Part 2: The Overview

The overview is extremely important. Candidates who do not write an overview CANNOT get higher than Band 5 for Task Achievement according to the Public Band Descriptors.

What is an overview?

The overview briefly describes the main feature(s) of the data. It is NOT the same as the introduction  which just says what the data is about. The overview is a summary of the most important trends or features of the data. If you read the overview you should know (all) the most important things about the data.

Look at what the Public Band Descriptors say at band 7:

  • presents a clear overview of main trends, differences or stages

At Band 8 and 9 the overview is not mentioned at all so the assumption is that the essay has a detailed and complete overview at band 7 that describes ALL the important trends in the data. (Notice that it says "trends" with an "s" - if there is more than one, you must give them all.)

At Band 6 the Public Band Descriptors say:

  • presents an overview with information appropriately selected

this means that the candidate has attempted to describe at least some of the important trends in the data, although they may not have identified all of them.

Band 5 says:

  • no clear overview

This is clear enough, if there is no overview, the writing gets Band 5 maximum for Task Achievement. Yet many, many candidates fail to write an overview in their Task 1 essay.

Some teachers tell students to just select what is the highest and lowest figure and use this as the overview.

Is this good advice?

Well, it depends. If that is the only identifiable important feature of the data, it will probably be alright, BUT ... it is unlikely, in most cases, that this will be the major feature of the data.

Look at the graph in the previous post

It is not the high or low values that are important in this data, it is the fact that:

  1. one increased
  2. WHILE the other decreased
  3. they ended at the same value

so there are actually THREE important features here.

We could write the overview this way:

"Overall, the graph indicates that the unemployment rate fell in the US (by around 30%) while it doubled in Japan, with both rates finally reaching 5%."

So, what have we achieved?

We have written an over that identifies THREE major features of the data:

  1. the falling trend in US unemployment
  2. the rising trend in Japanese unemployment
  3. the fact that BOTH countries ended up with the SAME level of unemployment

AND

We achieved this by using a subordinate clause structure because we have used "...WHILE..." and this adds to the complex structures in the introduction and sets us well on the way to a high band score.

If you are not good at mathematics you could leave out the "by around 30%" but I will show you later how to do this, it is not too hard and it allows you to talk very precisely about the data.

Every time you write an overview you should attempt to do it with a subordinate clause structure using words like: "while", "although", "even though" or "whereas".

Overviews are not too hard to write with practice so this is another area where we need some practice exercises to help improve your skills.