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.
Key technique: Divide the body into two or three paragraphs.
Use a logical way to divide the body of your report into two or three paragraphs. Are there two or more sets of data? Great, then write a paragraph about each one. Is there only one set of data? Count the variables and divide them into two or three groups. You can divide by natural similarity (e.g. some academic subjects are sciences; others are arts.) Or you can divide by similarity of results (e.g. some exam scores went up; others went down.) Or you can divide a process, a time period or age range into two or three stages (e.g. the 20th Century can be divided into the early, mid, and late 20th Century.)
Now that you have a paragraphing system, make sure each paragraph is organised as follows:
- Link to the previous paragraph: By contrast, turning to, finally, etc.
- Topic sentence: Describe the main point, change or comparison in general terms without giving specific information.
- Supporting sentence(s): Quote a figure or other evidence that supports the claim made in the topic sentence.
Hint: If you find yourself writing more than two consecutive supporting sentences, include a general sentence (e.g. There were also significant differences in…) to guide the reader, or consider starting a new paragraph.
Final paragraph: Conclusion
Key technique: Add overall coherence.
Due to lack of time, many people will omit the conclusion from Task 1. However, there are several reasons you should write a conclusion. One is that writing a summarising sentence takes very little time and may push you past the 150-word limit. Another is that a good summary can add coherence to your answer, which could rescue your score if you have drifted a lot. Finally, since the purpose of Task 1 is usually to compare, the conclusion allows you to make direct comparisons of the different sets of data, which is especially important if you have described them in separate body paragraphs. Here are some things that can go in the conclusion to Task 1:
- Concluding signal: In conclusion, in summary, overall, etc.
- Summary: Paraphrase the overall trend or the two or three main points made in the body. Never include statistics or other evidence in the conclusion.
- Direct comparison: If there are several sets of data, here is your chance to make a connection between them. Don’t go into too much detail.
- Prediction: If the data includes a timeframe, you could make a prediction about what is likely to happen next.
- Concluding comment: If you really need some extra words, you could add a comment on the data. Is it surprisingly, alarming, expected? Comments such as these are not required by the question but are better than incurring a penalty for not meeting the word requirement.
Hint: You don’t need to include all of the above in your conclusion. Two sentences are generally enough.