IELTS Writing Task 1: Describing a Process

Writing Task 1

You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.

The illustration below shows the process of tying a bow tie.

Write a report explaining to a university lecturer how to tie his bow tie.

Write at least 150 words.

IELTS Writing Process

Model Answer

The diagram illustrates how to knot a bow tie in eight stages.

To begin with, the tie should be placed around the neck, with one end slightly longer than the other. Then place the longer end over the other and pass it upwards and behind the point where the two ends cross.

Next, take the other end of the tie and bend it twice to form an ‘S’ shape. Bring the longer end down and in front, so that it holds the ‘S’ curve in place. Now comes the trickiest part of the process. Take the long end of the tie and form a similar ‘S’ shape before passing it through the narrow gap behind the other end. This creates a knot and the bow should now be held securely in place.

Finally, adjust both sides of the bow to make it symmetrical and prepare to be the envy of your friends.

(152 words, IELTS 9.0)

Why does this Task 1 answer get an IELTS Band 9 score?

Task achievement: The model answer fully satisfies all requirements of the task by describing each stage in the process.

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IELTS Speaking Practice Test 3: Family

Part 1 (4-5 minutes)

How large or small is your family?

What you do together as a family?

Who are you closest to in your family?

Is yours a typical family?

Are there many different types of family in your country?

Part 2 (3-4 minutes)

You have 1 minute to read the instructions in the box and prepare an answer. You can make notes. After your preparation time has ended, please speak for 1 to 2 minutes on this topic.

Describe a famous family in your country

You should say:

Who the family members are

How you know about them

Whether they get on well together

And say if you would like to be a member of this family

Follow-up question: Does your family resemble this one?

Part 3 (4-5 minutes)

Family members

What characteristics do elder siblings often have?

Is it better to grow up in a small family or a large extended family?

What role do grandparents play in a family?

Family values

Which are more important: family or friends?

What do you think about single parent families?

Should people be more accepting of alternative family types?

Click here to download a PDF version of this IELTS Speaking practice test for classroom use.

Top Ten Questions for an IELTS Teacher

Ten of the best questions submitted to Ask an IELTS Teacher this year:

Question from Kyaw in Myanmar: I don’t know how to handle “other” in line graph caption. What does “other” mean?

Answer: This is a very good question, thank you. First of all, you don’t need to speculate about what’s meant by ‘other’. Often the ‘other’ category will account for only a very small percentage of results, so it may not even be necessary to mention it in your answer.

Question from Hoda in Iran: Is it true that while taking the IELTS Speaking test part 2, the test taker can ask the examiner to change the cue card if he doe not have no clue to talk about the topic? Will he lose any points for that change?

Answer: I’ve never heard of this before so I don’t recommend trying it. The topic in Part 2 is always designed so that anyone can talk about it. If it seems difficult, explain why it’s difficult. You are assessed on the language you produce, not your ability to answer the question. Good luck!

Question from Surya in India: Can we write all listening answers in capital letters?? For example if the answer is “a monsoon”, can we write like this “A MONSOON” and “reduce tension” as “REDUCE TENSION”??

Answer: Writing your answers in capital letters is absolutely fine and will not affect your score. Good luck!

Question from Amelie in France: I would need to know where to find materials/books with samples about IELTS writing tasks 1 and 2. I need to score band 8. I am requested to. Do you know where I can find good samples of writing tasks band 8 and possibly 9? I need to study them carefully and in depth. Thank you so so much!!

Answer: Wow, that’s a high requirement! May I ask which school or organisation requests Band 8? In answer to your question, I do not know of any textbook specifically designed to help you achieve bands 8 or 9, but the Objective IELTS Advanced Self-study Student’s Book includes many answers of the type you’re looking for. Don’t forget to read my article How to Get a Band 8 Score in Academic IELTS and look at the IELTS Writing answers on this site, many of which are Band 8 or above.

Question from Angel in Indonesia: How come to deal with IELTS interview?? Yesterday, I had my first interview… I was so nervous. Actually, I’m a shy person. So, how to resolve it for the next time if I follow the next interview??

Answer: Remember that the examiner is your friend. The examiner wants you to do well. Practice speaking with an older stranger in your own language first to overcome shyness. And good luck!

Question from Len in Viet Nam: Hello teacher! I’m Len and from Viet Nam, I will take IELTS on December 15, 2012. I’m a bit confused about writing task 2. I should or should not give examples in this task.

Answer: You should definitely include examples as they add vital extra support to your main ideas. However, always be aware of time constraints. Two sentences should be enough for any example: one sentence to state the example, and the second sentence to explain it. Good luck!

Question from Amin in Iran: Hi. There are several things that I need to know about the task 1 in writing. First, How to give a good introduction. Then if there are 2 graphs, should I compare them in the body paragraphs or in the introduction. Finally, in conclusion, which is really overwhelming, again what are the most points that I must mention in the conclusion.Thank you very much.

Answer: I suggest you check the following page which should answer your questions: IELTS Writing Task 1: How to Organise Your Answer

Question from Meet in India: Could u tell me what can I say in a topic of “Describe your attitude”?

Answer: “Describe your attitude” means, in other words, “What is your view of?” or “What do you think of?” It’s simply asking for an opinion so you’d reply “Well, in my view…” or “For me, it’s…”

Question from Min in Viet Nam: I’m always get confused when it comes to IELTS Writing task 1, which contains more than 1 graphs. I dont know where to start and what to write. Can you give me advice on this? Thanks a lot.

Answer: Describe each graph in a separate paragraph and then write about the connection between the graphs in your conclusion. Simple!

Question from Amal in Oman: I want to ask you about the academic writing task one. Every time I take IELTS I got band 5 in writing and I don’t know what was my mistake. Can you please give me types of questions that come in task 1 and how can I answer them and get higher score. 

Answer: There are plenty of sample Task 1 questions with model answers on this website. Good luck!

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IELTS Academic: Now with 1,000 Twitter Followers

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IELTS Reading: Essential Skills and Strategies

Do you wish there was a magic device that would enable you to become a more effective reader? Many IELTS candidates probably do. Most EFL students I have taught have a low opinion of their own reading ability. This is because they consider every unclear word or sentence a serious failure on their part. In fact, it’s possible to get a very high score in IELTS Reading without fully understanding a passage or many of the words within. Mastering a few basic skills and strategies, some of which you probably already use in your first language, is the key to success in IELTS Reading.

Important: The article assumes you are familiar with the IELTS Reading test format. If you aren’t read IELTS Reading: Introduction first.


Skilled readers quickly ‘get the gist’ (understand the main idea) of a passage by using speed-reading, or skimming. They glance quickly at titles and headings to identify the general topic. They know where to look for the writer’s main idea: near the end of the introduction and the beginning of the conclusion. When reading body paragraphs, they stop as soon as they have understood the main idea and they don’t bother reading supporting sentences such as examples and quotations. If they see a word they don’t recognise, they never stop to consider what it means. Instead, their eyes are constantly moving across, or skimming the text. Practice skimming every time you encounter a new reading passage and, as a general rule, don’t spend more than 5 minutes skim-reading a passage in IELTS, not even the longest of the three passages.

Understanding how a text is organised

Another skill that goes hand-in-hand with skimming is understanding the organisation of a text. How many paragraphs comprise the introductory section? Where is the thesis statement located? What is the main function of each paragraph? Which linking expressions indicate a change of topic or argument? Some readers mentally note these observations, some prefer to underline key topic words and signal phrases, while others annotate (write brief summarising words) in the margins. Understanding how a text is organised will help you locate information more quickly when it comes to answering the questions.


When reading a question, the temptation is start scanning the text for the answer immediately. However, effective scanning begins with careful study of the question. What information do you need to find? A person’s name? A year? A reason? An effect? Are there specific names or technical terms in the question that are certain to appear in the text? To locate specific facts such as dates and names, one high-speed technique is to scan backwards through the text, which prevents you from re-reading the sentences. To find ideas, you will need to become a master of paraphrase.

Identifying paraphrase

The majority of the 40 questions in IELTS Reading will involve some form of paraphrase of the original text: headings and summaries are typical examples. As a paraphrase expresses the same meaning using different words, it naturally helps to have a huge vocabulary. However, vocabulary size is not everything. Paraphrase recognition starts with knowing which words are most likely to be paraphrased: conceptual words like find/discover, avoid/prevent, and theory/explanation are typically paraphrased, while more technical terms such as infectious disease, volcanic eruption, or silicon chip are likely to re-appear in the text. Concentrate your vocabulary learning on the former group, the core concept words, many of which appear in the Academic Word List.

Guessing unknown words

It’s guaranteed that there will be words you don’t know in the Reading module of IELTS. In fact, the test writers deliberately place difficult words in the passages to see if candidates can figure them out using contextual clues. These contextual clues can include a definition, a paraphrase elsewhere in the text, collocating words, or word parts, i.e. prefixes and suffixes. Skilled IELTS test-takers have more than just a well-stocked vocabulary; they also have the skills to cope with an unknown word and guess intelligently at its most likely meaning.

Time management

By answering 30 out of 40 questions correctly, you can achieve a score of 7.0 in the Academic Reading module of IELTS, which is considered good enough to enter most universities in the world. The lesson here is: Don’t spend too much time on the 10 most difficult questions. It’s more important that you allow yourself time to answer the 30 easiest questions and give the remaining 10 your best guess. As a general rule, if you’re still unsure of an answer after one minute, pencil in your best guess, move on to the next question, and come back to it later if there’s time.

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IELTS Listening: Essential Skills and Strategies

Listening is probably the easiest section of IELTS to make a rapid improvement in if you master a few basic strategies. Before taking the IELTS test, be aware of the skills and strategies below and give yourself opportunities to practice them.

Important: The article assumes you are familiar with the IELTS Listening test format. If you aren’t, read IELTS Listening: Introduction first.


Use the short time before the listening passage begins to scan the questions. What type of information does each one ask for? Pay special attention to questions that require numbers or difficult spellings such as names. Predicting – coming up with a possible answer – is not the same as guessing. When you predict, you consider the type of information that COULD complete the answer. This helps you to focus on all the important information contained in the question.

Identifying keywords

The questions will contain two types of word: those likely to be used by the speaker and those likely to be paraphrased. Improve your chances of following the listening passage by identifying the ‘anchor’ words (names and technical terms) and predicting possible paraphrases of the rest.

Identifying paraphrase

It’s highly unlikely that the speakers will repeat the language in the questions, except for the keywords mentioned above. You will need to both anticipate and recognise when the speaker uses a paraphrase – a phrase with same meaning as the question but using different words. English speakers paraphrase more often than speakers of most other languages. Practice this essential skill every opportunity you get.

Targetted listening

Targetted listening means focussing your attention on the ten items of information required to answer the ten questions in each section of the IELTS Listening test. It is perfectly possible to hear these ten items without understanding everything that is said. The opposite is open listening – listening for any information that helps you understand what’s going on. Open listening may be important when having a conversation with a friend, but use targetted listening for success in IELTS.


Since the majority of questions in IELTS Listening are NOT multiple-choice, you will need to write down the answers in words. And, if you don’t spell it right, you don’t get the point. No amount of good listening will be effective if you can’t spell. Certain words like names of people and addresses may have more than one accepted spelling, and these will be spelled out for you by the speaker. For the rest, use our guide to Common Spelling Mistakes in IELTS and learn how to avoid them.


In sentence and summary completion tasks you will have to write an answer that is not only spelled correctly but that also fits grammatically. Knowing the rules is therefore a great advantage. You may not always hear the plural ‘s’ at the end of a word, for example, but, with a good knowledge of English grammar, you should be able to identify when a noun must take the plural form. Another common example is the ‘ed’ adjectival suffix. Recognising that an answer should be an adjective can help you to give the correct answer even when you don’t hear the ‘ed’. Not only in IELTS Listening but in all modules of IELTS, practical application of skills and techniques must be backed up by ongoing study of the rules of the language.

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Do I Need an IELTS Teacher?

One of the first questions an IELTS candidate must ask is: Do I need a teacher’s help or can I go it alone? As an IELTS teacher, you’d expect me to have a biased view on this! But seriously, there are many important benefits you gain by studying with a teacher. Here are some:

A teacher can help you recognise your strengths and weaknesses.

Sometimes we aren’t good at identifying the areas in which we need to improve. IELTS test-takers will often say they feel nervous about speaking or dislike the pressure of the writing section. In fact, they may be overestimating the difficulty of these sections and might benefit more from acquiring simple strategies for listening and reading. That’s the advantage of preparing with an IELTS teacher: he or she can give you an objective analysis of where you need to concentrate your efforts most.

Only an experienced IELTS teacher can score your writing and speaking answers.

While textbooks may provide guidance in the form of sample student answers, you can only really guess the band score your essays and spoken answers would receive. The knowledge of how IELTS answers are really scored belongs to a select group of people: IELTS examiners and experienced IELTS teachers. Not only can teachers give you an accurate band score in all sections of the test, they can also provide more detailed scores than the test certificate, including individual scores for the various criteria in IELTS Writing and Speaking, and suggestions for improvement.

A good teacher will train you in a range of language skills while preparing you for IELTS.

Preparing for IELTS should not be the objective of your English study! A test is only one temporary factor spurring the development of a skill that you will use for the rest of your life. While ensuring that you get the IELTS test practice you need, a good teacher will also do so much more. This includes pointing out your most frequent grammatical errors, correcting your pronunciation and spelling, and letting you know if what you said is understandable or not. On top of that, your teacher provides an all-round good model of how to use English in everyday communication. Ask yourself if you could get all this from books, the internet or friends, and the answer will almost certainly be No.

An organised programme of study helps to prevent procrastination.

What is ‘procrastination’? We’re all guilty of it, even if we don’t know the word. Procrastination means putting off or postponing those things we know we must do. It affects us at school, at work, and of course when preparing for a test like IELTS. Studying in a classroom with classmates and a teacher and following a syllabus provide what psychologists call ‘extrinsic motivation’, in other words, an external source of motivation – essential if your own levels of motivation aren’t always high.

In IELTS, practice makes perfect.

In all areas of life, our confidence in our own ability increases with practice. This in turn leads to better performance in pressure situations such as exams. While textbooks will allow you to practice the listening, reading and writing modules of IELTS, the only way to gain authentic practice of the IELTS speaking module is with a teacher. An experienced IELTS teacher knows how to play the examiner’s role, including the kind of help that can be given and when to prompt you to speak more. Try gaining practice with a variety of teachers – different ages, accents, and personalities – to reduce the likelihood of nerves when you meet your first IELTS examiner.

What do you think? Do you have a really great (or bad) IELTS teacher? What have you learned from a teacher that you couldn’t learn by yourself? Tell us below.

IELTS Writing Answer Sheet: Free Download

Introducing a practice version of the official IELTS Writing answer sheets modified for teacher/student use and available as a free PDF download!

Some of the features that make the practice version superior for both teachers and students:

Keep track of student work with fields for name, class, teacher and date

12-point double-spaced lines for easier correction and annotation

Full scoring rubric and space for marker feedback

Download the IELTS Writing Answer Sheet (Practice Version)

IELTS Writing Task 2: How to Organise Your Answer

See below for an easy-to-follow guide to planning, organising and paragraphing an essay in IELTS Writing Task 2. This advice applies to both General Training and Academic Writing modules, but there are different ways of organising an answer depending on the question type.

First paragraph: Introduction

Key technique: Don’t begin with your thesis statement.

Never begin an essay with I believe, I agree, or In my opinion. These indicate your thesis statement and should go at the END of your introduction, after you have introduced the topic and problem to be discussed. As a rule, start generally and take several sentences to build to your main idea. Note that the style of thesis statement will vary depending on the question type. Study the question carefully first to determine if you should give your opinion in the introduction or in the conclusion.

  • Introductory sentence: What topic is to be discussed? Recently, there have been…
  • Narrow the focus: What issue concerning the topic is to be resolved? However, some people argue that…
  • Thesis statement (opinion essay): What is your opinion on this issue? This essay will argue that…
  • Thesis statement (argument essay): What will happen in this essay? This essay will look at both sides of the argument before stating my own opinion.
  • Thesis statement (problem/solution essay): What are you going to write about? The main problems are X and Y and I will propose solutions to both in this essay.

Hint: You can choose either to write in the first person (I believe...) or third person (This essay will…). The third person sounds more objective and academic.

Hint: Don’t include your main reasons or arguments in the introduction, these should go in each of the body paragraphs.

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IELTS Writing Task 1: How to Organise Your Answer

Here’s a quick guide on how to organise an IELTS Writing Task 1 answer into paragraphs. This applies only to the Academic module. Note that the organisation of the answer may change depending on the question type.

First paragraph: Introduction

Key technique: Be direct.

When writing an introduction to Task 1, get straight to the point as you only have 20 minutes to write your answer. One or two sentences are often sufficient. Two things you should try to include in the introduction are:

  • Paraphrase of the question: What does the diagram show? (Don’t describe the results yet!)
  • General description: Are the differences great or small, many or few? Is there one very obvious trend or feature that stands out?

Hint: Many people make the mistake of continuing with all the details. Stop here and begin your first body paragraph.

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