It’s not often that you are asked to describe a map in the IELTS Writing Task 1, but it can happen. When it does, students often panic. It is an unfamiliar task for most IELTS candidates. You don’t often see it in the past papers or practice books.

However, it’s not actually that difficult, requires almost no specialist language, and can be practiced in a very short time.

Describing a map is actually pretty easy. You only really need to know the most basic geographic features:

  • mountain
  • sea
  • river
  • forest
  • town
  • etc

Then you really must know the directions:

  • north
  • east
  • south
  • west

and perhaps some combination of them, such as “north-east” or “south-west,” too.

Beyond that, you are simply describing what you see.

Example question

IELTS Describe Map

The two maps below show an island, before and after the construction of some tourist facilities.

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

Here is my first sample answer:

The illustration shows two images of the same island, before and after construction has taken place to build a tourist infrastructure.

Prior to the construction of tourist facilities, the island was surrounded by sea on all sides, and had clusters of trees in the east and west. There was also a beach on the far west of the island. There were no buildings, and lots of open space across the land.

Following construction work, the island looks very different. There are now many buildings throughout the west and central parts of the island, as well as a road and some paths leading to the accommodations. The accommodation buildings are distributed to the east and west of the reception, positioned in circle formations. There is a reception building right in the centre and a restaurant on the northern shore. To the south, there is a pier where boats can dock, and this is connected by road to the reception.

And here is another sample answer:

There are two maps showing the development of an island. The first map shows the island prior to its development, and the second shows the new tourist facilities that have been installed.

Before the construction of the new tourist infrastructure, the island had no buildings. There were only trees and empty spaces. The island is surrounded on all sides by sea, and there was a beach on the far western shore.

There have been various changes to the island, starting with the pier on the southern coast, which allows tourists to reach the island by boat. From there, they can follow a vehicle track to the reception, in the center of the island. Located slightly to the north of the reception is a restaurant, which sits on the northern coast. These are bordered on both sides by accommodation, in the form of huts. The huts are laid out in circular patterns and connected to the reception and restaurant by footpath. There is also a footpath now leading to the beach, which is suitable for swimming.