How to Complete an IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 Graph Response

How Long Should
my Response Be?

In writing my response to an IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 Graph, I aimed for just a little more than 150 words in about 20 minutes.

You must finish within those twenty minutes, so it’s a lot easier to get everything in and get a good score if you follow a basic format.

Keeping the response to about 150 words forces you to use very efficient language and shows the examiner that you’re able to be communicate what you need to say in a very focused manner.

Sticking to that lower word limit ensures you don’t introduce irrelevant information and leaves enough time at the end to edit what you’ve written.

A Word About Tenses

Tenses are an extremely important part of your graph description, so before you start writing, pay close attention to the dates.

In this IELTS Graph sample answer, I’ve used the past tense because I’m describing a period of time in the past. All of the action that I’m writing about occurred between 2010 and 2013.

If the graph’s dates continued into the present day, I would use the present perfect to describe any completed actions up to this point.

past & present tense use

If you use the wrong tense to describe your visual, your examiner won’t be able to give you the score you’re looking for.

If you need to practice your tenses, please take a look at our tense practice workbooks. They’re available in print or as pdf downloads.

How to summarize an IELTS Graph

When you prepare your response to an IELTS Graph, your focus should be on writing well, expressing yourself efficiently, and ticking the examiners boxes.

Your examiner will be looking at your organization, vocabulary, punctuation, sentence variety, grammar, and tenses.

Below, you’ll find some tips on how to How to write an IELTS Graph response, but if you need more help please talk to us about tutoring.

Read and Understand the Question

To understand How to write an IELTS Graph response, the first thing you need to do is read and internalize the question. The question provides you with a graph and asks you to prepare a short academic summary.

A typical graph question looks like this:

This chart shows the library book borrowing habits of a small village population.

Describe and explain the information you see depicted in the graph.

What conclusions can you draw?

How to Start a Graph Response

When preparing an IELTS graph response, it is important that you understand how to formulate your introduction. Your introduction should paraphrase the question so that the examiner knows what you’re describing. 

Your introduction might look like this:

The illustration reveals the public library loans made to Clavering’s men and women between 2010 and 2013. The years are shown on the horizontal axis while the number of borrowed books is shown on the vertical axis.

How to Prepare your Overview

When you prepare your overview, the goal is to provide the examiner with a high-level view of the graph. Imagine that the graph is on the other side of the room, so no details are visible. NONE!

Your overview might look like this:

Although the number of books that were lent to Clavering’s men and women over the three year period increased, women ultimately overtook men as the most prolific borrowers. 

With your introduction and overview complete, the next thing you need to do is describe two trends. 

How to Describe Trend 1

With this graph, it makes sense to talk about women as the first trend and men as the second trend.

Start the paragraph by identifying the trend and then add details that support your statement.

Your description for your first trend might look like this:

Initially women borrowed only half as many books as their male counterparts. That number rose steadily during the two subsequent years to reach 7000 books in 2012. At that point the number of books being lent to women slowed considerably with only 500 more books being borrowed in the final year.

How to Describe Trend 2

With your introduction, overview, and first trend complete, the next thing you need to do is talk about your second trend – men. 

Start the paragraph by identifying the trend and then add details that support your statement.

Your description about your second trend might look like this:

Men’s book borrowing stabilized after a rapid rise from 3000 to 6500 books in the first year. After 2011 the library’s loans to men settled down, neither rising nor falling significantly for the last two years of the period.

How to Draw Concluding Remarks

Your concluding remark may be very much like your overview – just make sure you use different words!

Your concluding remark might look like this:

In conclusion, we can see that the borrowing habits of men and women changed during the time frame with women replacing men as the primary borrowers of Clavering library’s books.

This video provides you with more tips for How to write an IELTS Graph Response.

More IELTS Preparation Lessons

For step-by-step instructions for IELTS Writing Tasks 1 & 2, please check these pages:

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