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Describing A Graph
The writing skills needed to interpret a diagram, graph or table are:
Organise, present and possibly compare data
e.g. money people spend on different forms of entertainment.
Describe stages of a procedure or process
e.g. the stages of human evolution
Describe on object or event or series of events
e.g. How the water cycle works
Explain how something works
e.g. How a car engine works
You must respond appropriately in terms of:
Register - formality and politeness;
e.g. no short forms (dont, cant)
Organisation - clear and logical
Style - academic;
e.g. no rhetorical questions, no exclamations, no extreme
opinions, use tentative expressions such as "this appears to be"
or "this is probably due to'
Content - relevant and complete
Bear in mind these points:
Task Fulfillment answer the question completely
Coherence use sequencing words e.g. Firstly, Secondly, Finally
Cohesion using anaphoric reference e.g. "this", "it", "he", "and",
"but" and synonyms
Vocabulary use a wide range, appropriate and academic

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Sentence Structure be concise but not simplistic e.g. correct
use of relative clauses.
Vocabulary to describe graphs & bar charts
1. Vocabulary to describe rise
Verb

Noun

to rise (rose-risen)

a rise

to increase

an increase

to go up (went-gone)
2. Vocabulary to describe fall
Verb

Noun

to fall (fell-fallen)

a fall

to decrease

a decrease

to go down (went-gone)
to drop

a drop

to decline

a decline

3. Vocabulary to describe rise/fall and no change


Verb

Noun

Meaning

to fluctuate

a fluctuation

go up and down

to vary

variation

go up and down

to hold steady

no change

to remain stable

no change

Sentence Structures
Using verbs:

Using nouns:
There was a rise in

Unemployment rose.

unemployment.

Inflation fell.

There was a fall in


inflation.

The exchange rate


fluctuated

There was a fluctuation in


the exchange rate.
Don't forget the
preposition "in"!

Try to use the sentence structure with "there is/was" etc - it


has more words and will help you reach the word limit!
Adjectives & Adverbs
You can use the nouns and verbs above in many ways by adding
adjectives and adverbs to describe them more accurately. Use an
adjective with a noun and an adverb with a verb.
Adjective

Adverb

Meaning

dramatic

dramatically

quick and sudden

sharp

sharply

quick and sudden

gradual

gradually

slow and steady

steady

steadily

slight

slightly

small change

marginal

marginally

small change - not


important

significant

significantly

important change

Examples:
1. Unemployment rose dramatically = verb + adverb structure.
2. There was a dramatic rise in unemployment = adjective + noun
structure.

Practise your Task One Vocabulary


Now make your own sentences to practise Task One language. Use the
typical Task One subjects below:
o unemployment
o sales
o inflation
o the exchange rate
o prices
o the number of + countable noun
o the amount of + uncountable noun
EXAMPLE: There was a dramatic rise in the number of students
taking IELTS last year.

Vocabulary to describe pie charts


1.Vocabulary to describe

Exam tips

5
amounts
10%

a tenth

20%

a fifth

25%

a quarter

33%

a third

50%

half

75%

three quarters

95%

the vast
majority/almost
all

You need to learn different ways


to express amounts. If you
cannot express information in a
variety of ways, your writing will
become repetitive (the same
words repeated too often). This
is bad style in English and will
lower your IELTS mark. You
should try to use a few different
styles and not simply copy the
expressions in the question.
Notice that you need "a" with
fractions except with "half",
"three quarters", "two thirds"....

100%

all

The amounts are not usually as clear as this. Have a look at how
to express other percentages:
22%
31%

slightly more than These expressions are also a lot


a fifth
more words, which brings you
slightly less than a closer to your word target.
third

60%

more than half

2. Practice Exercise
The pie chart shows the contents of the average British dustbin.
Work through the gap-fill exercise below it to practise Task One
language.

The pie chart reveals what the average Briton throws away. From
the information shown, we can see that
....................................of the rubbish is paper waste, while
plastic accounts for .......................... Food waste is the next
biggest category, accounting for ................................... Glass
makes up ............of the contents of the average British dustbin,
and metal and cloth make up the remaining percentage - 7% and
5% respectively.
Check your answers
The pie chart reveals what the average Briton throws away. From the
information shown, we can see that exactly a third of the rubbish is
paper waste, while plastic accounts for slightly more than a quarter.
Food waste is the next biggest category, accounting for slightly less
than a fifth. Glass makes up a tenth of the contents of the average
British dustbin, and metal and cloth make up the remaining
percentage - 7% and 5% respectively.

Describing tables

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When describing tables, you can often use a
lot of the same language you studied for
graphs. Tables can sometimes be confusing
because you can read them from left to right
or top to bottom. It is a good idea to put a
circle around the facts you want to describe
at the beginning when you are planning and
make a few notes about the most important
numbers.

Exam tips
A useful first sentence
for many Task 1
questions is: "The pie
chart (or graph or table
etc.)
shows/illustrates...."

Practise Exercise One


The table below shows which courses students chose to study at a
language school in London. The information in the table covers
the years 1997, 1998 and 1999. Look at the table and choose the
facts that you think will be interesting to describe:
Year

Total
Students

General
English

Exam
Courses

Holiday
Courses

Study+Work
Courses

1997

400

150

60

150

40

1998

500

150

80

200

70

1999

350

140

80

50

80

Answer these questions to help you think


It is very important to
about the table:
keep your answer as
When did the school have the greatest
organised as possible. It
number of students?
is often a good idea to
Which was the most popular course and in spend two or three
what year?
minutes planning the
Which course has the greatest fluctuation order of your answer to
in student numbers?
make sure it is wellWhich courses are increasing in popularity? organised.
Which course has the steadiest student

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Make sure you
describe the facts
correctly in Task 1
questions. If you
describe the facts
inaccurately, you will
lose marks. Do not write
your opinion - just
describe the
information.

Check your answers

Practise Exercise Two


Read the description of the table below. Some of the facts are not
described correctly. Find the mistakes and correct them. Make a note
of your answers and then check them.
Year

Total
Students

General
English

Exam
Courses

Holiday
Courses

Study+Work
Courses

1997

400

150

60

150

40

1998

500

150

80

200

70

1999

350

140

80

50

80

The table shows which courses students chose at a London language


school in the years 1996, 1997 and 1998.
It can be seen that 1998 was a good year for the school, with the
highest total number of students (450). However, the following year
student numbers fell to below their 1997 level.
The number of students enrolling on General English Courses
remained steady over the period shown on the graph, but the
popularity of Exam Courses fluctuated dramatically, peaking at 200
students in 1998, but dropping to 80 students in 1999. Interestingly,
these courses were the most popular in 1998, but the least popular
the following year.
Exam Courses were the least popular option in 1997, but they became
more popular, with 60 and 80 students enrolling in 1998 and 1999

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respectively. Study+Work Courses increased in popularity over the
period: the table shows that the number of students enrolling on these
courses doubled.
Check your answers
Practise your Task One Vocabulary
Now practise describing tables by answering this IELTS Task One type
question. (By the way, the figures are not true - it's just an example).
When you have finished, you can compare your answer with our model
essay.
The table below shows information about the average length of stay
and spend of overseas visitors to Australia. Describe the table. You
should write about 150 words.
1994

1995

1996

Length of stay
(days)

9.2

10

Spend per visit


(A$)

487

499

630

Spend per day


(A$)

50.5

49.9

70

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Now you need to practise this vocabulary yourself to help you
remember it. You should use the sentence structures in the gapfill exercise to help you too. If you don't want to practise now, go
back to the top and come back later.
Answers
When did the school have the greatest number of students? 1998
Which was the most popular course and in what year? Holiday
Courses in 1998

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Which course has the greatest fluctuation in student numbers?
Holiday Courses
Which courses are increasing in popularity? Exam Courses &
Study+Work Courses
Which course has the steadiest student numbers? General English

Answers
The correct answers are in red.
The table shows which courses students chose at a London language
school in the years 1997, 1998 and 1999.
It can be seen that 1998 was a good year for the school, with the
highest total number of students (500). However, the following year
student numbers fell to below their 1997 level.
The number of students enrolling on General English Courses
remained steady over the period shown on the graph, but the
popularity of Holiday Courses fluctuated dramatically, peaking at 200
students in 1998, but dropping to 50 students in 1999. Interestingly,
these courses were the most popular in 1998, but the least popular
the following year.
Study+Work Courses were the least popular option in 1997, but they
became more popular, with 70 and 80 students enrolling in 1998 and
1999 respectively. Study+Work Courses increased in popularity over
the period: the table shows that the number of students enrolling on
these courses doubled.

The graph below shows the different modes of commuter


transport used in London in 1960, 1980 and 2000.
Commuter Transport in London

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Write a report for a university lecturer describing the information


shown. You should write at least 150 words.
Preparation for Task 1
Practise with a partner:
Identify the main trends for each mode.
Identify any large increases or decreases.
Are there any clear and consistent directions?
Does anything seem particularly significant?
Are there any clear relationships between modes or percentages?
Model answer for Task 1
Model answer
The graph shows the changing patterns in commuting by train, car,
tube or bus for commuters in London in the years 1960, 1980 and
2000.
The number of people using trains at first rose from just under 20% in
1960 to about 26% in 1980, but then fell back to about 23% in 2000.

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Use of the tube has been relatively stable, falling from around 27% of
commuters in 1960 to 22% in 1980, but climbing back to reach 25%
by 2000.
On the other hand, the use of cars increased steadily from just over
5% in 1960 to 23% in 1980, reaching almost 40% by 2000, whereas
the popularity of buses has declined since 1960, falling from just
under 35% in 1960 to 27% in 1980 and only 15% in 2000.
The graph indicates the growing use of cars for commuting to work
between 1960 - 2000, and the corresponding decline in the popularity
of buses from being the most popular mode of transport in 1960 to the
least popular in 2000.
The text above given in the model answer consists of 174 words in
5 paragraphs which describe the data in the chart. These 5
paragraphs can be further analysed as comprising:
Introduction
Figures on the use of trains
Figures on the use of the tube
Figures on the use of cars and buses
Conclusion
Task 1: Introduction
The introductory paragraph states the main purpose of the chart,
written in paraphrase using the writer's own words.
Introduction: paragraph 1

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The graph shows the the changing patterns in travelling to work by


train, car, tube or bus for commuters in London in the years 1960,
1980 and 2000.
Task 1: Trains
The second paragraph describes the data for the use of trains
given in the chart, written in the writer's own words.
Trains: paragraph 2

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The number of people using trains at first rose from just under 20% in
1960 to about 26% in 1980, but then fell back to about 23% in 2000.
Task 1: the Tube
The third paragraph describes the data for the use of the tube
given in the chart, written in the writer's own words.
The Tube: paragraph 3

Use of the tube has been relatively stable, falling from around 27% of
commuters in 1960 to 22% in 1980, but climbing back to reach 25%
by 2000.
Task 1: Cars and buses
The fourth paragraph describes the data for the use of cars and
buses given in the chart, written in the writer's own words.
Cars and buses: paragraph 4

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On the other hand, the use of cars increased steadily from just over
5% in 1960 to 23% in 1980, reaching almost 40% by 2000, whereas
the popularity of buses has declined since 1960, falling from just
under 35% in 1960 to 27% in 1980 and only 15% in 2000.
Task 1: Conclusion
The concluding paragraph summarises the main findings of the
chart, written in the writer's own words.
Conclusion: paragraph 5

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The graph indicates the growing use of cars for commuting to work
between 1960 - 2000, and the corresponding decline in the popularity
of buses from being the most popular mode of transport in 1960 to the
least popular in 2000.
The main writing skills performed in Task 1 are:
Describing numerical data
Identifying differences and similarities
Comparing and contrasting
Identifying and describing trends