In this blog post we answer some common questions we get from students about overviews.
What is an overview
An academic task 1 test will ask you to:
Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.
We should start answering this with an overview
How important is an overview?
If you have a look at Task Achievement in the public band descriptors for IELTS Academic Writing Task 1, you will notice that you must write an overview to get a band 6 or higher.
Where do I write the overview?
It is logical to include the overview in the introduction of the essay as the overview is general information rather than specific details.
The first sentence of the introduction should paraphrase the information about the graph or data. The second sentence (and possibly third) should give an overview of the main trends in the data. If you follow this method, you will have a 2 or 3 sentence introduction which introduces the graph and gives the general trends in the data.
How do I paraphrase the information about the graph?
To paraphrase, you must express the same meaning but use different words to those on the question paper.
Example description of graph
‘The graph below shows population figures for India and China since the year 2000 and predicted population growth up until 2050.’
‘The graph illustrates how the populations of India and China have changed from 2000 and how they will change up to 2050.’
What are the trends or main features?
Some of you are accountants or scientists and so you are trained to understand data in graphs and tables. Unfortunately, those of us who aren’t accountants or scientists may struggle to understand what the trends are in data. Let’s look at a few ways to spot trends.
- If most are decreasing, that is a negative trend.
- If some are increasing and some are decreasing, then you have two major trends.
Before you write anything for your introduction or overview, make sure you understand the graph or table.
Think about the following:
What does the x axis (horizontal) represent? What does the y-axis represent (vertical) represent? Do numbers show percentages, fractions, numbers of people, degrees, money, etc. What is the time period?
What are the trends and main features of the following graphs and charts?
Look for big and small values. Changes over time. Values that are similar or different.
Time to write
Write an introduction sentence about the topic of each graph or chart. Next, write an overview of the trends and main features in the data. When you have finished, check with our examples. Good luck!
introduction and overview 1.
The chart illustrates the average high and low temperature in Winnipeg over a 12-month period. As you would expect, the average temperature reaches a peak in July and the lowest temperatures are experienced in January.
Introduction and overview 2.
The three charts show how popular 6 different social media programs were from 2011 to 2013. Over the period, Facebook was consistently the most popular, however, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest all experienced an increase in popularity at the expense of Facebook.
Introduction and overview 3.
The chart illustrates the percentage of people living in towns and cities in different areas of the world in 1950 and 2007 and makes projections as to how this will change by 2030. All areas of the world have become more urbanized since 1950 and it is predicted that this trend will continue to 2030 when well over 3 quarters of people in Europe, North America and Latin America will be living in urban areas and over half of Asians and Africans.
introduction and overview 4.
The chart shows viewing figures for 4 different genres of film in India, Ireland and New Zealand. Action movies are by far the most popular genre, followed by romance and comedy, with horror being the least popular. India is the country with the highest film viewing figures and Japan the one with the lowest.
Introduction and overview 5.
The line graph illustrates viewing figures for 4 different news programmes on Channel One. Viewing figures fluctuated throughout the year, except for the 1 pm news, which had steady viewing figures throughout. The 6 pm and 9:30 pm news ended the year with lower viewing figures than they started the year with, while the 11 pm news, introduced in May, experienced brief popularity over the summer before rapidly losing viewers.
In the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 you need to be comfortable writing about statistics and trends in data. If you can't do this effectively, your Task Achievement will be low. People often struggle to find the right vocabulary to accurately describe trends in data so we thought we'd help you with this post.
On this page you can:
Verbs and Nouns
It will boost your vocabulary band score if you use both verb and noun phrases to describe statistics. so first of all let's have a look at some examples of vocabulary you could use.
In order to give more precise information about trends and statistics we can use adjectives to modify nouns and adverbs to modify verbs.
For example, ‘there was a dramatic increase in the number of cars sold between 2001 and 2003’.
Notice the form of the sentence ‘There was… (noun phrase) in…’ – this is a good way to start the sentence – later on we’ll practice this type of sentence.
For example, 'there was a gradual rise in the number of electric cars sold over the period'.
For example, 'sales of cars increased dramatically between 2001 and 2003’.
For example, ‘sales of motorbikes declined slowly through the year’.
Watch out for the following common mistakes that people make.
Practice Task 1
Look at the following sentences. Some are correct whilst others contain mistakes. Can you tell which ones are wrong and why?
There was a slight rise in the cost of fuel at the beginning of winter.
The wrong form of the verb ‘rise’ is used.
‘In October the number of tourists plummeted’ .
‘There was a plummet in the number of tourists in October’.
There was a huge increase in the production of tea in the 19th century.
The article ‘a’ should be used before ‘huge increase’.
Next year it is projected that the numbers of people using social media will fall gradually.
The adverb ‘gradually’ should be used to describe the verb ‘fall’
Practice Task 2
The following sentences contain verb phrases to describe statistics. Rewrite them with noun phrases.
For example – The number rose. / There was a rise in the number.
There was a surge in the price of cat food from $1.50 to $2.00 per can in late 2010.
There was a steady drop in the price of oil towards the end of the decade.
There was a steady number of people moving to the city during the period.
There was a reduction in subsidies by the government and a wild fluctuation in prices for the rest of the year.
There was a dramatic increase in the percentage of people travelling to work by bus from 11% to 23% while there was a slight drop in the percentage of people using cars to 18%.
Practice Task 3
The graph below shows the price of apples and oranges between 1999 and 2003. Write a short report about the change in the price of apples and oranges shown in the graph. Make sure you use both verb and noun phrases in your description. When you have finished check the IELTSTutors example found below the graph.
The graph shows the price of Apples and Oranges per Kilo over a 4-year period from 1999 to 2003. Despite the price fluctuating quite a lot, apples finished the period costing much more than at the beginning, while oranges finished just a little more expensive than their initial price.
In 1999 apples cost $5 per kilo, however, in the following year there was a drastic decrease in the price to only $1, the lowest price for apples over the whole period. Between 2000 and 2002 the price recovered to an extent, climbing from $1 to $3. In the last year of the period there was a sharp increase in the cost to $7, $2 more than at the start of the period.
On the other hand, the price of oranges more or less followed the opposite trend. The price was low in 1999 at only $2. However, the following year it rose impressively to $5. Between 2000 and 2001 there was a steady increase in the cost to $6. This was the highest price that oranges achieved over the whole period. The following year the cost declined sharply to $3 and in the final year oranges lost another 50 cents in value to finish the period at $2.50.
Today we’re looking at how to improve your vocabulary in order to get the IELTS score you need. Improving the range of vocabulary you have and your ability to use and understand specific topic focused vocabulary will help you in IELTS speaking, writing listening and reading. First, let’s have a look at some common IELTS vocabulary problems in speaking and writing.
Some Common Errors with Vocabulary
Some people have very limited vocabulary and so they have to use simple words to express themselves.
For example, ‘My favourite movie is James Bond because it is good’.
In this sentence the adjective ‘good’ doesn’t tell us anything about why the speaker likes the film. It’s too simple. Exciting or thrilling would be more expressive.
Some people lack range and don’t know synonyms. This makes their speaking and writing boring for the reader.
For example, ‘My favourite movie is James Bond because the story is good and the acting is good’.
Here the speaker is using simple vocabulary repetitively and so his/her band score will be low.
Incorrect use of complex vocabulary
Some people learn lists of complex words and phrases before the test but because they don’t fully understand the meaning or the grammar of the words, they use them wrongly. Make sure you know a phrase or word properly before you use it.
For example, 'I believe the government must do more to support industrial sector'.
Industrial sector is a good noun phrase but the writer hasn't got the grammar of the phrase correct. This phrase requires the definite article 'the' at the head of the phrase - 'the industrial sector'. An error like this reflects negatively on lexical resource and grammatical accuracy.
Where should I learn new words?
To be successful in the IELTS test you need a wide range of vocabulary. In the speaking test you need the vocabulary to talk about your interests, opinions and life as well as more academic vocabulary for part 3 to talk in depth about whatever topics you are asked about. In writing, you may need vocabulary for dealing with statistics or processes and for whatever the topic of the academic task 2 essay is. Reading requires more academic and topic specific vocabulary and listening requires a range of less formal vocabulary for part 1 and 2 and more specific and academic vocabulary towards the end in part 3 and 4.
You should try and learn new vocabulary from a range of sources. All of the following places are excellent sources
Tips for how to successfully learn new words
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