Top Tips for IELTS

Task 1 warmer – draw your own pie chart

This is a simple idea for an IELTS task 1 warmer that could perhaps be used more generally or even extended into a full lesson. It’s typically engaging, on topic and targets key language.  A bonus – it’s entirely resource free.

What it is in short

task 1 warmer
 apologies for terrible teacher board work

You simple draw a pie chart on the board and then get the ss to create their own about themselves. These they discuss in pairs etc and then feedback to the class.

The target language is of the language of proportion and comparison. It can also work to de-mystify graphics – something that is a block to many IELTS candidates who are not visual thinkers. If they have made it themselves, they are much more likely to be able to interpret it.

It clearly works as an intro to a task 1 pie lesson and is likely to get the ss using the right sort of language.

How to work it

With less creative/less advanced classes you might need to give them ideas on the board of the items to put in the different segments.

You may need to remind your ss that pie charts always represent 100%. To get a pie chart to 100%, you just need to add a category of “other” – in my version above depicted by “just dreaming”!

There are two sets of comparison to make. You may need to remind your students of this. A comparison of the segments within one pie chart and then the comparison with their partner’s pie chart.

Listen in the feedback for task 1 skills. While these obviously work differently in writing and speaking, you may find your ss naturally using skills in informal speech they struggle with in a more formal IELTS format,. Eg

overall summary (“they’re about the same” – is actually good work)

grouping info (“then he spends the same amount of time thinking about x and y” – is another transferable skill)

Different versions

Self-access student version

You can do this too. It’s just a short task to get you to think about how pie charts work and what sort of language you need for them.

Draw your own – perhaps two or three – and talk to yourself about what you see. If you like draw one for yourself and then another couple about people you know – compare them.

The ones you see in the test may be more complex, but you’re just using the same skills and language.

A class new to task 1

You simply draw the circle on the board (without segments) and ask what is. Then you add the segments one by one to get to the concept of pie chart.

Here you wait and see in the feedback what language they use to see what they need.

The without numbers version

You can either add or delete percentages as you wish. The chances are that if you do not add numbers though you’ll get more comparisons (more/less) than if you add numbers – then you may just get a list of figures.

The topic

You can actually use a huge variety of topics here something that makes it a very versatile warmer


The one above shows what I spend my time thinking about every day. This can work very well with classes that know each other well and are quite relaxed. It’s the funnest version but may not work so well with classes that are less familiar with each other.

More impersonal

If you are looking for a different topic then make sure you choose one where the ss will have different responses. It doesn’t work nearly so well if they all produce the same chart! From this point of view, “How you spend your time” isn’t likely to work in a closed institution. Here are some suggestions:

How you spend your money?

What types of transport you use?

What types of tv programmes you watch?


I like this warmer because it is flexible enough to be used again in different situations.

The bar chart variation

The same technique can easily used in a bar chart that is not time based. Down the y axis you have the numbers (how often) (how much etc) and along the x you put the items.

If you run the pie chart version, then it may in fact help to do the bar chart one as well. This helps illustrate the difference between pie charts and bar charts.

Non task 1 lesson

If you are following a course book that follows a topic based theme, this warmer (with adaptations) could also work in a topic based lesson with a  focus on vocabulary. For example, if the theme of your lesson is “transport”, or if you want to review a previous transport lesson, then the ss create a pie chart about transport.

More teaching ideas


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