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IELTS Writing Part 1: Overall Structure

The writing section of IELTS is divided into two parts: part 1 and part 2. Part 1 is a short piece which must be at least 150 words and should take 20 minutes. There is a line graph, pie chart or bar graph. The overall structure of the response should be:

  1. Introduction to the information in the graph
  2. Overview: The general trends
  3. Detailed description of important information

The following graph is more simple than what you would see in an IELTS exam, but it is useful for us to first understand the overall structure of the response. An IELTS exam graph on this topic would probably show additional information, for example data from different years.

Students working graph

Introduction to the information in the graph

This can be done in one or two sentences. You can rephrase the description and include the time frame. If the bar graph compares data from 2001 and 2011, then make sure you mention that in the introduction. Be careful not to repeat the description word for word, otherwise it won’t be included in your word count. Usually there will be three or more factors. There will usually be: number, time and type. For example, a graph might show the amount of consumption of three types of drinks by Americans from 1960 to 1980.

The bar graph compares the number of students from ages 14 to 18 who are employed and unemployed in an Australian high school. 

Overview: The general trends

There should be a general statement that can summarise the overall change. There doesn’t have to be a lot of detail, and the paragraph doesn’t have to be very long. Make sure that you are clear about the types of values expressed, sometimes it will be a number, other times it will be a percentage. Two to three sentences is enough.

Overall, as students get older the proportion of students who are employed also rises. Low employment is normal amoung younger students (14-15), however students in the higher ages (17-18) are usually working.  

Detailed description of important information

Here the key is to think of the most important similarities and differences. You can also highlight the highest and lowest.

It can be seen that 14 year old students were the least likely to have a job with close to no students working. In contrast, the vast majority of 18 year olds were working. The period of transition is evidently the age of 16 where there are an almost equal number of students working and not yet working. 


Generally it is not a good idea to include a conclusion because it is only a short report. This video from IELTS Liz has an excellent explanation why. And it also talks about the difference between an overview and a conclusion.

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