want to read this post where I discuss the DOs and DONTs of Task 1.

If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to comment below or drop me a message. For IELTS preparation courses, please click here or Contact me directly.