Lots of our students have trouble choosing the correct words to effectively write about statistics so today we’re going to have a look at how we can use certain prepositions, adverbs and verbs with percentages or numbers. This will help you in two ways. Firstly, it will help you to better report statistics and so it will boost your Task Achievement band. Secondly, it will show that you can use specific vocabulary for dealing with statistics and so will improve your vocabulary (Lexical Resource) band score.
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.
Indonesia had the highest sales of scooters in the region in 2013 at 1,771,014 units sold.
Oz-Telkom had the largest share of the market at 31%.
Use the preposition ‘at’ to state a percentage or number.
The percentage of adults who own their own homes increased to 37% by the end of the period.
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.
The percentage of adults who own their own homes increased from 32% to 37% by the end of the period.
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.
In Canada, sales increased by 9%.
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 by 340,000, from 820,000 to 111,600.
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.
The project requires an increase of 300 staff over the next year.
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.
In 70% of cases, customers complain to the provider but money is not refunded.
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.
8. Percentages in noun phrases
30% of sales in the South East Asia region were in Vietnam.
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’.
9. verb phrases
Vietnam accounts for 30% of all sales in the SE Asia region.
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.
Now let's practice what we have learned with some exercises.
This graph shows the income of four cafes in 2016.
Exercise 1 | Identifying Trends
Choose one answer for each question.
Exercise 2 | Complete the text
Fill in the gaps in the text by typing or clicking on each word and then clicking again on a gap.
Check your answers when you have finished.
Click 'Show' to see all the answers.
Click 'Clear' to start the exercise again.
Complete the example Academic Task 1 response with the correct words from the box.
Click or touch a word above
Now click or touch a gap below
Exercise 3 | Identifying trends
The graph below shows the percentage of university students proficient in a foreign language.
Answer the questions below, then use your answers to write a complete 150 word task response. If you put your task in the comments section of this blog post, we will give you free feedback as soon as we can.
1. Are male or female university students generally more proficient in a foreign language?
Female, except in Thailand, where males are more proficient.
2. In which countries are students generally most proficient in a foreign language?
India and Romania.
3. Which demographic has the highest percentage of students who are proficient in a second language?
Indian females at around 68%.
4. In which countries do students generally have the lowest proficiency in a foreign language?
China and Thailand.
5. Which demographic has the lowest percentage of students who are proficient in a second language?
Chinese males at around 16%.
Need help with your IELTS writing? Write a response about this bar chart and leave it in the comments section of this blog post and we’ll get back to you with some feedback about your writing and some ideas about how to improve – all for free! Remember to write at least 150 words and make sure you include an overview.
Want more IELTS Task 1 help? Check out our vocabulary for statistics page to learn how to describe trends and see a model answer.
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