Do’s & Don’ts In IELTS Writing Task 1

May 8, 2020 | IELTS WRITING TASK 1

If you can follow these ground rules, you save yourself from unnecessary worries.

Here we go!

  1. Allocate time to plan your answer. I would recommend you spend 3 – 4 minutes analyzing the graphics and grouping the data before you actually write. It is wise to spend a couple of minutes making an outline and having a clear-cut structure of what you are going to report. This matters because you do not have to shift back and forth and think about what to write as you go.
  2. Pay attention to the years and units of measurement. You can look for these in the two axes (vertical and horizontal) in bar charts and line graphs. The years help you come up with the right tense(s) to use, while the units ensure you quote the correct data.
  3. Paraphrase the question title as much as you can when you write the Introduction. You will not get higher than 5.0 for Task Achievement if you copy the instructions.
  4. Highlight outstanding features in the Overview. Overview is often considered the most important part of your Task 1 response. If you do not pick out the key features and include them effectively in an overview, you will not be able to get a 7 or above.
  5. Group the data based on their similar patterns/ trends. The examiners do not want to see you list the data from left to right, or top to bottom. So practice comparing and contrasting the data based on their similarities and differences, and then categorize them into groups.
  6. Focus on key figures of the charts/ graphs. You do not have to cover all the details. Questions usually go “Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant”, which means you should not worry about including every single number given.
  7. Use specific data to support your description of details. For example, the sales have soared dramatically by roughly 50% over the period shown. Do not just say “the figures increased/ decreased” without mentioning the numbers to illustrate.
  8. Use linking words to connect sentences as well as ensure smooth transition between categories or paragraphs. For example, in addition, by contrast, with regard to, so forth. That being said, try not to overuse them; you do not have to start every sentence with a linking word. Use them with care and appropriacy.
  9. Vary your trend language. You should not just use “increase” or “decrease” all the time. Depending on the level of change, alternatives such as “jump”, “spike”, or “rocket” would ‘spice up’ your writing. Refer to Vocabulary secrets for Writing Task 1 for more tips.
  10. Use academic/ formal language. “Big/ small” is not formal enough in academic context. Try to use “significant”, “remarkable”, “minor”, to name a few.
  11. Vary your grammar structures. You are recommended to use a mix of simple and complex sentence forms. Having said that, make sure you know what you are doing, or you make mistakes otherwise. In order to achieve a 7.0 and above, you are expected to produce frequent error-free sentences. Refer to Grammar secrets for Writing Task 1 for more information.
  12. Use passive voice where appropriate. Do not get me wrong. I am not saying you must use passive voice on every occasion, or passive voice is always better than active voice. What I am trying to say is to use it properly, and when you do, it works. The reason is passive voice helps remove the need to use personal pronouns (I, you, we, they). This makes sense especially in process/ diagram questions. For instance, instead of “Then, they/ people/ we package and deliver the final product to retailers”, a better version should be “The final product is then packaged and delivered to retailers.”
  13. Write in paragraphs [Introduction, Overview, Body (normally 2 paragraphs)]. It is totally fine if you combine the Introduction and Overview in one paragraph, but remember paragraphing is essential. Do not try to write everything in one big chunk.
  14. Leave an empty line between paragraphs. This is for the purpose of clarity.
  15. Allow time to proofread your work. By doing so, you can avoid repeated vocabulary, basic grammar mistakes, and the like.
  16. Write at least 150 words. This might sound elementary, but it is critically important to meet the word limit. You lose points on Task Achievement for under-length response.
  17. Write legibly. That does not necessarily mean that you have to write beautifully in admirable calligraphy. There is no evidence that shows your score will be reduced as a result of bad handwriting. But make it readable at least. Make the examiners’ life easy. You do not want to upset them, do you?


  1. Write the words ‘below’ or ‘above’ in the Introduction. A great many students paraphrase the question title but still keep “the chart below.” There is no chart or graph ‘below’ or ‘above’ on your writing paper, so you had better have that removed.
  2. Include figures/ numbers in the Overview. You are expected to highlight key features only and save detailed statistics for Body paragraphs.
  3. Quote wrong data, either in numbers or units. Repeated mistakes in this regard are detrimental to your score.
  4. Make basic grammar mistakes. These include, but are not limited to, subject-verb agreement, tense, spelling, and punctuation.
  5. Write a conclusion. An overview should suffice.
  6. Use contractions. Contractions (e.g., didn’t, doesn’t, won’t) are considered informal, and hence, should not be used in academic writing. Write full forms instead.
  7. Insert personal comments or explain reasons for data. For instance, “The employment rate dropped significantly because of the pandemic.” Your job is to describe the provided data without stating the background or including any other information that is not mentioned.
  8. Use personal pronouns (e.g., I, you, we). Task 1 does not ask for your ideas or opinions; you are asked to report and describe what you see. One way to avoid this is to use passive voice (appropriately and accurately).
  9. Use informal language. Idioms, informal phrasal verbs, slangs are inappropriate for academic writing.
  10. Write too many words (more than 200 words). Ideal word limit is 150 – 165. For the most part, quality is better than quantity. Writing lengthy responses often means more mistakes in grammar or cohesion. Instead of writing more words, you are advised to focus on refining your work. This is not to mention that Task 2 is worth twice as many points as Task 1, so you want to spend more time catering to Task 2.


  1. Khoa Nguyen

    nice advise 🙂

    • Phan Vũ Uyên Trang

      Thank you!


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