Essays Charts

Static or Dynamic?

Before writing an IELTS task 1 bar chart or line graph answer it is important that we analyse the question correctly. Taking a few minutes to do this will help us write a clear answer that fully responds to the question. Just what the examiner wants us to do.

The first thing we need to do is decide if the bar chart is static or dynamic. Static means that the data comes from one point in time. Dynamic means the data comes from more than one point in time.

Whether a chart is static or dynamic will affect the information we choose to include in our answer and the kind of language (tense, grammar etc.) we use.

If it is dynamic we will have to compare the different times and comment on the general trends over the time period.

If it is static we will have to compare the different variables, in this case countries, car price, GDP and time it takes for one person to buy a car.

Main Features

Every IELTS academic task 1 question asks us to ‘select and report the main features’.

This means that we have to not only pick the most significant information from the graph and include it in our essay, but also decide which information is not important and should therefore not be included in our essay. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in task 1 is including all the information you see.

So which information should you choose?

You should look for:

  • highest/lowest values
  • biggest differences
  • similarities
  • significant exceptions
  • anything else that really stands out

There are 3 main features in this graph

1) It takes over 26 years for a Vietnamese person to buy a car.

2) Vietnam has the second highest average costs but the second lowest wages.

3) Cost of a car in Singapore is nearly 3 times the next most expensive.

Structure

I advise my students to follow a basic four paragraph structure for these kinds of questions.

Paragraph 1 

Paraphrase the question using synonyms.

Paragraph 2 

Provide an overview of the main features. No need to include any data in this paragraph, just tell the examiner what is happening in general terms. If you had to describe the main features in two sentences, what would you say?

Paragraph 3

This is where we get more specific and use data. Take 2 of the main features (from your overview) and describe them in detail using data from the chart.

Paragraph 4 

Simply do the same thing as you did in paragraph 3, but with two other main features (from your overview).

Sample Answer 

The graph compares the GDP per capita, cost of a Toyota Camry and approximate length of time it takes for 1 citizen to purchase that mode of transport in eight Asian countries.

Despite having the second lowest average yearly income, it costs more to buy this car in Vietnam than in all but one other Asian nation. It also takes significantly longer for a standard person to buy an automobile in Vietnam than in any other state in Asia. On the other end of the scale, Singaporeans have to pay nearly three times more for their cars than the Vietnamese and it takes them the least amount of time to afford a motor vehicle.

It costs $49,944 to buy a Toyota Camry in Vietnam, but this dwarfs the average yearly income per person at just $1,910. It would therefore take a normal man or woman 26.1 years to save up for that particular car.

This is in contrast to Singapore where it costs $126,245 for that model of motorcar, however the average salary is much greater at $55,182. This means that it generally takes just over 2 years for a typical individual from Singapore to acquire this vehicle.

(200 words) Band 9.

It should be noted that this is not a real IELTS task 1 question. This is just a chart that I saw on the internet, but it allowed me to make a very important point- you don’t have to mention everything on the graph. I only talked about 2 out of the 8 countries and I still wrote 200 words and answer the question fully. The key is finding the most significant data and not talking about anything else. Don’t worry, you won’t lost marks for not talking about everything, quite the opposite.

Vocabulary

This graph is also good for demonstrating how important it is to vary your vocabulary. There were four words that could have been overused in this essay- car, average, country and people. Instead of repeating them over and over again I used synonyms to show the examiner I have a wide vocabulary and gain extra marks. Here are the synonyms:

Car- Toyota Camry- automobile- vehicle- motor vehicle- motorcar

Average- approximate- normal- typical- standard

Country- countries- nation- state

People- citizen- man or woman- individual

Next Steps

Next time you see a chart or graph in a newspaper, in a text book or on the internet, think about what the main features are and what common words would you have to vary with synonyms.

I hope you have found these tips useful. If you have any questions, let me know below.

For more band 9 sample essays check out our task 1 sample essay page. 

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Writing Task 1

Writing Task 2

Speaking

Vocabulary 

Reading

Listening

Tips 

Ah, the IELTS Writing Task 1.Describe the key information in a graph.I’ve read thousands of IELTS graph essays.I will be honest.For the most part, I find them dreadfully boring to review. The main reason for this is that the ESL student doesn’t vary their language or use a variety of synonyms.As 25% of your marks are for the range of vocabulary that you use, this is a very important component to review as you prepare for the Writing Task 1. Here, I am going to provide you with a range of words and phrases to incorporate into your writing now, so that you can get top marks on at least the lexical resource category.

Introduction Phrases

Often ESL students start their essay with ‘The graph shows…’. While this is fine, the verb ‘shows’ could be replaced by a more exciting and high-level vocabulary word.Here are four different prompts to start your essay:

  • The graph illustrates the trends in…
  • The graph reveals information about the changes in…
  • The graph provides the differences between…
  • The graph presents how X has changed over a period of…

Tip:DO NOT write the word below or above in your introduction. i.e. The graph above/below shows…

Add Suitable Adverbs

Adverbs help express a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, and degree, and can greatly add some color and interest to your writing as well as show off your range of vocabulary.Some great ones to use in the IELTS writing include:

  • approximately
  • dramatically
  • erratically
  • gradually
  • markedly
  • significantly
  • slightly
  • slowly
  • steadily

Use Appropriate Synonyms

Again using a variety of nouns and verbs for words like rise and fall will help increase your overall score.Here are some suggestions:

Add Time Phrases

Where appropriate, add time phrases such as:

  • between… and…
  • from… to… (inclusive)
  • in the year (1994)
  • during/over the period….
  • over the latter half of the year/century/decade/period…..
  • over the next/past/previous….
  • days/weeks/months/years/decades….
  • by (1997)…..

Model Essay Example

Look at the sample Task 1 graphs on the British Council website.Below is my model answer with useful words in bold:

The bar charts illustrate the trends in computer ownership, with a further classification by level of education, from 2002 to 2010.

Over the period, it can be observed that there was a significant surge in the percentage of the population that owned a computer. In the year 2002, only about 58% of the population owned a computer, whereas by 2010, this gradually increased to where over three-quarters of individuals had a home computer.

Looking at the information by level of education reveals that higher levels of education correspond to higher levels of computer ownership in both of those years. In 2002, a significantly low percentage of the population who did not finish high school had a computer, but this figure skyrocketed by 2010, going from 15% to over 40%. There were also dramatic climbs, of approximately 30 percentage points, for those with a high school diploma or an unfinished college education (reaching 65% and 85%, respectively, in 2010).

To conclude, during the last decade, therehas been a substantial growth in computer ownership across all educational levels.

Hopefully you’ll start to incorporate some of these key words and phrases in your IELTS Task 1 Writing. If you still don’t feel comfortable doing so, consider dedicating more time to your IELTS studies with Magoosh’s fun, engaging IELTS prep for extra practice.

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