The Task 1 writing prompt on the IELTS normally involves the interpretation of some sort data or a diagram. In my experience, the Task 1 is much easier for students to write than a Task 2. The reason being that in a Task 1 you are taking numbers or pictures and putting them into simple English. With a Task 2, the students have to actually develop an original thought rather than interpret someone else’s data. Creating is much more challenging then describing something for most people especially in their second language.
There are some basic guidelines that can help people to improve their performance on a Task 1. Below is an example with an explanation of how to approach it.
The graph below shows how married men and women spend their unpaid work hours. Describe the information shown below in your own words. You should write at least 150 words. Allow yourself 20 minutes for this task.
Table: Unpaid Work Hours per Week
Without Kids With 1-2 Kids With 3 or More Kids
Male 20 20 18
Female 30 50 58
The prompt above tells us to describe the graph. This is important. For the most part, your opinion does not matter. You could make statements that women are being oppressed by the men because they are doing more unpaid work. This may be true but is this describing the graph in terms of its numbers or an expression of your opinion? The word count is short (150 words) so there is not much space for sharing an opinion. It is wiser to just describe the information as instructed. The injustice can be express after the test.
When working with my students, I always tell them to describe the data from left to right if possible. Look to the far left and describe that information first. Then move to the right. This helps in making sure that the entire graph is described in the essay. Many times students sit at their desk and have no idea where to begin. Telling them to start on the left-hand side is an easy way to get them started. It gives them a starting point and speeds up the ability to make a choice about what to write.
Normally, you only need to describe four elements of the graph to reach 150 words. You don’t want to write more than you have to as it does not increase your score but increases the chance you will make grammatical mistakes. Below is one approach I have used with students that include four different elements.
- A simple fact from the graph/table
- Compare information in the graph/table
- Contrast information in the graph/table
- Summarize information from the graph/table
A Simple Fact
A simple fact is just that. Taking data from the table and putting it in simple English. A fact for our purposes is one description of one data point in the table/graph. Looking at the example in this post here is an example of a fact.
Males without kids spend 20 hours a week in unpaid work.
The reader can check to see if this is correct. In addition, notice how I use as many components from the table as possible. I use the term male, I use part of the title of the table “Unpaid Work Hours per Week” and I use the hours “20.” The more components from the table that you put into the sentence the clearer the sentence should be. I have my students right little checkmarks next to each component they use in a sentence so they can see how they are translating the table into simple English.
Compare Information in the Graph
Comparing the information in the graph involves taking two facts within the passage and pointing out how they are similar. Looking at the table above here is an example.
Males without kids and males with 1-2 kids both spend 20 hours a week in unpaid work.
Here I compare males without kids with males with 1-2 kids. They both spend about 20 hours a week in unpaid work. This provides yet another description of the table in simple English.
There are an infinite number of comparisons that can be made. However, following the principle of moving from left to right helps to eliminate choices, which helps in making a faster decision. Remember, we only have 20 minutes so we are not going to make in-depth exhaustive comparisons. Always keep it simple in clear English to maximize your score
Contrast Information in the Graph
This is the opposite of comparing. Here you indicate how to facts in the graph are not the same. Here is an example.
Females with 1-2 kids spend 50 hours a week in unpaid work but Females with 3 or more kids spend 58 hours a week in unpaid work.
The important part to mention is that when contrasting you need to use a contrasting word such as but, however, in contrast, etc. This implies opposite and serves as a signal to the reader.
The summary is usually one of the last sentences in the essay. It provides an overall theme of the graph. Again there are an infinite number of possibilities but you need to pick what you think is most important. Below is one example of many.
In conclusion, women spend more time than men in unpaid work.
Of course, there are other ways to do summarize such as emphasizing how men work less instead of women working more. Try to provide the reader with a one-sentence summary of the graph.
In the next post, I will provide an example of an application without so much description.
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