So you're preparing to take the IELTS exam, but you have no idea what to do when writing about tables for part 1 of the Academic Writing test.

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Understanding how you should answer and lay out your response is important for you to get a good mark (or band score as they're called in the IELTS).

What you need to do

For the IELTS Academic Writing Task 1, you have to write at least 150 words about the main information, trends, and comparisons of some data.

This can be a chart, table, diagram, map, process, or something else that is visual. While your band score is based on completing the task achievement, coherence, vocabulary, and grammar, you will need to skillfully report, summarize, and compare the information.

It's recommended you spend around 20 minutes on Task 1.

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Example question

Here is a typical table question:

The table below shows the export figures by country from 2015 to 2018.

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.

A Writing Task 1 table sample displaying export figures for 5 different countries. image created by the author via Google Sheets

It's recommended you split your answer into 4 sections:

1 — Introduction

2 — Overview (you must include a clear overview to get a higher band score under task achievement)

3 — Paragraph 1 (for reporting, summarising, and comparing)

4 — Paragraph 2 (for reporting, summarising, and comparing)

Writing the introduction

You need to rewrite the description in your own words. You don't need to change every word, as it's not always possible.

A person typing on a typewriter. Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Here are some keywords you can change from the example above:

  • shows — depicts, illustrates,

  • the export figures — goods sold, trade

  • by country — different countries, different regions

  • from — in the period, during, between the years of

It is also good to list the different details of the table by using brackets or information about units of measurement.

Below is a model example from the table above:

The table gives information about goods sold from five different countries (Germany, USA, China, Netherlands, France) during the period 2015 to 2018. The currency is measured in billions of dollars.


Which words would be good for paraphrasing this question? "The table below gives information about the salaries of doctors in five countries in 2016." Select all that apply:


The overview is looking for the largest noticeable details.

Writing Task 1 table sample with highlighted key information. image created by the author via Google Sheets

In our chart, we see that The USA and China had the largest exports, and the Netherlands had the lowest. Start the overview with the word overall, so the examiner can easily find it. Make sure you use comparatives!

Model answer:

Overall, exports from The USA and China were the highest of all five countries, while the Netherlands had the lowest. The highest period of trade for the Americans was in 2015, whereas for the Chinese, it was in 2018. In comparison, the Dutch had a fairly consistent but much lower period of trade.


Paragraphs are important so you can lay out your writing clearly. You should use them to go into more detail about the data.

Avoid just writing one long paragraph.

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  • Use two different paragraphs

  • Organize your text so it's easy to follow

  • Make it logical

  • You can use symbols for currencies and percentages ($ or B for billion)

  • Support your sentences with the numbers or data


During the year 2015, The US exported $5.1 billion goods, as opposed to $4 billion from China respectively. In the Netherlands, their trade figure was much lower at $1.5 billion. In 2016 American trade decreased to $4 billion, but in comparison, China was able to increase their trade by $0.8B. The Dutch only had a slight increase of 0.2 billion dollars.

(You can find the second paragraph example in "How to get a higher band score" below).

How to get a higher band score

  • Make sure you write an overview to get a band score higher than a 7

  • Support your comparisons with numbers and/or dates

  • Do not give an opinion about the data, or what you think the reasons are.

  • Use linking words (While, also)

  • Use collocations (cross-border trade, annual exports)

  • Use vocabulary for comparing(in contrast to, significantly lower, much lower than, comparatively)

  • Ensure the data is accurate and double-check the spelling.

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For example:

In 2018, China had cross-border trade of $5.5 billion, in contrast to The Netherlands which had significantly lower exports of $1.4 billion. While the annual exports of the USA were also high at $3.2 billion, they were much lower than the Chinese comparatively at $3.2 billion.

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