IELTS Academic Writing Task 1: Chart question with sample answer

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by Volodymyr Prystai

IELTS Expert

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Many test takers who prepare for the IELTS test struggle most with IELTS Writing.  This is particularly true for Writing Task 1 of the IELTS Academic test.  In this task, you may have to deal with tricky bar graphs, pie charts, or tables.  Getting a band score of 6.5 or higher in Writing Task 1 (Academic) might seem hard, but there are certain points to consider in order to achieve better results.  Below, we will share some tips on how to do that.  

First, let’s look at what the IELTS Academic Writing test involves…

Summary of Academic Writing Task 1

In Writing Task 1, you will see one of the following types of charts:

  1. Graphs with trends.  These are usually line graphs, but bar charts or tables are also common.  Graphs with trends describe changes that happen over a period of time.  Therefore, you will have to use appropriate vocabulary to show the changes. For example, use verbs and adverbs like increase dramatically, plummet or fluctuate wildly and their adjective/noun forms (a dramatic increase, a plummet, or wild fluctuations).
  2. Graphs with comparisons.  Bar charts and pie charts are the most common, but information may also come in the form of tables.  Here, you need to rank, compare and contrast.  Grammatical patterns are appropriate, such as superlatives (the most expensive, the least popular), comparatives (more common, not as successful as), and expressions for contrasting (while, whereas, respectively).
  3. Processes.  You may get a diagram or a flowchart showing how something works, how something is made, or a lifecycle of an animal.  This type of task involves describing steps or stages of the process, and linking them with sequence words such as Firstly, After that, At this point and so on. 
  4. Maps.  This is the least common type of chart.  There are typically two maps, each showing the same part of a city, town, or any other area at two different time periods.  Your task is to describe the changes that happened over the period given.  The most common vocabulary here would be verbs of change (construct, introduce, demolish, modernize) or their noun forms (construction, introduction, demolition, modernization).  

Write at least 150 words, and the recommended time is 20 minutes.  

The examiner is looking 4 IELTS Writing assessment criteria.  Each criteria accounts for 25% of your overall score. 

What is the examiner looking for? (4 Assessment Criteria)

  1. Task Achievement. This involves answering the question, mentioning all the important information, and writing 150 words or more. 
  2. Coherence and Cohesion. That’s about how easy it is to read and understand your description. You should have clear parts of your writing, such as the introduction, the overview/conclusion, and the body, all of which come in separate paragraphs, and are logically connected.  
  3. Lexical Resource. This is all about the vocabulary. You should paraphrase effectively and avoid repeating the same words. You spell the words correctly, and try to use less common expressions. 
  4. Grammatical Range and Accuracy. The examiners will be looking at how accurate your tenses are, what different patterns you have used (Conditionals, Relative clauses, etc), and whether your punctuation (the use of commas, periods) is correct. 

Step 1: Paraphrase the question or task

Now, let’s break down how to answer an IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 question.  

The first part of your essay should introduce your graph.  In the first sentence, try to paraphrase the question, which you can find above the graph.  This means changing the words and/or grammar of the question, but not the main point or idea.

Let’s look at an example of a Task 1 question and how to paraphrase it. 

The chart below shows the number of men and women in further education in Britain in three periods and whether they were studying full-time or part-time.

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

Source: https://www.ielts.org/-/media/pdfs/writing-sample-tests/academic-writing-sample-task-1a.ashx?la=en

So, in the first sentence we can write…

The bar chart illustrates how many men and women were in further education studying full-time or part-time in Britain in 1970/71, 1980/81, and 1990/91.

Step 2: Identify all the main data points

The next step is to write an overview paragraph, describing the main points.  These can be the main trends, similarities, differences, or changes. Try not to include any numbers in your overview.  

Instead, we will describe the main data points…

Overall, there were upward trends in the number of women studying both full-time and part-time, and the number of men in full-time education, while the number of men in part-time education showed some fluctuation over the period.  Another interesting point is that there were significantly more students in part-time studies, compared to full- time education. 

Step 3: Compare the data points

After the overview, you should write usually two body paragraphs, focusing on details.  Each of these paragraphs will address a separate category.  For example, you could describe the data on men in one paragraph, and the data on women in the next.  Alternatively, you could describe part-time education trends in the first paragraph, and full-time tendency in the second.  Whichever focuses you choose, it is important to mention all the categories and give numbers. 

Therefore, in the final paragraphs, we compare those data points…

Turning to the details for men, in 1970/71 there were 1 million in part-time further education, after which the number decreased by approximately 150 thousand over the next decade.  By 1990/91, the figure had recovered slightly, finishing at about 900 thousand students who were men.  There were considerably fewer men in full-time studies, with roughly 100 thousand in 1970/71; however, their number almost tripled over the next 20 years. 

Looking at the women, the trend was quite different for part-time studies.  The number of student women in further education witnessed a consistent increase from just under 800 thousand at the beginning of the period, to about 1.1 million in 1990/91.  However, the number of full-time women showed a similar trend to men in full-time education.  Having started at below 100 thousand, the figure then rocketed, ending the period with around 250 thousand women who were students in 1990/1991. 

Step 4: Check your ideas match the information in the charts

Do not forget that all the information that you include in your description should match the chart.  Double-check that the numbers you use are accurate. 

Here is the full question and answer:

“The chart below shows the number of men and women in further education in Britain in three periods and whether they were studying full-time or part-time.”

Source: https://www.ielts.org/-/media/pdfs/writing-sample-tests/academic-writing-sample-task-1a.ashx?la=en

Here is the full question and answer:

The bar chart illustrates how many men and women went into further education studying full-time or part-time in Britain in 1970/71, 1980/81, and 1990/91. 

Overall, there were upward trends in the number of women studying both full-time and part-time, and the number of men in full-time education, while the number of men in part-time education showed some fluctuation over the period.  Another interesting point is that there were significantly more students in part-time studies, compared to full- time education. 

Turning to the details for men, in 1970/71 there were 1 million in part-time further education, after which the number decreased by approximately 150 thousand over the next decade.  By 1990/91, the figure had recovered slightly, finishing at about 900 thousand students who were men.  There were considerably fewer men in full-time studies, with roughly 100 thousand in 1970/71; however, their number almost tripled over the next 20 years. 

Looking at the women, the trend was quite different for part-time studies.  The number of student women in further education witnessed a consistent increase from just under 800 thousand at the beginning of the period, to about 1.1 million in 1990/91.  However, the number of full-time women showed a similar trend to men in full-time education.  Having started at below 100 thousand, the figure then rocketed, ending the period with around 250 thousand women who were students in 1990/1991. 

Tips for success in IELTS Writing Task 1 (Academic)

  • Check carefully that the information you present is accurate and matches the charts. 
  • Use a number of different transition words and expressions (as regards, while, however, as for). 
  • Do not repeat the same words, but rather use synonyms (for example, increase–grow-rise-rocket). 
  • Consider your grammar.  You should try to use different patterns (Increased dramatically – a dramatic increase, etc). 
  • Do not include any opinions, reasons, or any recommendations. 
  • Use punctuation.  Double-check that you have used commas appropriately. 

Remember, practice makes perfect.  Try using the above-mentioned strategies, and you will see that your time management improves, and you are able to produce better writing each time you attempt one. 

If you are still struggling with IELTS writing and would like to achieve better results, consider enrolling in an IELTS preparation class.  IELTS classes in ILAC run online via ILAC Kiss, our online learning solution!  This means that you can study from the comfort of your own home at any time convenient for you, and choose between a variety of time slots designed for all schedules and time zones.  Explore IELTS Writing in more detail, get feedback from experienced instructors, and improve the results in your test!

Ready to take the test? Click here to book at ILAC IELTS Toronto.  The test centre is located in the downtown within walking distance from Sherbourne Subway station. 

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