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IELTS Task 1- How to Write an Overview
The overview is probably the most important paragraph in the whole essay. In fact, as we will see later in this post, it is very difficult to score 7 or above without a good one.
An overview is simply a summary of the main or most important points in a graph, chart, process or map. It is normally 2-3 sentences long and should be the second paragraph you write in your essay. As we will see below, it also influences what you write in the rest of your essay.
Learn how to write a good one, and you are much more likely to get a high score.
What does the examiner want?
An overview is one of the first things an examiner looks for because it shows them that you can identify the most important information from the graph or chart and clearly identify overall trends and comparisons.
If we look at the official marking scheme, we can see that the word ‘overview’ is mentioned three times:
This means that to get at least a 5 for task achievement we must give some kind of overview. If we do not give any overview, we will always get below a 5. If we select the appropriate data to include in our overview, we get a score of 6, and if it is ‘clear’ we get a 7 for this part of the exam.
If you know how to select the appropriate data and practice writing a clear overview, you will likely get the score you deserve in this section.
What is an overview?
To understand this, we must look at the question. The question for academic task one is always the same:
Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features , and make comparisons where relevant.
We, therefore, need to provide a short summary of the main features. You do this in the overview paragraph by picking out 3-4 of the most significant things you can see and writing them in general terms. By general, I mean you do not support anything you see with data from the graph or chart, write about what you can see visually.
How do I select the correct features?
To understand this, we have to think about the different types of graphs and charts we might see. There are generally two different kinds of charts and graphs: dynamic and static.
Dynamic charts show data over time, and static charts show data at just one point in time. This will affect the type of data we select.
When we are looking at dynamic graphs, we should be looking out for:
- What does the data do from the start to the finish?
- Do they generally go up or down, or do they fluctuate?
- Any significant difference from the general trend?
- Overall increase/decrease?
When we look at static graphs, we should be looking for:
- What are the highest/lowest values?
- What are the most noticeable differences?
- Any similarities?
- Any significant exceptions?
Is there any special grammar ?
You should try and make a complex sentence by making a subordinate clause. Complex sentences are sentences with more than one clause, which help increase our marks in the grammatical range part of the marking criteria.
You can easily make a subordinate clause structure in the overview by joining two pieces of information with the words ‘while’. ‘although’, ‘with’, ‘even though’, ‘whereas’ or ‘and’. However, make sure you know the meaning of these words and how they are correctly used in a sentence.
How does an overview fit into the rest of my essay?
The overview should be the second paragraph of a four-paragraph structure:
Paragraph 1- Paraphrase Sentence
Paragraph 2- Overview
Paragraph 3- Details
Paragraph 4- Details
I tell my students to write the overview before the details because it clarifies to the examiner that they have identified the main features and helps them write the details paragraph. In the details paragraphs, you will take the statements you made in the overview and support them with data.
Shouldn’t I write a conclusion?
No. Conclusions are really a summary of what you think or opinions. This is not an opinion essay, and you do not need to write a conclusion. Save your conclusions for task 2.
Below is one final example following the structure I used above. I have highlighted the overview in yellow.
Notice how I have picked out the most significant/noticeable/important features and talked about them very generally in the overview. I have not used any data in the overview. However, I have taken the features from the overview and supported them with data in paragraphs 3 and 4.
Source: Cambridge English IELTS Past Papers.
I hope you found this post useful! Please let me know in the comments section below if you have any questions.
Alternatively, always feel free to email us here: [email protected].
You may also find my grammar guide for IELTS task 1 useful. It has lots of phrases to help you describe data.
For more help with IELTS Writing Task 1, check out my video lesson below:
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Find out why an overview is important in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1
Academic Writing Task 1 is an information-transfer task where you describe what you see in the visual. An overview must be included in your response. Read tips on what an overview is and how to write an overview in your response.
On this page
What is an overview, where should the overview appear, how do i write an overview, what do overviews look like.
In our previous article on how to score a band 7 and higher in Writing Task 1 , we explained the importance of writing an overview. We also explained that you will lose marks if you omit an overview, or if the overview is unclear for the reader.
A clear overview needs to be presented to reach a band 7 and higher. Let’s look again at the Task Achievement band descriptors to see how important a clear overview is in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.
In simple terms, an overview is a summary of what you see. In Academic Task 1 you will see a visual that you have to describe. There might be one visual (one graph), or you might get more than one visual (a chart and a graph).
The overview in your response should summarise what you see in the visual diagram. It should summarise the main:
If you have more than one visual, your overview needs to summarise both of them. You have to present the whole picture and not just part of it.
Remember that you are writing an overview, so you do not need to present data (E.g., numbers, statistics).
The overview describes the overall picture of what you see, so it often appears after the introduction.
The introduction tells the examiner what you are going to write about. It is basically the Writing question paraphrased. For example, you will say what the visual is, the data source and when the data was collected - WHAT, WHERE, WHEN
The first sentence contains the introduction. If there are two visuals in your task, you need to introduce both. This can be done in one or two sentences.
The second sentence contains the overview. If there are two visuals in your task, your overview should summarise both if you can see a relationship between them. If you can't, simply present an overview before you describe each visual in detail.
The overview could also appear at the end of your response as the last sentence acting like a summary of what you have written. IELTS teachers will often tell you to put the overview at the end like a 'conclusion', however, an IELTS Task 1 response, does not need a conclusion.
Our expert advice to you is to write an overview in your second sentence, just to make sure if you run out of time, that your overview is included in your response.
It's easy to write an overview if you follow these two steps:
Use linking words or phrases to introduce a summary of what you see. (E.g., Overall, To summarise, In summary, In brief, It can be clearly seen that...).
Write the main trend(s) or overall picture of what you see in the visual(s). Depending on the type of visual, ask yourself these questions:
Can you see an overall increase, decrease or fluctuation in the visual diagram?
Can you see very high or very low points?
Can you see more or less of something (E.g. more males, less females, more employed, less employed)?
Has the map or plan changed over time?
Have features been added or taken away?
What is the main relationship between the visuals?
Is there a predicted change that will happen in the future?
Look at the following overview examples for a range of different visuals. These overviews will appear in the sentence following the introduction.
These overviews do NOT include data or figures, only a summary of what you see - the most noticeable features.
So, remember to include an overview in your IELTS Academic Writing Task 1. Make it clear to the examiner that you are describing an overall trend or an overall picture of what you see. Use a linking word or phrase to signal to the examiner that this is your overview.
This IELTS Writing tip will help you to perform at your best in the IELTS Writing test.
If you feel you are now ready to practice a Writing test, why not try an official IELTS practice test, IELTS Progress Check . If you do not include an overview, or if it is unclear, our expert IELTS markers will give you feedback on your performance.
IELTS prep course helps test taker get 7 band score
Ielts writing task 2: how to write a good conclusion, ielts writing task 1 and 2 - how to organise your response.
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How to write an IELTS overview for Task 1
By ielts-jonathan.com on 26 September 2022 0
How to write an Overview Paragraph
In IELTS WRITING Task 1, a well-developed overview paragraph will impress the examiner and lead to a higher BAND score.
The overview comes after the Introduction paragraph.
There are a few things that you need to be able to do in order to write the paragraph you need for a higher score:
Writing an Overview sentence for Task 1 is relatively simple.
I have provided the steps for you to follow, but you will still need to practice writing for different topics and read the questions carefully.
4 Easy Steps
You need to be able to locate the overall change in the pictorial starting from the first year or day or month to the last
You then need to locate the major trend or trends and the most significant features ; these could be the highest and lowest number in the group.
Next, you should consider the whole picture. If I wanted to paraphrase, I could say that you need to look at the big picture or look at the pictorial ‘globally’. In practice, for example, this means looking for differences between categories rather than exact numbers.
And finally, you need to summarise the main trend, key feature or exception .
Too often, I see students get poor marks because they write figures in the Overview paragraph, and I strongly recommend that you do not .
You should always remember, the Overview refers to the ‘ significant ’ and not the ‘ detail ’
Have a look at the overviews I have written and see how I have related the graph to the points I made in 4 Easy Steps .
Q1 – The table below shows the number of prisoners in thousands in five countries between 1950 and 1980.
Here is how I would write an Overview for this chart:
“While the figures for imprisonment fluctuated over the period shown, it is clear that the United States had the highest number of prisoners overall. Great Britain, on the other hand, had the lowest number of prisoners for the majority of the period.”
Q2 – The graph shows the number of internet users in three countries over a decade.
“It is clear from the graph that the proportion of people who use the Internet increased in each country over the period shown. Overall, Mexico had the lowest percentage of Internet users, while Canada experienced the fastest growth in Internet usage.”
Q3 – The graph below shows the differences in wheat exports over three different economic areas.
“It is clear that Canada exported more wheat than Australia and the European Community for most of the period shown. However, while Canada’s wheat exports fluctuated and Australia’s fell, wheat exports from the European Community rose steadily.”
Q4 – The table shows the number of computer workstations available to students in different faculties at a university.
“ It can be concluded from the given information that there are not enough computer terminals in comparison to the number of students in different faculties. It is clear that some faculties with a higher number of students have fewer computer terminals compared to some less populated faculties .”
Note: the information above is fictional and for practice purposes only.
Phrases to use in the Overview
Here I have provided a few phrases that can be used to start Overview paragraphs:
It can be seen from the graph that …
It can be concluded from the graph that …
It is noticeable that …
We can see that …
It is clear that …
Overall , …
Remember, you are looking for significant features so all of the above phrases are suitable for the majority of Overview paragraphs.
It can be seen from the graph that … there are not enough computer terminals.
It can be concluded from the graph that .. there are not enough computer terminals.
It is noticeable that … there are not enough computer terminals.
We can see that … there are not enough computer terminals.
It is clear that … there are not enough computer terminals.
Overall, it is clear that , … there are not enough computer terminals.
Overall , … there are not enough computer terminals.
So there are my basic tips for writing an IELTS TASK 1 Overview
Finally, you can go over to my Facebook page and join other students who are working towards the test.
Join my IELTS WRITING TASK 1 group for free practice.
All the Best,
I’ve taught IELTS and University English in more than a dozen universities and schools around the world.
I’m a parent, traveller and passionate about language teaching and helping students achieve their dreams.
Whilst living in Austria or working in Asia, I run IELTS courses to help students get to where they want to be.
If you are serious about IELTS, connect with me to see how I can help you.
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