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A common IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 mistake

Avoid this IELTS Writing Task 1 mistake and improve your band score

In IELTS Academic Writing task 1 you have to write a summary of the information in a graph, chart, table or diagram (or more than one of these). You can see a sample of an IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 graph on the official IELTS website here.

When the information relates to countries such as America or Britain, which it often does, a common mistake is to leave out the word ‘the‘ when reporting information about the USA or the UK.

I wouldn’t be surprised, for example, if some of you made the following mistake in an introduction to the graph at the link above:

The graph provides information about radio and television audiences in UK in 1992.

I see this kind of mistake in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 answers all of the time.

Why is it a mistake to leave out the article ‘the’?

You need to write (or say) ‘the USA‘ and ‘the UK‘ because these countries contain the word ‘states‘ and ‘kingdom‘.  When a country has a noun such as ‘states‘, ‘kingdom‘ or ‘republic‘ in its name, ‘the‘ should be used before it.

The word ‘the‘ should also be used for countries that involve a plural, e.g. the Philippines.

Here are some examples of countries that should have ‘the‘ before them:

  • the UK
  • the USA
  • the People’s Republic of China
  • the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • the Philippines
  • the Netherlands

(You shouldn’t use ‘the’ before these countries if you use their other names: ‘Britain‘, ‘America‘, ‘China‘, ‘Saudi Arabia‘ or ‘Holland‘).

Why you may have made this mistake

The word ‘the‘ is often left out from before the country in the title (or labels) of IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 graphs, charts or tables , and you may have copied the country from there.

Notice how ‘the‘ is missing from the following title in this graph:

Radio and television audiences in UK, October – December 1992

Why should you avoid this mistake?

If you make this mistake several times in your IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 answer, it will count as several grammar mistakes (not just one).

The word ‘the‘ counts as one word so if you write ‘the UK’ several times instead of just ‘UK‘, you’ll have a better chance of writing at least 150 words (the minimum word count for Task 1).

Making fewer grammar mistakes and writing 150 words or more will give you a better chance of getting the band score you need!

Let me know in the comments section below if you have any questionabout this common IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 mistake.


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4 comments on “A common IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 mistake

    1. That’s a very good question, Siel.

      Technically, Britain is England, Scotland and Wales whereas the UK is England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In practice though, Britain and the UK are often used as synonyms and so I think you are safe in using them as synonyms in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1. In nearly 10 years as an IELTS examiner myself, I certainly never penalised any candidate for using Britain and the UK as synonyms.

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