To know why the overview is so important we must first take a look at the official IELTS marking criteria.
We can see from the criteria that you cannot score above a 5 without some kind of overview and to score 7 or higher you must present a clear overview.
So what is an overview?
An overview is where you clearly write about the general information you can see in the graph/chart/map/process.
For the graphs/charts questions, you give the examiner a clear overview of the main features and make comparisons if you can see any. You don’t have to mention any numbers/data/stats here; this information should follow later.
For the maps questions – You give a general overview of the most noticeable changes that have occurred / or will occur in the future.
What should my overview look like?
To know what your overview should look like we first need to have a look at a sample question.
By analysing our bar chart we will be able to find the key features. It is important you are only looking for the key features and not every single thing.
The first thing to think about is which country spends the most money? We can see that the UK spends the most so this would be one thing we could include in our overview.
After this, we need to look for further features. Cars immediately stand out as they are the biggest expenditure for both countries.
Cameras are also fairly noticeable as they have the biggest difference in expenditure and are also the lowest expense for France.
Finally, perfume as this is the lowest expense for the UK. This would be sufficient information to build an overview.
An example of an overview
Overall, the UK spent more money on consumer goods than France in 2010. Cars were the biggest expense for both the British and the French whereas the smallest expense was perfume for the UK compared to cameras in France. Furthermore, the most significant difference in expenditure between the countries was on cameras.
As you can see, the overview is only 3 sentences long and it doesn't contain any data. This is vital as the data will come in the following paragraphs where you will give details.
Review of Overviews
You need to be able to give a broad summary of the information. This is best started with Overall……. then giving details of the main features you can see.
You can write the overview in 2 or 3 sentences. You should try to make a complex sentence in the overview using a subordinate clause. This means when you are writing your sentences, you join two pieces of information with a linking word – while, whereas, with, although, even though. This can help you to gain more marks.
Students often ask if they should write a conclusion in writing task 1 and the answer is no.