If you are thinking about taking the Academic IELTS test, then you will need to be able to write a short report based on visual information. This information could be in the form of a graph or a chart. At first sight, this probably seems quite simple. However, knowing what to include and what not to include in an IELTS academic Task 1 report can be very difficult.


So, which information is important? How do you know what to leave out? To be on the safe side, maybe you should just include everything, right?




This article will explain why this isn’t the right thing to do. It will also walk you step by step through the process of answering such questions and provide you with knowledge of exactly what information should be included in your report.


Why shouldn’t I include all the information in the graph?


The instructions for Task 1 questions clearly state that the information in graphs, tables, charts or maps must be summarised, meaning that you only need to pick out the most important or interesting points.


If you try to include everything, two things will happen. Firstly, you will lose marks in the Task Achievement category. Secondly, your report will be very confusing, and a confused examiner is the last thing you want!


So, keep the examiner happy and do not try to write about every single feature of the graph, table or chart. Be selective.


So, what do I include? How do I know what the important information is?


Great questions! In order to answer them, let’s take a look at an example question so that we can decide what information is important:


Example Question #1:


  • The graph below shows changes in the average number of times certain foods were eaten in a restaurant between 2002 and 2008. Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.


Consumption of foods: number of times/day.





Look at this graph. What do you notice? Look for patterns and contrasts.


  • One line is decreasing and two lines are increasing.
  • Although the green line started at its highest point, it finished at its lowest.
  • The red and blue lines follow a similar path, but the red line goes down between 2006 and 2007, before rising again after.
  • The red line goes up again more sharply after 2007.
  • There is a difference in the rate that the green line falls after 2006.


These are really the only interesting features in this graph. Thus, these are the points that you want to make.


You do not need to say that between 2003 and 2004 the rate of the red line increased less rapidly, or that after 2004 the rate increased more quickly. These changes are so small that they are not worth mentioning.


Also, you should notice that in the instructions it says “make comparisons where relevant. Do not think, “Well, I won’t do that because I don’t think it is relevant.” It is always relevant, and if you manage to include one or two great sentences using good comparative language, your grammar mark will improve. So, do it!


What about bar charts or tables?


The process is the same for all kinds of statistical information. Look for patterns and large differences. Ignore minor differences unless you’re making comparisons with larger differences.


Now, have a look at this table:


Title: The amount of money in GBP (£) spent per year by students on different items between 1995 and 2015.

































The trick with tables is to think of them like graphs. If there is a lot of information in the table and it is confusing to you, draw a rough sketch of this information as a graph. This will make it easier to see what is happening with the numbers. You should now be able to see the patterns more clearly:


  • Money spend on accommodation and entertainment increased a lot.
  • Money spend on accommodation increased steadily. However, money spent on entertainment increased more rapidly after 2010.
  • Money spent on food increased slightly.
  • The amount spent on books increased and then decreased, finishing lower than it started.
  • The amount spent on entertainment in 2015 was ten times more than that spent on books; in 1995 it was only two times more.
  • The smallest change was in the proportion of money spent on food.


Do you need to mention every number in your report? No! Only the interesting ones.


Therefore, you should:

  • Compare the numbers at the beginning of the time period.
  • Include any important changes. An example of this is that the amount spent on books increased from £300 in 1995 to £500 in 2005, but then dropped by about two thirds to £170 over the next ten years.
  • Mention where the figures end up. Make some comparisons, such as between the amounts spent on books and entertainment.


Following these guidelines, a paragraph from this report might look something like this:


"The biggest expense that students had over the twenty year period was on accommodation. This began at £2000 in 1995 and increased steadily to £5400 by 2015. Thus, the amount more than doubled from the beginning of the period to the end. Similarly, entertainment showed a huge rise. The amount students spent on having fun was more than three times higher in 2015 than it was in 1995, increasing from £530 to £1700."


Now, let’s look at a bar chart.


Example Question #2:


  • The chart below shows the consumption per year of three types of foods in six different countries. Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.



Think about patterns and groups.


  • You can see that three countries show high fat and sugar consumption, while the other three show high fruit and vegetable consumption. These two categories of countries can be grouped together. For example, you could categorise them as Western countries and Eastern/Asian countries.
  • The amount of sugar consumed in the Western countries is similar, but it varies quite a bit between the Asian countries (from about 1.8 units to almost 4).
  • Fat consumption follows a similar pattern.
  • Japan has the lowest consumption of fat and sugar overall and the highest consumption of fruit and vegetables.


So, what should you write about in each paragraph of your report? Well, you should always make a short plan of your paragraphs before you start writing. Mine would look something like this:


  • Paragraph #1: Introduce the chart and give an overview of the trends: Eastern countries have high consumption of fruit and vegetables, while Western countries consume a lot of fat and sugar.
  • Paragraph #2: Fat: The US has the highest fat consumption (just under 8 units), while the UK and Australia are about the same (approximately 6.8 units). Fat consumption is much lower in Asian counties, varying from 1.5 units in Japan to 3.5 in China. Sugar: This shows similar patterns to fat. The sugar consumption in the UK, US and Australia are all about 8 units, while the consumption in the Eastern countries are all nearly the same as fat, just about 0.5 units higher.
  • Paragraph #3: In contrast, the numbers for fruit and vegetables are reversed. Japan has the highest (just under 8 units), while India is at 7 and China is at 6.5. In the Western countries, the amounts are much lower. Australia and the US consume equal amounts (just over 3) and the UK is slightly higher, at 4 units.


If you think you don’t have time to make a plan, I would say that you can’t afford not to make a plan. It will save you time, ensure that you include all the relevant information and give your report a good structure.


Now, looking at this information, you might be feeling that you can draw some conclusions from it. It seems that the Eastern countries have a much healthier diet than the Western ones. Please do not do this.


You are not being asked for your opinion or to draw any conclusions from the information. You just need to report the facts. Also, you do not need to write a conclusion to Task 1 reports. Conclusions are subjective; your report must be objective.


What about maps?


You are probably thinking that maps are a little bit different as they (usually) do not have numbers on them. However, the process is the same. You need to summarise what you see and make comparisons. For example:


  • Find things that have changed; compare the information.
  • Try to group the information logically; does one change affect or go with another change? How will you group the information into two to three paragraphs?
  • Use map directions, such as north, south, northwest, etc.




Once you have learnt the “formula” for Academic IELTS Task 1 reports, the structure is quite simple. Here is an eight point checklist to help you remember what to do:


  1. Introduce the graph, chart, table or map.
  2. Give an overview of general trends; no details.
  3. Find patterns and contrasts.
  4. Compare the information at the start and end of the time period, describe the patterns and make comparisons.
  5. Describe any contrasts.
  6. Leave out minor details.
  7. Check your report for mistakes.
  8. Feel happy!


Obviously, you will need a lot of practice before you get this right. However, once you have mastered what to include and what to leave out, you will have more time to focus on your grammar and vocabulary, thus helping you ensure that you receive a high mark for those as well.


Then you can start your plan for Task 2!


If you want some advice about this second part, check out my other italki article here.


Good Luck!


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