ielts writing task

Ready, Set…Write! How to Conquer the IELTS Writing Task 1 in 5 Easy Steps

In the IELTS Writing Task 1, you’ll be asked to write at least 150 words about information in a graph or table, or a process that is presented in the form of a diagram.

This part of the IELTS Writing test may seem challenging–however, just like the IELTS Speaking test, it’s all about preparation and time management.

In this post, you’ll find five steps you can take to get through this part of the IELTS exam.

Let’s get started!



1. Plan Your IELTS Writing Task 1 Answer Fast and Well

You can’t afford to write a detailed plan, as you only have so much time. However, if you study the diagram, table or chart you are given, you can actually use that as a plan!

For instance, in this example task on the IELTS website, you have a table that shows “the number of students living in the UK gaining English language teacher training qualifications in 2007/8 and 2008/9, and the proportion of male qualifiers.”

The table shows the number of male and female students for both years, along with the total number and the percentage of male students. It also shows how many students gained a TEFL qualification, and how many a UCLES CELTA or other degree.

As you will only have 20 minutes to complete this task, you can’t write a paragraph for each row or column of this table. However, you can study the table a bit and think about how you could group information around two main paragraphs.

For example, you may want to focus on 2007/8 in the first paragraph and 2008/9 in the second paragraph. Then you could present the rest of the information as details in each of the paragraphs.

Since the task asks you to make comparisons where relevant, an even better approach would be to write one paragraph focusing on similarities between the two years and one on differences.

Alternatively, you could write the first paragraph on differences between the numbers of males and females in the two years and the second paragraph on differences between the qualifications obtained.

2. Write a Clear and Focused Introduction

Imagine that the reader doesn’t have the information summary (graph, chart, etc.) in front of them. This will help you keep the information you include relevant.

You could write a whole separate introductory paragraph, but make sure it’s not too long or you may not have time for the body of your writing.

You may also decide to join the introduction and the first paragraph, but only do this in IELTS Writing Task 1, the shorter of the two writing tasks.

Your introduction must have a topic sentence that maps out the rest of your writing, giving your reader a sense of direction. Here’s an example of a topic sentence you could use for the information given above:

The aim of this report is to summarize data on the qualifications obtained by English language teachers in 2007/2008 as opposed to 2008/2009 while also studying the differences in the numbers of male and female teachers in both years.

3. Express Each Main Idea in a Separate Paragraph

Each paragraph needs to have one main idea. The other ideas in the paragraph will be supporting ideas.

By writing a general introduction, like in the example above, you can keep your options open about how to structure the body of the report.

For example, you may decide to go with similarities in the first paragraph and differences in the second paragraph:

In both 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 the total number of female students exceeds the number of male students by over 75%. Moreover, the TEFL certificate is the qualification preferred by both male and female students, with at least two-thirds choosing TEFL over Cambridge UCLES CELTA and other degrees.

There are also a number of differences between the two years. There is a 2% drop in the number of male students who qualified in 2008/2009 as opposed to 2007/2008, despite the total number of students being slightly higher in the second year. As for the certificates students chose to take, there is an increased preference for Cambridge UCLES CELTA and other degrees for female and male students combined in 2008/2009 as compared to the previous year.

Depending on how much time you have left and whether you managed to write at least 150 words, you may decide to write a separate concluding paragraph. You can also just use the last paragraph to serve as a conclusion.

It’s OK not to have a separate concluding paragraph, because in this part of the IELTS Writing exam you are not summing up arguments or expressing personal opinions.

Note that the above example is just one way you could organize the information. Taking another look at the “model answer” provided on the IELTS page will let you compare two different ways you could write about this information.

4. Use Clear and Analytical Language

Expressing Percentages

One helpful way of presenting numbers is using percentages.

Have a look at some language for expressing percentages that you may want to include in your own writing:

  • The smallest/largest percentage of students is currently unemployed.
  • Out of a total of 11,000 employees, only 15% are qualified.
  • The number of female drivers rose/dropped to 40% last year.
  • Their profit decreased/increased by 12%.
  • 20% of the recruits were from rural areas.
  • The percentage doubled/tripled in the next year.
  • There were more children than adults (70% and 30% respectively).

Expressing Changes

You may want to use other words and phrases to express changes. Here are a couple of useful ways to build phrases about changes.

  • Verb + adverb

The number of female employees having formal qualifications…

…rose dramatically.

…increased suddenly.

…decreased sharply.

…dropped steeply.

…fluctuated slightly.

…fell steadily. 

  • Adjective + noun

There was a dramatic rise in the number of female employees having formal qualifications.

Depending on the situation, you could also say: There was a…    

…sudden increase

…sharp decrease

…steep drop

…slight fluctuation

…steady fall

One of the best ways to pick up these phrases is by immersing yourself in native English content. For example, you could try using the financial or business sections of English newspapers. News sources will not only help you pick up new professional and analytical phrases, but they will also enable you to see them used in context in written English, which will help you understand how you could use them in the IELTS Writing Task 1.

Another resource you could try using is FluentU. This language learning program offers an array of authentic English videos such as informative clips and interesting talks. Each video features interactive captions as well as accompanying transcripts and quizzes which allow you to start practicing right away. You could also use the contextual video dictionary to search for specific vocabulary and find videos where it’s used in context by native speakers.

By immersing yourself in professional native English content you’ll be able to identify the different writing styles and tones as well as key vocabulary to start using to make your writing sound more fluent!

Achieving a Formal Tone

It’s a good idea to try to achieve an impersonal, formal tone and avoid being too subjective and informal.

To do this, avoid using “I” as the subject of a sentence:

Personal, subjective: I can notice that…

Impersonal, objective: It can be noticed that…

Use the infinitive (“to…”) after phrases like “it is necessary” or “it is important”:

It is necessary to instruct all new recruits.

It is important to organize reports well.

Use the gerund form of a verb (the “-ing” form) after phrases like “…involves”:

This part of the training involves participants working in pairs.

5. Don’t Forget to Proofread Your Writing

Proofreading can help you gain some extra points by minimizing the number of mistakes in your writing. However, remember that you don’t have the time to rewrite entire sentences. 

Set aside around five minutes for proofreading when you’re done writing. Your priority is to finish the writing task, though, so don’t sacrifice writing time for proofreading time.

A good rule is to never hand in your writing early. Use whatever time you have left for proofreading.

If possible, proofread once for grammar and vocabulary mistakes and then once again for spelling mistakes. You may not notice spelling mistakes if you focus on grammar and vocabulary and vice versa.

Remember that this is a English language writing test, so the evaluators will focus a lot on your grammar, vocabulary and spelling, as well as on your ability to organize your writing.


The IELTS Writing Task 1 may seem difficult at first, but once you practice writing effectively, along with planning and proofreading, you’ll know exactly what to do on the big day!

Maybe even more importantly, preparing for this part of the exam will help you learn to present statistics in a logical and coherent (clear and consistent) way.

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