Overviews and Conclusions in IELTS Writing Task 1

One of my students asked this question:

What is the difference between writing an overview and writing a conclusion in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1?

The answer is: not much. Both of them are about summarising the features of the graph or visual information. What is important, is that you need to show an overview in your description in IELTS Task 1. Without this, you may not get higher than a Band 5 in the Task Achievement criterion.

What is an overview?
An overview is a summary of the main features that you see in the charts or diagrams. This usually does not contain specific data. For example:

  1. Europe consumes the greatest quantity of water for industrial purposes, closely followed by North America. The other four regions use significantly less water for industrial purposes, but utilise water predominantly for agriculture.
  2. Generally, Spanish remains the most widely-spoken language among these students during the ten-year-period.

Notice that an overview does not contain specific information or data about the visual information that is about to be described. This should be reserved for the body of your writing.

The same goes for when you describe a process:

  1. Clearly, this is a complex process that requires a range of equipment and machinery and, at some stages, skilled workers.
  2. Cocoa beans have to undergo a number of different processes, so that they lose their bitter taste and are ready to be manufactured into chocolate.

The reader would then expect to see a breakdown of the processes involved in the diagram.

If you are comparing geographical information, here are a couple of example overviews:

  1. Overall, significant changes have been made to the uninhabited island with new tourist facilities being built, whilst still preserving its original natural features. The main additions to the island are access routes and accommodation facilities.
  2. It is clear that the village grew as the transport infrastructure was improved. Four periods of development are shown on the map, and each of the populated areas is near to the main roads, the railway or the motorway.

If you choose to include a summarising statement at the end, make sure that you do not repeat the same information as the introduction. At the same time, never mention anything that is not evident in the graph or diagram. Do not assume or guess. Here are some examples of how an overview and a conclusion are written about the same IELTS Writing task:

Example A:

  • Overview: The graph shows a fluctuation / a fluctuating trend.
  • Conclusion: It is clear from the graph that hamburgers were more popular in summer than in winter.

Example B:

  • Overview: According to the data, there is a sharp increase in use between 6 am and 8am, with 400 people using the station at 8 o’clock.
  • Conclusion: The graph shows that the station is most crowded in the early morning and evening rush hour periods and the least crowded mid-afternoon.

Until next time!

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2 thoughts on “Overviews and Conclusions in IELTS Writing Task 1

  1. This is totally after the fact, but I had to write. I have been retired from the NYC High Schools after four decades of teaching . I was ESL, US History & American Lit., classroom teacher, Literacy Across the Curriculum Coordiator and ESL Compliance Consultant.

    I prepared scores of students for final state exams, but NEVER realized the real difference between an Overview (Introduction) and Summarizing (Conclusion) paragraph. I’m so upset I might have to go back and teach again.

    Keep it up!

    1. Thank you so much for the kind comment! The fact that you’ve had quite a number of roles in your teaching career shows that I have a lot to learn from you. I think the confusion between overviews and summaries need to be addressed. Candidates usually take the easy way out and refrain from writing a summary altogether, which is fine. However, those who do prefer to write a concluding statement at the end seem to be a bit confused about what they have to do and end up repeating the same words and expressions at the end.

      I’m glad you found my article useful and thanks again for dropping by! 🙂

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