Academic Writing Task 1: Two must-haves


Ughhhhh, don’t you just hate this part of the exam? Graphs, charts, diagrams, numbers, percentages; what a nightmare!

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The good news is that there are 2 simple things you can do to avoid disaster.

Before we look at them, here’s a quick recap of the scoring system:

You are scored on 4 criteria: Task Achievement, Coherence & Cohesion, Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range and Accuracy. The maximum score in each criteria is 9 and the minimum is 0.

So, perhaps your grammar game is strong, your vocab is varied and interesting, you’ve got some nice linkers and references in there…


Have you included these two crucial things?

  2. DATA


An overview is a sentence or two in which you describe the main trends, differences or stages. It is essential if you want to score over 5 in Task Achievement. Look!

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You should signal your overview by starting it with, ‘Overall, it is clear that…’ So, even if it isn’t perfect, at least the examiner will give you some credit for attempting it.

Easy, right?

Just one more thing; there’s a difference between a band 6 overview and a band 9 overview. A good overview (band 7/8/9) shouldn’t be too vague or too detailed.

Let me demonstrate:


Too vague: 

Overall, it is clear that there were changes in the food teenagers ate during the period.

Too detailed:

Overall, it is clear that Australian teens ate fish and chips 100 times a year in 1975 but this fell to about 40 in 2000. They ate pizza and hamburgers fewer than 20 times a year in 1975 but by 2000, they were eating these meals more than 80 and 100 times annually respectively. 

Just right:

Overall, it is clear that although fish and chips were the most popular fast food among Australian teens in 1975, by 2000, this dish was consumed the least. The consumption of pizza and hamburgers, however, rose dramatically throughout the period.

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Again, omitting this can limit your TA score to band 5:

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Another easy fix: make sure to include actual figures (data) in your description of the key features, just like this:

There was a dramatic increase in the consumption of pizza by teens from around 5 times per year to over 80 times between 1975 and 1995.

Of course, different graphs show different types of data; it could be percentages, dollars, kilometres… It doesn’t matter. The important thing is to include some data to back up your descriptions.

To recap:

  1. Write an overview – signal it clearly and include the main trends, differences or stages.
  2.  Use data in the body paragraphs.


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Now go practice 🙂

Written by a Bayside IELTS expert, Melbourne