IELTS Writing Task 1: How to Write an Overview Paragraph
An overview paragraph simply presents a summary of the main features that you are going to discuss in the body paragraphs. This is the second and the most important paragraph for IELTS Task 1 essay (The first paragraph was paraphrasing the question statement). Without writing an overview paragraph in Task 1, you cannot expect more than 5 band score in IELTS Writing section.
An overview paragraph contains only 2-3 sentences. It is just for stating the major features and giving an outline how you are going to discuss those features throughout the essay. This paragraph will convey an advanced impression to the examiner about your essay. Therefore, you need to take a very special care for this.
Overview Paragraph Writing Strategy
You can resort to some effective strategies to write a smart overview paragraph. Let's discuss in detail:
At first you have to understand the question properly. You need to select the major features in the diagrams, and then decide what you are going to focus on. That's why question analysis is the most important part for an IELTS essay writing.
1. Analyse the question
You need to find three major areas in the question sentence:
Topic Words or Keywords
Look at the example question below and see how we develop an Overview paragraph for this Task 1 question.
Source: Cambridge English IELTS Past Papers
If you analyse the pie chart question above, you will find the followings:
Volunteers by organisations
Environmental, Art, Sport, Health Care, Educational, and Others.
'Compare' is the action word. (Look, action words might not be stated directly, in that case you need to understand what the examiner is expecting from you. For example, if there are more than one diagrams like the ones in this question above, you can just go for comparing the major changes/features.) Therefore, 'Compare' is the action word.
After completing the question analysis, you need to find the major features in the diagrams. Just 2 features are enough to discuss as you have word restriction.
2. Identify the major features
Major contributors Major contributors
Educational (24%) Environmental (29%)
Environmental (21%) Sport (25%)
Increased: Health Care, Sport, and Environmental
Decreased: Others, Art, and Educational
Most significant change: Sport
Units are measured in percentage.
3. Dynamic or Static Diagram
In Writing Task 1, you might either face a dynamic diagram or a static diagram. Dynamic diagram means data changes over time, whereas static diagram shows data for a specific point in time. Take a look at the following issues, it might make your task easier to develop an Overview paragraph.
If it is a dynamic diagram:
See the starting and finishing points of data
See the trend line of data how it changes over the time. See whether it is increasing or decreasing, or remaining stable over the period.
Find if there are significant changes in the general trend line.
Locate the highest and the lowest points that the data reached
If it is a static diagram:
See where are the extreme values
Locate the significant differences
Look if there is any exception
Find if there are similarities
If you analyse a Task 1 diagram this way, it should not be difficult to write 2-3 sentences for the overview paragraph. Remember, you will not explain any data in the overview paragraph. Just state the major features in general. Save the details for the body paragraphs.
4. Overview Paragraph Structure
Remember the Overview paragraph structure that we discussed in our Complete Guide on IELTS Task 1 Essay Structure:
Sentence 1: summary statement 1(preview of the essay without presenting data)
Sentence 2: summary statement 2 (more preview without presenting data)
Sentence 3: outline sentence (State how the discussion will proceed.)
Let's form the paragraph:
Sentence 1(Summary Statement 1)
"Overall, out of the total 6 participating organizations, the rate of volunteers from three organizations increased."
Sentence 2(Summary Statement 2)
"Though Sport experienced the most significant change, Educational and Environmental organisations contributed the highest percentage of volunteers in 2008 and 2014 respectively."
Sentence 3(Outline Sentence)
"Major changes are explained below."
Complete Overview Paragraph
"Overall, out of the total 6 participating organizations, the percentage rate of volunteers from three organizations increased. Though Sport experienced the most significant change, Educational and Environmental organisations contributed the highest percentage of volunteers in 2008 and 2014 respectively. Major changes are explained below."
That's it. Pretty simple. We've just completed the Overview paragraph for a Task 1 Pie Chart question. Look, we didn't provide any explanation in this paragraph. We just stated the major features that are very obvious in the diagram. We will discuss the details in the body paragraphs.
We suggest you check all the most important question types for IELTS Task 1 essay:
Check the following resources: