Writing Task 1 – How To Write An Effective Overview

In this post, we will look at the importance of having a good clear overview. The overview is the most important paragraph in the writing task 1 essay and without one, you will lose marks. this will affect your score and your ability to gain a band score 7 or higher. 

What is an overview? 

An overview is where you clearly write about the general information you can see in the graph/chart/map/process.

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. 

Things you should look for in the charts/graph questions >>

  • Focus on what the main features are
  • Look at the highest and lowest numbers
  • See if there has been a substantial growth or decline in a particular category
  • If there are a few categories, check if there is an obvious way to group them together into just two or three groups. 
  • Look for one or two categories, which break the pattern set by all of the others. 
  • Sometimes there are several different main features, which you can identify. You can circle the key information on the question paper before you start to write about your main features.

Things you should look for in the maps questions >>

  • Focus on the main changes that you can see, have they improved anything?
  • Have they built anything in an area that was countryside before?
  • Have there been any dramatic changes?

Things you should look for in the process questions >>

  • Think about the number of stages that are in time order. 
  • How many stages are there? 
  • What is happening at the beginning?
  • What is happening at the end?

I advise my students to write the overview in the second paragraph, after the introduction (paraphrased question) and before the main body paragraphs. The overview leads the reader through into the main body of the essay, where the specific details are written about. 

Essay Structure

The structure should look like this >>

Paragraph 1- Introduction / Paraphrase the question.

Paragraph 2- Overview

Paragraph 3- Specific Details

Paragraph 4- Specific Details

Paragraph 2 – Overview of the main features

You need to be able to give a broad summary of the information. This is best started with Overall……. then giving details of the main features you can see. You can write this in one or two sentences.

You should try to make a complex sentence here by using a subordinate clause. This means when you are writing your sentences, you join two pieces of information with a linking word – while, whereas, with, although, even though. This can help you to gain more marks in the test.

Students often ask if they should write a conclusion in writing task 1 and the answer is no. This is not an opinion essay, therefore you do not need to give a conclusion. You stick to the facts in this essay, you do not give you own opinion.

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.

We hope you found this post useful in helping you to study for the IELTS Test. If you have any questions please let us know in the comments below or on the Facebook page.

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