Does IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 need a conclusion?

Opinions on this vary a lot. I have a quite strong and clear point of view on it, but not being an IELTS examiner I still have enough doubt about it that I’d like to hear other people’s thoughts.

First of all, IELTS Academic Writing Task 1  must not finish with an actual “conclusion“. A conclusion is something meaning “therefore” leading logically on from the evidence given in the body of an essay such as choosing the better of two options, but in IELTS Academic Writing Part One you should only select, summarise and compare. No opinions or speculation are acceptable in Task 1 (unlike Task 2), so there can not be any kind of conclusion.

If there is a final paragraph after the body, that would have to be a summary. As that is often what students mean when they ask if a conclusion is needed, the question then becomes “Is a final summary paragraph needed?” This is where opinions are split, but my personal position is a clear “No – introduction, two main paragraphs, then just stop”. Here are my main reasons why:

– The whole essay is supposed to be selecting and summarising. If you have done that successfully in the introduction and body, it doesn’t make much sense to end with the summary of a summary.

– If you’re going to briefly summarise the overall trends etc, it makes much more sense to do that as a single sentence in the introduction (as would usually be the case in real academic writing).

– The closest thing to this kind of writing in real academic writing is a description in a (much) longer essay under a graph or similar, in which case the next paragraph would be the kind of interpretation that you must avoid in this IELTS task. Students should therefore think of it as part of a much longer essay and just stop.

– A good summary should give the same information as the body (not new information) in different words and in a way that makes reading it worthwhile. This is almost impossible to do well, especially as students will have already been trying to avoid repeating words from the task and from earlier in their essay in the introduction and body.

– A tip that really helps with IELTS Writing generally is to avoid one-sentence paragraphs.  It’s almost impossible to write a two- or three-sentence final summary paragraph in Task 1.

– The time and words used to write a summary are almost always better used on the introduction and body.

– Fewer than 5% of student attempts to write a final paragraph after body that I receive are acceptable. All the rest would lead to a lower mark than avoiding one would have.

Here are some other views on the topic from two of the few IELTS sites I would recommend:

IELTS Writing Task 1: overview not conclusion on

Academic Task 1 – conclusions on dc-ielts

And your views are?

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5 Responses to Does IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 need a conclusion?

  1. CT says:

    you’re absolutely right Alex. Opening paragraph; describe what it is you’re looking at and then give an overview of the most important change/process/difference/point of interest..e.g. ‘the two graphs show how much money people of different ages spent on clothes in Korea and Japan. In both countries young people between the ages of 18 and 25 spent significantly more than any other group.”

    Then a couple more paragraphs with other major points and stop. I’ve found it’s worth spending a lot of time practicing how to distinguish main points from trivial detail, esp. w/ Japanese students. I get them to physically circle the main point and 3 other important things on the question paper before they even touch the answer sheet for example.

    FWIW another reason why summary paragraphs sometimes don’t work is that students are inevitably short of time int he exam and frequently struggle to finish. If they choose to do Task 1 second (which many students do), choose to put the summary at the end and not the beginning but don’t quite manage to finish they can end up without an overview/summary statement at all. And this has a really big impact on their marks as they’re basically not fully answering the question.

  2. alexcase says:

    Thanks. Yet another student showed me an official IELTS exam book model answer with a summary, but it was a rubbish summary and was also one sentence, so I’m sticking to my guns on this…

    I strongly recommend against doing Task 2 first, as they could easily spend the whole 60 minutes doing it – better to rush to get Task 1 out of the way and spend whatever remaining time is left on Task 2 I reckon. Do you give your students more freedom?

  3. Alex, as an IELTS tutor (and not an examiner – not yet anyway), I understand how it’s important to find out what an examiner thinks. However, I’ve also seen examiners with differing viewpoints – it seems that in a lot of matters, things are not fixed in stone and a lot will depend on the examiner marking it!

    For me, I teach my students to write an overview after the introduction. And yes, I think the official IELTS (Cambridge) book samples don’t exactly help a lot!

  4. jadav harshadkumar says:

    Ok fine, well if that is the case, then what should be the formate of the report, how the content be divided among three paras, i.e. intro, first body para and the second body para.

  5. alexcase says:

    The first sentence of the intro is a rephrasing of the question (e.g. “The line graph gives information on…” and the last sentence of the intro is an explanation of the structure of your essay (“I will explain.. and then write about…”). It doesn’t matter how you split the info into two paragraphs, e.g. one paragraph for the table and one for the pie chart, or one for the past and one for the present and future.

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