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IELTS Reading: Diagram Labelling Questions

Updated: May 3, 2022

Explanation of this question type

  • You will be given a diagram or a plan.

  • You are required to label specific parts with words from the text or a word list.

The diagram will be one of the following:

  • A design or plan

  • A technical drawing, e.g. a machine or invention

  • A diagram of something in the natural world

If you are required to select words from the text for the answers, you'll be told how many words you’re allowed to use for each label. For example, ONE WORD or NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS. Hyphenated words such as ‘mother-in-law’ count as one word.

If you use the wrong number of words, your answer will be marked incorrect even if the information you give is correct.

Here’s an example of a set of instructions taken from a past test paper. We’ll be working on this diagram labelling task later.

This particular question includes a list of words with which to label the diagram. The information needed to label it correctly will be in the text, although it may be concealed in synonyms and paraphrasing.

Skills needed

This type of question tests your ability to:

  • Interpret a diagram

  • Scan for specific information

  • Identify synonyms & paraphrasing

  • Read in detail for meaning

Key tips

1) Diagram labelling questions are not as hard as they may at first seem. If you apply the step-by-step strategy I explain below, you should be able to master them.

2) Don’t panic if the diagram looks complicated. It won’t be. A diagram is just another way of presenting information – a combination of language and a drawing.

You need no prior knowledge of the subject in order to complete it. Remember, this is a test of your reading skills, nothing else. Again, just follow the strategy.

3) Use any little clues that are present in the diagram to help you understand it. In our diagram, for example, we have,

  • Some numbers

  • Some text

  • One completed label

  • A heading in the word list box

Each gives you important information about the topic and will be related to the answers in some way. I’ll show you how to interpret it below.

4) You may be given a glossary of key words that could be unfamiliar to you. They’ll be below the text. Here’s the glossary for this question.


1. dung: the droppings or excreta of animals

2. cowpats: droppings of cows

5) Try to get a general understanding of the diagram before you read the text.

6) Scan for keywords in the text to locate the paragraph with the answer in then read in detail to identify the words or words needed for the label.

7) The information in the text that contains the answers will very likely include synonyms so be on the lookout for them.

8) If you're struggling with a particular label, move on. Grab the easiest marks and come back to relook at the others later if there's time left at the end.

Make an educated guess if you have to rather than leaving the answer blank. You may guess correctly and score the point.

If you're choosing words from a word list, it will be easier to determine the answer when you've eliminated some of the other words.

The Strategy

# 1 Read the instructions carefully. First, find out whether you have to label the diagram with words from the text or from a word list.

If the words come from the text, note how many words you’re required to write, e.g. ONE WORD or NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS.

# 2 Briefly look at the diagram and try to get a general understanding of what it’s showing. There will be clues in headings, figures and any labels already added.

# 3 Scan the text for key words. This will identify where the answers are located.

# 4 Read the relevant section of text in detail to find each answer.

# 5 Fill in the answer sheet and check your spelling.

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