IELTS Writing Maps and Plans

Instead of a graph or chart showing numerical data, you could be given two or three maps or plans showing changes to an area or floor of a building. In this case, you should write at least 150 words describing the changes.

Strategy

If you follow the structure below, you should be able to write an essay on maps or plans fairly easily.

Step 1: Understand the Maps or Plans

Before you begin writing, you should spend a minute or two looking at the maps or plans to understand the changes. In particular, you should notice:

  • When are the maps dated? Have the changes happened yet, or are they expected in the future?
  • Is there a compass?
  • Is there a scale?
  • What items are marked on the maps/plans? Are there any items which are consistent?

Step 2: Write the Introduction

As with any other IELTS academic writing task 1 question, the introduction should consist of:

  • paraphrasing the description of the maps or plans;
  • the overall trend.
Paraphrasing

You need to sum up what the two maps or plans  show in your opening sentence. This can be done by paraphrasing the description provided, for example:

The maps below show developments along Main Road in the village of Woodby.​

We need to take the ideas in this sentence and put it into our own words:

The two maps provided compare the layout of buildings and amenities in a village before and after some development in the area.

Overall Trend

For maps and plans, the overall trend can describe how much change there has been. This might involve noting what has stayed the same.

For example, for the maps below, we could say:

With the exception of some housing, all of the buildings and facilities have changed use.

Or:

While the road layout has remained the same, the use of the land has changed.

The maps below show developments along Main Road in the village of Woodby.
ielts writing maps and plans

Step 3: Write the Body

In the body you need to describe the changes to the maps or plans. You do not need to describe anything that has stayed the same in this paragraph.

Location, Location, Location

In order to describe the changes, you need to refer to the objects in the maps or plans so that there is no confusion with other items. As there are two “Housing” areas in the first map, I need to make it clear which I am talking about.

As there is no compass on this map, I can’t refer to the housing as in the north-east and south-west. Instead I can refer to them as in the top-right and bottom-left of the map.

While referring to these items, you can paraphrase them if it makes sense. One thing you shouldn’t do however, is to copy the word into your essay with a capital letter (unless they appear at the beginning of a sentence or contain a name).

Describing the changes

To score well on this task, you need to use accurate vocabulary for the changes which you see. Verbs like construct, demolish, extend, convert and combine are all good examples.

Of course, we don’t know who exactly is responsible for the changes. For this reason, we should use the passive voice when writing about these changes.

Step 4: Write the Conclusion

In the conclusion for this essay, we can answer the question “what is the nature of the changes?” What we are doing here is looking for a common theme between the changes.

For example, if the map shows an area that had a lot of factories and warehouses but these have been replaced by flats and houses, we can say that it has changed from an industrial area to a residential area. Other useful labels include agricultural, commercial and recreational.

We could also comment on if it has gone from being rural to more urban. For floor plans, we might comment that the changes accommodate more facilities.

We do have to be careful here though not to state something that isn’t apparent from the map or plan. For example, saying that the population has increased would not be clear even if an area has more housing than before. We can possibly get around this however by saying that the area appears to be able to accommodate more people.

Practice Questions

Click here for all IELTS writing task 1 practice questions and sample answers.

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