Diagram Labelling Tips and Strategy- IELTS Reading

Many candidates dread getting a diagram labelling question in their IELTS Reading Test because they fear that they won’t understand the diagram, especially if it’s on a technical subject.

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

  • Explanation of this question type
  • Common Problems
  • Skills needed
  • Key tips
  • The strategy

Explanation of this question type


  • You will be given a diagram or a plan.
  • You are required to label specific parts with words from the text or a word list.

The diagram will be one of the following:

  • A design or plan
  • A technical drawing, e.g. the machine or invention
  • A diagram of something in the natural world

If you are required to select words from the text for the answers, you’ll be told how many words you’re allowed to use for each label. For example, ONE WORD or NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS. Hyphenated words such as ‘mother-in-law’ count as one word.

If you use the wrong number of words, your answer will be marked incorrect even if the information you give is correct.

Here’s an example of a set of instructions taken from a past test paper. We’ll be working on this diagram labelling task later.

Labelling Diagram


This particular question includes a list of words with which to label the diagram. The information needed to label it correctly will be in the text, although it may be concealed in synonyms and paraphrasing.

Common Problems of Labelling Diagram 


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.


Skills needed

This type of question tests your ability to:

  • Interpret a diagram
  • Scan for specific information
  • Identify synonyms & paraphrasing
  • Read in detail for meaning.


Tips for Diagram Labelling


  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.


The Strategy


I’ll show you how to apply this strategy in the example below but first, you need to understand it.

  1. Read the instructions carefully. First, find out whether you have to label the diagram with words from the text or from a word list. If the words come from the text, note how many words you’re required to write, e.g. ONE WORD or NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS.
  2. Briefly look at the diagram and try to get a general understanding of what it’s showing. There will be clues in headings, figures and any labels already added.
  3. Scan the text for keywords. This will identify where the answers are located.
  4. Read the relevant section of text in detail to find each answer.
  5. Fill in the answer sheet and check your spelling.



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