Today, I want to show you a sample answer to an IELTS map from the recent Cambridge IELTS 17 book. I will try to explain my approach so that you can also do this sort of task successfully.

The Map: An Industrial Area Called Norbiton

Here, we can see our task for today:

Whenever you are given a map like this, you should spend some time analysing it before you think about writing anything. Make sure that you completely understand what is in front of you. In this case, I don’t think there is anything particularly challenging. However, it is essential that you register what changes take place between the two time periods.

Grammar Points

It is also important, of course, to note those two time periods because these will impact how you talk about the maps. For IELTS, you are usually given two maps. In this case, one shows the present and one shows the proposed future of this area. That means you must pick your verb tenses carefully.

For talking about the present, we will mostly use the present simple tense. However, to talk about the future, there are various possibilities. We can use expressions such as:

  • It is expected that…
  • It is likely that…
  • The plans show that…

We might also want to use modals: may, could, and so on. It is also possible to just use the future simple.

Notes on Structure

There are different ways to structure your task 1 report. When talking about a map, the best way is usually to devote one paragraph two each map, but you could definitely do it differently. A standard description would look like this:

Paragraph oneIntroduce and overview the map
Paragraph twoWrite about the first map
Paragraph threeWrite about the second map

For my sample answer below, I will do something a little different. I will just use two paragraphs.


Well, partly I want to show you that you don’t always need to stick to some prescribed formula in order to get a good score, but also I think that it is helpful here to more directly show the changes. By putting each map into a separate paragraph, we might not effectively compare and contrast the key features.

Common Mistakes

I’ll just mention some common mistakes that people make here. First of all, a lot of people think that this is the whole of Norbiton. It’s an easy mistake to make because in the stress of an exam you might overlook the wording of the question or not pay attention to the “town” part on the left of the picture. However, this is just one area of Norbiton.

Also, IELTS candidates sometimes add their opinions here. They mention things like “convenience” that are subjective and inappropriate. Instead, just report what you can see in the maps. Don’t add anything else.

You also don’t have to describe absolutely everything. Some candidates feel that they need to mention each part of a map or chart but really you just have to pick what you think is most important.

Here’s a video about common task 1 mistakes:

One more thing: IELTS maps often include features such as “farmland.” These can be tricky because they are uncommon. The word “farmland” is uncountable, so we cannot say “there is a farmland in the north.” We should instead say “there is some farmland in the north.”

Sample Band 9 Answer

The two maps depict an industrial area that is part of a town called Norbiton. One shows its current state and the other shows what it is expected to look like after a proposed development. Many changes are expected to occur, with factories being turned into homes and the addition of various buildings.

At present, this industrial area is comprised of a number of factories surrounding a roundabout and road. It is bordered to the north by a river, on the other side of which is farmland. The town itself lies to the west. However, after the development, those factories will either be demolished or turned into housing. Various amenities will also be built. There will be a school in the east, with a playground, a medical centre, and some shops also added. The road network will be expanded somewhat, with a bridge crossing the river and housing built on the other side, as well as westward expansion towards the town.

Notes on the Answer

You can see that I have one long paragraph that describes everything. The first three sentences are dedicated to the first map and the rest shows how things will change.

For changes, I have elected to use the future simple tense. You can use less certainty, but this keeps things straightforward and sensible. Note that it is also in the passive form because we don’t know who will do these verbs exactly.

My language is appropriate and the content is precisely what you should aim for – a selection of key features compared and contrasted over time. The structure is simple but effective.