IELTS Writing Task 1: Describing and comparing data in the detail paragraphs

I first wrote about the general approach to the Task 1 question and the 4-paragraph structure that you should stick to. To review:

1. Introduction paragraph (paraphrase the title of the graph/chart)

2. Overview/Summary paragraph – this states the overall trends or features of the graph that are important. It clearly summarizes what the data shows.

3. Detail paragraph of first important feature/trend

4. Detail paragraph of second important feature/trend

Here, I’m going to talk about the detail paragraph.

Now, it’s important to know that you are not just describing the data. You cannot just describe what the line of a chart is doing (increasing, decreasing, etc.). You need to compare the data to other data in the graph to show some meaning to the reader.

Here’s an example:

You need to first choose two trends/features to discuss in detail. You can see in this chart that you can divide your information into two parts in a couple different ways: Birth Rates & Death Rates; or Historical rates (1900s) & Projected rates (from 2000 on). These trends should be clearly stated in your overview/summary paragraph (which is the 2nd paragraph in your essay).

For example:

Overall there was a significant rise in birth and death rates throughout the 20th century with a widening gap between high birth rates and a much lower death rate. However, by 2021 this gap will close with death rates expected to surpass birth rates in the future.

Let’s work on one detail paragraph and work on the feature from the Overview/Summary paragraph: “Overall there was a significant rise in birth and death rates throughout the 20th century with a widening gap between high birth rates and a much lower death rate.” In our detail paragraph we describe the birth rates and the death rates, mentioning peaks or major trends and in relation to each other.

From 1901 to the 1960s, birth rates rose dramatically from just over 20,000 to a peak of around 65,000 in 1961. From there, births slightly declined but remained significantly high, fluctuating above 50,000 until the end of the century. On the other hand, death rates, which was half of birth rates in 1901, maintained a very gradual and steady growth to about 27,000 by the end of the century.

Notes on what I wrote in this detail paragraph:

  • I use the past tense since this is historical data (in the past)
  • I don’t mention every rise and fall, just the overall general trend – noting the highest point (peak).
  • I use descriptive adverbs such as dramatically and significantly, and adjectives such as gradual and steady
  • I use “around”65,000 “just over” 20,000 for approximation since I do not have the actual numbers.
  • I use the linking phrase “on the other hand” that indicates a contrast in the birth and death rate trends.
  • I relate the death rates to the birth rates by stating it “was half” of birth rates in 1901 and that it’s growth wasn’t dramatic like birth rates, but rather, it was gradual and steady.
  • I use clauses and phrases to add more information:

relative clause to describe death rates: “which was half of birth rates in 1901″

participial phrase to describe births: “fluctuating above 50,000 until the end of the century”

Remember to stick to your overview paragraph as your guide so that you don’t start to write about a different feature. As you only have 20 minutes to write the whole essay, don’t get stuck in writing about too many small details.


I’ll write about the second detail paragraph (4th paragraph of this essay) for this graph in a later post. Check back and stay tuned! Or subscribe to my blog to get updates on new lessons & tips.



I'm an English teacher specializing in IELTS preparation - especially writing and reading. If you have any questions, please ask! You can also sign up for weekly tips and lessons for IELTS and English!

Posted in IELTS Writing, Uncategorized, Writing Task 1 Tagged with: ,
4 comments on “IELTS Writing Task 1: Describing and comparing data in the detail paragraphs
  1. Ruqia says:

    Hi Pearl
    Is it necessory to write conclusion for the Tast 1? or it would be just of about 4 paraghraphs you have mentioned? and one more thing that in the test how to write a next paraghaph, i mean by one line space ?

    • Pearl says:

      Hi Ruqia,

      No, it’s not necessary to write a conclusion for task 1 – since this is not an argumentative essay where you need an introduction, main body paragraphs & a conclusion.

      Since your 2nd paragraph is your overview/summary paragraph, this is the important paragraph that ties your overall summary of the data in the graph. Some people prefer to put this overview/summary paragraph at the end as a “conclusion”, but I find that if you write it straight after your introduction, it guides the reader through your explanation more easily and it helps you as you plan and write out the essay. The detail paragraphs become much easier to write once you’ve decided on the main features and written your overview paragraph.

      This is also a short essay – you only have 20 minutes to write it, so focus on just the 4 short paragraphs.

      Hope that helps!

      Cheers -Pearl

    • Pearl says:

      For your second question – to indicate (show) a new paragraph, you can either indent the first line or skip a line then start the next paragraph. To save space, though, on the actual writing answer sheet, it’s probably best to indent the first line of each paragraph. Here’s a link to see the actual Writing Answer Sheet. Hope that helps!

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "IELTS Writing Task 1: Describing and comparing data in the detail paragraphs"
  1. […] wrote about how to write the detail paragraph for the IELTS Task 1 essay in this post here. I explained how to describe and compare data in this paragraph. In this post I’ll give my […]

  2. […] Paragraph 3: Details for first trend/pattern. Describe the trend using descriptive and accurate details. (See post on How to describe and compare data in a detail paragraph) […]

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