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How to Describe or Compare IELTS Task 1 Maps

How to descirbe IELTS Writing Task 1 Maps - IELTS Luminary

This type of question is simple to answer because there is usually no data to analyse. Instead, you will compare two or three maps. This type of question is becoming more common in the IELTS Writing task 1 section, so it's important to know how to compare maps effectively.

To answer this type of question, follow these seven steps:

  1. Analyse the question.

  2. Identify the major features.

  3. Use the four-paragraph structure.

  4. Paraphrase the question.

  5. Write an overview paragraph.

  6. Write body paragraph 1.

  7. Write body paragraph 2.

It's a good idea to use the 7-step strategy for all questions in the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1. This approach can give you a big advantage when you're writing. But if you want to get the band score you need in the IELTS Writing test, you might want to try our guaranteed Writing Feedback Service. A former IELTS examiner will give you detailed feedback and step by step guidance towards your target band score.

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Now, let's look at an example question and apply the 7-step strategy to prepare an answer.

Example

You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.

The maps below show the changes in a town after the construction of a hydroelectric power dam.

Write at least 150 words.

How to Write a High Band Scoring Task 2 Essay - eBook by IELTS Luminary (IELTS Essay eBook)
IELTS Writing Task 1 Map Question Example - The changes in a town after the construction of a hydroelectric power dam.

Source: Cambridge English IELTS Past Papers

1. How to Analyse A Task 1 Map Question

To answer the task 1 question effectively, we must identify three important things: the main topic of the question, specific details that can help us give a more precise answer, and any actions we need to take.

  • The topic words tell us the general subject of the question, like "two maps" and "changes from 1990 to 2010."

  • Micro keywords help us focus on specific details that we need to address, such as "construction of a hydroelectric power dam."

  • Action words tell us what we need to do, such as "compare" or "describe."

 

Once we've identified these important elements of the question, we can then look for the main features in the diagrams.

After completing the question analysis part, we need to find the major features in the diagrams. Before that, if you want more extensive discussion on question analysis, please check the relevant chapter in the eBook.

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2. How to Identify Main Features in IELTS Task 1 Maps

Identifying the main features in IELTS Task 1 Maps is a critical first step in crafting a high-scoring response. Here's how you can do it:

Read the Instructions Carefully: Before you start, read the title and any accompanying notes. These will often tell you what the main focus of the map is. They may give you the specific time periods the map is depicting, or the changes that have taken place.

Compare Maps (if Provided): Often, you'll be given two maps to compare—one from the past and one from the present. Look for the differences and similarities between the maps. These changes or lack of them are the main features.

Identify Significant Changes: This could be anything from the construction of new buildings, roads, or landmarks, to changes in natural features like rivers, mountains, or forests. Also note changes in the layout of the area, such as new housing developments or industrial areas.

Spot Trends: Look for overall trends in the maps. Is the town expanding? Are green areas disappearing? Are there new transport links? These trends are significant features to include in your report.

Note Absence of Change: If something remains unchanged over time, it could be significant, especially if surrounding areas have undergone substantial alterations.

Remember, you're not expected to describe every detail from the map. Focus on the main features, and organize your descriptions logically. You could either go area by area, or follow the sequence of changes. Also, remember to use a variety of language and keep your descriptions as precise as possible. With practice, you'll get better at identifying the main features in IELTS Task 1 Maps.

Let's go through the above-stated steps to identify the main features in our sample maps:

Disappeared              Appeared

Forest                         The Dam

Ancient structure         Towers

Rare plants                  Hotel

Animals                       Artificial lake

Villages                       Blocked river 

Integrated farmland     

River flow 

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3. IELTS Task 1 Maps Writing Structure

We can complete the essay using only 10 sentences! Yes, it is that much simple! Take a look how we place the 10 sentences in our 4 paragraph essay structure. In the eBook, you will find powerful strategies on how to write each paragraph perfectly.

 

1. Paraphrasing the Question Sentence

Paraphrase the question statement using just one or two sentences. 

 

2. Overview Paragraph

Sentence 1: summary statement 1(preview of the essay without presenting data)

Sentence 2: summary statement 2 (more preview without presenting data)

 

3. Body Paragraph 1

Sentence 1: first major point

Sentence 2: second major point

Sentence 3: extension sentence 1 (compare/combine the major points stated above)

Sentence 4: extension sentence 2 (extension of the previous sentence, or adding an exceptional feature).

4. Body Paragraph 2

Sentence 1: exceptional feature 

Sentence 2: extension of the exceptional feature

Sentence 3: final sentence (wrapping-up the whole essay, completely based on the discussion above, nothing new)

Let's develop the answer step by step applying the above-stated 4 paragraph essay structure.

4. Paraphrasing the Question Statement

This is the first paragraph of our IELTS Task 1 essay. This paragraph is all about paraphrasing the question statement. That means you will restate the question sentence in your language without changing the meaning of the original sentence. If you want to write this paragraph perfectly, you need to have a good grip on paraphrasing techniques. You can master the paraphrasing technique reading its intensive discussion in the eBook.

 

This paragraph conveys an impression to the examiner how well you have understood the question.

Let's look at the actual question statement that we are using on this page:

"The maps below show the changes in a town after the construction of a hydroelectric power dam."

Considering the periods mentioned in the maps, we can paraphrase the question statement as below:

"The contrast graphics visually depict the structural changes that occurred in a town over a 20-year period, from 1990 to 2010, as a result of the construction of a hydroelectric power dam."

That's it, pretty straightforward. Our first paragraph is complete, and you have already used 32 out of 150 words. Let's move to the next part of the essay, the Overview Paragraph.

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5. Overview Paragraph

Overview is the second paragraph of our IELTS Writing Task 1 essay. This is the most important paragraph as well. Because without an overview paragraph in Task 1, you cannot expect more than band 5 in IELTS Writing section. Therefore, you need to take a very special care for this paragraph. You can check in-depth discussion in the eBook where a team of former IELTS examiners have revealed their guaranteed techniques on how to write a perfect overview paragraph.

Remember, an overview is a brief summary of the primary features you plan to describe in the diagram report. Therefore, you should avoid using specific data in this paragraph, rather just focus on the obvious features illustrated in maps/diagrams. This paragraph serves as an introduction to give readers a general idea of what your discussion is about.

 

Overview Paragraph Structure

Sentence 1: summary statement 1(preview of the essay without presenting data)

Sentence 2: summary statement 2 (more preview without presenting data)

Let's form the paragraph:

Sentence 1(Summary Statement 1)

"Overall, in a mere two decades, a tranquil riverbank community featuring unobstructed water flow and verdant forest underwent a transformation into a man-made concrete metropolis."

Sentence 2(Summary Statement 2)

"This transition culminated in the replacement of the town's pristine natural environment with an imposing hydroelectric power dam."

Complete Overview Paragraph

"Overall, in a mere two decades, a tranquil riverbank community featuring unobstructed water flow and verdant forest underwent a transformation into a man-made concrete metropolis. This transition culminated in the replacement of the town's pristine natural environment with an imposing hydroelectric power dam."

Quite simple. Previously we wrote 32 words for the first paragraph (paraphrasing the question sentence). And just now we have added 43 more words to write the 2nd paragraph (Overview paragraph). That means we've completed the 1st two of our recommended 4 paragraph Task 1 report writing structure. Therefore, we're already halfway through. It's time to move to the Body Paragraph 1 and Body Paragraph 2, respectively.

6. Body Paragraph 1

In the overview paragraph, we have given just a general statement of significant features, we haven't discussed any detail. Now, it's time to explain them in the body paragraphs.

Body Paragraph 1 Structure

We hope you can remember our Body Paragraph 1 structure:

Sentence 1: first major point

Sentence 2: second major point

Sentence 3: extension sentence 1 (compare/combine the major points stated above)

Sentence 4: extension sentence 2 (extension of the previous sentence, or adding an exceptional feature).

Let's form the paragraph following the above-stated structure:

Sentence 1(First Major Point)

"The town in 1990 boasted a pristine river flowing through it, surrounded by ancient structures and verdant foliage."

Sentence 2(Second Major Point)

"However, by 2010, the installation of a significant hydroelectric dam disrupted the river's flow and decimated the town's natural landscape, replaced by artificial concrete structures."

Sentence 3(Extension Sentence 1)

"On either side of the river, the unique creatures, exotic flora, and natural forest had vanished, replaced by imposing electric towers."

Sentence 4(Extension Sentence 2)

"This transformation marked a stark departure from the town's idyllic past."

Complete Body Paragraph 1

"The town in 1990 boasted a pristine river flowing through it, surrounded by ancient structures and verdant foliage. However, by 2010, the installation of a significant hydroelectric dam disrupted the river's flow and decimated the town's natural landscape, replaced by artificial concrete structures. On either side of the river, the unique creatures, exotic flora, and natural forest had vanished, replaced by imposing electric towers. This transformation marked a stark departure from the town's idyllic past."

We have just added 70 more words to write the first body paragraph. That means we have already finished 75% of our IELTS Task 1 essay! See how simple it is! We are just describing the major features that are very obvious in the pictures.

We've written 32 for the first, 43 for the second and 75 words for the third paragraph. That means we have already used 150 words out of total 150 for an IELTS Task 1 essay question.

 

However, don't panic about the 150 word threshold, as long as you are not writing below 150. For the sake of a clear discussion, it is absolutely okay to write somewhere near 200 words.

 

So, let's move to the final paragraph, and wrap up the major contrast given in the maps.

7. Body Paragraph 2

Body paragraph 2 is the final paragraph of our suggested structure for a Task 1 Writing. This is the easiest paragraph in the whole description, because here we're simply going to state other features briefly in the first sentence, add a comparison statement in the second sentence, and then write the final sentence wrapping up the described major features. So, let's apply our structure for the second body paragraph:

Body Paragraph 2 Structure

Sentence 1: exceptional feature 

Sentence 2: extension of the exceptional feature

Sentence 3: final sentence (wrapping-up the stated major points)

Let's form the paragraph following the above-stated structure:

Sentence 1(Exceptional Feature)

"By 2010, an artificial lake and towering hotel had replaced the once-integrated farmland and river."

Sentence 2(Extension of the Exceptional Feature) 

"Only the mountains and some villages managed to evade this sweeping transformation."

Sentence 3(Final Sentence)

"The shift from natural forest, farmland, and river to a concrete, man-made town stands as a stark and striking contrast."

Complete Body Paragraph 2

"By 2010, an artificial lake and towering hotel had replaced the once-integrated farmland and river. Only the mountains and some villages managed to evade this sweeping transformation. The shift from natural forest, farmland, and river to a concrete, man-made town stands as a stark and striking contrast."

We've added 60 more words to the previous 138, and just finished the final part of our 4 paragraph structure. That means, we have completed the Task 1 response with 198 words, which is absolutely fine. In fact, you should write somewhere between 150 and 200 words.

To sum up, mastering the art of writing an IELTS Task 1 Maps Band 9 report is not an overnight task. It requires consistent practice, a clear understanding of the structure, and an ability to interpret geographical data effectively. When you combine these elements with a strong command of language and a clear understanding of the assessment criteria, you set yourself up for success.

 

Remember, coherence and cohesion, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and task achievement are the fundamental components the examiners look for. So, strive to deliver a well-structured report with relevant information, appropriate vocabulary, varied sentence structures, and accurate grammar.

If you've found our tips on how to write an IELTS Task 1 Maps Band 9 report helpful, we encourage you to explore further and practise with real IELTS map samples. Let your progress be guided by feedback and self-evaluation, honing your skills one map at a time. Crafting high-band IELTS map reports can open doors to studying or working abroad, so don't underestimate the value of acing this task.

 

Keep your eyes on the prize, and with consistent effort, you can overcome the challenge. You're one step closer to achieving that coveted Band 9 score, and we believe that with the right preparation, you will conquer the IELTS map task effectively and successfully.

Don't forget to check the following resources:

Check the detailed discussion on all the question types

Pie Chart               Bar Chart

Line Graph             Map

Table Chart            Process Diagram

Multiple Graphs

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