The Diagrams Below Show the Life Cycle of a Species of Large Fish Called the Salmon

Lilie King
Written by Lilie

Scored a 7 twice in the writing test

October 20, 2021

The diagrams below show the life cycle of a species of large fish called the salmon.

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

This essay question is from Cambridge IELTS 10 Test 4 Writing Task 1.

the diagrams below show the life cycle of a species of large fish called the salmon

Video Course

Sample Essay

The diagrams display the life cycle of the salmon, which is a large fish species.

Overall, salmon have an average lifespan of nine years and their life cycle consists of four main stages: egg, fry, smolt, and adult. While the first three stages occur in freshwater, the last one takes place in saline water. (The red part is correct. You can understand it this way: the egg stage, the fry stage, the smolt stage and the adult stage.)

ielts essay bank vip membership logo

Learn How To Write a 7+ Report By

  • Selecting Data Smartly
  • Reporting Features Accurately

The life cycle begins when salmon eggs are laid among small stones at the base of reeds in the upper part of a river, where the current is slow. After approximately 5 to 6 months, fry which measure 3 to 8 centimeters long can be seen in the water. The fry then swim to the lower, faster-flowing part of the river. After growing and feeding there for about 4 years, they reach 12 to 15 centimeters and are considered smolts.

They then head to the ocean where they grow/mature into adult salmon which average 70 to 76 centimeters long. They spend around 5 years there, after which they migrate upstream to their birthplace to spawn, and the entire journey is repeated all over again. (179 Words)

Verbs for Describing a Life Cycle

  • Develop: The smolts develop into adult salmon.
  • Grow: The smolts grow into adult salmon.
  • Mature: The smolts mature into adult salmon.
  • Turn: The smolts turn into adult salmon.
  • Transform: The smolts transform into adult salmon.
  • Consider: After growing in the lower river for about 4 years, the fry reach 12-15 centimeters long and are considered smolts.

Does the Life Cycle Have 3 or 4 Stages?

The numbers in the diagrams are not stages. They are there to refer you to the matching numbered items in the legend. (A legend is a table on a map or chart, listing and explaining the symbols used.) The life cycle has four main stages: egg, fry, smolt, and adult.

Common Mistake

The plural form of “salmon” is also “salmon”, not “salmons”.

The salmon has an average lifespan of nine years. (Here, “the salmon” refers to the species and therefore is singular.)
Salmon have an average lifespan of nine years. (Here, “salmon” refers to the fish themselves and therefore is plural.)

When meaning small fish, “fry” is both singular and plural.

✅ After the eggs hatch, the baby salmon hide among the stones for approximately 5 to 6 months to mature into fry that measure 3 to 8 centimeters long.
❎ After the eggs hatch, the baby salmon hide among the stones for approximately 5 to 6 months to mature into fries that measure 3 to 8 centimeters long.


The diagrams are very misleading. For example, it looks like only after salmon leave the oceans do they become adults. However, in fact, it is in the oceans where they grow into adults. I suggest you read some articles online to get an idea of when salmon grow into fry, smolts and adults.

24 CommentsLeave A Comment

  1. Hello Lilie!

    I do not mean to be picky, but a small part of your essay could in some ways be considered as having some errors. You write that “overall, salmon has an average lifespan of nine years. This would be true if the salmon died after the spawning. However there is no such information in the question. In contrast, most of the Atlantic Salmon survives the spawning and goes back into the sea. In fact, they can spawn multiple times. However, the North American/pacific species of salmon die after the spawning.

  2. The diagram depicts the life cycle of a type of fish known as salmon
    Initially we can see that salmon eggs layed in the upper river which has a slow flow that facilitates baby fish, the eggs are takem care by the small pables and reeds where the egg hatches in half a year
    The new born fish known as fry are about 5cm long approach the lower river which has faster flow compared to upper river where the fry grows for 4 years till they turn to its second stage that is smolt
    Smolt can grow as long as 15 cm after they grow this much they approach to the open sea where they can grow about 75 cm long into a adult salmon it takes 5 years to grow from smolt to an adult salmon
    In the end of this cycle the adult salmon again reaches the upper river for mating and laying eggs

  3. What do you think about the text below? what band score can I expect?
    The diagram illustrates the lifespan of the salmon which is categorized in a group of large fish.
    According to the diagram, it’s obvious that there are four different stages: eggs, fry, smolt and adult in this life cycle. Each of these steps has its own conditions. Overall, the salmon lifespan takes an average of nine years.
    The salmon’s life cycle begins as eggs that are hidden among small stones and high reeds in the bottom of a slow-moving river for approximately five or six months, when the eggs turn into fry. After that, small fry that measure between three or eight centimeters in length swim to live in fast-flowing rivers for around four years to become smolt, which are between 12 and 18 centimeters long. Next, these smolt spend approximately five years in the open sea to grow and become adult salmon that are between 70 and 76 centimeters long. Then these adult salmon begin swimming back to their birth place, where they will lay their eggs and the cycle starts again

  4. I’d never heard of smolt before, and the legend at the bottom of the diagram led me to think the plural is smolt. Three little fish, labelled ‘smolt’!

  5. should I use the plural form of salmon in whole writing? or can I do just samlon and write like ‘its’ size is

    1. To use ‘its size’, you need ‘the salmon’, which refers to the species and therefore is singular.

  6. Why did you say the fry then swim? Isn’t “fry” considered singular after the article “the” so the verb should be swims?

    1. Hi Shereen, the plural form of ‘fry’ is also fry. The definite article is used to refer to the fry mentioned in the previous sentence.

    1. Sorry, I didn’t see your comment until now. Either way works but I prefer to write it after the introductory paragraph.

    2. I think we should write the overview after the introduction in case you run short of time your writing still has all the necessary parts, but just misses some details in the body paragraphs, which won’t make you lose as many scores as when you lack the overview.

  7. What band score can I expect from this?

    The given pictures illustrate the life cycle of salmon, a species of large fish.

    Overall, salmons have a lifespan of roughly 9-10 years and their entire life cycle can be divided into four stages: egg, fry, smolt and adult. While the first three stages occur in freshwater the final happens in sea.

    At first, adult salmon lays eggs on reeds and small stones in rivers with slow water currents. The eggs remain there for approximately 5-6 months before younglings, also known as “fries” can be seen. They are just about 3-5 cm long and travel to lower, fast flowing river where they stay for about 4 years. After these four years, they grow from 12 to 15 cm and are called smolts.

    During this third stage, they go to open sea where they live for another 5 years or so, which is when they become adults of about 70-76 cm. During breeding season, these adult salmons travel back upstream to lay eggs and thus, the cycle repeats.

      1. Hey Godwin, thanks for your comment. In my opinion, those numbers are not stages. They are keys to the legend below the diagrams. (A legend is a table on a chart, listing and explaining the symbols used.)

  8. Can I write just
    “The diagrams give information about the salmon life cycle.”
    in the introduction? Is it enough?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *