IELTS Writing Task 1 Vocabulary and Grammar: The Complete Guide

Grammar and vocabulary are the dynamic duo of IELTS exam. Every component assesses your ability to write/speak grammatically correct sentences and to...

Indulekha Prabha Written by Indulekha Prabha · 5 min read >

Grammar and vocabulary are the dynamic duo of IELTS exam. Every component assesses your ability to write/speak grammatically correct sentences and to use contextual vocabulary. In the Writing Task 1, grammar and vocabulary play an important role. Let us see how!

IELTS Writing Task 1 Marking Criteria

As we have mentioned in numerous occasions, understanding the exam format and the marking criteria makes your preparation a lot easier and not to mention, organised.

In the Writing task 1, you will be asked to write a letter in 150 words. It could be, formal, informal or semi-formal. You shouldn’t spend more than 20minutes to write this letter and must take care that you do not write less than 150 words. If your word count exceeds by 10-15 words, it is acceptable. However, you must not keep on writing as the second task need more time.

The marking criteria are fairly detailed for Writing Task 1:

  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy
  • Task Achievement
  • Lexical Resource
  • Coherence and Cohesion

Here you can see that grammar accounts for 25% of the marks in your writing test. Furthermore, your grammar is assessed on two things:

  • Ability to write grammatically accurate sentences.
  • Ability to use a wide range of grammar structures.

Accuracy of grammar

Examiners look for how many ‘error free’ sentences you have written. Therefore, you need to make sure each sentence has no errors. Even a small mistake like an article in the wrong place or misplaced plural counts towards this.

As a result, it is vital that you check your work after you finish writing. Always try to leave yourself two minutes at the end to proofread your work. Simple errors, which could be fixed with a quick check, will really damage your marks in this area.

Range of grammar

A good answer will have a range of appropriate structures and tenses. Many students try to insert complex sentences and tenses into their answers. This isn’t a good strategy. It will make your answers look unnatural and can result in you making mistakes.

A good answer uses complex sentences (such as conditional and relative clauses) that flow naturally. 

Grammar for Writing Task 1(General)

Grammar is often the area that students struggle with the most, as it can easily bring a student’s scores down. The most important thing you have to do for any IELTS Writing Task is to answer the question. For General Training Task 1 questions you always have to write a letter.

You will notice that the question below states that you should write about why you are writing to your friend and then gives four bullet points for you to mention. These are the five main things you must write about and you should write about these five things and these five things only.

Now that you have your five main points you simply split your letter into five main paragraphs and deal with each main point in a separate paragraph.

In each paragraph you should make it very clear which point you are writing about in order to make it obvious to the examiner. You can do this by including keywords from the question, or even better, synonyms or paraphrases of those keywords.

Grammar for Writing Task 2 (Academic)

Students taking the Academic test need to write a report on a data set, map, or process. You must write 150 words or more. Task 1 is worth 1/3 of your total mark on the Writing test.

The most important thing is that you can demonstrate that you can clearly communicate in English. The key to doing well is to know exactly what the examiners want and giving it to them.

Tenses

Using the appropriate tenses in IELTS writing task 1 is essential if you want to get a high band score.

The key is to look at the title of the chart and the information contained on both axes to establish what time frame is used. This will help you establish what tense you should use.

Example:

  • If the time is one point in the past, for example January 1990, then we should use the past tense.
  • If it has projections for the future, for example 2045, we use future tenses.
  • If there is no time, we use present simple.

Below are a range of tenses that could be used in task 1. Remember, the tense you use will depend on the information displayed in the graph. 

Present Perfect:

We use this tense generally to talk about an action that happened at an unspecified time before now. The exact time period is not important.

In writing task 1, we use this tense to talk about changes in data that have happened over a period of time.

Example:

The price of oil has fallen by $5 a barrel every week since July.

Present Perfect Continuous

We use this tense to show that something started in the past and has continued up until now.

Example:

Oil prices have been decreasing since July.

Future Perfect

We use this tense to state that something will be finished by a particular time in the future.

Example:

The price of oil will have reached $300 a barrel by 2020.

Simple Past

Use this tense to talk about an action that started and finished at a specific time in the past.

Example:

The price of oil fell from $150 in Jan 2014 to $50 in Jan 2015.

Vocabulary for Writing Task 1 (Academic)

Using contextual vocabulary is an important aspect of the Writing Task 1.

Describing Trends

In IELTS writing task 1 you may have to describe trends. This may come up in a line graph, bar chart or comparing more than one chart.

Possible vocabulary to describe trends:

gradual

moderate

modest

sharp

dramatic

slight

steep

steady

significant

considerable

rapid

Possible vocabulary to denote action:

variation

decline

decrease

dip

drop

fall

peak

fluctuation

growth

increase

rise

slump

Possible verbs:

rise

jump

grow

climb

increase

rocket

fall

drop

decline

decrease

go down

plummet

plunge

Possible vocabulary to modify:

gradually

moderately

modestly

sharply

dramatically

slightly

steeply

steadily

significantly

considerably

rapidly

slowly

Describing Increases and Decreases

When describing any of the charts in IELTS writing task 1, you might have to describe increases and decreases. There are three main ways you can describe increases and decreases.

  • Noun phrase + verb + adverb

Example:

The price of property fell sharply

The percentage of homes dropped dramatically.

  • There + be + noun + in + noun phrase

Example:

There was a fall in literacy levels.

There has been an increase in the cost of coffee.

  • Using fractions

Example:

The price of oil halved in less than a year.

The price of oil has halved since July.

By July, the price of oil has halved.

Making Comparisons

IELTS writing task 1 will often require you to make comparisons between data sources, groups and times. Here are five grammatical structures you can use to make comparisons.

  • More/few/less + noun + than

Example:

Overall, more people preferred public transport than taxis.

  • Of one syllable -er + than

Example:

A higher number of people preferred public transport than taxis.

Summarising

IELTS writing task 1 is essentially a summarising task. Your overview paragraph should contain two or three sentences summarising the main features of the graph. In order to help you do this, here are some short phrases.

To summarise, the most marked change is….

Overall, it is clear….

Overall, the majority/minority….

In sum, the most noticeable trend is….

Don’t say ‘to conclude’. This is only for discursive essays.

Approximations, Percentages and Fractions

In many of the IELTS writing task 1 questions, you will have to deal with percentages. This is a good opportunity to express these percentages in a different way. A way of varying this language is to express them as fractions or proportions.

Remember that you should vary your language as much as possible in order to score high in the ‘lexical resource’ part of the test.

For instance, use approximations. E.g. 49% can be expressed as “nearly a half”.

Below are a range of expressions that can be used to express percentages:

Fractions

73%- nearly three quarters

51%- just over a half

49%- just under a half

32%- nearly a third

3%- a tiny fraction

50%- exactly a half

26%- roughly one quarter

49%- around a half

24%- almost a quarter

77%- approximately three quarters

Proportions

70%- a large proportion

71%- a significant majority

15% a small minority

3%- an insignificant minority

Conclusion

IELTS Writing task 1 is a comparatively short task but judges a number of skills. Therefor it is important to focus on the details very minutely. Grammar and Vocabulary are like the building blocks of your writing and as such, need attention. If your sentence is constructed in a grammatically correct way and you use relevant vocabulary your score will definitely get the much needed boost!

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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