What Tense to Use in IELTS Writing Task 1

It is essential to use the right tense in IELTS writing task 1, both academic and GT. This page will explain which tenses to use. The academic test will be explained first and lower down the page you will find grammar tips for GT letters.

Also find writing task 1 tips further down the page.

Academic Writing Task 1 Tenses to Use

For IELTS writing task 1, you may be given a map, a diagram, a bar chart, a line graph, a table or a pie chart in the academic test. The IELTS examiner will mark you on the following (each worth 25% of task 1)

  • Task Achievement: information, overview, accurate of data
  • Coherence & Cohesion: Paragraphing, Linking Words
  • Vocabulary: Collocations, Spelling and Accuracy
  • Grammar: Sentence structure, tenses, punctuation, grammar range and accuracy

So, you can see that using the right tense is important in IELTS writing task 1 because it falls into the marking criterion of Grammar.

Dates and Tenses

On your IELTS graph, chart, map, diagram or table, you might find dates. These will tell you what tense to use. See the list below:

  • No Dates = present tense
  • Dates in the Past = Past Tense
  • Dates in the Future = Future Forms
  • Dates spanning both Past and Future = both Past Tense and Future Forms

Using Passive Voice in IELTS Writing Task 1

There are students who seem to think they will get a high score if they use passive voice. This is not true. You can only use passive voice when it is appropriate and correct to do so. Most writing task 1 will not give you this opportunity. However, if you get a diagram, they are usually a combination of passive and active voice.

Mixing both Past Tense and Future Forms

Here is a sample sentence using both tenses:

In 2010, the number of sales stood at 2 million and is forecast to rise to a peak of 10 million by 2050.

You can see past simple “stood” and future forms of prediction “is forecast to”

IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 Tenses

The examiner will mark you using the same criteria as the AC test, but with one difference in Task Achievement. The IELTS examiner will mark you on the following (each worth 25% of task 1). See below:

    • Task Achievement: Purpose, tone and expanding points
    • Coherence & Cohesion: Paragraphing, Linking Words
    • Vocabulary: Collocations, Spelling and Accuracy
    • Grammar: Sentence structure, tenses, punctuation, grammar range and accuracy

For students taking the General Training test. You will use a range of tenses in your letter depending on the aims and purpose. Below are some sample sentences:

  • I am writing to …. (present continuous)
  • I visited your store … (past simple)
  • …the poor service I have received (present perfect)
  • I hope the problem will be resolved … (future form and future passive)
  • I had hoped that … (past perfect)

Tips for IELTS Writing Task 1

Academic writing task 1 tips, click below:

All Tips, Model Answers, Free Video Lessons & Practice for IELTS writing task 1

GT writing task 1 tips, click below:

Essential 10 tips

Differences between GT and Academic Writing Task 1

Main IELTS Pages

Develop your IELTS skills with tips, lessons, free videos and more. Click below to find the main pages for IELTS on my website:

Get my free lessons by email

Subscribe for free to get my new IELTS lessons sent to your email inbox.

Sharing is caring...
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on Pinterest


  1. Katerina says:

    Hello Liz
    I’m an English teacher in Greece and I would like some information on how to help students with the IELTS exams. Any books to study, apart from your great tips?

    • On the whole, I learned my tips by doing test after test myself. I also spent a lot of time helping students and understanding how best to help them.

  2. Hello ,
    I have a question could you please tell me how important it is to paraphrase the writing task 2 in our introduction ( the first 2 lines of the essay) as i have seen on many blogs people just start will the topic such as , It is seen, It is true , or just the answer of what is asked and not paraphrase the question given .

  3. Hi Liz,

    just a quick question, in listening section if the answer is “internet users” will the Users of internet” be considered correct or not.

  4. Hi there Liz, I would just like to verify if it is
    possible to use past tense in writing task 1 even if there
    is no specific time indicated in the question? Thank you vry much

    • It is recommended to use the present tense when there are no dates given. However, if you decide to use the past in this case and you use it all the way through your task 1 report, then it wouldn’t be considered a big mistake and you could still do quite well.

  5. This is good tips I read. This is my first time to join to IELTS course as I am preparing for exams but it needs a time to prepare all vocabulary.

  6. sujit kumar biswas says:

    Dear great teacher liz
    Thank you for your valuable information
    “I had hoped that you would come in time”
    such a new sentence for me

    may you long live


  7. Thanks for all your free tips and lessons pertaining to IELTS. I really found them valuable when I took the test on the fourth of March 2017.

  8. suny patel from ahemedabad says:

    hello mam…if there is verb given in past tense in question ……then in which tense i shoud write?

  9. Thnks Liz
    All the information is very useful for me.

  10. Myat Min says:

    Dear Liz,

    I cannot find your lessons for Letter writing task on YouTube.

  11. Ravina Lalwala says:

    Thank you

Speak Your Mind