IELTS Writing Task 1 Map – Questions, Structure

In IELTS writing task 1, you get a question on describing a map. You can use phrases like “to the left”, “behind”, “next to” and so on.

  • To the left

Eg: Turn to the left and you will find the school

  • Behind

Eg: I took the road behind the palace.

  • Next to

Eg: Ram lives next to a lake

Different types of Questions

There are different types of questions regarding maps. Some of the questions are as follows:

Describe a map in a present-day.

This question is very rare as it asks you to explain only about the present day, and it is impossible to explain without any comparison.

  • Present simple tense

Eg: She sings every day.

  • Present continuous  tense

Eg: She is singing now.

  • Present perfect tense

Eg: She has sung in many concerts

  • Present perfect continuous tense

Eg: She has been singing all day long.

Describe two maps, one in present another one in the future.

This question may appear occasionally as it asks you to make use of both present and future. Mostly, the question will be to explain the development of a town or a city in future.

  • Future simple tense

Eg: She will sing tomorrow.

  • Future continuous tense

Eg: She will be singing tomorrow

  • Future perfect tense

Eg: She will have sung in the concert, if not for the heavy rains.

  • Future perfect continuous tense

Eg: She will have been singing, while you are on the train.

Describe two maps one in the past and another in the present.

In this kind of question, you will be comparing both the present and the past. There will be two maps given and you may be asked to compare these two maps and also to identify the main features in the map.

  • Past simple tense

Eg: She sang yesterday.

  • Past continuous  tense

Eg: She was singing yesterday

  • Past perfect tense

Eg: She had sung in the concert

  • Past perfect continuous tense

Eg: She had been singing all day long.


There is a certain structure to be followed while describing a map in the written test. You can go through the structure below in order to get a good idea on how to describe a map.

Paragraph 1: Paraphrase

In paragraph 1, you can paraphrase the sentence which is already there in the question. While paraphrasing you need to keep in mind that you should not use the same words or the sentences. Try to make the paragraph innovative.

Paragraph 2: Overview

In the second paragraph,  you need to write about the most noticed differences on the map. Try to explain the important features on the map.

Paragraph 3: Main Body 1

If you observe some specific changes on the map then they have to be checked and mentioned while explaining the map.

Paragraph 4: Main Body 2

If there are a lot of such changes,  they can be explained in paragraph 4. Paragraph 3 and paragraph 4 will almost be the same. So you can also combine the 2 paragraphs.

Describing Specific Changes, General Changes, and Location

  1. In specific changes, the main features will already be labelled and you just have to write on how it is being changed from past to present.
  2. In general changes there 2 maps given and you need to compare and explain the main features on the maps.
  3. In the location, you have to write after identifying the points where changes have occurred on the maps. And to describe this you can use phrases like ‘to the left’, ‘behind’, ‘on the top’ and so on.

Overall understanding of Map in IELTS

There are few points to be borne in mind in order to gain an overall understanding of the map. They are as follows:

  • You need to start describing the map by comparing the important differences between the two.
  • Most of the time,  maps will not be clear and will be difficult to understand. So you need to practice more on maps to identify the change areas.
  • It is very important that you practice describing the maps before actually taking the exam because it is really difficult to attempt the question that you have not come across before.
  • You will have 15 minutes to complete this particular question. Your answer need not be perfect. You just have to identify the main features on the map.

Techniques to achieve a good score

The scoring criteria are given below:

Make a plan

Before beginning to describe a map you can make a plan as to how to go about describing the map. You can plan points to be included in each of the paragraphs to make it innovative. If there is something which is similar in both the maps then you can combine both the maps and write a common description or explanation.

Task Achievement

You have to make sure you have achieved the task by following all the rules and regulations. In other words, you have to describe the map compulsorily with 150 words or else the examination will be considered invalid. Before actually starting to write about the map, take 2-3 minutes to understand the map and identify its key features and then start your test.


While describing the map it is important to maintain the coherence. You need to follow a particular format while explaining the map, i.e., an introduction, 2 paragraphs and a conclusion. While explaining you need to make use of certain language, phrase or sentence. And use separate paragraphs to compare the different features on the map.


While describing the map you should make sure that you do not repeat the words that is given in the question. Describe the map in your own words. A good vocabulary is very important to get a good band score.

What are different types of map questions?

You may be asked to describe a map in one particular timeline. There may also be questions to compare maps in two different timelines.

What are the different tense verbs used to describe maps?

The list of the 12 verb tenses in English are :
Present Simple
Present Continuous/Progressive
Present Perfect
Present Perfect Continuous/Progressive
Past Simple
Past Continuous/Progressive
Past Perfect
Past Perfect Continuous/Progressive
Future Simple
Future Perfect
Future Continuous/Progressive
Future Perfect Continuous/Progressive

How to describe a map?

When you are given two maps, do the following:
Count the changes and similarities.
Use words to describe where map elements are positioned.
Summarise the changes and similarities using appropriate vocabulary.

Why does writing task 1 not have a conclusion?

Conclusion means summarizing your opinions. As writing task 1 cannot contain personal opinion, there is no conclusion in its structure. Also you cannot reiterate your opinion because in writing task 1, there can be no repetetion.

Can I use cardinal directions to describe maps even if there are no directions given in the map ?

Yes. There is no harm in doing it. But there are many other words to describe maps too.

Written By

Misbah Kagad is a Content Marketing Specialist, currently working as IELTS Trainer at Experience Expert with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry. Skilled in Copywriting, Web Content writing, Management, IELTS and Research. Strong professional with a Diploma focused in Computer Science... Currently helping aspirants to crack IELTS, with tips and tricks to score a bandwidth of 8 and more. Handles the ideation and creation of compelling content including content for IELTS website, writing e-books and solving previous IELTS question papers…

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