This is the 4th post in our series of Overviews Made Easy. Our goal is to help you with Writing Task 1. Today we are looking at diagrams. Although these occur less commonly in the test than charts and graphs, it is still important to have an understanding of how to approach one should it come up.
Remember that in Writing Task 1, the examiner will be looking very clearly for an overview. An overview is a brief summary of the key features of the diagram. If you do not write an overview, you will hurt your writing score. In some cases it can mean the difference between a Band 5 and a Band 6 or 7.
Firstly, let’s consider how a diagram differs from a graph or chart. A diagram is a visual representation of a process showing how something is made or works. A process happens over time and can be divided into stages. There are generally two different types of process: natural and man-made. Natural processes include things like the life cycle of a butterfly or the water cycle. Examples of man-made processes include how bricks are made, how honey is produced or how an ATM works. It does not matter if it is a man-made or a natural process because the strategy for answering process questions is the same.
To recap, the structure of a Task 1 answer is 3 paragraphs: first, an introduction (one sentence) with an overview (two or three sentences), then two body paragraphs.
Have a look at this example Task 1 question:
What does the diagram show? As with any Task 1, you begin by paraphrasing the rubric:
The diagram illustrates the basic principles of hydroelectric power.
This sentence is your Introduction. As you can see, it has been taken from the question, but it has not been copied. You need to write it in your own words. You can do this by using synonyms or by changing the word order.
Now for the Overview. This should consist of 2-3 sentences and must include all the key points or stages of the diagram. But how do you approach it? As usual, we need to analyse the diagram carefully. In order to do this, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Where does the process start and where does it end?
- Is it a cycle or is it a linear process (are there start and end points)?
- How many stages are there?
- Is it a man-made process or a natural process?
- What happens in each stage of the process?
- What are the relationships between each of the stages?
Since there are no trends to comment on, as there are with graphs and charts, you should comment instead on some of the key features listed above, eg. the number of stages in the process and how it begins and ends. You might not be able to answer all of these questions for each diagram Task 1, but you will always be able to answer enough of them to be able to write a good overview.
In the case of the hydroelectric dam, you could comment on the man-made constructions and how they contribute to the process. For example:
The process requires the construction of a large dam connected to a powerhouse. The dam creates a large reservoir and the powerhouse is where the electricity is generated.
Once you have succeeded in writing your introduction/overview paragraph, you should write your main body paragraphs with more detail. If you’d like to see a full, high-scoring sample answer to this task, click below!