One task that seems to concern IELTS candidates is the pie chart. I think I understand why and I hope I have a solution. In this post I talk you through a major difficulty and give you some language to deal with it. There’s also an exercise at the end to test you out.
The difficulty – I have nothing to say
Typically, the problem is that candidates find they have very little to say about a pie chart in comparison with a bar chart. Really this is just a problem of language. Very often, candidates spend a long time learning about the language of trends when they prepare for task 1 and that language very rarely applies to a pie chart. You need some different language.
The necessary language
The key point is that whatever the chart looks like the language you need is the same. Take a look at these 3 pie charts and ask yourself what language you need.
A chart with percentages
A chart without any numbers
A chart with numbers
The answer should be obvious. When you look at all three pie charts, you should see that you need exactly the same language:it’s the language of percentages. By definition the whole pie is 100% and each share of that pie is also a percentage. It should make little or no difference how the pie chart is labelled.
Tip: if you see a pie chart without % figures written in, don’t panic. Consider what the % must be.
Different ways to describe percentages
Another possible problem is that you find yourself repeating the word “percentage”. Here are some helpful variations for you. There are variations possible in almost every case: using a fraction or a synonym such as proportion.
- “percentage” is more correct than “percent” (“per cent” is the correct spelling, though no one I know uses it!)
- “amount” is correctly used only with uncountable nouns: the variation for countables in “number”
This is an area that needs some practice to get right. So I suggest you make a start by having a go at these two quizzes:
using percentages: a quick quiz checking you can know this language of percentages. It should be quite easy, so I’ve made it more challenging by making it timed!
write a task 1: can you use the language for yourself by doing a practice task 1 from the pie chart above. Try and write a good paragraph of between 60 – 75 words.