IELTS Map Questions… Say WHAT??!!

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IELTS Writing Task 1 questions about maps are not common, but they are seen on the exam sometimes.ielts map questions

However, if they do pop up on exam day, are you prepared to write a high-scoring essay?

I was talking to a friend of mine who works at the IELP center at Portland State University, and, surprise surprise, we had a long conversation about IELTS!

For some teachers, like us, IELTS is actually an interesting topic!

She was saying that an IELTS tutor at her center came to her for some guidance on those pesky, confusing and, frankly, just odd IELTS Task 1 questions that ask you to write an essay about maps.

The tutor was trying her best to help her IELTS student learn how to write about these rare questions, but when she looked online for resources, she could simply find nothing that was clear enough to give her student.

So, I thought, let’s remedy that situation today! Here is what you need to know to score highly on IELTS Writing Task 1 map questions.

  1. First, there are two kinds of maps you might see on the exam.


As the video says, one map question gives you just one image of a map, and asks you to compare two places on the one map.

This is comparable to an IELTS Static Task 1 essay question, which asks you to compare numbers about one point in time, such as one year.

The other more common type of IELTS map question is the one which provides you with two maps. One map shows what a place looked like in the past, and the other map shows you what the place looks like now.

This is directly comparable to an IELTS Task 1 Change Over Time question, which asks you to write about numbers that change over time, such as sales numbers from 2001 to 2014.

So, at least the type of information you are comparing is not completely unknown to you.

2. Second, how does this knowledge help you? Well, if you have studied about what the examiner wants from you in IELTS Task 1, than you can apply that to your preparation for map questions. 

To get a high score for Task Achievement on a map question, you must include an overall trend.

For the static map, this will simply be choosing which of the two places on the map are more suitable for what the question asks. For example, “Overall, Site 1 is a more suitable location for a new school than Site 2.”

For the change over time map, the overall trend will note how the town or place has grown. For example, “Overall, the town has seen an increase in the size of the residential and business areas, while the amount of natural space has decreased.”

The overall trend should be the second sentence in your introduction. Please review how to write a stellar introduction for IELTS Writing Task 1.

3. For a high score in Cohesion and Coherence, you must organize the information into two clear groups.

So, paragraph 2 is about one group of information and paragraph 3 is about the other group of information.

For static map questions, write about Site 1 in paragraph 2, and Site 2 in paragraph 3.

For change over time map questions, write about the past picture in paragraph 2 and the other picture in paragraph 3.

4. To score highly in grammar, you must have a mix of sentence structures

For static map questions, you will have more comparative sentences, such as, “Site 1 has greater access to parking, while Site 2 is closer to public transit stations.”

For change over time map questions, you will use a mix of “there is/there are” sentences to describe what you see, and also compound sentences such as, “In 2015, the number of houses almost doubled, and the streets expanded in size to accommodate for the increase in traffic.”

5. For a good vocabulary score, the most important thing to remember is not to copy the all the words you see directly from the test question.

Also, you need to learn phrases such as, “in the left-hand corner,” “near the top of the map,” and “in the immediate vicinity.” Basically, you need vocabulary for describing locations.

For more lessons on scoring highly on all parts of the IELTS exam, try our course, The 3 Keys IELTS Success System.

Do you have any other questions or comments about IELTS Writing Task 1 Map questions?

Leave us a message in the comments section below!

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  • 1) Static map : compare 2 places on 1 image of a map ; compare numbers about 1 point in time
    ” Overall , Site 1 is a more suitable location for a new school than Site 2 .”
    ” Site 1 has greater access to parking , while Site 2 is closer to public transit stations .”
    Write about Site 1 in paragraph 2 , and Site 2 in paragraph 3 .

    2) Change Over Time map : two maps – one shows what a place looked like in the past , and the other map shows you what the place looks like now .
    Write about numbers that change over time , such as sales numbers from 2001 to 2014 .
    ” Overall , the town has seen an increase in the size of the residential and business areas , while the amount of natural space has decreased . ”
    Organize the information into 2 clear groups – the past picture in paragraph 2 and the other picture in paragraph 3 .
    Use a mix of ” there is / there are ” sentences to describe what you see
    Use compound sentence – ” In 2015 , the number of houses almost doubled , and the streets expanded in size to accommodate for the increase in traffic .”

    * You need Voc for describing locations – ” in the left-hand corner ” , ” near the top of the map ” and ” in the immediate vicinity ” on IELTS Writing Task 1 map questions