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IELTS Writing Task 1 - How to write a GREAT Overview

To get a high score in writing task 1, you need to write a clear OVERVIEW. Today we will look at different ways to do that for a graph.

First, it is important to understand that an OVERVIEW is the BIG PICTURE. In other words, the overview is the MESSAGE that the graph is trying to tell you. Therefore, the overview is not usually about just one aspect of the graph, but rather about the WHOLE PICTURE.

TIP: To write a great overview, imagine you are a TV presenter.

Any visual image, like a graph, is used to send a message to people.When you look at the graph, imagine that your job is report about it for a TV audience.If you are a TV presenter, you will want to tell people about the MAIN MESSAGE – The OVERVIEW.

IMPORTANT: The Overview is not the same as the TOPIC.

Let's consider the graph above:

This graph shows the number of Canadian tourists who went to over three different travel destinations: Asia, Europe and the USA. (this is the TOPIC, not the Overview)

Let’s look at 3 Overviews

1.(GOOD) Describe CHANGES over time: The biggest changes are seen in the USA and ASIA:

Overall, the number of Canadian tourists going to the USA decreased dramatically, while the number for Asia increased and the figure for Europe remained relatively stable.

2. (BETTER) Describe BEGINNING and ENDING POSITIONS. Look at the positions of the countries in the first year and the last year:

In 1970, the USA was the most popular destination for Canadian tourists, followed by Europe and finally by Asia. By 2005, however, more Canadians went to Asia than the other two destinations, the USA falling into last place.

3. (BEST) Describe the OVERALL MEANING

Over the period shown in this chart, Asia replaced the USA as Canada’s top tourist destination.


  • Do not use figures (numbers, data) when expressing the overall idea.

  • Look at the MAIN FEATURES: (the highest and lowest numbers, changes in position, changes over time, and significant trends)

  • You may need more than one sentence to express the overall idea. In fact, sometimes it is necessary.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below

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