Academic writing task 1 – Writing an overview

In my free book, The Key to IELTS Success, I explained how important it is to write an overview statement in academic writing task 1.  This post shows a task 1 question I created for my Facebook page as well as my sample answer. 

Here is the task:


If you look through the photos on my Facebook page you will find more samples (and corrections) provided by followers of my page. As you will see, many of the problems relate to vocabulary – so it is important to remember that writing task 1 is not only about describing figures and data. 

Here is my sample answer showing the overview statement.  Read chapter 6 of my free book to understand why this is so important if you want to score band 7 in IELTS.

Recent Comments

  • Ehsan
    10th July 2020 - 4:24 pm ·

    Hi Pauline, i want to know that should i write the overview sentence in a separate paragraph after the introduction paragraph or it doesn’t matter, because some videos on web suggest to write it in a different paragraph while some books doesn’t mention anything about it and even it’s been written just after the introduction in the same paragraph.I have got confused about this.And also what about the last paragraph, do we have to put a conclusion ( i don’t mean conclusion from our opinion) at the end or not.
    So which one is right:
    paragraph 1 : introduction
    paragraph 2: overview
    paragraph 3 and/ or 4 : main body
    last paragraph : conclusion
    or paragraph 1 : introduction + overview
    paragraph 2 and/or 3 : main body
    last paragraph : conclusion
    i would be appreciate it if you could guide me.

    • Pauline
      11th July 2020 - 10:46 am ·

      There is no rule about where your overview statement should come – some people like to use is as a type of conclusion to finish their summary, I advise people write it at the start so that they don’t forget to include it. The word conclusion is not helpful with Task 1 – you must not write a personal conclusion, if you add one, and have already given an overview, it is likely to simply repeat the overview statement. Chapter 6 of my free book discusses this and this blog post has a sample answer showing the features you need to include.

      • huy
        17th August 2020 - 3:16 am ·

        so why in the Mindset for IELTS the sample answers contain both an overview and a summary? how are they different?
        many of your advice are contradict to the Mindset, should I still study from it?

        • Pauline
          17th August 2020 - 7:27 am ·

          You have to ask them why they have written their answers this way. I can’t speak for others. The Mindset series was written by IELTS teachers and I am afraid I can’t recommend it.

  • Gail
    22nd May 2020 - 5:13 am ·

    Hello again.
    A quick question, Pauline.
    How many MAIN FEATURES do you recommend in a body paragraph? I have noticed that you managed to cover all the key details with only 2 minor details in single paragraph in a simple and direct manner. I really need your help because we do it differently here (Philippines) with my IELTS instructors. They suggested a structure of two body paragraphs and I find it mentally exhausting that I have to find more features and details to interpret.

    Thank you so much.

  • Gail
    22nd May 2020 - 4:25 am ·

    Hello Pauline,
    I am having a hard time writing an overview statement and selecting key features. I’ve read countless resources but still it doesn’t crack my brain to understand. I’m trying too hard in looking at the figures. But the way you write a sample answers shows flexibility in writing your own interpretation. It’s not rigid (terms used and the structure) like what my IELTS instructors are currently doing now.

    Thank you, you’re a light bulb in my brain.

    • Pauline
      22nd May 2020 - 11:34 am ·

      Hi Gail, you show writing skills when you can clearly sum up or explain something complex in your own words. There is no magic formula, but some of the ideas in my writing task 2 book may help – there are certain sentences within a body paragraph that have to ‘sum up’ the main ideas in a similar way. I talk about the use of umbrella terms and this can be a useful idea for overview statements too. Thinking about the ‘big picture’ or the ‘most interesting’ points or changes also helps.

  • Thomas Chen
    15th March 2020 - 3:17 am ·

    Hi, Pauline. Thank you for your sample. I wonder if there is a standard answer in Task 1 since most people have different interpretations of charts and diagrams. For example, you might focus on the item three countries spend most on while I might focus on the item they spend least on. Does this disagreement lead to my lower score?

    • Pauline
      16th March 2020 - 8:17 am ·

      As with task 2, there is no single standard answer. However, there are key pieces of data that should be standard in a band 9 answer. Those are the most obvious (the main patterns and trends) rather than the minor details. The way that you express these can differ a lot. But if you ignore or leave out key details then that would reduce your TA score.

      • Anonymous
        19th March 2020 - 2:59 am ·

        In other words, I need to report all the key features required without including any details the examiner considers minor or irrelevant. Am I correct?

        • Pauline
          19th March 2020 - 7:30 am ·

          Yes, but examiners are given guidelines for this. Also, you won’t be penalised for including one or two minor details, you will only be penalised for not making any attempt to select the most important information and just listing all of the information that you see.

          • Anonymous
            20th March 2020 - 2:12 am ·

            That’s a very important piece of information to me. I am really grateful for your prompt reply. Thank you.

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