IELTS Writing - Academic Task 1 -
Types of Charts

In the IELTS Academic Task 1, you must be able to identify, understand and describe various types of graphic information. This is considered an important academic skill, because it shows you can intelligently and clearly interpret and describe data presented in charts, tables, graphs and diagrams. If you have written your answer very well, even someone who cannot see the graphic should be able to understand what happened.

5 Steps to Mastering Academic task 1

To prepare yourself to complete Task 1, follow the five steps below:

  1. Learn to recognize and identify different graphic forms, such as line graphs, bar charts, pie charts, etc.
  2. Know what key information, comparisons and trends to look out for.
  3. Practice using the specific vocabulary required to describe those trends.
  4. Learn how to follow a plan to start, complete and finish your answer. Use sample Task 1 questions, included on this website, to practice writing out a full response. At first, do not time yourself. Later, once you've got the hang of it, time yourself and make sure you finish in 20 minutes.
  5. Know what NOT to include in your response.

By following the steps above, you will be prepared and confident, no matter what type of question appears in Task 1 of your actual IELTS exam.

Steps 1 & 2 – Identify Types of Charts, Look for Trends
Bar Charts

A bar chart consists of rectangular bars arranged horizontally or vertically from the x or y axis.

IELTS Bar Chart

The length of a bar shows the values it represents. The values are listed on one axis and each bar shows what is being measured on the other axis. Bar charts are useful for comparing data. In studying a bar chart, you may want to look for the following information:

  • Which is the tallest bar?
  • Which is the shortest bar?
  • Have the bars changed over time? How?
  • How do the bars compare to each other?
Pie Chart

A pie charts is a circular chart divided into sectors or pie slices. It presents information in segments of a circle or pie, which together add up to 100%. Here's an example:
IELTS Pie Chart

Ask yourself:

  • Which is the largest segment?
  • Which is the smallest segment?
  • How do the segments compare with each other?
Line Graph

A line graph plots the changes in data over time:

IELTS Line Graph

Ask yourself:

  • What is the highest level / point?
  • What is the lowest level / point?
  • Is there a point till when the trend was increasing or decreasing?
  • When did the trend change?

A table presents information in different categories, making it easy to compare.

The sample table below shows the percentage of students who came to college on foot, by car, bicycle or public transportation, at Williams College in the year 2005-2006.

Method of Student Travel to College by Percentage

Walking 12
Bicycle 20
Car 25
Public Transport 43

Look out for the following:

  • What is the highest figure?
  • What is the lowest figure?
  • What is second highest, etc.?
Step 3 – Vocabulary of Trends

To get high marks on the Academic Task 1, you must show the examiner that you know how to use a range of vocabulary to describe and interpret visual information. You must be able to use the appropriate verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs to provide precise descriptions.

For a detailed list of essential vocabulary, check the section of this website on Vocabulary for Task 1.

Step 4 – Write your answer according to a plan

To be able to complete Task 1 in 20 minutes or less, write your answer according to the following plan:

  1. Write one sentence to introduce the subject and graphic.
  2. Write one or two sentences to show the relationship between the data or to comment on the main trend.
  3. Write an in-depth description of the information given. Include details from the most important to the least important, depending on time.
  4. Write one sentence to conclude your answer.
Step 5 - What not to write

Only describe the data. Don not give your interpretation of it. You are not being asked why you think the data in the chart is the way it is, so do not write about that.

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