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Writing Task 1: Phrases and collocations for describing diagrams and maps

By Andrea Castro

In our previous post on Writing Task 1, we looked at a variety of phrases and collocations that you can use on your IELTS to describe tables, graphs and charts. Today, we will be focusing on phrases and collocations for describing diagrams and maps, which are also common types of visual data in Writing Task 1 Academic.  

Diagram Map

First, let’s talk about what diagrams and maps are, and what you are expected to do when describing them. A diagram illustrates a process or shows how something works. If presented with a diagram, you should describe what you see using your own words. More specifically, you will be asked to select and report the diagram’s main features and make comparisons where relevant. Maps are generally used in Writing Task 1 to get candidates to make comparisons of two or more maps over different time periods. Just as with diagrams, when describing maps, you are expected to select and report the main features and, of course, make comparisons.  

If you read our previous post on describing tables, graphs and charts, then you know that the best way to start your Writing Task 1 Academic is by introducing the visual data. Here are some phrases and collocations that you can use to introduce diagrams and maps:

  • According to the diagram/map(s)… 
  • The diagram/map(s) show(s)… 
  • The diagram/map(s) illustrate(s)… 
  • The diagram/map(s) demonstrate(s)… 
  • Looking at the diagram/map(s), it can be seen that… 

Now let’s focus on phrases and collocations that you can use to describe and compare diagrams and maps:

Describing a process  Describing how something works

Talking about the process: 

  • a complex/simple process 
  • a lengthy/short process 
  • the process consists of (several stages)… 
  • the process involves…  
  • a man-made/natural process 
  • The ___ consists of… 
  • The function of the ___ is to… 
  • various/different components 
  • several/few component parts 
  • main parts 
  • continuous cycle 

Sequencing the process: 

  • In the initial stages of the process… 
  • In the first/second/third stage… 
  • The first/second/third stage involves… 
  • The first/next/last step is… 
  • after which (it is sent to)…. 
  • in preparation for… 
  • at this point 

Note: Diagrams will provide you with labels that you can use to support your main points. However, make sure you produce your own words, including verbs, in the right tense and voice. Keep in mind that the passive voice is often necessary when describing a process.


Making comparisons 

  • main differences 
  • considerable/significant differences 
  • small/minor differences 
  • significant/major changes 
  • small/minor changes 
  • increased/decreased in size 
  • significant/exponential growth 
  • over the course of __ years/decades 
  • __ saw/has seen the most change 
  • the change/growth in __ was more/less significant than… 

We hope you have found these posts on phrases and collocations for Writing Task 1 helpful! If Writing Task 1 Academic is something you feel you need to keep working on, collect examples of graphs, charts, tables, diagrams and maps, and practice describing them using appropriate language.

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