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IELTS Writing Task 1
Charts
In part 1 of the writing exam, it is likely that you will have to answer a question on charts. This
lesson will help you to effectively answer IELTS writing task 1 chart questions.
This lesson will cover:
1. Common Problems
2. Different Kinds of Chart Question
3. What IELTS Examiners Expect
4. Structure
5. Identifying Main Features
6. Sample Answer
We will also look at grammar and vocabulary used in IELTS writing task 1, but this is in a separate
handout.
• Not knowing which information to include in your answer.
• Being unaware of what the examiner expects.
• Including opinion and drawing conclusions.
• Not using an appropriate structure.
• Not using appropriate grammar for describing data, trends
and making comparisons.
• Not using a wide variety of appropriate vocabulary.
• Failing to write an effective overview.
• Copying words and phrases from the question.
• Failing to support descriptions, trends and comparisons
with accurate data.
• Writing one long paragraph.
Different Kinds of Chart Question
All of these charts do one principal thing- represent numbers. Your task is to describe these
numbers.
There are four different types of chart you may have to describe. They are:
1. Line Chart (sometimes called a line graph)
2. Bar Chart
3. Pie Chart
4. Proportional Bar Chart
Can you identify them in the picture below?
• IELTS task 1 does have other kinds of questions,
including maps, process diagrams and comparing
two different charts. These require a different
approach and I will write about these in the
future.
• You also need to ask yourself if it is
a static or dynamic chart. A static chart shows
data from one time period. A dynamic chart
shows change over time. These will obviously
require different tenses.
What IELTS Examiners Expect
The key to the speaking and writing tests is to know exactly what the examiners want and give it to
them.
On the IELTS writing test you will be assessed on four things:
A. Task Achievement
B. Coherence and Cohesion
C. Lexical Resource
D. Grammatical Range and Accuracy
Task Achievement
This requires the students to accurately reflect the relevant information in the graph. If you gave
your answer to a stranger, would they be able to accurately reproduce the graph? If they could,
then you have fulfilled this task.
Coherence and Cohesion
This part of the marking criteria judges students' ability to produce an answer that is clear, fluent
and easy to understand. Structure, appropriate vocabulary and good grammar help to boost your
score here. Good paragraphing and appropriate use of cohesive devices can also be used to gain
a higher score.
Lexical Resource
This section is all about vocabulary and is often the most misunderstood. It is NOT about inserting
as many long words as you can think of. It is about choosing relevant, appropriate and accurate
words. You will help your score here by using a variety of vocabulary and not simply copying the
words in the question.
Grammatical Range and Accuracy
Obviously, you have to produce grammatically accurate sentences to do well in this section, but it
is also about using the appropriate structures. You are expected to use different structures for
describing numbers, trends and making comparisons. The most common grammar mistake
students make in IELTS task 1 is not using articles and plurals properly. If at least 50% of your
sentences are not grammatically correct it is hard to score over a band 7.
Structure
The structure I advise all my students to write is a very simple four paragraph structure. You can
use a different structure if you like, but this one has been proven to be successful and approved by
IELTS examiners.
Paragraph 1 (Introduction)
Sentence 1- Paraphrase Question
Paragraph 2 (Overview)
Sentence 1- Overview of first main feature
Sentence 2- Overview of second main feature
Sentence 3- Make comparison, if appropriate
Paragraph 3 (Details of significant feature 1)
Sentence 1- Supporting details
Sentence 2- Supporting details
Sentence 3- Supporting details/comparison details, if appropriate
Paragraph 4 (Details of significant feature 2)
Sentence 1- Supporting details
Sentence 2- Supporting details
Sentence 3- Supporting details/Comparison details, if appropriate
Match the structure to each of the sentences I
give you.
Paragraph 1 (Introduction)
Sentence 1- Paraphrase Question
This paragraph should be one sentence long and demonstrates your ability to paraphrase. You do
this by using synonyms and we will look at it on more detail below.
Paragraph 2 (Overview)
Sentence 1- Overview of first main feature
Sentence 2- Overview of second main feature
Sentence 3- Make comparison, if appropriate
An overview is a general statement, highlighting the most important information in the table. It
should not include any numbers. This is just a summary of the main features. You can use
numbers to support your answer in paragraphs 3 and 4.
The examiner is testing your ability to identify the most important information and then summarise
it. Important information could include general trends, increase/decreases, differences etc.
More on how to identify significant features and write an effective overview below.
Paragraph 3 (Details of significant feature 1)
Sentence 1- Supporting details
Sentence 2- Supporting details
Sentence 3- Supporting details/comparison details, if appropriate
In this paragraph you take the first general statement from paragraph 2 and support it with details
from the graph. The examiner is looking for your ability to choose the correct data and ability to
describe data, trends, comparisons etc..
Paragraph 4 (Details of significant feature 2)
Sentence 1- Supporting details
Sentence 2- Supporting details
Sentence 3- Supporting details/Comparison details, if appropriate
That's it. Four paragraphs and 9-10 sentences. Obviously, you need to be flexible and write 8-12
sentences depending on the question. There may also be three significant features, in which case
you can adjust the structure slightly.
This structure will allow you to practice this kind of question over and over, giving you confidence
and a consistent model in the exam.
Identifying Main Features
This is often the area most students struggle with and it is because on one main reason. Students
need to prioritise. Prioritising means that they choose two or three significant features and just
write about these. The examiner expects you to do this and the question will often specifically say
'select main features.' There should be 2 or 3 main features for you to comment on.
When students don't do this they write about every single piece of data they see. This results in
them not summarising (this is a summarising task), not writing an effective overview and spending
too much time on this task. How many students do you know who spent too much time on task one
and didn't finish task 2?
Things that you should be looking for include:
• High/low values
• Erratic values
• Biggest increase/decrease
• Volatile data
• Unchanging data
• Biggest majority/ minority (pie charts)
• Biggest difference/similarities
• Major trends
• Notable exceptions
Looking for these things should allow you to pick out the most important features.
Another thing students often do is overthink the question. They think that the answer is too obvious
and therefore don't write about it. A common main feature is a general increase or decrease. Some
students see this as too simple and ignore it all together. Don't do this, reporting obvious or simple
features is fine.
Identify the main features
Sample Answer
The diagram shows the levels of charitable donations of people living in Britain, separated by age,
between 1990 and 2010.
Overall, there was a general decrease in the percentage of people who donated money to charity
over the two time periods. However, the pattern differs between the three age groups before 50
and the two age groups after the age of 50.
The highest decrease is in the 18-25 category, which saw a decrease of 10%, from 17% in 1990
to 7% in 2010. 42% of people in the 36-50 age group gave to charity in 1990, the highest on the
chart, and this fell to 35% in 2010. There was also a significant decline in donations among 26-35
year olds, from 31% to 24%.
The exception to this general trend downwards was among the 51-65 and over 65s. In 2010, the
51-65 year olds gave the highest percentage with nearly 40 per cent and this rose from 35% in
1990. Finally, those over 65 displayed a slight percentage increase of 3 per cent.
(174 words)
Step by Step Instructions
I will now take you through my thought processes and show you step by step how to answer a
question like this.
1. Read the question twice very carefully.
2. Look at the data. What data is represented on the axis? What groups are represented? What
time periods are shown? What are units of measurements?
3. What are the main features?
4. Can I make any comparisons?
5. Make a quick plan using above structure.
6. Write introduction by paraphrasing question.
7. Write second paragraph, which is summary or overview of main features.
8. Support the second paragraph with more detail in third and fourth paragraph.
9. Make sure I've not repeated any words and used a range of vocabulary.
10. Check for any grammar mistakes and make sure I've got at least 150 words.
After writing, I should be able to hand this to a stranger and they would be able to draw the graph.
Homework
Google ‘IELTS Grammar Guide’ and read the
guide at home. This will give you all the
grammar and vocabulary you should need.
Do the following question in 20 mins with no
help.
IELTS Advantage
For lots more resources on IELTS task 1 charts
essays, please visit our website
http://ieltsadvantage.com/

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IELTS Writing Task 1 Charts: A Complete Guide

  • 2. In part 1 of the writing exam, it is likely that you will have to answer a question on charts. This lesson will help you to effectively answer IELTS writing task 1 chart questions. This lesson will cover: 1. Common Problems 2. Different Kinds of Chart Question 3. What IELTS Examiners Expect 4. Structure 5. Identifying Main Features 6. Sample Answer We will also look at grammar and vocabulary used in IELTS writing task 1, but this is in a separate handout.
  • 3. • Not knowing which information to include in your answer. • Being unaware of what the examiner expects. • Including opinion and drawing conclusions. • Not using an appropriate structure. • Not using appropriate grammar for describing data, trends and making comparisons. • Not using a wide variety of appropriate vocabulary. • Failing to write an effective overview. • Copying words and phrases from the question. • Failing to support descriptions, trends and comparisons with accurate data. • Writing one long paragraph.
  • 4. Different Kinds of Chart Question All of these charts do one principal thing- represent numbers. Your task is to describe these numbers. There are four different types of chart you may have to describe. They are: 1. Line Chart (sometimes called a line graph) 2. Bar Chart 3. Pie Chart 4. Proportional Bar Chart Can you identify them in the picture below?
  • 5. • IELTS task 1 does have other kinds of questions, including maps, process diagrams and comparing two different charts. These require a different approach and I will write about these in the future. • You also need to ask yourself if it is a static or dynamic chart. A static chart shows data from one time period. A dynamic chart shows change over time. These will obviously require different tenses.
  • 6. What IELTS Examiners Expect The key to the speaking and writing tests is to know exactly what the examiners want and give it to them. On the IELTS writing test you will be assessed on four things: A. Task Achievement B. Coherence and Cohesion C. Lexical Resource D. Grammatical Range and Accuracy
  • 7. Task Achievement This requires the students to accurately reflect the relevant information in the graph. If you gave your answer to a stranger, would they be able to accurately reproduce the graph? If they could, then you have fulfilled this task. Coherence and Cohesion This part of the marking criteria judges students' ability to produce an answer that is clear, fluent and easy to understand. Structure, appropriate vocabulary and good grammar help to boost your score here. Good paragraphing and appropriate use of cohesive devices can also be used to gain a higher score.
  • 8. Lexical Resource This section is all about vocabulary and is often the most misunderstood. It is NOT about inserting as many long words as you can think of. It is about choosing relevant, appropriate and accurate words. You will help your score here by using a variety of vocabulary and not simply copying the words in the question. Grammatical Range and Accuracy Obviously, you have to produce grammatically accurate sentences to do well in this section, but it is also about using the appropriate structures. You are expected to use different structures for describing numbers, trends and making comparisons. The most common grammar mistake students make in IELTS task 1 is not using articles and plurals properly. If at least 50% of your sentences are not grammatically correct it is hard to score over a band 7.
  • 9. Structure The structure I advise all my students to write is a very simple four paragraph structure. You can use a different structure if you like, but this one has been proven to be successful and approved by IELTS examiners. Paragraph 1 (Introduction) Sentence 1- Paraphrase Question Paragraph 2 (Overview) Sentence 1- Overview of first main feature Sentence 2- Overview of second main feature Sentence 3- Make comparison, if appropriate Paragraph 3 (Details of significant feature 1) Sentence 1- Supporting details Sentence 2- Supporting details Sentence 3- Supporting details/comparison details, if appropriate Paragraph 4 (Details of significant feature 2) Sentence 1- Supporting details Sentence 2- Supporting details Sentence 3- Supporting details/Comparison details, if appropriate
  • 10. Match the structure to each of the sentences I give you.
  • 11. Paragraph 1 (Introduction) Sentence 1- Paraphrase Question This paragraph should be one sentence long and demonstrates your ability to paraphrase. You do this by using synonyms and we will look at it on more detail below.
  • 12. Paragraph 2 (Overview) Sentence 1- Overview of first main feature Sentence 2- Overview of second main feature Sentence 3- Make comparison, if appropriate An overview is a general statement, highlighting the most important information in the table. It should not include any numbers. This is just a summary of the main features. You can use numbers to support your answer in paragraphs 3 and 4. The examiner is testing your ability to identify the most important information and then summarise it. Important information could include general trends, increase/decreases, differences etc. More on how to identify significant features and write an effective overview below.
  • 13. Paragraph 3 (Details of significant feature 1) Sentence 1- Supporting details Sentence 2- Supporting details Sentence 3- Supporting details/comparison details, if appropriate In this paragraph you take the first general statement from paragraph 2 and support it with details from the graph. The examiner is looking for your ability to choose the correct data and ability to describe data, trends, comparisons etc..
  • 14. Paragraph 4 (Details of significant feature 2) Sentence 1- Supporting details Sentence 2- Supporting details Sentence 3- Supporting details/Comparison details, if appropriate That's it. Four paragraphs and 9-10 sentences. Obviously, you need to be flexible and write 8-12 sentences depending on the question. There may also be three significant features, in which case you can adjust the structure slightly. This structure will allow you to practice this kind of question over and over, giving you confidence and a consistent model in the exam.
  • 15. Identifying Main Features This is often the area most students struggle with and it is because on one main reason. Students need to prioritise. Prioritising means that they choose two or three significant features and just write about these. The examiner expects you to do this and the question will often specifically say 'select main features.' There should be 2 or 3 main features for you to comment on. When students don't do this they write about every single piece of data they see. This results in them not summarising (this is a summarising task), not writing an effective overview and spending too much time on this task. How many students do you know who spent too much time on task one and didn't finish task 2?
  • 16. Things that you should be looking for include: • High/low values • Erratic values • Biggest increase/decrease • Volatile data • Unchanging data • Biggest majority/ minority (pie charts) • Biggest difference/similarities • Major trends • Notable exceptions Looking for these things should allow you to pick out the most important features.
  • 17. Another thing students often do is overthink the question. They think that the answer is too obvious and therefore don't write about it. A common main feature is a general increase or decrease. Some students see this as too simple and ignore it all together. Don't do this, reporting obvious or simple features is fine.
  • 18. Identify the main features
  • 19. Sample Answer The diagram shows the levels of charitable donations of people living in Britain, separated by age, between 1990 and 2010. Overall, there was a general decrease in the percentage of people who donated money to charity over the two time periods. However, the pattern differs between the three age groups before 50 and the two age groups after the age of 50. The highest decrease is in the 18-25 category, which saw a decrease of 10%, from 17% in 1990 to 7% in 2010. 42% of people in the 36-50 age group gave to charity in 1990, the highest on the chart, and this fell to 35% in 2010. There was also a significant decline in donations among 26-35 year olds, from 31% to 24%. The exception to this general trend downwards was among the 51-65 and over 65s. In 2010, the 51-65 year olds gave the highest percentage with nearly 40 per cent and this rose from 35% in 1990. Finally, those over 65 displayed a slight percentage increase of 3 per cent. (174 words)
  • 20. Step by Step Instructions I will now take you through my thought processes and show you step by step how to answer a question like this. 1. Read the question twice very carefully. 2. Look at the data. What data is represented on the axis? What groups are represented? What time periods are shown? What are units of measurements? 3. What are the main features? 4. Can I make any comparisons? 5. Make a quick plan using above structure. 6. Write introduction by paraphrasing question. 7. Write second paragraph, which is summary or overview of main features. 8. Support the second paragraph with more detail in third and fourth paragraph. 9. Make sure I've not repeated any words and used a range of vocabulary. 10. Check for any grammar mistakes and make sure I've got at least 150 words. After writing, I should be able to hand this to a stranger and they would be able to draw the graph.
  • 21. Homework Google ‘IELTS Grammar Guide’ and read the guide at home. This will give you all the grammar and vocabulary you should need. Do the following question in 20 mins with no help.
  • 22.
  • 23. IELTS Advantage For lots more resources on IELTS task 1 charts essays, please visit our website http://ieltsadvantage.com/