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A lot of my students seem surprised by Task 1 writing because it wasn’t what they expected, and to be fair there are quite a few different types of question. 

So here is a breakdown of all the basic info you need.  

The Test Format

The IELTS writing exam is a 60 minute test of your English writing ability and there are two parts – Task 1 and Task 2.

For Task 1 (Academic) you will be given some data in the form of a chart, table, or process.

You have around 20 minutes to write at least a 150 word summary of the data.The data comes in many different formats so you should practise all of them to be ready for your test.

What Does a Task 1 Question Look Like?

The question has three main parts:

1. Task instructions – these are always the same for any academic Task 1

2. A statement that introduces the data.

3. The data itself – presented in a chart, table or diagram.

The Instructions

You can see from the  three examples below that the instructions can be found above and below the box, as well as the second sentence inside the box.

Every task 1 is the same. You need to:

– Spend about 20 minutes and write at least 150 words.

– Write a summary of the main trends and key details, and make comparisons if possible.

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

The Introductory Statement

Look again at the examples. The introductory statement is the first sentence in the box.

It is different for each question because the data is different each time.

It is very useful as it gives you the following information:

1. The type of data – chart, table, map, process etc.

2. Other key information e.g. where, when, what

You should read this sentence carefully as you will need to paraphrase this information when you write an introduction to your task 1 essay.

The Data – 6 Task Types

The data is the information you have to describe in your task 1 essay. It will be presented in a chart, table or diagram.

There are six basic types. Let’s take a look:


1. Line graphs – e.g. describe changes to six different kinds of fuel consumption over a period of fifty years in the USA.

2. Bar graphs or charts – e.g. describe changes to three different kinds of phone use over a period of eight years in the UK.

3. Pie charts – e.g. describe changes to the age of the population over a period of fifty years in Italy and Yemen.


4. Tables – e.g. describe and compare sales of two different products in five countries over five years.


5. Process diagrams – e.g. describe the life cycle of a salmon.

6. Maps – e.g. describe and compare two maps of an island before and after a development.

How Different are the Different Types?

In some ways every task 1 is the same – they all have the same amount of time, same word length, and in general ask you to do the same thing.

In other ways, they are very different – each task type requires different vocabulary and a different focus.

So you should study and practise each task type separately, so that whichever one you get on your test day, you’ll be able to complete it successfully.

How is Task 1 scored?

Your essay is marked by a qualified IELTS examiner.

They will score your writing equally using four criteria:

1. Task Achievement (Answering the the question)

2. Coherence and Cohesion. (Clear and well organised)

3. Lexical Resource. (Vocabulary and spelling)

4. Grammatical Range and Accuracy. (Grammar and punctuation)

For each of the criteria you will get a ‘band score’ of 0-9.

These will be added together and an average will be calculated and the final figure will be rounded down, even if you are close to the next band score.

Finally the two figures are added together and calculated as ⅓ x Task 1 and ⅔ x Task 2.

This is then rounded down again. Sorry – I didn’t write the test!

For example, Donald Trump gets the following scores:





Average score

Final result

Task 1







Task 2







(Task 1 score x 1/3) + (Task 2 score x 2/3).



KEY TIP: Task 2 is worth double the marks so make sure you don’t spend too long on Task 1. If you are a slow writer, do task 2 first!

Also notice that being marked down in one criteria can wreck your chances of getting the score you need.

Therefore it isn’t enough to get close to the score you want, especially as some examiners are very strict.

You must make sure that through repeated practice that you are consistently getting the scores you need so you can be confident on the day.

Check out our marking service to know your scores, get personal corrections and guaranteed improvement.

Or at least you won’t be surprised now!

Now it’s your turn! Put your answers in the comments

 What score do you need for writing?

Which type of Task 1 question do you think is the most difficult?

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