IELTS Academic Writing Task 1: Describing a Map or Plan

IELTS writing
In Task 1 of the Academic Writing component of the IELTS exam, you may see a map or plan, and you have to describe it in at least 150 words. It will be a plan or diagram of a building, street, town or city. You may have to compare two or three maps. The diagrams could be maps of the current time, the past or even the future. There may also be a key that explains different routes, roads or places on the map. You will be asked to describe a map or plan. The diagram will be of a building, street, village, city or town plan that may ask you to contrast the past and present, or the present and future. There will also be a key that explains different locations on the map or a reference to roads and routes. You’re expected to give a description of everything on the maps, including the buildings, routes and changes. As with all IELTS Writing tasks, you will be scored on the four IELTS criteria of Lexical Resource, GRA (Grammar Range and Accuracy), Coherence and Cohesion and Task Achievement.

Task achievement

To reach a good score for Task Achievement, it’s vital that you describe all information shown in the plan or map. To do this, you must first understand the map, so take 2 or 3 minutes to analyse it and understand the details and changes. If you’re doing the paper-based test, use a pencil to circle any important information. Sum up the main changes in the Overview and go into detail in the main body paragraphs. Do not write a conclusion because this is not an essay.


You should write IELTS Writing Task 1 in four or five paragraphs: an introduction, overview, main body paragraphs 1 and 2. The use of connectors, such as First of all, In addition, and To summarize, are important to maintain coherence and a logical flow of ideas in your work. Group your information into selected paragraphs. Write about the first map in the first body paragraph and write about the next map in the second paragraph. If there’s a third map, add write about it in a third paragraph.

Lexical Resource

Make sure to paraphrase or use your own words instead of repeating the same words from the Map title. In your introduction, you can use verbs such as show, demonstrate or illustrate. For example, you can say, This map shows plans to transform a farm into a large park. Use synonyms to add variety to your use of vocabulary. Synonyms of the word show are present or demonstrate… This map presents plans to transform a farm into a large park. Language of direction is used to describe direction when writing about a map. This map proposes to build a hospital in the north-east part of the park. The shopping-centre is located south-west of the village. It will be moved to the east area of the park where there is more space. Prepositions of place are often used to express position: There is a large housing estate between the tennis courts and the cinema. A road runs alongside the train track. Other useful ‘map’ language includes city centre, downtown, residential area, estates, railway line, bus station, motorway, roads and traffic-free zone. Use synonyms frequently to avoid repetition of words.

Grammar Range and Accuracy

The passive form

We often use the passive form when describing a map because we don’t know WHO did an action. The airport is located east of the city. The park has been developed in the north-west of the town. A clinic will be builtin the south.


If you are comparing two maps from different times in the past, you can use the past simple and past perfect. For example: In 2008, there was a large farm east of the village. By 2018, it had been transformed into a park. Don’t forget to use the present and future forms if you are comparing a current map with future plans: Currently, there are no houses in the south of the map. This zone will be developed into a residential area.


Use comparative forms to express change when contrasting two or more maps: The hospital in the current map is larger, the park is more developed and the playground has been expanded.