By Carol Norbury
Familiarise yourself with the task and the time limit. Time management is very important when taking any kind of exam. What are the examiners looking for? Find examples of model answers or read examples of this genre of writing in authentic sources. How can you apply this to your own writing?
Task 1 writing in Academic IELTS is essentially writing a description or a report of the main trends in a diagram, usually a line graph, a bar graph, a map, a process, a chart, a table or a map. The requirements of the task are slightly different depending on what the diagram is so you need to know what is required for each question type. To succeed and get a good score you should have practised all the possible task 1 questions. This may not always be possible in class time so you must take responsibility for your own learning and actively seek out questions and model answers on the internet.
Change your mindset instead of thinking of the task as an awful exam question you have to do think of it as a practical skill which may have already completed in your own language. For example, have you ever had to write a summary or a report at work or in your studies? Well, task 1 is very similar, imagine you are writing it for someone who is very busy and needs to know the main points. Don’t forget to give a good overview too.
The task is marked in 4 areas, task achievement, coherence and cohesion, lexical resource and grammatical range and accuracy. Ok, what does that mean? Put simply, did you answer the question and how well, does your writing flow, did you use a range of vocabulary and did you make a lot of basic grammar and spelling mistakes. Take note, grammar accounts for 25% of the overall mark. To improve in the first 2 areas, you need to practice a lot. This does not always mean doing lots of IELTS practice tests. Get into the writing habit, keep a journal, write summaries of articles you read, write summaries of diagrams and graphs you see in newspapers or magazines or write your thoughts for the day. Make writing part of your daily routine.
Here at Express English College we offer both full-time and part-time IELTS preparation classes. Classes can help in 2 ways, firstly teacher feedback on your writing is essential to improve. We improve when we are given feedback on something, we apply the feedback given and then produce something better. We also feel more motivated studying as a class or a group with a common goal (a good IELTS score), which is known as extrinsic motivation. Additionally, of course your peers can give you feedback too. At Express English College in our IELTS classes we use the Cambridge coursebook Mindset for IELTS. These books break down the tasks into manageable chunks so that students will not feel overwhelmed. There is also supplementary online material which you can access which means you can tailor your learning to your individual needs and focus on your weak areas.
The financial newspaper, the Financial Times is a good source of quality writing and usually provides tables and diagrams to accompany texts on the stock exchange and currency markets which may serve as a model for Academic IELTS writing task 1. The Economist or the New Scientist are a good source of authentic, short articles on topical subjects. Reading these will not only improve your reading and writing but it may also give you some potential conversation topics to further improve your speaking skills. While you are reading it may be useful to do the following, underline and highlight grammar structures and underline linkers between sentences and paragraphs.
Remember you should spend 20 minutes on task 1 and write 250 words, it is worth 1/3rd of the marks. Do not be tempted to spend longer on this task as that is not a good exam technique. Task 2 is worth 2/3rds of the mark so the correct amount of time needs to be devoted to this task. Plan your time and answer and then be ready to move on to task 2 writing. Good luck!