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- 1. Describing Line Graphs (1)Look at the following simple line graph:It shows the population of Denmark from 1996 to 2007. You can see that in 1996 thepopulation was 5.25 million and that by the year 2007 it had grown to 5.45 million.When you write about a line chart it is important to look first at the Chart Title. This tellsyou what information the graph displays and you can use this information in yourdescription.Then look at the X and Y axes. The titles of these axes sometimes give you informationyou can use in your description. It is important also to look at the UNITS. On the Y-axisin this graph the units are millions. The population of Denmark in 1996 was not 5.25, but5.25 million people.Line graphs describe change. When describing these graphs you must answer thequestion, "What changed?". In this case we can see that the population of Denmarkincreased from 1996 to 2007.We can also ask the question, "How did the population change?". Because the line isfairly smooth, we can say that the population increased steadily.Lastly, we can ask the question, "How much?". In this case, "How big was the change inpopulation?" The population in 1996 was 5.25 million and in 2007 it was 2.45 million. Sothere was an increase of 0.2 million or 200,000 people.To write a short description of this graph ask yourself(and answer!) the following questions: 1. What exactly does the graph show? (Use the chart title to help you answer this question) 2. What are the axes and what are the units? 3. What changed? 4. How much did it change?Answering these questions will help you to write a short description of this simple graph.Here is an example:
- 2. This graph shows population change in Denmark from 1996 to 2007. Denmarkspopulation grew steadily from 5.25 million in 1996 to 5.45 million in 2007, an increase of200,000 people.VocabularyOther words you can use instead of increased or grew are rose and went up.Adverbs you can use with these words are: How? How much? by X% (by X per dramatically, significantly, considerably, rapidly, cent), by X (units),increased substantially, steadily, sharply, markedly, greatly, from X to Y, tenfold, slightly, exponentially, proportionally, strongly fourfold ... by X% (by X per rapidly, steadily, slowly, gradually, dramatically, grew cent), by X (units), substantially, enormously, quickly from X to Y sharply, slowly, steadily, slightly, rapidly, quickly, by X% (by X per rose dramatically, significantly, substantially, gently, cent), by X (units), fractionally, considerably, gradually from X to Y by X% (by X perwent up The above adverbs are not usually used with "went up". cent), by X (units), from X to YDescribing Line Graphs (2)Look at the following simple line graph:It shows the population of Hungary from 1996 to 2007. You can see that in 1996 thepopulation was more than 10.3 million and that by the year 2007 it had fallen to just over10.05 million.What change is shown by this graph? In this case we can see that the population ofHungary decreased from 1996 to 2007.
- 3. Also in this graph the line is fairly smooth, so we can say that the population decreasedsteadily.How big was the change in population? The population in 1996 was 10.32 million and in2007 it was 10.07 million. So there was a decrease of 0.25 million or 250,000 people.To write a short description of this graph ask yourself(and answer!) the following questions: 1. What exactly does the graph show? (Use the chart title to help you answer this question) 2. What are the axes and what are the units? 3. What changed? 4. How much did it change?Answering these questions will help you to write a short description of this simple graph.Here is an example:This graph shows population change in Hungary from 1996 to 2007. Hungaryspopulation fell steadily from 10.32 million in 1996 to 10.07 million in 2007, a decrease of250,000 people.VocabularyOther words you can use instead of fell or decreased are declined, dropped and wentdown .Adverbs you can use with these words are: How? How much? sharply, heavily, slightly, steadily, dramatically, significantly, considerably, quickly, rapidly, steeply, by X% (by X per cent), fell gradually, gently, substantially, precipitately, by X (units), from X to fractionally, drastically, marginally, markedly, Y, tenfold, fourfold ... progressively, continuously by X% (by X per cent), significantly, markedly, slightly, steadily, rapidly,decreased by X (units), from X to considerably, continuously, dramatically, Y, tenfold, fourfold ... sharply, rapidly, dramatically, steadily, slightly, by X% (by X per cent),declined markedly, significantly, considerably, steeply, by X (units), from X to drastically, continuously, substantially, quickly Y
- 4. dramatically, sharply, slightly, considerably, steadily, by X% (by X per cent), significantly, rapidly, drastically, alarmingly,dropped by X (units), from X to noticeably, markedly, radically, abruptly, Y substantially, gradually, gently, slowly by X% (by X per cent), went The above adverbs are not usually used with "went by X (units), from X to down down ". YDescribing Line Graphs (3) - Using AdverbsThe following graphs illustrate the use ofsome adverbs: • The population rose slowly. (small increase in the population over the period) • The population rose steadily. (little or no variation in the rate of growth) • The population rose slightly. (small increase in the population over the period) • The population rose gently. (small increase in the population over the period) • The population rose gradually. (small increase in the population over the period) • From 1996 to 1998, the population increased dramatically. • From 1996 to 1998, the population increased significantly. • From 1996 to 1998, the population increased considerably. • From 1996 to 1998, the population increased rapidly. • From 1996 to 1998, the population increased substantially. • From 1996 to 1998, the population increased markedly. • From 1996 to 1998, the population increased greatly. • After 1998, the population grew more slowly.
- 5. • From 1996 to 1998, the population grew from 9.9 million to 10.25 million. • From 1996 to 1998, the population grew by 0.35 million. • From 1996 to 1998, the population grew by 350,000. • From 1996 to 1998, the population grew by 3.535%. • From 1998 to 2007, the population grew from 10.25 million to 10.30 million. • From 1998 to 2007, the population grew by 0.05 million. • From 1998 to 2007, the population grew by 50,000. • From 1998 to 2007, the population grew by 0.488% • Overall, the population went up from 9.9 million to 10.3 million. • Overall, the population went up by 0.4 million. • Overall, the population went up by 400,000. • Overall, the population went up by 4.04%.Describing Line Graphs (4) - Using Verbs and NounsSo far, we have only used verbs todescribe these line graphs but we can alsouse nouns. We change the adverbs intoadjectives. • The population rose slowly. There was a slow rise in the population. • The population rose steadily. There was a steady rise in the population. • The population rose slightly. There was a slight rise in the population. • The population rose gently. There was a gentle rise in the population. • The population rose gradually. There was a gradual rise in the population. • From 1996 to 1998, the population increased dramatically. From 1996 to 1998 there was a dramatic increase in the population. • From 1996 to 1998, the population increased significantly. From 1996 to 1998 there was a significant increase in the population.
- 6. • From 1996 to 1998, the population increased considerably. From 1996 to 1998 there was a considerable increase in the population.• From 1996 to 1998, the population increased rapidly. From 1996 to 1998 there was a rapid increase in the population.• From 1996 to 1998, the population increased substantially. From 1996 to 1998 there was a substantial increase in the population.• From 1996 to 1998, the population increased markedly. From 1996 to 1998 there was a dramatic increase in the population.• From 1996 to 1998, the population increased greatly. From 1996 to 1998 there was a great increase in the population.• After 1998, the population grew more slowly. After 1998, the population growth was slower.• From 1996 to 1998, the population rose from 9.9 million to 10.25 million. From 1996 to 1998, there was a rise in population from 9.9 million to 10.25 million.• From 1996 to 1998, the population rose by 0.35 million. From 1996 to 1998, there was a rise in population of 0.35 million.• From 1996 to 1998, the population rose by 350,000. From 1996 to 1998, there was a rise in population of 350,000.• From 1996 to 1998, the population rose by 3.535%. From 1996 to 1998, there was a rise in population of 3.535 per cent.• From 1998 to 2007, the population grew from 10.25 million to 10.30 million. From 1998 to 2007, there was a growth in population from 10.25 million to 10.30 million.• From 1998 to 2007, the population grew by 0.05 million. From 1998 to 2007, there was a growth in population of 0.05 million.• From 1998 to 2007, the population grew by 50,000. From 1998 to 2007, there was a growth in population of 50,000.• From 1998 to 2007, the population grew by 0.488%. From 1998 to 2007, there was a growth in population of 0.488 per cent.• Overall, the population went up from 9.9 million to 10.3 million. Overall, there was a growth in population from 9.9 million to 10.3 million.• Overall, the population went up by 0.4 million. Overall, there was an increase in population of 0.4 million.• Overall, the population went up by 400,000. Overall, there was a rise in population of 400,000.• Overall, the population went up by 4.04%. Overall, there was a growth in population of 4.04 per cent .
- 7. Instead of "growth in population" you can also say "population growth".Describing Line Graphs (5) - Making ComparisonsThis graph shows the change in population in two countries from 1996 to 2007. Indescribing this graph it is important to describe change as in any other graph, but it is alsonecessary to make comparisons between the two countries.What changes are shown by this graph? In this case we can see that the population ofAustria increased from 1996 to 2007.Also in this graph the Austrian line is fairly smooth, so we can say that the populationincreased steadily.How big was the change in Austrias population? The population in 1996 was 7.95million and in 2007 it was 8.3 million. So there was an increase of 0.35 million or350,000 people.By contrast, the population of Bulgaria decreased from 1996 to 2007.This change did not happen at the same rate. The population declined steadily from 1996to 2001, but from 2001 to 2002 the rate of decline was steeper. From 2002 to 2007 thepopulation fell at a similar rate to the 1996 - 2001 period.How far did Bulgarias population fall? The population in 1996 was nearly 8 million andin 2007 it was 7.7 million. So there was an decrease of nearly 0.7 million or 700,000people.What similarities or differences are there between the populations of Austria andBulgaria? Austria BulgariaAustrias population grew from 1996 to Bulgarias population fell from 1996 to 2007.2007.Austrias population growth was fairly The rate of decline in Bulgarias populationsteady over the 1996 - 2007 period. varied over the 1996 - 2007 period.Austrias population increased by 350,000. Bulgarias population declined by 700,000
- 8. To write a short description of this graph ask yourself(and answer!) the following questions: 1. What exactly does the graph show? (Use the chart title to help you answer this question) 2. What are the axes and what are the units? 3. What changed? 4. How much did it change? 5. What comparisons can you make between the two data series?Answering these questions will help you to write a short description of this graph.Here is an example:This graph shows population change in Austria and Bulgaria from 1996 to 2007.Austrias population grew steadily from 7.95 million in 1996 to 8.3 million in 2007, aincrease of 350,000 people.By contrast, Bulgarias population fell over the same period. The population declinedsteadily from 1996 to 2001, but from 2001 to 2002 the rate of decline was steeper. From2002 to 2007 the population fell at a similar rate to the 1996 - 2001 period.While Austrias population grew by 350,000, Bulgarias fell by twice that number,700,000, a decline of nearly 10%.Describing Bar Charts and Column Charts (1)Bar charts and column charts are similar:only their orientations differ. A bar chartis orientated horizontally, whereas acolumn chart is arranged vertically.Sometimes "bar chart" refers to bothforms.These types of charts are usually used for comparison purposes (unlike line charts, whichdescribe change).Observe the following chart :
- 9. It shows the populations of various European countries in the year 2007. The populationsare only for one year, 2007, and so we cannot make any comments about change inpopulation: we can only compare one county with another.When you write about a bar or column chart it is important to look first at the Chart Title.This tells you what information the chart displays and you can use this information inyour description.Then look at the X and Y axes. The titles of these axes sometimes give you informationyou can use in your description. It is important also to look at the UNITS. On the Y-axisin this chart the units are millions. The population of Belgium in 2007 was not 10, but 10million people.Bar and column charts show similarities and differences. When describing these chartsyou need to make comparisons.You also need to group together any columns which have broad similarities.To write a short description of this graph ask yourself(and answer!) the following questions: 1. What exactly does the chart show? (Use the chart title to help you answer this question) 2. What are the axes and what are the units? 3. What similarities are there? 4. Is it possible to put some of the columns into one or more groups? 5. What differences are there?Answering these questions will help you to write a short description of this simplecolumn chart.Here is an example:This chart shows the populations of some European countries in 2007. The country withthe largest population is Germany, with over 80 million people whereas Estonia has thesmallest population, at little more than a million. Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic,Denmark, Estonia and Ireland all have populations or ten million or less, while Greecehas a population of about eleven million. Apart from Germany, the largest countries areSpain, France and Italy with populations ranging from about forty-four to sixty-threemillion. Together, the four largest countries account for over eighty per cent of thepopulation of the countries shown.
- 10. VocabularyTo make comparisons, you need to know the comparatives and superlatives ofcommon adjectives. Here are some examples: Adjective Comparative Superlative bad worse worst big bigger biggest expensive more expensive most expensive good better best great greater greatest high higher highest large larger largest little less least long longer longest low lower lowest many more most much more most new newer newest old older oldest poor poorer poorest rich richer richest short shorter shortest small small smallest strong stronger strongest weak weaker weakestTo signal comparison and contrast within a sentence you can use the followingconjunctions:as ....... as, not as ......... as, not so ........ as, whereas, but, while, althoughTo signal comparison and contrast between sentences you can use the followingwords and phrases:However, By contrast, On the other hand, In comparison
- 11. Describing Bar Charts and Column Charts (2)Bar charts and column charts are oftenused to make multiple comparisons.Observe the following chart :It shows the populations of major European countries in the years 1996 and 2007. In thiscase we can make two sets of comparisons. We can look at the change in population from1996 to 2007 for each country, and we can compare the populations of the variouscountries in each year.Look at the Y axis. You can see that it starts at 30, not zero. Sometimes charts areformatted like this in order to make the differences more obvious. To see a comparison,see the next page.In general, when describing a chart of this type, you should describe the most importantchange first. Then you can compare individual items (in this case, countries).The most important information on this chart is that in all countries, except Poland, thepopulation increased from 1996 to 2007.
- 12. Now you can compare individual countries and you can compare two things: You cancompare sizes of populations and you can compare the change in populations from 1996to 2007. Well concentrate on the change in population.You can compare the largest change and the smallest change: The largest change was inTurkey, where the population rose from about 62 to about 73 million, whereas thesmallest increase was in Germany where the population of nearly 82 million rose by halfa million. Spain also had a fairly large increase from 39.4 million to 44.5 million.It is important to mention any exceptions to the changes you describe. In this case, theexception is Poland where the population fell very slightly in the period described.To write a short description of this graph ask yourself(and answer!) the following questions: 1. What exactly does the chart show? (Use the chart title to help you answer this question) 2. What are the axes and what are the units? 3. What changes are there? 4. What similarities are there? 5. Is it possible to put some of the columns into one or more groups? 6. What exceptions are there?Answering these questions will help you to write a short description of this simplecolumn chart. For example:This chart shows the populations of major European countries in 1996 and 2007. In allcountries except Poland the population rose in this period. The largest rise was in Turkeywhere the population increased from over 62 to over 73 million, whereas the smallestincrease was in Germany where the population of 82 million rose by a few thousand.Spain also had a fairly large increase from 39.4 million to 44.5 million, and France wasnot far behind with an increase of almost 4 million. In the other two countries, Italy andthe United Kingdom, population growth was more modest with increases of about 2.3and 2.8 million respectively. In Poland, the population fell by half a million. Poland hadthe smallest population in both 1996 and 2007. Although Spain and Portugal hadcomparable populations in 1996, Spains population is now nearly six and a half milliongreater than Polands.
- 13. VocabularyYou can see that where there is a change over time, you need to use some of thevocabulary used to describe line graphs (rose, increased, decreased, etc).For comparing and contrasting, you need the vocabulary of comparisonDescribing Bar Charts and Column Charts (3)It is important to look at the axes ofgraphs and chartsObserve the following charts:
- 14. These two charts show EXACTLY the same information. However, it is easier to see thedifferences in the first chart because the Y axis starts at 30, not zero. Sometimes chartsare formatted like this in order to make the differences more obvious.Describing Pie Charts (1)Pie Charts normally illustrate proportion
- 15. Pie Charts normally show proportion, which can be measured in percentages or fractions.This chart shows the relative size of populations of countries of the European Union in2007. So we can only make comparisons; we cannot say anything about change.We can see that the country with the largest population was Germany with 16.6% of theEuropean Unions population. We can also see that the second largest population was thatof France with 12.8% of the population.We do NOT know from this chart which country has the smallest population because the21 smallest countries are included in one group. (If youre interested, it is Malta with lessthan 0.1 per cent.)You can see that the four largest countries (Germany, France, the United Kingdom andItaly) together make up more than half of the European Unions population.You CANNOT say that Poland has the smallest population: 21 other countries havepopulations smaller than Polands.The twenty-one smallest countries of the European Union make up nearly 30% of thepopulation.
- 16. Describing Pie Charts (2) - Making ComparisonsIf two or more similar pie charts aredisplayed, you can make comparisonsThis chart shows the relative size of populations of countries of the European Union inboth 1998 and 2007. In this case we can make two sets of comparisons: 1. We can make comparisons between the countries in each year. 2. We can make comparisons between the two years (i.e. examine any changes from 1998 to 2007).In this case, well look at comparisons between the two years.The first thing to notice is that there is very little change: all changes amount to less than1%.The second change to notice is which countries populations grew (as a proportion of thewhole) and which countries populations shrank.
- 17. You can see that both Germanys and Polands populations share of the European UnionsPopulation fell from 1998 to 2007 ( from 17.1% to 16.6 % and from 8% to 7.7%,respectively).The percentage populations of the other major countries of the European Union grew inthis period. The largest growth in population share was that of Spain which increased itsshare from 8.3% to 9%. Both the UKs and Italys share of the EU population grew byonly 0.1%.In spite of the change in Germanys population share, it remained the largest populationof the European Union.Note that you CANNOT say that Germanys population fell or that Frances populationgrew. These charts only show population share, not population numbers.The following table shows actual population numbers:As you can see, in all these countries except Poland, the populations increased between1998 and 2007.Describing TablesThis table shows the percentage of women in tertiaryeducation in selected countries from 1998 to 2005 :
- 18. Observing trends in a table is not as easy as it is when you examine a graph, so you needto look carefully. The most striking thing to notice is that in all countries except Japanwomen made up significantly more than half of the student population in tertiaryeducation.In general, the trend was for an increasing percentage of women in tertiary education.The only exception to this was Bulgaria where the trend is in reverse: in 1998, 60.9% ofthe tertiary student population was made up of women, whereas by 2005 this figure hadfallen to 52.1%.The country with the highest percentage of women in tertiary education was Iceland andthis was also the country with the largest increase, rising from from 60% to 64.9%.The largest percentage change was that of Bulgaria, from 60.9% to 52.1%, a 14.4% drop.The lowest rise was in Finland, where, although the percentage fluctuated over the periodin question, the percentage rose from 53.5 to 53.6.Using ApproximationGraphs, charts and tables often give a large number ofquite precise figures (1.54379, 53.25%, 100,001, etc.).You dont always need to give the same level ofprecision when you write your description. However, itis important to indicate that the figures you are givingare not exact. You can do this by using words such asapproximately, about, just over, just under, etc.
- 19. If you want to indicate an approximatefigure you can use: about, roughly, approximately, around Figure Approximation 100,005 about one hundred thousand 60.04% roughly sixty per cent 40.5°C approximately 40 degrees Celsius £502.02 around five hundred poundsTo indicate that a figure is less than yourapproximation you can use: under, less than, below, almost Qualifying Adverb Figure Approximation Adverb just under a hundred thousand just, a little, under 99,998 a little under a hundred thousand slightly, slightly under a hundred thousandslightly, a little, less than 58.4 seconds slightly less than a minute just, a bit, a little less than a minute
- 20. just less than a minute a bit less than a minute below 9.7% just below ten per cent just, slightly, slightly below ten per cent marginally marginally below ten per cent ——— almost €14.9bn almost 15 billion EurosTo indicate that a figure is more thanyour approximation you can use: over, more than, above Qualifying Adverb Figure Approximation Adverb just over one hundred thousand a little over one hundred thousand just, a little, over 100,008slightly, not much, slightly over on hundred thousand not much over one hundred thousand a little more than twenty-four hours a bit more than twenty-four hours a little, a bit, 24 hours 6 more than slightly, barely minutes slightly more than twenty-four hours barely more than twenty-four hours
- 21. just above thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit a little over thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit just, a little, above 32.1°Fbarely, marginally barely thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit marginally above thirty-two degrees FahrenheitOther words your can use to indicateapproximation are: nearly, close to, approaching Adverb Figure Approximation nearly 99,998 nearly one hundred thousand close to 9.8% close to ten per cent approaching €14.7bn approaching fifteen billion EurosTo indicate precision you can use: precisely, exactly
- 22. Adverb Figure Approximation precisely thirty-two point one precisely 32.1°F degrees Fahrenheit exactly two point five exactly 2.5 cm centimetresDescribing TrendsA trend is a general direction or tendency.It is important to identify trends whenyou write a description of graphicalinformation.On a simple chart like this it is easy to see that the trendwas upwards (there was an upwards trend):
- 23. Similarly it is easy to see that the trend in the followinggraph was downwards (there was a downwards trend):Sometimes the trend is less obvious and you have toread the graph carefully
- 24. In this case you can see that wood production in Italy from 1994 to 2005 went up anddown (fluctuated). But overall production declined, from nearly 9.5 thousand cubicmetres in 1995 to just over eight thousand cubic metres in 2005. The trend is downwards.Production declined over this period. A program like Microsoft Excel can provide atrendline to show the data series trend:When describing a graph of this type you should state what the overall trend is (upwards,downward or unchanging), and mention the initial and final figures. You should alsomention the lowest and highest points reached. For example, wood production in Italyreached a peak of over eleven thousand cubic metres in 1999. The lowest amount ofwood produced in one year was seven and a half thousand cubic metres in 2002.ProjectionsNot all graphs give information about thepast: some give estimated figures offuture data. For example:
- 25. This graph shows the population of the United Kingdom from the year 2005 to the year2050 measured at five year intervals. But the only figure which we can be sure about isthe one for 2005 (59.9 million). All the other figures are in the future and they areestimates (what we, or the population statisticians, think the population will be). Theseestimates are called projections. So we can say that the UK population is projected torise to just under 65 million in 2035. In 2040 it is estimated to remain at just under 65million, after which it is projected to decline.You can see that it is important to look at the axes in order to decide whether the data inthe graph is a projection or not.Sometimes projected data is indicated by a dotted ordashed line, as in the following example:
- 26. Here we can see that the population of Denmark is projected to rise to 5.5 million in2010, after which it is projected to remain stable.Checklist for Writing about Charts, Graphs and TablesASK YOURSELF (AND ANSWER!) THEFOLLOWING QUESTIONS:1. What exactly does the chart/graph/table show?Use the title, and possibly the axes, to answer this question.For example:This graph shows the price of computer memory from 1990 to 2007.This graph illustrates the price of computer memory from 1990 to 2007.These graphs illustrate the price of computer memory from 1990 to 2007.2. What are the axes and what are the units (for graphsand charts)?
- 27. You dont have to include this information in your description but asking yourself thequestion helps you to avoid errors.For example:This X axis shows time in years and the Y axis show price per kilobyte of memory indollars.3. Are there any obvious trends?If there is an obvious trend, it is important to mention this.For example:You can see from this graph that the price of computer memory fell steadily over theperiod in question.4. Is there any significant information?Look for obvious differences such as the largest, the smallest .For example:Sweden had the largest proportion of people using the Internet in 1999.5. Are there any obvious exceptions to general trends?You wont normally see a graph with a straight line; most will fluctuate in some way oranother. Once you have identified a trend, point out the exceptions.For example:Although the number of cinema goers increased from 1990 to 1998, there were slight fallsin 1992 and 1995.
- 28. 6. What conclusions can you draw from the informationpresented in the graphs / tables / charts?Be careful not to draw conclusions which are not supported by the information in thegraphs / charts / tables.For example:It is clear from the information presented in these charts that Internet use is increasingworldwide and will probably continue to do so as the price of Internet access falls.Other language you could use:The data suggest / show that ...The most significant fact is that ...In spite of this increase / decrease, .....This could well be due to ...This is supported by the fact that ...An important point to note is that ...It is quite clear form this data that ...The chart indicates that ...

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