Writing Task One: What is an overview?
For IELTS writing Task One (Academic), you MUST write an OVERVIEW. Without this key piece of your description, you may not receive a high score This can severely affect your score, so it is important to understand what an OVERVIEW is.
Don't limit your score in Task One by missing out your overview!
What is an overview?
An overview is a general description of the data. It only needs to be one or two sentences long. You DO NOT need to write data (numbers) here. Try to focus on the pattern you can see.
I usually tell my students that you are describing like an eagle flying high above the graph. You can't see the detail, but you CAN see the overall trends, differences and patterns.
Where does my overview go in my description?
Your overview can be ANYWHERE in the writing. However, most students write it either at the beginning or the end of the description.
I recommend that you ALWAYS write your overview as the SECOND SENTENCE of the description. (The first sentence will say what kind of data is presented in the graph.)
By writing your overview at the start of the description, you will make sure you do not forget it or run out of time before you have written the overview. Therefore this is the safest way!
What language can I use for my overview?
We can use cohesive devices to signal an overview. For example,
And perhaps also some phrases such as,
...we can clearly see...
...it can be seen that...
...it is clear that...
This means that the examiner can find your overview quickly!
Can you give me some examples?
Sure! It is important that you describe as much of the data as possible. Don't just say what the highest number is - this is not an overview.
If the data shows CHANGE OVER TIME, then just describe the OVERALL TREND.
Line Graphs - Describe the general trend.
Overall, we can clearly see that the GDP of all three countries rose significantly during the entire period.
Bar Charts - General trends (change over time) OR Group factors together and compare
In general, it can be seen that career benefits were more important to students choosing a university than personal factors.
Pie Charts - General trends (change over time) OR Group factors together and compare
Overall, it is clear that the highest proportion of crime during both years was violent in nature, while economic crime remained relatively low.
What about tricky data types?
Some data types may be more difficult to write an overview without some practice:
Process Diagrams - Summarise the steps of the process
Overall, the process for the production of paperclips can be divided into 10 key steps, from raw materials to sale.
Overall, we can clearly see that garbage is collected and divided into three groups, paper, metal and food waste and recycled according to type.
Diagrams - Summarise the parts of the diagram(s)
Overall, it is clear that the water collection system contains a number of different elements which together collect and distribute rainwater around the house.
Maps - cover the biggest differences.
Overall, it is clear that the most significant change to the area was the construction of residential housing and transportation links.
What if I have more than one set of data (for example a bar chart and a line graph)?
Just write a longer overview sentence!
Overall, we can clearly see that the number of Japanese tourists travelling abroad rose significantly (according to the line graph), while Australia's share of the Japanese tourist market also climbed (as shown on the bar chart).
What is the difference between an overview and a conclusion?
You DON'T NEED A CONCLUSION for Task One. Task One is a description (not an essay) so there is nothing to conclude.
Sometimes you might get to the end and realise there is some link or connection between the data that you missed in the overview. In this case you can write a SUMMARY (1-2 sentences) at the end.
In summary, there was a direct correlation between the number of tourists travelling overseas from Japan and the increase in Australia's share of the market.
However, summaries are OPTIONAL - what is most important is to include an OVERVIEW somewhere in the description!
Write an overview sentence for the following (simple) line graph.
I will help you by writing the first sentence of your description.
The line graph illustrates the number of animals in Oaktree City between 1999 and 2003.
Overall, ____________________________________________________ .