The Requirements of Task 1 (Academic) IELTS Writing

Many people misunderstand what is required in Task 1 IELTS essay writing and score poorly as a result.

Unfortunately, much of the advice on the internet about what must be done in this task also fails to completely understand the requirements.

I was just looking at an IELTS advice site that was looking at a "process" type question about bottling wine. The problem is that the advice and sample answer guarantees candidates band 5 for Task Achievement, and much of what was written was additional information NOT available in the diagram (and which candidates could NOT be expected to know and ARE NOT expected to know) and therefore irrelevant to what the task question asks candidates to do.

Task 1 Writing in the Academic IELTS test is an "information transfer" essay.

You are NOT required to analyze or explain the data. You simply have to point out the main features of the information using the data to illustrate what you are saying.

All Task 1 questions, whether it is a graph, table, pie chart, process or map have EXACTLY THE SAME STRUCTURE (although grammatically, process and map questions normally require passive voice - don't get scared, its not too hard and we will get to it).

IELTS English will present a series of posts on Task 1 Academic writing with a wide range of task types so you can see exactly what is meant by "exactly the same structure".

What is the structure of a Task 1 (Academic Test)?

The Public Band Descriptors can give us a very good idea what to do.

At Band 5 for "Task Achievement" they say (in part):

  • the format may be inappropriate in places
  • no clear overview
  • there may be no data to support the description
At Band 6 they say (in part):
  • presents an overview with information appropriately selected
  • presents and adequately highlights key features (but details may be irrelevant, inappropriate or inaccurate)
So what does this mean? For the structure it means, every Task 1 MUST have three parts:
  1. An introduction (essays have introductions: "appropriate format")
  2. An overview (the 'big picture' of all the details)
  3. Main details ("key features" are described WITH data from the task - "adequately highlights" key features)

This was easy to figure out, all we had to do was look at the information that is publicly available but many people don't know this and it leads to candidates getting a lower score than necessary.

Next time we will look at how this works in a real example.