IELTS Writing Task 1 common mistakes

IELTS writing task 1 is the question in which you are given information in the form of a table, pie chart, line or bar graph and sometimes a picture of a process.

You should write about 150 words for this part of the test.

You only have 60 minutes to write your answers for TWO questions in this part of the IELTS exam. Writing Task 2 is longer (250 word answer) and there are more points for it.

So, think of writing task 1 as the “short answer”, which must be completed quickly.

Below are some of the most common mistakes that students make that means they get a low score for Task 1.

Avoid these errors!

1. TIMING: Do not run out of time!

You should complete IELTS Writing task 1 in 20 minutes. Yes, just 20 minutes, which is a very short amount of time!

Lots of people taking the IELTS exam use a lot more than 20 minutes for task 1 and therefore their answer for Writing Task 2, which has more points available and requires more writing time, is very poor.

So, split your 20 minutes into 4 different and distinct sections of 5 minutes each… and stick to this rule!

How to time your IELTS writing task 1 to only 20 minutes


Read the question calmly and make sure you properly understand the information. Highlight or underline the most important information. Then write a one or possibly two-sentence introduction.

Section 2 (5 – 10 mins): WRITE AN OVERVIEW

Write one short paragraph that gives a summary of the information

Section 3 (10 – 15 mins): REPORT INFROMATION

The 3rd paragraph should report the detailed information that adds to what you said in section 2 above

Section 4 (15 – 20 mins): REPORT MORE INFORMATION & CHECK

The 4th and final paragraph should contain more information from the question that supports everything you have already written. Then you should read through what you wrote to check for obvious mistakes like spelling or grammar that you can quickly correct.


IELTS Writing Task 1 does NOT need/want/require your personal opinion. You should only report or state details of information that are shown in the graph, chart and/or tables WITHOUT adding your own comments!

So, do NOT write sentences that start like the following:

  • I think that…
  • I believe that…
  • I would suggest…
  • It’s obvious that…
  • In my opinion…

To see all the relevant vocabulary and verbs that you can use to describe a graph in IELTS writing task 1, please CLICK HERE

3. INTRODUCTION: Do not write out the question again

As with all other Cambridge exams, when you get asked a question in a writing task, you should repeat the question in your opening… BUT this does NOT mean that you should COPY the question.

You should paraphrase the question… in other words, repeat the question, but using different words that mean the same thing.

4. TOO MUCH INFORMATION: Do not report everything you see!

It is not necessary to include every single piece of information that you can see in your charts, graphs and tables.

A top IELTS student will be able to choose and select the best information that is presented in writing task 1.

As a general rule, in your written answer, include about 5 or 6 numbers or pieces of information. So, that’s about 3 pieces of information for both sections 3 and 4 mentioned above.

5. TIME!!! Do not take more than 20 minutes

Yes, I know that we talked about this first, but this is the number 1 mistake that students make in the IELTS writing exam!

You need lots of time for Writing Task 2! Do not waste that time on task 1!!!

You must practise writing answers for Task 1 in 20 minutes. This is super important.

Do not be one of the many students who say after they come out of the exam: “I didn’t have enough time for the writing”

To find out what happens in the whole IELTS exam click here

To see all the different IELTS exam preparation courses in central London at SGI, please click here.

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