Acrobat PDF version of this page .   Academic Writing Task 1 Band Descriptors

There are seven main types of diagram used in the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.

Quantitative data diagrams

1. Line graph

This diagram quantifies the movement of something being measured over time.

2. Bar graph

This diagram quantifies the size of something compared to other items being measured using a diagram that has an X axis and a Y axis.

A stacked bar graph combines two or more items of analysis within each bar.

3. Pie chart

This diagram quantifies the comparative size of two or more items by showing the proportion of a circle ('pie') that each item being measured comprises relative to others in that data set.

4. Data table

This diagram uses column and row headers to classify and analyze a data set.

Sometimes IELTS combine quantitative diagrams to create one data set that requires analysis.


Example 1:  pie chart and bar graph

Example 2:  pie chart and data table

​Picture diagrams

5.   Cycle diagram

Uses an illustration to show the logical flow of a process, usually from start to completion.

6.   Maps

Uses a picture model to illustrate a geographic location.

7.   Objects

Uses a picture illustration to show an item which may be living or non-living.

Combination picture diagram example:

 Cycle and object

Most IELTS questions require you to do one or more of the following:

​​1. Comparison analysis

Discuss similarities.

Example: Comparing radio and television audiences by time of day

Major similarity: both have very low audiences (less than 10%) between 2 am and 6 am. 

2​​. Contrast analysis

Discuss differences.

Example: Contrasting radio and television audiences by time of day

3.  Composition analysis

Discuss the various individual parts that comprise the whole.

Example: Analysis of cultural leisure activities by gender

4. Cause-and-effect analysis

Explain why a particular event is the driver of an outcome. 

This question may use a picture diagram or a quantitative diagram. You do not require special technical knowledge or training to answer this question. You need to analyze the data shown in either diagram. You must use your own analytical skills to identify how an event is a factor that drives an outcome.

Example: There are three major causes of global land degradation

5. Logic analysis

Explain the reasons why a person or persons has designed a process or object in a particular way.

This question may use a picture diagram and does not require special technical knowledge. You need to identify the start and end of the cycle/process. You should discuss these stages in a logical order, using your own vocabulary, as guided by the stated question. 

Example: The logic behind the design of a structure - ventilation and heating

Analysis and discussion guidelines

1.  Essential to identify all major issues

Most diagrams require you to identify and discuss in sufficient detail at least two major features to earn a minimum band score of 6.5 for the Task Achievement part of your score.


​Consumption of hamburgers and pizza in Australia from 1975 to circa 1995 both shown an upward trend.

The consumption of fish and chips in Australia from 1975 to 2000 reports a downward trend.

2.  Advantageous to identify a third and possibly a fourth discussion point 

As a general rule, most IELTS picture diagrams and quantitative data analysis diagrams include at least two major points that you are expected to discuss in addition to a third point that is worthy of comment, if you have the time to do so.

Using this method that seeks out 3 or 4 discussion points may be useful in cases where you struggle to meet the minimum word count limit required of the question.

Make sure that you discuss the two most obvious (i.e. dominant) patterns first. Only discuss a third and a fourth major point of analysis if you have sufficient time.


Consumption of hamburgers and pizza in Australia from 1995 to circa 2000 are both flat

​3.  Select new vocabulary

You will receive a higher band score if you use your own vocabulary to discuss words that appear in the question and images.  You may do so by selecting a suitable synonym from your vocabulary.

For example, the heading of a diagram may state "Analysis of Average Income by Gender". In your discussion, you may state "This graph quantitatively compares mean earnings for men and women". 

Study guidelines

You should aim to master the logic that underpins each diagram/picture. Always address the requirements stated in the question on a case-by-case basis.

The writing task 1 diagram that you must discuss in an IELTS exam may not match the structure of any diagrams that you have seen in IELTS's official exam practice materials. You should therefore not memorize a template answer formula as a strategy to prepare for Academic writing task 1. 

New example:   IELTS may combine a bar graph with a line graph.

New example:   IELTS may include three diagrams/pictures in one question.   

New example:   IELTS may include four diagrams/pictures in one question.    

New example:   Some IELTS bar graphs place the bars on the Y axis.    

New example:   Most IELTS bar graphs place the bars on the X axis.

New example:   IELTS sometimes use three dimensional bar graph diagrams    

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