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.
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