IELTS Writing Task 1 – Paragraph Structure

how to write body paragraphs in ielts task 1 - image by Magoosh
The key to writing an excellent, top-scoring essay for IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 is paragraph structure. Each paragraph in the essay has its own unique purpose.

We’re going to go through each paragraph in the IELTS Writing Task 1 structure one by one below, showing an IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 prompt and full answer. It will be helpful to study the question carefully before we cover how to write body paragraphs in IELTS Task 1. In fact, why don’t you take a minute to read it here—click this link for the sample question.

IELTS Writing Task 1: Paragraph Structure

  • Paragraph 1: Introduce the visuals (1-2 sentences)
  • Paragraph 2: Summarize the visuals
  • Paragraphs 3 and (sometimes) 4: Use data/details to highlight a key feature of the visual(s)
  • Optional: Concluding sentence

IELTS Writing Task 1 Introduction and Overview

Paragraph 1: Introduce the Visuals (1-2 sentences)

Introducing visuals is very straightforward, but it can present challenges because it tests your grammar and vocabulary. Basically, all you need to do in these introductory lines is explain, in very general terms, what the visuals contain. You should try to do this in just one or two sentences if possible.

Fortunately, you can find this information easily because it’s provided for you very clearly in the question prompt. In our example, this is the sentence just below the second chart above (“The graphs above give information about…”) The titles of your visuals also provide useful information for your IELTS Writing Task 1 introduction phrases.

Paragraph 1 requires a lot of practice because you have to paraphrase the language from the prompt and the titles. That means you need to put this information in your own words. Do your best to avoid using the same vocabulary and sentence structure as the prompt. Failing to do this will definitely lower your score! The IELTS is testing your vocabulary and grammar here. Please note, however, that you don’t always have to paraphrase key terms. In our example, the phrase “computer ownership” would be difficult to replace, for example. Everything else should be paraphrased!

  • Below is a model for Paragraph 1. Notice how the vocabulary and sentence structure differ from both the question prompt and the titles of the visuals.
The charts show rates of computer ownership from 2002-2010, including a more detailed look at ownership patterns by level of education.

How to Write Body Paragraphs in IELTS Task 1

Paragraph 2: Summarize the visuals (2-4 sentences)

In this paragraph, you will provide a summary of the visuals without going into too much detail. IELTS Writing Task 1 instructions tell you to, “summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features” of the visuals (Source: IELTS, Test format in detail). Paragraph 2 is your opportunity to do just that.

Avoiding details in this paragraph helps to focus your answer on the most important points contained in the visual(s). You don’t want your summary to get lost in numbers and figures. Save these details for your next paragraph(s). Instead, in Paragraph 2, you’ll need to provide an accurate overview, or summary, of the contents of the visuals.

In the previous paragraph (Paragraph 1), you explained what the visuals are about—the topic. Now, in Paragraph 2, you need to describe the main information contained in the visuals. You should select the information that stands out to you most. It might be a general trend in the data, or a striking or interesting overall pattern. In Paragraph 2, you should report in very general terms, whatever seems most noteworthy in the visuals.

  • Take a look at this example below:
These data show a constant increase in the percentage of the population that owned computers during the eight year timeframe. This rising trend occurred across all education levels. However, although having more education correlated directly with higher computer ownership percentages from 2002-2010, the ownership percentage increased most among those with the least education during those years.

Paragraphs 3 and (sometimes) 4: Use data/details to highlight a key feature of the visual(s)

Now that you’ve presented a summary of the main information in the visual(s), you’re ready to go into details in Paragraph 3. This is where you report data related to the summary information you just provided in Paragraph 2. You should not attempt to describe ALL of the data you see in the visuals. This would probably be impossible within the time limit even if you tried. You have to make choices. Instead, you should report about data that relate directly to the main feature(s)—the key information—that you just presented in Paragraph 2.

In Paragraph 2 of the model response, I focused on how 1) computer ownership rose steadily from 2002-2010 in general and across education levels, but that 2) those with the least education increased their computer ownership most over this period. Therefore, it would make sense to follow this paragraph with detailed information on these trends. As I described earlier in this post, these are the “angles,” or perspectives, I’ve taken on the graphs.

At this point, you have a second choice to make. Should you present all of the data in one paragraph (Paragraph 3), or should you separate it into two shorter paragraphs (Paragraphs 3 and 4)?

It is not necessary to include a 4th paragraph in your response, and it won’t always add to your score to include one (unless you haven’t met your 150 word minimum!). However, many times having two shorter paragraphs can be best. This is especially true in cases where you need to present data/details about two distinct key features. In these cases, a 4th paragraph helps you to present different ideas clearly. For this reason, I chose to present the information in two shorter paragraphs in our example response.

  • Below are example paragraphs 3 and 4 for our practice question:
In 2002, slightly more than half the population owned computers. That number increased to roughly 75% over the next eight years. Postgraduates were always ahead of the general population. While roughly three-quarters of postgraduates owned computers in 2002, that figure rose to nearly 95% by 2010. By contrast, those who had not finished high school began with only a 15% computer ownership rate, which increased to about 45% after eight years.

Notably, the three groups at the lowest end of the education spectrum saw the most significant computer ownership gains over this period. Their rate rose approximately 30 percentage points. College graduates and postgraduates saw more modest gains with 20 point increases between 2002 and 2010.

When to Include an IELTS Task 1 Conclusion

Concluding Sentence (Optional)

Now that you know how to write body paragraphs in IELTS Task 1, you may include a concluding sentence, but this is optional. It can be very helpful to include one if you’re struggling to reach your word count minimum of 150 words. Otherwise, a concluding sentence won’t help your score significantly.

  • Review the following model concluding sentence:
The first decade of the 21st century saw steady gains in computer ownership among a variety of education levels.

On a final note, review sample questions and example essays for further practice. And check out our complete guide to IELTS Writing for advice on the whole section!

By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

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