Much of the difficulty in academic IELTS part 1 is knowing how to organise your answer. This post shows you one way to do this when the diagram is a bar chart. I talk about paragraphs, but what you really need to understand is that this is a visual task. You need to be write so that someone else can “see” the diagram.
This post shows you one to organise your task 1 with a step-by-step guide and has the added bonus of an interactive quiz on comparison language.
The key skill – paragraphing
The key skill is to make sure that you write in organised paragraphs – just as you would in an essay. This is so important because it will not just improve your coherence and cohesion band scores, but it will also make the report easier to write. To do this, we need to identify key features that will make the topics of the paragraphs. When we have done that, we can look for the details that explain those features.
What are key features?
Normally, they are obvious. Never ignore the obvious. Look at the bar chart below and what do you see?
- 2 sets of lines (one red and one blue)
- some lines are longer than others
Those are your key features that you must highlight in your report as paragraph topics. Everything else is detail.
Tip: Think visually. Look for the obvious and ignore any writing when you first look at a chart. Close your eyes. What do you remember? It’s easy to be confused by detail.
What are supporting details?
Let’s now look at the complete chart.
We now see what the 2 key features that need to be reported are. Remember these will be the topics of our 2 content paragraphs :
- the distinction between men and women (the blue lines and the red lines)
- how certain purposes of travel are more common than others (how long the lines are)
Supporting detail: men and women
Looking at the blue and red lines this is what I see and needs to be included:
- little or no difference in “walking” “holidays” and “personal business”
- more men in “education”, “entertainment” and “commuting”
- more women in “school run”, “visiting friends” and “shopping”
- many more women in “school run” (5% difference)
- many more men in “commuting” (8% difference)
Supporting detail: purposes
This is fairly straightforward as all you need to do is arrange the different categories into an order showing the most common and least common purposes.
- commuting and shopping much the most common (around 20% average)
- visiting friends and school run both around 15% average
- personal business just under 10% average
- sport/entertainment around 7% average just more than education at 6%
- least common is walking and holidays at around 3% each
Note the % figures here are averages of the male/female numbers.
Tip: when you have many different categories, it is a good idea to group them together under a few headings
A possible answer
There are, of course, many possible answers to this task. Here is one solution.
This bar chart shows the different reasons for making journeys in the UK in 2006 and how males and females differed in this.
It is immediately apparent that the most common purposes for travelling were commuting and shopping, both being around 20 per cent of trips. The next most common reasons were visiting friends and doing the school run at 15%, closely followed by personal business at around 10%. Travelling for sport and entertainment (7%) was only just more common than journeys for educational purposes (6%). Finally, the fewest number of trips were travelling for holidays and walking, both of which accounted for around 3 per cent of all journeys.
Typically, there were few major differences between males and females. In holidays, personal business and walking both sexes took approximately the same amount of journeys, while slightly more men travelled for educational purposes and more women visited friends. Notably, almost twice as many men as women travelled for entertainment reasons and, likewise, around 7% more men commuted to work. The two areas in which women travelled significantly more than men were shopping and the school run.
Test your comparison vocabulary/grammar
In this form of writing comparisons are crucial. Indeed, they are perhaps the most important grammar item in academic task 1. So why not test yourself with this exercise? See if you can re-use the comparison language from my example.
Tip: try to vary the language you use to make comparisons. One way to do this is use adverbs such as “significantly”