Academic writing task 1

I am often asked whether you will lose marks for writing more than 150 words in writing task 1.  The answer is both yes and no, which can seem confusing.

In the test, you are told that you must ‘write at least 150 words‘, but no upper limit is given.  So, you will not be penalised for writing 200 or 220 words for example. However, if you find that your answers are often much longer than this, then you are *probably writing in a way that will lower your score.

To understand this you need to remember that your task is to summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features.’  If you write a very long answer, it is highly likely that your answer includes minor details or describes every feature in the visual information you are given.  That means that you are not summarising the information and so you will lose marks for Task achievement. 

The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS has several exercises aimed at teaching you how to identify and report only the main features.  You can buy a copy by clicking on the image below:


Task 1 sample answers

The following examples show you how to summarise the key features of 2 types of visual information: a graph and a diagram. Notice the overview statements in each one and pay attention to the way that the information is logically organised – coherence and cohesion is just as important in writing task 1 as it is in task 2.

The first example is based on this question from the official IELTS website:



Sample answer:


The following sample answer is based on an exercise on page 106 of The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS, a section that teaches you how to describe a diagram. Look at the key features described and how the answer is organised:

You can see that each answer of these answers is under 200 words and each one summarises the information but also organises it into a logical way.  This is what you must do to achieve a score of band 7 or above.


Find out more about writing task 1 (both GT and Academic) in chapter 6 of The Key to IELTS Success

*NB If you find that you cannot summarise the information in under 200 words then it is also possible that you are using resources that do not reflect the real test. Read chapter 10 of The Key to IELTS Success to learn more about this. 

Recent Comments

  • Tuan Hoang
    8th August 2020 - 11:35 am ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have three questions to ask you, I hope you can help me with them (thank you a lot):
    1. I read that “Task 1 Academic Writing” requires me to find main trends, main features, and report, describe them and make comparisons when necessary.
    – But when I find the main trends in authentic IELTS books, I can find even 4 or 5 main trends for myself. So how many main trends I should cover in my essay?
    – Need I to cover all main trends (may be too long for an overview) or just 1-2 main trends (may be I lost some main trends needed to describe)? I always fear that I will miss some main trends so that I try to cover as much as main trends as possible, but I feel I approach wrongly.
    2. I bought your book about writings task 2, but I cannot find any wonderful book for writing task 1.
    I read your book, “Official guide for IELTS”, but I feel it is not enough for me to practice my writings for task 1
    – So can you refer to me some good and authentic books or courses so I can take to make me more confident about writing task 1?
    3. My final question is that I do not know how the overview links with body paragraphs in writings task 1 again.
    I mean that I do not know which is right to take:
    – Should I use body paragraphs in writings task 1 to only describe information in my overview in more detail? or
    – Should I use body paragraphs in writings task 1 to describe information in my overview and some other things outside my overview in more detail?
    Thank you very much

    • Pauline
      8th August 2020 - 11:54 am ·

      Hi Tuan, honestly, the book you are looking for doesn’t exist. I would love to write it, and, I may still do that next year. I am waiting to see what happens (sadly, just 2 days after I published my new book people were already trying to share it illegally, and each week I have to stop and report a new person for doing this). Your questions here are really helpful to me in seeing the problems people have. To answer them briefly, see the overview as similar to the topic sentence in your Task 2 paragraphs (the new book you have will help with that). You are giving THE main idea (usually the overall trend or a very brief summary of changes), then providing evidence for this in the parts you choose to describe. Don’t worry about linking the overview to your paragraphs – see it as part of your introduction, where the body paragraphs give a fresh start that is linked through context. I’m not really clear what you are asking in the final 2 points – maybe you can give me an example?

      • Tuan Hoang
        10th August 2020 - 3:47 am ·

        Thank you a lot. I am describing my questions more specifically as below:
        1. I see that your first sentence mentioned all information such as location, ages, measures, time period.
        My first question: when taking an exam, must I mention “all information like your approach” or can I “remove some information such as measures or ages”?
        2. I see your sentence “ at 6:00 pm, 50% were watching television”
        My second question: I see the rate is actually 43%-44%, so can you use “50%” to describe that? Because I feel confused when 43%-44% can be rounded to 50% like that. Can you explain this to me? and How many facts I need to include in my overview, 2 or 3 or just enough?
        My third question: Can I said “at 8:00 pm” or “from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm” instead of your “at 6:00 pm”? Because I feel two formers are good enough.
        3. I see your sentence “ radio audiences fell gradually and steadily”
        My fourth question: I check that gradually and steadily have the same meaning (I feel that), so Why you use both of them to describe?
        4. I see your sentence “ Although the former was more popular, it lasted for a shorter of time, while the latter …..”
        My fifth question: I check some facts “ radio: 17 hours from 8:30 am to 2:00 am, between 1% and 30% of the population”, but “television: 23 hours from 7:00 am to nearly 6:00 am, between 2% and 45%”.
        So why you wrote your sentence when I feel it is different from my facts.
        I feel confused about that. Please explain it to me.
        I attached my essay to show my different approach. Is my approach fine to get a band 7 or over?
        “The line graph illustrates the average British audiences of radio and television throughout a day in the year 1992.

        Overall, watching television was more popular than listening to the radio, especially in the evening, while most people in the UK used the radio in the morning. Also, between midnight and the early morning was the least active time for both radio and television audiences.

        Looking at the graph in more detail, at 6.00 am, over 5% of the British people were using the radio, while nobody was watching television. Then, the proportion of people in the UK listening to the radio rose significantly, and reached its peak at almost 30% at 8.30 am before falling gradually until the end of the day. Similarly, the figure for television users saw a considerable increase. This figure reached the largest amount shown on the graph, with nearly half of the UK population watching television between 8.00 pm and 10.00 pm, compared to only about 5% of British people using the radio in the same period.

        Next, although the figures for radio and television users all fell, television witnessed the most dramatic drop in the percentage of British people using it. As a result, almost nobody was listening to the radio or watching television at 3.00 am. After that, only under 5% of the UK population were active television or radio users until 6.00 am. ”
        Thank you very much and look forward to your explanation soon.

  • Kamal
    6th April 2020 - 2:31 pm ·

    Hi again Pauline,
    I asked a question about fractions a couple of hours ago, I just read in your response to Hamed that messages have to wait in a queue, I was wondering if you could tell me when to check your website again for the answer, I’m sorry if it seems that I’m imposing, but I’m only asking because I’ve been refreshing this page every 5 minutes :)), so I thought maybe I should ask you when to check again. Thank you again for all the support you’re giving the candidates.

    • Pauline
      7th April 2020 - 11:16 am ·

      Hi Kamal, I have answered it but this probably isn’t the best place to ask a question if you need a quick answer at the moment (while I’m writing my book). Your message was in today’s batch of 89 spam messages and I receive about 1 genuine message or question per 50 spam messages at the moment!

  • kamal
    6th April 2020 - 11:10 am ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have a question about using fractions instead of percentages. For example:

    1. Instead of saying that unemployment rate stood at 20%, can I say that unemployment rate stood at one fifth? Or unemployment rate stood at one out of five? (I already know that we can say one out of five people were unemployed).
    2. Instead of saying that unemployment rate rose from 10% to 20%, can we say that it rose from one tenth to one fifth? Or unemployment rate rose from one out of ten to one out of five?

    I am in the middle of reviewing unit 23 of Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS and these questions just popped up in my head. I don’t want to bother you with a long explanation because honestly they don’t make sense to me, but I just wanted to double check with a reliable source, so a simple yes or no could really help me a lot and I can move on.
    By the way, thank you so much for the greatest IELTS vocabulary book ever, I really appreciate all your support.

    • Pauline
      7th April 2020 - 11:14 am ·

      Hi Kamal, you can certainly look at numbers in these different ways (one fifth instead of 20%) and it’s a great way of avoiding repetition. However, it doesn’t work to say ‘the unemployment rate stood at one out of 5’ – we would say ‘one out of every five were unemployed.’ The word ‘rate’ is the problem (it is used to compare 2 different units and more commonly would be a measurement of unemployment over time (so measuring the speed or changes in unemployment figures over time). Does that help?

      • Kamal
        7th April 2020 - 12:57 pm ·

        Thank you very much for your reply. I understand that you’re very busy with your book at the moment. I look forward to it.

        I think I understood you point, so we cannot use one out of five here, that’s clear. What about the other sentence (unemployment rate stood at one fifth)? I assume that should also be wrong, as you said the problem is with the word “rate”. What if I only talk about the proportion of something (and omit the element of time)?
        For example, the proportion of people who were satisfied with something. So instead of saying “the proportion of people who were satisfied with something was 20%.”, can I say “the proportion of people who were satisfied with something was one fifth”? What about “the proportion of people who were satisfied with something was one out of five”? I still think there is something strange about these sentences. I would appreciate your help, and sorry to bother you again.

  • Hamed
    2nd April 2020 - 5:50 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I posted a question about the use of a certain style in writing task 1, but I can’t see my question or your answer. Should I send my question again under your latest blog post (changes in the listening test)? Thank you for your response.

    • Pauline
      3rd April 2020 - 7:33 am ·

      Hi Hamed, I’m receiving a huge amount of spam messages each day at the moment so every message has to wait in a queue until I have had the chance to approve and reply. With trying to finish my writing book it’s taking me longer than usual to get around to it at the moment!

  • Hamed
    1st April 2020 - 12:48 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    Thank you for all the support that you are providing us candidates with and my classmates and I are looking forward to your writing book.

    I have a question about writing task one, and I have been given very conflicting advice on it. My question is about the necessity of using words such as “consumption” and “usage” in the body paragraphs once I have used (and established) it in my introduction. Many of my teachers have said that it a phrases such as “COAL INCREASED” or “ITALY FELL BACK” are wrong, and we should say instead “THE CONSUMPTION OF COAL INCREASED” or “THE FIGURE FOR ITALY FELL BACK”, while many others say because there is a reference/precedent for it in the introduction, it is fine to use such phrases.

    Recently, I was reading the model answer (written by an examiner) for test 4 in Cambridge book 9. In the introduction, the examiner writes “The graph shows energy consumption in the US from 1980 to 2012, and projected consumption to 2030.”. Paragraph 3 begins like this: “Consumption of energy derived from natural gas and oil is similar over the period…. COAL IS PREDICTED TO INCREASE steadily….”. And in paragraph 4, there are two sentences: “NUCLEAR HAS RISEN by …”, and “HYDROPOWER HAS FALLEN BACK to …”

    So now that I’ve seen this way of mentioning figures in a sample by an examiner, I feel it’s fine to use it in my own writing, but I just wanted to make sure by asking you first.
    Thank you in advance for your time and support.

    • Pauline
      3rd April 2020 - 7:32 am ·

      I agree with what you are suggesting – that once you have made the point you can avoid repetition of ‘sales’ etc by referring to the commodity itself. Just be careful to make sure the reference is clear and be aware that there are times when this will not work – it really depends on what is being measured through the data.

  • Akbar
    14th December 2019 - 1:12 am ·

    Hi Pauline,
    In your free book you said that we should not use personal pronouns in task 1. Can we use “we can see that …” in the overview for task 1? Or should we instead say “it can be seen that …”? Thank your for your help.

  • Mesbah Jamal
    7th December 2019 - 4:29 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    Thank you so very much for your great blog, you are doing all of us a big favor. I have a question though about one of the model answers from Cambridge book 10 for task 1. In test 2 of the book, there are two tables that show coffee and banana sales figures. In the model answer written by the examiner, all the 20 figures in the two tables are reported. I know from your book, as well as from the test rubric, that we must write a summary and only report the main features; so can you explain why is this model answer by the examiner included all the details? Thank you Pauline.

    • Pauline
      7th December 2019 - 4:58 pm ·

      I don’t know who writes the sample answers for these books and I don’t believe they are helpful teaching tools. They are sample answers rather than models, and I am in the process of writing model answers for these and all of my own books too.

      • Mesbah Jamal
        7th December 2019 - 6:23 pm ·

        Thank you Pauline, but this is the Cambridge test book 10, and on top of it, it is written that this is a sample written by an examiner, so you mean I can’t even trust these? I also understand that these are not good teaching models but the problem is not with the style, the problem is that this sample has included all the data in the tables.

        • Pauline
          7th December 2019 - 7:49 pm ·

          The answers in books like this are written to show a sample only. This is made very clear in the books. It was only relatively recently, when writing The Key to IELTS Writing, that I realised that people were trying to use the sample answers as ‘model answers.’ They are not intended for this purpose and will not serve as good models.

          In The Key to IELTS Writing, I am producing model answers. I will be using these models as the focus for many of the lessons in the book to show how to achieve this level in a test situation. The samples written for books are not written in exam conditions – they are written and rewritten when time allows and then edited by other professionals – this is why they are not useful models for the test and why I refer to these as the ‘invisible band 10’.

          • Pauline
            7th December 2019 - 8:19 pm ·

            I would also add, as a former examiner myself, that an examiner can TELL you what they are looking for, but they are not trained in how to SHOW this. Nothing in my examiner training helped me to write, only my experiences as writer did this.

          • Mesbah Jamal
            8th December 2019 - 12:51 pm ·

            Thanks for the response, so just to be clear, it’s wrong to report all the information in a chart, and instead we should try to only report the most important information, which means we have to leave out some of the information, right?

            An I agree with you when you said that examiners can only TELL us what yo include, but may not be able to show us; to me being an examiner is like being a movie critic, and we all know that not all movie critics can be good movie directors.

          • Pauline
            11th December 2019 - 5:38 pm ·

            I always hesitate to say ‘never’ and ‘always’ unless we are talking about what is clearly stated in the rubrics on the question paper and the criteria use to assess writing responses. A native speaker can often find a way to fully achieve a task in a way that perhaps doesn’t conform to normal conventions (which are not listed in the criteria for this reason). So, I am happy to say that you must always support your ideas and you must always make your opinion clear because the criteria tell us this.

            For task 1, you are told to ‘summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features,’ so, to achieve Band 9 Task Achievement, this is what you must do. we aren’t told that this is a band 9 answer, we are only told that it is ‘very good,’ which is far too subjective as to be meaningful (anything over band 5 is generally seen as ‘good’ so this may be a band 7 Task achievement, we aren’t told). On the page, the answer looks extremely long (I did a very quick count and it looks like it’s over 220 words), if the writer had found a way to ‘summarise’ and ‘select’ the main ideas, this would have been a shorter and a much better response. If a test writer had written this, they would be told to rewrite it so that it is shorter, because we need to show that it is possible to answer the question within the word limit. The language here is clearly ‘very good’ but it is not a good model for how to ‘select’ and ‘summarise’ the main points.

  • Nazif
    3rd December 2019 - 11:47 pm ·

    Hello Pauline,
    In writing task 1 we are supposed to select and report the main features, but how can I know if a feature is important to report or not? I have read your free book, but there is no information about how to select the features. Thank you for your support.

  • zhr
    18th July 2019 - 6:25 pm ·

    Hello Pauline,
    Thank you for helping us. I have a question, does this sentence make sense to you:
    I wish it wouldn’t be so hot. I mean can this sentence be grammatically correct? and if so, in what situation does it make sense?

    • Pauline
      19th July 2019 - 7:38 am ·

      That is a very typical native speaker error. it isn’t correct but you will find some native speakers write or speak in this way. The grammatically correct version is: I wish it wasn’t so hot.

  • Milad
    5th June 2019 - 8:56 pm ·

    Sorry to bother you again, I also have problems understanding descriptors for band 6 in CC. It says that at band 6 cohesive devices are used effectively, but cohesion within/between sentences may be faulty or mechanical, my question is how is it possible that we use cohesive devices effectively but at the same time cohesion is faulty? Thank you again

    • Pauline
      6th June 2019 - 9:41 am ·

      The descrioptors are describing some positives (compared to band 5, at band 6 cohesive devices are now being used effectively) and also the negatives that prevent this being a higher band. These should not be seen as scribing every part of the writing – these are features that MAY be present at this level. So, the devices may be being used effectively ‘in general’ at this level, but those other problems may also be present.

      • Milad
        6th June 2019 - 9:48 pm ·

        Thank you Pauline, it was very helpful. I have one more question, is it right to report small differences in writing task one using “a narrow margin”? For example to say that A was more than B by a narrow margin. Thank you so much.

      • Milad
        6th June 2019 - 9:53 pm ·

        I forgot to include this example, sorry
        “A was more than B by a margin of 2 percent”, or can we use staggering for big differences? For example “A is more than B by a staggering 60 percent.”
        I’m very grateful for your help.

        • Pauline
          7th June 2019 - 7:19 am ·

          The language use is good, but if these small differences are not significant to the overall picture then it is likely to lower your TA score. ‘Staggering’ is quite an extreme adjective and includes a personal reaction to the data (you are saying ‘I find this staggering’) I would avoid that.

          • Leo
            3rd December 2019 - 11:32 pm ·

            Hi Pauline,
            I have a question about task 1. If the graph shows the proportion of something, can I use this phrase “The graph compares something in percentage terms”? And if this is a wrong way of saying it, how can I say it? Thank you for your help.

          • Pauline
            7th December 2019 - 5:05 pm ·

            Hi Leo, ‘in percentage terms’ means ‘when calculated as a percentage’ so it would be fine to say this.

  • Milad
    5th June 2019 - 8:48 pm ·

    Hello Pauline,
    I have a question about paragraphing in task 1. We know from the descriptors that in task 2 if we don’t write in paragraphs we will get a 5 in CC, but how about task 1? Because in task 1, in the band descriptors for coherence and cohesion, paragraphing is only mentioned for bands 8 and 9, does it mean it is possible to achieve a 7 in CC if we don’t write in paragraphs? Thank you.

    • Pauline
      6th June 2019 - 9:42 am ·

      I can’t say whether it is possible or not – it depends on the answer – but it is less likely. My question is this, why would you choose not to use paragraphs when you know this is being assessed in CC? Paragraphs help the reader understand your answer – they exist for a reason, so use them to break up your answer logically.

    • Pauline
      6th June 2019 - 9:46 am ·

      Your answer seems to suggest you are looking for ways to reach band 7 and you aren’t interested in higher level skills. When you try to be ‘efficient’ in your learning and not waste energy, you miss out on building key skills and important practice. This doesn’t make your journey shorter or easier, in my view it makes it more difficult and means it takes you longer to reach your goal.

  • Pham Le Minh
    18th March 2019 - 4:17 am ·

    Hi pauline, I have a question. Should we use the pronoun “you” and imperative mood in IELTS Writing Task 1 when describing a process? I saw one sample from a Cambridge Textbook that does this. “first you do this, then you do that”…

  • Makara
    12th March 2019 - 8:24 am ·

    Please Kindly comment on my answer whenever it suits your schedule. It is the writing task 1 from The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS on page 264. In fact, I’m struggling with word limits as I tend to feel I have already described the key points and there is nothing left to talk about. I’d also like to give you my consent to use and re-use my answer in any ways or forms. I hope it will be useful and benefit others. Here it is:

    The chart provides information about the figures for burglary, car theft and robbery in Newport city centre over a period of nine years, between 2003 and 2012.
    Overall, it is clear that all crime rates were highest from 2003 to 2005, followed by a drop in 2000, while they remained virtually level throughout the rest of the years.
    Regarding burglary, 2004 saw an all-time high at almost 4000 incidents. Similarly, car theft reached just under 3000 in 2004. However, the greatest figures for robbery rose to approximately 9000 in 2005. Followed by that, the rates on these three began to drop in 2006. While car theft picked up and fell again from 2007 to 2008, burglary and robbery continued to experience a steady downward until 2008. However, throughout the years 2009-2012, there had been in some way levelling off and minor trend changes in these three areas of criminal activities.

    • Pauline
      14th March 2019 - 6:10 pm ·

      Your answer is exactly 150 words, which is the minimum for this task and it is perfectly fine to produce an answer that is 150 words. One way to add more is to ‘compare’ the data (you are asked to make comparisons where relevant.’Ask yourself – are any of these patterns similar or very different to each other? Are there any years where you can see that the same drop or rise occurs in several types of crime? Are there any years where one type fell but another rose? If so, comment on that. Your overview is not accurate for all of the data – the year 2000 is not represented here and the patter is not the same for all types of crime (look carefully at the robbery data compared to burglary).

  • Jahangir
    12th February 2019 - 2:26 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    You have been of great help to me and I am grateful for what you share here unconditionally. The questions I ask come from my students. For example, one of the questions is whether they have to include a concluding paragraph at the end of the report or not because she had read this in MINDSET FOR IELTS pubished by Cambridge. In this book , examiners say if you don’t write a concluding paragraph in writing task 1 answer, you will lose marks.

    • Pauline
      12th February 2019 - 2:32 pm ·

      Hi Jahangir, that makes sense then and explains why your questions are so varied! I’m happy to help you and your students. I’m afraid I don’t recommend Mindset for IELTS as it was not written by test writers. I do mention writing a conclusion for task 1 in The key to IELTS Success. You will find it under the heading ‘Should my overview come at the beginning? Should I write a conclusion?’

  • Jahangir
    12th February 2019 - 6:01 am ·

    Dear Pauline,
    In your sample answer on TV and radio audiences in the UK , apart from the overview statement in the first paragraph, you have summarised the main features in the last paragraph. I wonder if this concluding paragraph is ever necessary because there is no mention of it in the band descriptors. What if one doesn’t include this paragraph in their report ?! Why have you written such a paragraph ?! Does it help in any way to improve the score of writing task 1 ?!
    Thanks for the help !

    • Pauline
      12th February 2019 - 8:34 am ·

      I’m not sure I understand your point. The whole answer should summarise the main features – that is made very clear in your instructions. Are you preparing for GT or Academic? Your questions vary between the 2, and you seem to be focusing a great deal on finding problems in the band descriptors or samples you find. It is much more helpful to look at the band descriptors as telling you what your level is not and what you must aim to do to improve. Sometimes you ask about band 5 and sometimes about other bands, so I am quite confused about what sort of help you are looking for.

  • maria
    8th February 2019 - 1:33 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    Thank you for helping us all out. I have read in your books and comments that our grammar and vocabulary can either help or hurt our task response & coherence and cohesion, is the opposite also true? I mean can our task response or organization of our ideas lower LR or GRA, because I can’t think of a situation where it happens.

    • Pauline
      8th February 2019 - 1:58 pm ·

      Yes, that can happen. If someone is given a topic but writes about a different topic, then they have not shown their language ability on the topic they were given. This is specially true when people try to learn answers for general topics. When people do this they are not showing any flexibility, they are simply showing an ability to learn and copy out sentences. Answers like that are penalised in every criteria because of this.

  • Mitso
    7th February 2019 - 8:27 am ·

    Hi Pauline,
    You said that in the overview, we must not give detail. In the sample answer written by an examiner in book 7, the examiner writes this sentence as the last sentence of introduction, “Between these years electricity production almost doubled, rising from 100 units to 170 units in Australia, and from 90 ta 180 units in France.” Isn’t this an overview, and if yes, why are there figures? Thank you for your help.

    • Pauline
      7th February 2019 - 9:10 am ·

      Hi Mitso, I don’t have the book so I can’t tell you whether this is the overview or not. Does is specifically say this is written by an examiner? (P.s. remember that I recommend using books 9 onwards)

      • Milad
        7th February 2019 - 10:06 am ·

        Hi again,
        Yes it says that this is a sample by an examiner, there is also an overview at the end, I’ll type both the introduction and the last paragraph:
        “The charts compare the sources of electricity in Australia and France in the years 1980 and 2000. Between these years electricity production almost doubled, rising from 100 units to 170 units in Australia, and from 90 ta 180 units in France.”
        “Overall, it is clear that by 2000 these two countries relied on different principal fuel sources: Australia relied on coal and France on nuclear power.”
        I understand that the last paragraph is the overview paragraph, but my question is about the function of the second sentence in the introduction, isn’t it a big-picture sentence too, and isn’t that what an overview is? Thank you so much for your help.

        • Pauline
          7th February 2019 - 10:34 am ·

          The overview can come either at the beginning or the end. The sentence you are referring to is the correct way to summarise and report the main features – which is what the task tells you to do. Lower level candidates simply give precise details from the data (the figures and numbers). Your task is to describe and report what you see – not simply list it.

  • Mahatta
    31st January 2019 - 10:13 am ·

    Hi Pauline,
    First I want to thank you for your wonderful books. I am now reading vocabulary for IELTS advanced and the essay samples have changed my mind about using vocabulary in essays. I have a general question about essay writing, I read this in a writing book that a discursive essay consists of facts and opinions. We use facts in a paragraph only as examples to support our opinion. Do you agree with this?

    • Pauline
      31st January 2019 - 11:50 am ·

      Hi Mahatta, I’m really glad you’re finding the book useful. Yes, I would definitely agree that a discursive essay consists of points you want to make (your opinion) and supporting evidence (facts that show why you believe this. Read chapter 7 of my free book for a more detailed explanation.

    • Mahatta
      31st January 2019 - 3:28 pm ·

      Thank you. Am I right in thinking that writing for IELTS is not entirely different from writing in general, I mean if I study about how to write, this will improve my IELTS writing as well? I am now writing Academic writing from paragraph to essay by Dorothy Zemach. I have heard that Longman academic writing series is also good, do you have any suggestions for improving essay writing?

      • Pauline
        31st January 2019 - 5:05 pm ·

        Studying how to write will certainly help to some degree. It will help with coherence, grammar, and vocabulary. It will not help with Task response and may not always help with the elements of coherence and cohesion specified in the band descriptors. It will also not help in terms of timing. I don’t know the books you mention so I cannot comment on them.

        • Anonymous
          1st February 2019 - 9:38 am ·

          I understand that IELTS requires something specific, and what does the band description mean by overall progression and how is this different from the development in task response? I couldn’t find any explanation about this in the official guide or any other of your books.

          • Pauline
            1st February 2019 - 10:22 am ·

            It’s something I am going to try to demonstrate in my next book. It basically means your overall essay has to have a logic and sense. Many people write in separate paragraphs based on the formula they have learned for ‘an introduction’ ‘a body paragraph’ and ‘a conclusion’ – this means that the complete essay doesn’t always work

  • Taqsim
    31st January 2019 - 2:00 am ·

    Hello Ms. Cullen
    My question is about writing an overview. I have read it in your book that we should not include any figures in the overview, but how about saying something like this “the figure for something doubled over the period, rising from 100 to 200”? Would that be alright? Thanks

    • Pauline
      31st January 2019 - 11:44 am ·

      Hi Taqsim, an overview must not give any details – any trends you mention must apply to the main idea in the whole image. It looks to me as though this is a detail and not an overview, which would talk about the trend. So, you would say something like: One the whole ABC rose while XYZ stayed the same.

  • Shah
    19th January 2019 - 4:40 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have been working on your vocabulary book and I really love it. I have a question about one of the exercise on page 34. One sentence says the earliest form of the sign language was very basic, and in the passage it says that it has become more sophisticated over time. So according to the passage I know that the sign language has evolved, and I can’t conclude that the earliest form was VERY basic. shouldn’t the answer be Not Given here? Thank you very much.

    • Pauline
      25th January 2019 - 11:23 am ·

      This exercise is training you to look for synonyms to help you reach an answer. It isn’t test practice, it is language and reading practice, so the question only asks you whether the statements are True or False (there is no Not Given option because there is information in the passage for all of them.) If you read earlier in the passage you will find that several times the word ‘simple’ is used to refer to early communication, so there is a lot of evidence here that describes early language. The answer key with all books often have to be very short and cuts often have to be made here to make sure there is enough room on the page for every answer. When cuts are made, I try to focus on the main words that would be helpful to learn. I assumed that the word ‘simple’ is well-known whereas the word ‘sophisticated’ may not be known as meaning the opposite of basic in terms of culture or language. Does this help?

    19th January 2019 - 4:32 pm ·

    Hi Ms. Cullen,
    I have a question. My IELTS teacher says that we cannot use phrases such as: “experts believe” or “scientists say” because we should only use our own knowledge or experience. I have read your post about inventing examples and I know that it is wrong to refer to an imaginary study, but isn’t it too extreme to say that we MUST NOT use phrases such as experts believe?

    • Pauline
      25th January 2019 - 11:05 am ·

      Hi Mahmoud, the best thing is to aim for mixture of the 2 – so, you can say that ‘experts believe’ something if you know that to be true from your own reading or studies. The main problem is that people use this as a set phrase referring to an idea that is unlikely to be an expert opinion. For example, when a question says ‘Some people think that…’ I often see the following written at the start of an introduction: ” Some experts believe that…’ So, a lot of people simply substitute ‘people’ for the word ‘expert’. If your question refers to experts, then you can do this, but often it does not, it simply gives a commonly held view. So, I would not say that you ‘must never’ use this phrase, but I would say that you should only use it when you know it to be true / appropriate.

        • Pauline
          31st January 2019 - 11:42 am ·

          Hi Navar, I was recently asked this question:
          My IELTS teacher says that we cannot use phrases such as: “experts believe” or “scientists say” because we should only use our own knowledge or experience. I have read your post about inventing examples and I know that it is wrong to refer to an imaginary study, but isn’t it too extreme to say that we MUST NOT use phrases such as experts believe?

          My reply may help to answer your question?

          My reply:
          The best thing is to aim for mixture of the 2 – so, you can say that ‘experts believe’ something if you know that to be true from your own reading or studies. The main problem is that people use this as a set phrase referring to an idea that is unlikely to be an expert opinion. For example, when a question says ‘Some people think that…’ I often see the following written at the start of an introduction: ” Some experts believe that…’ So, a lot of people simply substitute ‘people’ for the word ‘expert’. If your question refers to experts, then you can do this, but often it does not, it simply gives a commonly held view. So, I would not say that you ‘must never’ use this phrase, but I would say that you should only use it when you know it to be true / appropriate.

          Does that help?

          • Anonymous
            31st January 2019 - 3:12 pm ·

            i had read the comments, and my question was about the conclusion, so generally it is not wrong to say scientists believe if it is true, for example scientists believe children need to spend some time each day playing?

          • Pauline
            31st January 2019 - 5:03 pm ·

            I’m not sure why it makes a difference whether this information appears in a conclusion, an introduction or a body paragraph – the explanation of when to use it is the same. In other words, only mention what scientists think or believe when this is something you know to be true. In your example sentence, this would not belong in an conclusion and it would be more precise to say ‘Many scientists…’ or ‘Some scientists…’ It can not be true of all scientists.

  • Banthi
    18th January 2019 - 9:17 am ·

    I see, but you said about the other topic that Hussain posted about community service that you will lose mark because they are the same. but I can say that busy timetable and bad academic performance are not the same thing, but they are connected, so I don’t understand why you say you lose mark in one of them because they are the same but you don’t lose mark in another because they are connected. I think if they are the connected it is true for both, and if they are the same again it is true for both. Can you please explain this point?

    • Pauline
      18th January 2019 - 10:10 am ·

      As I also explained to Hussain, you are expecting to get an estimated band score based on a hypothetical and very brief plan. It isn’t possible to do that. No one can give you a complete answer to what your Task response score would be without seeing a complete response. I also think you have misunderstood my previous comment which was based on Hussain’s plan – reread his plan for each paragraph and I am sure you will see that there is repetition – almost exactly the same words related to a lack of time are used. So, based on the plan he wrote, each of these paragraphs would reach exactly the same conclusion.

      • Banthi
        18th January 2019 - 11:52 am ·

        I’m sorry if I sound frustrating, I read Hussain’s plan and now I understand what you meant by repetition. but there is another problem I have with this question. you said in your book that we must include all parts of the question in our answer. In the sample question from cambridge 10
        “In many countries the amount of crime is increasing. What do you think are the main causes of crime? How can we deal with those causes?”
        should I write about the causes of increase in crime (as the statement says) or the main causes of crime (as the question asks)?

        • Pauline
          18th January 2019 - 2:13 pm ·

          That’s ok. I can’t really see very much difference between the causes of an increase in crime and a cause of crime. Personally, I would address both within the paragraph about causes – so, what causes it and why this is increasing.

  • Hussain
    16th January 2019 - 5:55 pm ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I’m really sorry for asking many questions. I understand the problem in the first question, but can I fix this by saying in the introduction that countries are becoming similar to each other because of the global spread of the same products?

    As for the second question, I read chapter 7 of your book again this morning; I know that this is a problem, but I can’t explain this to my friend according to the band descriptors, you said it is in the Task Response for bands 6 and 7, the first difference is that a 7 addresses all parts of the task, but a 6 addresses some parts more fully (which I don’t think is the case here), the second difference is in the position and that at band 6 there is relevant position but the conclusions may be repetitive or unclear (which you said is not the case here), the last difference is that at band 6 there are relevant main ideas but they are not adequately developed (but in this example the main ideas are developed but are repetitive), so is that about the development of repetitive main ideas?
    Thanks a lot.

    • Pauline
      17th January 2019 - 9:20 am ·

      Hi Hussain, if you only mention something in the introduction, this does not count as discussing it and would count against you – the reasons you give are all financial and not related to places being similar to each other and so within each paragraph you would move further away from the topic in the question.

      With the second example, this would fall under your ‘conclusions may be repetitive’ – I’m not sure where I said this would not be the case. We are only talking about a hypothetical essay plan so I don’t have enough information to judge it.

      • Hussain
        17th January 2019 - 10:19 am ·

        Hi again,
        Thanks for the response, it really helps. You said this was not the case about another hypothetical question on the causes of crime-poverty and unemployment. (an earlier comment I posted on January 11, and you said that this is not a case of repetitive conclusions but related to it)

  • Hussain
    15th January 2019 - 4:09 pm ·

    Thank you so much Pauline,
    So is it okay if I use reasons which are essentially the same (like the poverty & unemployment for being causes of crime), or for example if I say that education is better than prison because it raises awareness, another reason is that education teaches us the difference between right and wrong? or do I lose marks if my ideas are like this?

      • Hussain
        15th January 2019 - 5:20 pm ·

        I think the question I chose about crime is too general for IELTS, but I actually chose the other question from one of your earlier posts:
        “Some people believe that prison is not a good way to prevent crime and that education is more effective.”, so if I say I completely agree that education is better , and say that my first reason is that education gives people awareness, and the second reason is that education teaches people right from wrong. I think these two reasons are the same, so will I lose marks for this and is this mentioned in the band descriptors? Thanks again

        • Pauline
          15th January 2019 - 5:38 pm ·

          Ok, so I only came up with that on the spur of the moment to illustrate a point – that it is a mistake to think that there will always be just one idea or view being made in a ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree? question. I am not clear if you are trying to practice answering ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree?’ questions or if you are tying to focus on not being repetitive. This particular question needs more work and editing before it can be considered ‘authentic’. For example, I would probably begin to rewrite it like this: “Some people say that education is a better way to reduce crime than sending criminals to prison.’ To what extent do you agree or disagree? But I would not be able to judge the question without reviewing it with others and seeing what problems arise when people try to answer it. This is how test writing works. It is not a quick process. My point is that you are coming up with a plan for something that is not yet an authentic question – try to find an authentic one and then think of how your plan would work.

          • Hussain
            15th January 2019 - 6:10 pm ·

            A friend of mine and I are practicing writing together, so this is what my friend wrote for 2 authentic topics:

            Countries are becoming more and more similar because people are able to but the same products anywhere in the world. Do you think this is s positive or negative development? cambridge 10

            Introduction: this is a negative development..

            body 1: first reason is that local businesses will probably cannot sell their products and they may go bankrupt…

            body 2: another reason is that people who have lost their jobs may turn to crime…
            (the second paragraph is not a different reason, it’s the result of the first reason)

            or in this essay from cambridge 9:
            Some people believe that unpaid community service should be a compulsory part of high school programs. to what extent do you agree or disagree?

            introduction: I entirely disagree…

            body 1: the first reason is that the school timetable is full with more important subjects and students do not have time for these activities.

            body 2: the second reason is that this can influence their academic performance because they will not have the time to study their lessons.
            (again I think the 2 reason are the same)

            so will a candidate lose marks for this and please tell me if this is in the band descriptors or not?
            I really appreciate your help.

          • Pauline
            16th January 2019 - 2:01 pm ·

            Hi Hussain, with your first question, you would lose marks in Task response because you are ignoring an important part of the question – if I look only at your answer and try to work out the question then my guess would be that the question says ”People are now able to buy the same products anywhere in the world. Do you think this is a positive or a negative development?” The question does not say this. Your ideas answer only half of the question – they work to explain why you think this is negative, but you need to address the idea that ‘different places are becoming more similar’ because of this.

            For the second question, I agree the 2 paragraphs are the same idea put into different words, so again you would lose marks. It is in the band descriptors for Task response – compare band 6 and band 7 and read chapter 7 of The Key to IELTS Success or this post to learn more:

          • Banthi
            18th January 2019 - 8:14 am ·

            Hello Pauline,
            I was reading your posts with Hussain, and it’s very interesting to me. I saw the same question in Cambridge 10 so I don’t think this question is too general:
            “In many countries the amount of crime is increasing. What do you think are the main causes of crime? How can we deal with those causes?
            So as you mentioned, if I mention to unemployment and poverty for two causes, I will get 6 for task response, right? because they are one thing?

          • Pauline
            18th January 2019 - 8:21 am ·

            Not necessarily – the two causes are linked it is true, but they are different. If it were me, I would say that, in my view, the two main causes are unemployment and poverty. I would then explain this further showing that unemployment leads to poverty and poverty often then leads to crime. In my next body paragraph, I would discuss solutions to these two problems. They are not one thing, though they are connected. You would score band 6 if you fail to show discuss how to deal with these causes. Dealing with poverty and dealing with unemployment are 2 separate issues and require different actions, which shows that they are not the same.

  • Husaain
    11th January 2019 - 10:47 am ·

    Hi Pauline,
    I have read in the writing band descriptors that at band 6 your conclusions may become repetitive; for example if I say that one of the causes of crime is unemployment and I say that another cause is poverty, are these repetitive conclusions because they are essentially the same? Is that what it means by repetitive conclusions?

      • Hussain
        14th January 2019 - 5:41 pm ·

        Thank you so much, so do you think you could explain what unclear or repetitive conclusions means in the band descriptors? Because it is conclusions (plural) and not just the conclusion paragraph. I’d really appreciate it.

        • Pauline
          15th January 2019 - 9:23 am ·

          That’s right, because you draw mini conclusions each time you make a point, explain it and support it. Often the unclear conclusions come when people follow bad advice about how to structure a paragraph or essay. These people often give their view or position in the introduction and conclusion and then write as though they think something else in their body paragraphs. For example:
          Introduction: I completely agree education is better than prison.
          Body paragraph 1: Prisons are important for really bad crimes…
          Body paragraph 2: Education is useful because…
          Conclusion: I completely agree that education is better than prison.

          So, there is more than one conclusion here (1) Prisons are good in some situations; 2) education is useful. The statements in the introduction and the conclusion do not reflect this. So the conclusions are unclear.

          Read chapter 7 of The Key to IELTS Success for more about this.

          • Hussain
            15th January 2019 - 12:12 pm ·

            I see, thank you very much, so can you please explain why you said that this is not repetitive conclusions? that unemployment is one cause of crime and poverty is another cause, because I think they are actually the same, and if this is not an example of repetitive conclusions, do you think you could kindly give an example for repetitive conclusions? Thank you so much Pauline.

          • Pauline
            15th January 2019 - 1:12 pm ·

            A repetitive conclusion is where candidates simply repeat the same thing:
            Introduction: I completely agree that education is better than prison.
            Body paragraph 1: Education is better than prison because … (reason 1 why I believe this)
            Body paragraph 2: Education is better than prison because …(reason 2 why I believe this)
            Conclusion: Education is better than prison.

            This often happens when people follow the bad advice that says ‘You must only discuss the opinion you agree with.’

  • Paula
    9th January 2019 - 4:36 pm ·

    Hello again and thanks for both the reply and the marvelous vocabulary book. I have a question about the introduction since you said that the model answers were written with an audience in mind.
    In some of your model answers I have seen that you finish the introduction with a question; but in most model answers in both your vocabulary books you have included a blueprint of your main body paragraph argument in your introduction. For instance, in unit 14 of the advanced book, in the introduction you have said what governments and individuals should do to tackle the problem of obesity, and in the body paragraphs you have repeated the same ideas (using different words) and explained them further. Also in unit 16 of the same book, you have introduced a summary of the arguments for and against green energy in the introduction and in the body paragraphs you have only explained the same ideas. Doesn’t that hurt progression in an essay and shouldn’t we instead say that there are arguments for and against nuclear energy without presenting these arguments and instead keep them for the body paragraphs?

    • Pauline
      10th January 2019 - 10:02 am ·

      Hi Paula, your argument development takes place within the body paragraphs. The introduction serves to introduce the topic (and possibly your argument/position) and your conclusion serves to summarise your argument and position. You will find differences in my introductions because these will and must always depend on how I react to or feel about the issue being discussed in the question and the way that I feel is best to begin that topic. There are no rules about what an introduction must contain or look like, except that it must introduce the reader to the issue about to be discussed. Does this help?

  • Paula
    8th January 2019 - 10:59 am ·

    Hello Pauline,
    I am now working on your advanced vocabulary book, I finished your other vocabulary book 3 months ago and I really love it. I have a question about the model answers for task 2 at the end of the book. Are these model answers written by you and are they 9?

    • Pauline
      8th January 2019 - 11:55 am ·

      Hi Paula, I’m really glad you’re finding the books useful. Yes, I wrote all of the model answers in the book, and yes, they could be considered band 9. Let me know if you have any other questions.

      • Paula
        8th January 2019 - 5:34 pm ·

        I have a question about the model answer for writing task 2 in unit 8 of the advanced book. The first paragraph of the model answer seems to be too long for an introduction (134 words), where you have both introduced the topic and talked about the necessity of free healthcare and education. Shouldn’t we break this down into two paragraphs because there seems to be two central ideas?

        • Pauline
          8th January 2019 - 5:57 pm ·

          This is an editing error at the printing stage (probably due to a need to find extra space). The introduction ends after ‘just who is responsible for finding them.’ And the first body paragraph begins ‘Without adequate healthcare..’ I hope this helps!

          • Paula
            8th January 2019 - 6:16 pm ·

            Thanks, I thought so. You have written that the model answers provided in Cambridge books are an invisible 10, and they may not be help if we try to work out how they answer the question, but you also once wrote that in your samples you try to make a conscious attempt at task response, so the question here is whether these model answers are written by you as an educated native speaker who is also a writer by profession and may answer the question in a subtle way invisible to a learner or you as a IELTS instructor who makes an obvious attempt at task response?

          • Pauline
            8th January 2019 - 10:01 pm ·

            The sample answers in my books are written in order to teach – good writers always have an audience in mind. The invisible band 10 answers I have mentioned are not written to teach, they are written to answer as a native speaker who is a professional writer most naturally would. In all of my course books, I am very much writing to the readers of my books (the IELTS students and candidates) and writing in order to show how to use the vocabulary you have learned in the relevant chapter as well as to show you how to structure your answer.

  • Duc Anh
    30th December 2018 - 4:52 pm ·

    Hi Ms.Paulỉne
    I’m really into your books and posts and thanks to that I have just got a nice overall band score. However, there was a significant difference among the scores for each skill. I scored 8 in Listening, 7.5 in Reading and 7 in Speaking but only 5.5 in Writing. Some people in my country said to me that if there is a distinction by 2 band between any two skills, my test would be remark automatically. Hence I would like to ask you if it is true or not, and can you give me any advice whether I should appeal or not.
    Thanks a lot and I hope that you have a wonderful day.

    • Pauline
      31st December 2018 - 11:37 am ·

      Hello, Duc, that certainly used to be the case and it is very unusual to receive a band 5.5 score without there being a significant problem. Do you feel that you answered both task 1 and task 2 well and followed the word limit (i.e did you write at least 150 / 250 words for each answer?) Can you send me a task 2 answer so that I can see if there are any clear problems in your writing?

      • Lưu Đức Anh
        4th January 2019 - 4:55 am ·

        Dear Pauline,
        I am so glad that you can give me some advice and I am so sorry for replying late. There were some problems with my Internet connection and I could not access your website sooner.
        Here is my task 2 answer for the topic: In most countries, prison is an effective solution to the problem of crime. Some people think it is a more effective solution to provide education for those who violate the law. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

        It is argued that educational therapy is a more appropriate solution for the issue of criminals than a prison sentence. In my opinion, I believe that both of these are needed due to several reasons which will be mentioned in this essay.

        On the one hand, there are various arguments can be made to suggest that sending offenders to jails is necessary. First and foremost, this action would have a deterrent effect on those who intend to commit crimes. If these people know how they would be punished, they would consider their behavior and stop thinking about breaking the laws. In addition, prison is a suitable place to keep dangerous criminals away from society so that unexpected situations could be prevented. The victims of crimes would feel comfortable when the offenders are imprisoned. Otherwise, citizens may protest and lose their trust in the government and the law.

        On the other hand, with regard to criminals who are young or those who commit petty crimes, rehabilitating them is much more comprehensive than a prison sentence. The most popular reasons for these people to offend are poverty, being motivated by bad people and lacking in knowledge about the laws. They should receive education and be encouraged to not have any intention of committing crimes in the future. Equally importantly, they should be trained with practical skills which can enable them to earn their living such as cooking, repairing or driving. Hence, they would probably not come into contact with laws again after being set free.

        In conclusion, I want to reaffirm that prison and educational treatment are both vital in fighting criminals. However, the government and the police should consider that which measure need to be applied based on the level of crimes.
        Thank you again and I am looking forward to your reply. I wish you a happy new year and best regards.

        • Pauline
          4th January 2019 - 9:47 am ·

          I’ll take a look later today or tomorrow. My first comment is the question you have used – the wording of it tells me this is not an authentic resource. Always use authentic resources for practice.

          • Lưu Đức Anh
            5th January 2019 - 2:16 am ·

            Thank you!
            I have received and read it. After a quick reading, I decided to retake the test in the near future. Thank you for pointing out my weaknesses. I will carefully read your feedback again and make sure that I can avoid the problems next time.
            Again, thank you very much!

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