Many students struggle to write effectively about line graphs in Academic Writing Task 1. This is the first post in a series that will help you to understand line graphs and teach you the vocabulary you need to accurately write about them.
The first step is to look at graphs and read descriptions of them. You can copy the vocabulary that you read while doing the activity and use it when you are writing.
First have a look at the 8 different line graphs. How would you describe them?
Now match each graph with a description below.
Match the Graph to Its Description
|To go up|
|To go down|
|To not change|
Note that in task 1 we are expected to provide data, not just descriptions. Click the box below to find out how to do this.
Note that these prepositions are used for amounts of coffee, not time. We should also use prepositions for adding time detail, but that is for another lesson.
a) Sales of coffee declined and then leveled off at (+ low level value).
b) Sales of coffee decreased by (+ amount lost) and then increased by (+ amount gained).
c) Sales of coffee fluctuated around (+ central value in the middle of the fluctuation) and then dropped to (+ final low value).
d) Sales of coffee rose over the period to (+ final high value).
e) Sales of coffee climbed by (+ amount gained) and then fluctuated between (+ high value of fluctuation) and (+ low value of fluctuation).
f) The general trend was downward but the sales of coffee fluctuated towards the end of the period between (+ high value of fluctuation) and (+ low value of fluctuation).
g) Sales of coffee fell over the period by (+ amount lost).
h) Sales of coffee remained steady over the period at (+ steady value).
Can you think of any other useful verbs to use to describe changes in data? Leave your ideas in the comments section below.
Let's continue to our next lesson in the series: Line Graphs 2
For more Task 1 exercises, visit our Academic Writing Task 1 page.
After we look at some useful vocabulary we will do several tasks to practice identifying trends in data and using the correct words to write the data.
Oz-Telkom had the largest share of the market at 31%.
Use the preposition ‘at’ to state a percentage or number.
There was a drop in the number of campus staff to 6341 over the summer.
As you can see in these examples, ‘to’ is used before a percentage or number and it shows that a change occurred before that figure was reached. In the first sentence the change was an increase, in the second it was a decrease.
'To’ can be used after a verb or noun. Use of ‘to’ does not mean the change has finished. For example, the percentage of home owners may continue increasing in the next period, and the university may need to hire more staff in the autumn term.
There was a decrease in the number of campus staff from 8212 in the spring to 6341 over the summer.
As you can see, we have modified the sentences in example 2. Now the sentences include more information. ‘From’ is used to show a value at an earlier time and ‘to’ is used for the value after a change has occurred.
The number of people working in the agricultural sector rose by 340,000 over the period.
We use the preposition ‘by’ after a verb such as rise or fall to show how big or small a change is.
The number of people working in the agricultural sector rose from 820,000, by 340,000, to 111,600.
Using ‘by’, ‘from’ and ‘to’, a lot of information about changes in statistics can be given.
There was a decrease of 3% in the price of domestic cooking gas in the final year.
We use ‘of’ after a noun such as ‘an increase’ or ‘a decrease’. It shows how much a figure changes by. We can use ‘from’ and ‘to’ to give extra information. See the example below.
There was a drop in the price of $2.50, from $10 to $7.50, in the final quarter of the year.
We can use the prepositional phrase ‘in …% of + noun’ to give a value. Let’s have a look at a few more examples.
People reported it to the police in 37% of cases.
In 99% of households in the UK there is a TV and in 72% of households there is also a computer.
7.9% of school leavers in 2004 joined modern apprenticeship courses directly after graduation
In these examples, the percentage forms part of the subject of the sentence. Notice that the percentage is followed by the preposition ‘of’.
The final figure stood at $34 a kilo.
Both of these verb phrases, ‘account for’ and ‘stand at’, are useful for reporting what a value is. Remember ‘account’ and ‘stand’ are verbs and so change depending on tense.
Exercise 1 | Identifying Trends
Exercise 2 | Complete the text
Check your answers when you have finished.
Click 'Show' to see all the answers.
Click 'Clear' to start the exercise again.
|The graph illustrates the profits made by 4 cafes in 2016. Wi-Fi Café, Internet Express and Café Cool saw increased profits by the end of the year, whereas The Tea Room saw its profits greatly reduced.|
|Three of the cafes, Wi-Fi Café, Internet Express and Café Cool, increased their profits over the year. Wi-Fi Café started the period only $50,000 but profits had doubled by July. The next two months saw profits decline $100,000 $60,000. From September profits rose very rapidly so that in December they stood $190,000. Café cool, which started the year as the weakest performing café of the group only $30,000 profit in January, also saw a rapid increase in profits from September onwards $120,000 by the final month of the year. Internet Express started and finished the year as the second most successful café of the group despite its profits increasing overall. Profits in January were $100,000 and this increased modestly $20,000 $120,000 in the last month of the year.|
|The Tea Room started the year with the highest income of the four cafes $160,000 a month but by the end of the year this figure had dropped $110,000 around 50,000 dollars a month so that The Tea Room was the worst performing café at the year’s end.|
Exercise 3 | Identifying trends
Want more IELTS Task 1 help? Check out our vocabulary for statistics page to learn how to describe trends and see a model answer.
- What is an overview?
- Why is an overview important?
- Where do I write the overview in my answer?
- What are the trends and main features in the data?
An academic task 1 test will ask you to:
Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.
We should start answering this with an overview
- An overview provides a summary of the general trends and main features of the data.
- There should be no specific data in the overview.
- The overview should be short.
If you have a look at Task Achievement in the public band descriptors for IELTS Academic Writing Task 1, you will notice that you must write an overview to get a band 6 or higher.
It is logical to include the overview in the introduction of the essay as the overview is general information rather than specific details.
The first sentence of the introduction should paraphrase the information about the graph or data. The second sentence (and possibly third) should give an overview of the main trends in the data. If you follow this method, you will have a 2 or 3 sentence introduction which introduces the graph and gives the general trends in the data.
To paraphrase, you must express the same meaning but use different words to those on the question paper.
Example description of graph
‘The graph below shows population figures for India and China since the year 2000 and predicted population growth up until 2050.’
‘The graph illustrates how the populations of India and China have changed from 2000 and how they will change up to 2050.’
- Instead of ‘shows’, the verb ‘illustrates’ is used.
- Instead of ‘population figures’, ‘population’ is used.
- Instead of ‘since’, ‘from’ is used.
- Instead of ‘predicted’, ‘will’ is used to show prediction.
- Some phrases such as ‘India and China’ and the dates ‘2000’ and ‘2050’ cannot be changed. It is fine to keep these key words the same.
Some of you are accountants or scientists and so you are trained to understand data in graphs and tables. Unfortunately, those of us who aren’t accountants or scientists may struggle to understand what the trends are in data. Let’s look at a few ways to spot trends.
- If you are looking at data over time (for example from 2000 to 2005) you can see which factors are increasing or decreasing in value.
- If most are decreasing, that is a negative trend.
- If some are increasing and some are decreasing, then you have two major trends.
- On a chart or graph, similar values for a number of different things may represent a trend or main feature.
- Main features could be the highest and lowest values on the table.
- Main features could be the biggest similarities or differences between things.
- Main features could also be unexpected data.
Think about the following:
What does the x axis (horizontal) represent? What does the y-axis represent (vertical) represent? Do numbers show percentages, fractions, numbers of people, degrees, money, etc. What is the time period?
What are the trends and main features of the following graphs and charts?
Look for big and small values. Changes over time. Values that are similar or different.
Time to write
Write an introduction sentence about the topic of each graph or chart. Next, write an overview of the trends and main features in the data. When you have finished, check with our examples. Good luck!
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About The IELTS Test
Academic Writing Task 1
Academic Writing Task 2
Cause And Effect
Coherence And Cohesion
Complete The Notes
Complete The Table
Frequently Asked Questions
General Training Reading
General Writing Task 1
General Writing Task 2
Listening Section 1
Listening Section 2
Listening Section 3
Listening Section 4
Speaking Part 1
Speaking Part 2
Speaking Part 3
True / False / Not Given