Writing about maps in IELTS
Updated: Feb 2023
Maps sometimes show up in IELTS academic writing task 1. There are different types of maps and the most common is the past and present (this task below) or sometimes both maps may be in the past. There are also maps which show proposals for the future such as a redevelopment scheme.
You will need to use specific vocabulary in this task and the grammar needed would be the past tense (was /were), the present perfect passive to describe change and prepositions. You also have to use specific language that shows location and change.
The structure for Writing task 1
Click the blue button to see the structure for all IELTS task 1 academic tasks.
Key vocabulary to use for describing maps
Note that the grammar used to describe changes is in the passive.
- The offices were demolished and the surrounding area was redeveloped with a new leisure centre opening up.
- The shopping centre was extended and the parking area was enlarged to accommodate more cars
- The trees were cut down and a new office block was erected.
- A railway was constructed with the introduction of a new train station.
- The industrial area was modernised and made bigger with lots of new factories being built
- The local government had the sports facilities renovated and the small park was made into a children’s playground
- The park was replaced with a new housing complex.
Vocabulary for showing location
When describing the location of something on a map that has a compass symbol you should use phrases like:
- to the north of
- to the east of
- in the west
- to the south of
- north-west of
Prepositions are essential when describing the location on a map, such as:
- next to
- from north to south
- from east to west
- across from
- The trees to the north of the river were cut down and a new office block was built.
- A railway was constructed to the east of the housing estate with the introduction of a new train station.
- The forest to the west of the park was cut down and a new housing complex was constructed.
- The industrial area to the south-west of the station was expanded.
- Houses were constructed next to the primary school.
- The forest near the river was cut down.
- A new railway running from north to south was built.
- The footpath by the river was expanded.
- Parking facilities were added to the city centre.
- The school across from the park was extended and new sports facilities were built.
Vocabulary for describing change over time
When describing change, the present perfect and the present perfect passive is often used. Time phrases are also used such as: over the 20 year period, from 1990 to 2000, over the years, in the last 10 years, in the years after 1990 and so on.
The present perfect and The present perfect passive shows that something started in the past up until the present moment (or near present)
Examples: has witnessed big changes / has become more industrialised / has been built/ has been modernised
Theses sentences below are often used to give an overview of the main differences between the two maps.
- Over the 20 year period, the area has witnessed big changes especially to the farmland areas which were redeveloped.
- From 1990 to 2010 a new housing estate was constructed where a school once stood.
- The forest and green spaces have been profoundly affected over the two decades and were replaced by housing.
- In the period from 1990 onward, the leisure facilities were completely renovated.
- The city centre has seen dramatic changes over the years.
- In the years after 1990, the city centre was extensively modernised.
- The town used to be very green but it has become much more industrialised in the last 15 years.
- A new stadium has been built and more sports faciities have been opened up over the years.
The overview comes just after the introduction and makes a general statement about the main differences between the maps. The overview is quite short, maybe about 2 or 3 sentences. Do not go into detail in the overview.
In the task below there are 2 maps. The past (1986) and present. In this case, you will need to use the past tense and the present perfect to describe the changes.
Click the blue button to see the full model answer.
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