Recent Posts
Featured Posts

Writing task 1- Overview: Getting the BIG Picture

Writing the overview is probably the most difficult thing for many students in writing task 1.

There is one key to writing a good overview and it doesn't depend on language. It depends on your ability to see the BIG PICTURE.

What does this mean? Think of it this way:

Why do we use graphs?

We use graphs to send a message... to show what is happening in the world... in the economy or the environment, for example. If you want to get the BIG picture, think about what message the graph is trying to show you.

Sometimes it is not so hard to see the BIG PICTURE. In the graph shown above, two things can be seen:

1) Both things are increasing (the green bars and the red arrow)

2) The arrow is higher than the bars at each point in the graph

However, in IELTS writing task 1 questions, the BIG picture is not always so clear.

In my courses, I spend a lot of time with students on this concept but here today, I will just give one example that was send in by a student.

Let's look at this chart:


The bar chart below shows the percentage of students who passed their high school competency exams, by subject and gender, during the period 2010-2011. Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

Write at least 150 words.

In the above graph, there are TWO ways to compare the data:

1) by comparing the differences between boys and girls in general

2) by comparing which subjects were hardest or easiest for boys and girls

Here is the response from the student: (The student did a good job at identifying some key features in spite of some grammar and vocabulary issues)

From an overall perspective, the largest number of girls passed computer science, whereas the figure for boys passed mathematics. However, girls was not good at geography, so a small number of students passed this course. Meanwhile, chemistry was the most difficult subject for boys.

Well, THAT was a little confusing..... So, first I fixed up the grammar and vocabulary a bit:

Overall, the exam results showed that girls were most successful in passing Computer Science, while boys were most proficient in Mathematics. On the other hand, Geography seemed to cause most problems for girls, whereas History appeared to be the most difficult exam for boys.

However, this STILL does not really give the BIG picture... These are definitely KEY features. The student correctly identified the subjects in which boys and girls performed best and worst in these exams. However, what is the BIG picture? If you are not sure, look at TIP 2 below:

TIP 1: When thinking about the OVERVIEW, TRY to think of the BIG PICTURE.

If you cannot see the BIG PICTURE, think of looking at key features:

  • The highest and lowest figures

  • Similar figures

  • The biggest differences in figures

  • Any trends - and exceptions to these trends

TIP 2: When describing an overview, try to put the data into GROUPS. This may help you see the BIG picture.

For example, you may find that the girls do better in Science (Physics and Biology, etc), while the boys do better in Humanities (History and Economics etc).

In the case of the graph above, it is appropriate to use the idea of an EXCEPTION:

Overall, the girls performed better than the boys in all subjects EXCEPT Geography.

This would be an excellent overview for your report!

In the classes at IELTS PRO, you will learn how to quickly recognize the BIG picture and to write about it correctly. This is a very useful skill not only for the IELTS exam but for writing at all levels at university.

If you are interested in writing classes or in receiving a

Free SAMPLE of IELTS examiners' writing secrets,

send me an email to

or fill in the contact sheet below

(I need your email to share the document as it is in my google drive)

Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square


  • LinkedIn Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Google+ Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Pinterest Social Icon

© 2016 by IELTS PRO Online