IELTS Reading- Labeling a Diagram Tips and Strategy - Kohli Star Image School

IELTS Reading- Labeling a Diagram Tips and Strategy

On the IELTS reading test you might get a question that asks you to label a diagram. This post will:

  • show you examples
  • look at common problems
  • give you tips
  • Provide you with a strategy for answering these questions.


There are three kinds of diagrams you might get: a technical drawing of a machine or invention, something from the natural world or a design or plan.

Below is an example of a technical drawing:

Common Problems

The main problem with these questions is students focus too much on the diagram and try to understand everything about it. Unfamiliar diagrams can cause panic and lose you time. This is not a test of your technical knowledge but a test of your reading skills. You should try to understand generally what is happening in the diagram, but the relationship between the text and the diagram is more important.

Another big problem is failing to locate the paragraphs that contain the answers quickly and losing time reading the whole text.

Students also lose marks in this section by writing the wrong number of words or spelling words incorrectly.



  1. Check how many words you are supposed to write, it will tell you in the question. In the example above you can only write ‘one or two words’, any more than this and you will lose marks. Remember that numbers count as one word and hyphenated words like ‘state-of-the-art’ count as one word.
  2. Identify the type of word (noun, verb, adjective) you need. This will help you find the correct answer.
  3. The answers do not always come in the same order that the paragraphs are in.
  4. Do the easiest questions first. You are more likely to get these correct. If you cannot find the answer to a difficult question, move on and come back later.
  5. Try to predict the answer before you read the text. This will help you find the correct answer.


  1. Check how many words you can write.
  2. Study the diagram and try to understand generally what is happening. Don’t spend too much time doing this.
  3. Highlight keywords or labels.
  4. Identify the types of words required and try to predict the answer.
  5. Scan the text and identify where the information is located.
  6. Read in more detail to find the answer.
  7. Check spelling.

I hope you found this useful. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments below

Academic Reading sample task – Diagram label completion [Note: This is an extract from an Academic Reading passage on the subject of dung beetles. The text preceding this extract gave some background facts about dung beetles, and went on to describe a decision to introduce non-native varieties to Australia.]

Introducing dung beetles into a pasture is a simple process: approximately 1,500 beetles are released, a handful at a time, into fresh cow pats in the cow pasture. The beetles immediately disappear beneath the pats digging and tunneling and, if they successfully adapt to their new environment, soon become a permanent, self-sustaining part of the local ecology. In time they multiply and within three or four years the benefits to the pasture are obvious. Dung beetles work from the inside of the pat so they are sheltered from predators such as birds and foxes. Most species burrow into the soil and bury dung in tunnels directly underneath the pats, which are hollowed out from within. Some large species originating from France excavate tunnels to a depth of approximately 30 cm below the dung pat. These beetles make sausage-shaped brood chambers along the tunnels. The shallowest tunnels belong to a much smaller Spanish species that buries dung in chambers that hang like fruit from the branches of a pear tree. South African beetles dig narrow tunnels of approximately 20 cm below the surface of the pat. Some surface-dwelling beetles, including a South African species, cut perfectly-shaped balls from the pat, which are rolled away and attached to the bases of plants. For maximum dung burial in spring, summer and autumn, farmers require a variety of species with overlapping periods of activity. In the cooler environments of the state of Victoria, the large French species (2.5 cms long), is matched with smaller (half this size), temperate-climate Spanish species. The former are slow to recover from the winter cold and produce only one or two generations of offspring from late spring until autumn. The latter, which multiply rapidly in early spring, produce two to five generations annually. The South African ball-rolling species, being a sub-tropical beetle, prefers the climate of northern and coastal New South Wales where it commonly works with the South African tunneling species. In warmer climates, many species are active for the longer period of year.


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