IELTS Task 1 – How to Write an Overview

IELTS writing task 1 is a short but rather demanding task. In the 150 word essay, you are supposed to write, the...

Indulekha Prabha Written by Indulekha Prabha · 3 min read >

IELTS writing task 1 is a short but rather demanding task. In the 150 word essay, you are supposed to write, the overview is probably the most important paragraph. In fact, it is quite difficult to score 7 or more without a good overview.

What Is An Overview?

An overview is nothing but a summary of the main or the 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. It greatly influences what you write in the rest of your essay. 

However, the way you write an overview differs from question to question:

For the graphs/charts questions – You give the examiner a clear overview of the main features and you can make comparisons if you can see any. You don’t have to mention any numbers/data/stats here; this information should be in the next two paragraphs. 

For the maps questions – You give a general overview of the most noticeable changes that have occurred / or will occur in the future.

For the process questions – You state how many stages the process has, how it begins and how it ends.

How to write an Overview?

To write an overview effectively, the first thing you must do is, select the correct features. To understand this you have to think about the different types of graphs and charts you 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 affects the type of data you select.

When you have 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?
  • Is there any significant difference from the general trend?
  • What is the overall increase/decrease?
  • Peaks/lows?

 When you have static graphs we should be looking for:

  • What are the highest/lowest values?
  • What are the most noticeable differences?
  • Are there any similarities?
  • Are there any significant exceptions?

Grammar for writing overview: It is important that you try and make a complex sentence by introducing a subordinate clause. Complex sentences are sentences with more than one clause and they help increase our marks in the grammatical range part of the marking criteria.

You can easily introduce 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.

The structure of an overview must be kept simple:

You should write the overview in the second paragraph of a four-paragraph structure. It is important that you write the overview before the details because it makes it clear to the examiner that you have identified the main features and it also helps you write the follow-up paragraph. In the later paragraphs, you will simply have to take the statements you made in the overview and support them with data.

Sample Overview

One important thing to keep in mind when talking about overview is that it doesn’t need a conclusion. Conclusions are essentially summaries of your opinion and what you think. This is not an opinion or discursive essay and you, therefore, do not need to write a conclusion.

Notice the most significant/noticeable/important features and how they are being talked about very generally in the overview. There is also no data in the overview. However, the features from the overview are being taken later and supported with data in the body paragraphs.

Line graph question overview example:

Overall, the highest recurrence of burglary was in Great Britain, which was fairly high from 2000-2009 in comparison to the other countries, while the lowest incidence when the study began in 2000 was in Spain. It can be seen that in 2009 Spain reported slightly lower figures than the other four countries.  

Maps question overview example:

Overall, the most important change will be the addition of safety measures and the appearance of foliage amid the initial monotonous city design. The sidewalks will be wider on both sides of the road and bicycle lanes will be added, while a pedestrian crossing will also be constructed at the bottom of the street. The crossing will have an island where pedestrians can wait.

Process question overview example:

Overall, it can be observed that there are eight stages in this process, beginning with the collection of trees from the forest and ending with the paper being made in the paper making machine.

Conclusion

In the overview you are expected to write clearly about the general information you can see in the graph, chart, map or process. The band descriptors of IELTS writing task 1 clearly explains that the overview should have appropriately selected information. Therefore, to write an effective overview you must know the details that should go in and present them in an organised way.

Written by Indulekha Prabha
My name is Indulekha Prabha. I am an English teacher and a content writer by profession. When I'm not working you can find me writing fiction, reading poetry and painting. Profile

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