IELTS Writing task 1 academic: Maps Lesson

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.

ielts writing task 1 maps

The structure for Writing task 1

Click the blue button to see the structure for all IELTS task 1 academic tasks.

IELTS writing task 1 structure


Key vocabulary to use for describing maps

Example sentences:

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:

  • on
  • next to
  • near
  •  from north to south
  • from east to west
  • by
  • across from
  • nearby
  • between
  • beside
  • over
  • along

Example sentences:

  • 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

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.

Model Answer

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‘The two maps below show the changes in the town of Denham from 1986 to the present day. Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.’

ielts writing task 1 maps

The maps illustrate the main changes which have taken place in the town of Denham from 1986 to the present moment.

Overall, the town has most notably shown an increase in housing development which indicates a higher population and a move away from agriculture and farming.

One change that stands out is that there has been a significant redevelopment over the whole period. To the east of the river stoke housing now dominates the area of what was once farmland. In 1986 there were shops and just a handful of residential properties. Now there are neither shops nor farmland left, although the post office is still there. The bridge over the river stoke still stands as it did in 1986.

Another noticeable change is that more roads have been built around the housing complex. Additionally, the gardens that were in front of the large house in 1986 have been removed and the house has been expanded and converted into a retirement home. The primary school still stands and has been extended in the decades since.

(175 words)

Aim for around 170 to 190 words in this task. You will not have time to go into a long report and you need to be selective in writing task 1.


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