I am often asked whether you will lose marks for writing more than 150 words in writing task 1. The answer is both yes and no, which can seem confusing.
In the test, you are told that you must ‘write at least 150 words‘, but no upper limit is given. So, you will not be penalised for writing 200 or 220 words for example. However, if you find that your answers are often much longer than this, then you are *probably writing in a way that will lower your score.
To understand this you need to remember that your task is to ‘summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features.’ If you write a very long answer, it is highly likely that your answer includes minor details or describes every feature in the visual information you are given. That means that you are not summarising the information and so you will lose marks for Task achievement.
Task 1 sample answers
The following examples show you how to summarise the key features of 2 types of visual information: a graph and a diagram. Notice the overview statements in each one and pay attention to the way that the information is logically organised – coherence and cohesion is just as important in writing task 1 as it is in task 2.
The first example is based on this question from the official IELTS website: www.ielts.org.
The following sample answer is based on an exercise on page 106 of The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS, a section that teaches you how to describe a diagram. Look at the key features described and how the answer is organised:
You can see that each answer of these answers is under 200 words and each one summarises the information but also organises it into a logical way. This is what you must do to achieve a score of band 7 or above.
Find out more about writing task 1 (both GT and Academic) in chapter 6 of The Key to IELTS Success
*NB If you find that you cannot summarise the information in under 200 words then it is also possible that you are using resources that do not reflect the real test. Read chapter 10 of The Key to IELTS Success to learn more about this.