Top Tips for IELTS

A model pie chart report – step by step

This lesson gives you a step-by-step approach to dealing with pie charts in task 1. I talk you through how to identify the main points, select the supporting details and then structure your report. I then show you two model answers: one with standard vocabulary and then a much more advanced version with more vocabulary and grammar you can borrow.

The task

The following pie charts show the results of a survey into the most popular leisure activities in the United States of America in 1999 and 2009.

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

Step 1: seeing the big picture

The first step is to identify the main points of the two charts. This is not just an important part of the task and your band score, it will also help you write your description. The main points are normally obvious. Sometimes they are so obvious that candidates ignore them. Look at these questions:

  1. How many activities are there in each chart? – Just count
  2. Are the activities the same in each chart? – Read the key
  3. Are there any changes in popularity between the two years? – Look at the colours
You should get these answers:
  1. There are 8 activities for each year
  2. 7 of 8 activities are the same
  3. There are a number of differences in popularity between the two years.
All you need to do now is put that into English and you have the main points of the report. Adding in a short description of the task we have:

These two pie charts show the changes in popularity of different leisure activities in the United States of America between 1999 and 2009. We can see that the most popular leisure activities were almost the same in both periods, but there were a number of differences in popularity between the various activities.

Step 2: choose the details to include

There are 16 different figures you can include. This is too many. The task is to select and report the most important details. This will include naming all the activities, but not all the numbers. To do this, try looking for:

  1. the biggest number
  2. the smallest number
These are generally important details to include. You should also consider what changes beween the two charts, not least because the task asks you to make comparisons. So, ask yourself:
  1. what’s gone up
  2. what’s gone down
  3. what hasn’t changed
  4. what’s new

Putting this together, we need these details:

  1. walking is most popular in both periods
  2. yoga disappears and weightlifting is new
  3. swimming doubles
  4. aerobics, jogging and cycling all fall
  5. soccer and camping don’t change much

Step 3: organise your report

This will vary from task to task, but typically you will be looking at two content paragraphs. As you write your paragraphs, you want to think of three key ideas:

  • highlight the main points – they come first
  • group similar ideas together
  • find a logical structure to present the points
In this case, I would go with this structure:
Paragraph 1
walking is much the biggest slice of the pie in both years
weightlifting is new and yoga has gone
It is clear that walking was the most popular activity in both 1999 and 2009 with around 30% of Americans saying that they preferred it. Also, yoga was no longer among the preferred activities in 2009, but weightlifting was chosen by 10% of people.
Paragraph 2
refer to the other activities in order of popularity in 2009 – soccer and swimming first, jogging and aerobics last
note the biggest changes – cycling, jogging and aerobics all big fallers, swimming the big riser.
The second most popular activity was soccer at just under 20% in both years, a figure that was matched by swimming in 2009, having almost doubled in popularity over the previous decade. Most of the other activities became less popular over the same period of time, with cycling, jogging and aerobics all falling by at least a half to under 10%. The one exception to this trend was camping which stayed almost unchanged at around 9%.

Step 4: get the vocabulary right

This is the big one and will take time to learn. To help you on your way, I show you two model answers with extensive vocabulary notes. My suggestion is start with the first one. Don’t be worries that it looks too simple. it isn’t. It is in fact extremely good – band score 9. The when you have that right, take a look at the second version which has some more advanced vocabulary.

A good version

This is the final report

These two pie charts show the changes in popularity of different leisure activities in the United States of America between 1999 and 2009. We can see that the most popular leisure activities were almost the same in both periods, but there were a number of differences in popularity between the various activities.

It is clear that walking was the most popular activity in both 1999 and 2009, with around 30% of Americans saying that they preferred it. Also, yoga was no longer among the preferred activities in 2009, but weightlifting was chosen by 10% of people.

The second most popular activity was soccer at just under 20% in both years, a figure that was matched by swimming in 2009, having almost doubled in popularity over the previous decade. Most of the other activities became less popular over the same period of time, with cycling, jogging and aerobics all falling by at least a half to under 10%. The one exception to this trend was camping which stayed almost unchanged at around 9%.

Read about the vocabulary

Language notes

These two pie charts show the changes in popularity of different leisure activities in the United States of America between 1999 and 2009We can see that the most popular leisure activities were almost the same in both periods, but there were a number of differences in popularity between the various activities.

It is clear that walking was the most popular activity in both 1999 and 2009, with around 30% of Americans saying that they preferred it. Also, yoga was no longer among the preferred activities in 2009, butweightlifting was chosen by 10% of people.

The second most popular activity was soccer at just under 20% in both years, a figure that was matched by swimming in 2009, having almost doubled in popularity over the previous decade. Most of the other activities became less popular over the same period of time, with cycling, jogging and aerobics all falling by at least a half to under 10%. The one exception to this trend was camping which stayed almost unchanged at around 9%.

Standard phrases

These two pie charts show“: the normal phrase to describe what the chart/graph is about

We can see that“: a phrase to state a main point

It is clear that“: another phrase to identify a main point

Varying vocabulary

popular/popularity/preferred“: you are going to repeat the word “popular”. That is not a problem, provided you also use some variations. One way to do this is to change the form of the word from “popular” to “popularity”. The other word I use in this report is “preferred”: you should note I vary this too, using it as an adjective and a verb. Other variations include “to express a preference” and “favourite”.

1999/2009“: another word you are going to repeat relates to time. Again, you want to make sure you have some variation here. Note these: “between 1999 and 2009“,  “in both periods“,  “in both years“, “over the previous decade“, “over the same period of time“.

General vocabulary

a number of“: a simple but exceptionally useful phrase. Avoid using phrases like “lots of ” in IELTS

various“: a useful and more advanced variant for “different”

exception to a trend“: Learn this phrase. You will need to talk about things that do not follow the normal pattern.

Dealing with numbers

Numbers are very important in this task. I suggest you take a look at my lesson on dealing with numbers.

around 30%“: you will use per cent a lot in this task. You do need to include numbers, but you should avoid using too many of them. When you do use them, try to do what I have done here and use language too, “around” is good language for “about”

a figure that was matched by“: “figure” is an exceptionally useful word which can be used with numbers or percentages. This is a harder phrase that you could try for yourself when talking about two similar/identical numbers.

at just under 20%“: more good number language. This is very much better than 18%.

having almost doubled“: more approximate number language. Remember the language of maths: “half”, “double” etc.

all falling by at least a half to under 10%“: the phrase to note here is “at least”

which stayed almost unchanged at around 9%“: this is better variation of “did not change”

 

My band score 10 answer

The above report is exceptionally good. It covers all the right details (Task response), has a good range of grammar with relative clauses (Range and accuracy of grammar), is very coherent (well organised and linked) and has some range of vocabulary, even if some words are repeated (Lexical resource). This answer can help you by extending the range of vocabulary you use for:

  • general words
  • dealing with numbers
  • linking

These two charts illustrate how the preferred leisure activities of Americans changed between 1999 and 2009.Generally speaking, while the list of activities remained almost identical over the decade, there were a number of changes in their relative popularity.

It is immediately evident that walking was by some distance the most popular pastime in both years,accounting for just under a third of the preferences expressed. Of equal note is that by 2009, yoga had disappeared from the list of preferred activities and had been replaced by weightlifting, which was chosen by one in ten Americans.

Among the less popular activities, the most notable development was that the proportion of people who went swimming doubled, making it equal second in popularity with soccer at 18%.  In stark contrast, around as half as many Americans went cycling in 2009 as compared to ten years earlier, with the result that it became less popular than camping, at 7% and 9% respectively.  Likewise, the number of people who went jogging and did aerobics also dropped significantly, with less than 5% of respondents to the survey choosing them.

Read about the vocabulary

Language notes

These two charts illustrate how the preferred leisure activities of Americans changed between 1999 and 2009.Generally speaking, while the list of activities remained almost identical over the decade, there were a number of changes in their relative popularity.

It is immediately evident that walking was by some distance the most popular pastime in both years,accounting for just under a third of the preferences expressed. Of equal note is that by 2009, yoga had disappeared from the list of preferred activities and had been replaced by weightlifting, which was chosen by one in ten Americans.

Among the less popular activities, the most notable development was that the proportion of people who went swimming doubled, making it equal second in popularity with soccer at 18%.  In stark contrast, around as half as many Americans went cycling in 2009 as compared to ten years earlier, with the result that it became less popular than camping, at 7% and 9% respectively.  Likewise, the number of people who went jogging and did aerobics also dropped significantly, with less than 5% of respondents to the survey choosing them.

General vocabulary

illustrate“: a useful alternative to the standard “show ”

remained almost identical“: a variation of “stayed the same”

The most notable development“: “development” is a useful alternative to “change” and “notable” works in the same way as “significant”.

respondents to the survey “: one word you may find yourself repeating a lot is “People”. One way to avoid this is to use “Americans”. This is a more advanced version – you respond to a survey and the people to respond to a survey are “respondents”.

Linking phrases

while“: a useful and slightly more advanced variation of “but”

Generally speaking,”:  an alternative to “in general”. It is a good habit to use a phrase like this in your summary paragraph. Note the comma.

It is immediately evident that“: a variation of the standard “It is clear that”. Again, it is a good habit to use a phrase like this when you are writing about the main points of the chart/graph.

Of equal note“: a useful linking phrase when you are joining two important main points.

Among the less popular activities“: this is good writing as it explains to the reader that this paragraph is about a different topic.This is a good structure to borrow.

In stark contrast“: this is a set phrase when you have a large contrast. Don’t overuse it, it only works for big differences.

Likewise“: another very useful linking phrase. You use it between two sentences which are about similar ideas. Note the comma.

Dealing with numbers

accounting for just under a third“: you could just say “around 30%”, but this way you use more language. “Accounting/accounted for” is a very useful phrase when dealing with numbers. Another example would be: “Children under 14 account for almost a quarter of people who play golf regularly”.

by some distance the most“: when you make a comparison, it is a good idea to try and qualify it in some way. if you say it is the biggest, ask yourself the question “By how much?”. Another alternative her would be “significantly the most”.

one in ten Americans“: “one in ten” is a very useful variation when you are talking about percentages.

proportion“: another key word for task 1 – an excellent variation for percentage.

dropped significantly“: you should have a number of variations for saying “rise” and “fall”. “Drop” is quite a neutral word so you can qualify with adverbs like “significantly”

Grammar notes

had disappeared“: think about tenses if you are given two charts relating to different periods in the past. Can you use a past perfect?

which was chosen by “: two points to consider here. The relative “which”is a key piece of grammar and the passive, both of which are key pieces of grammar for this task.

with the result that“: note the structure here. The fall in popularity means that it has become less popular. This is an idea you can borrow.

 

To get my next lesson in your inbox

Enter your email address:
Delivered by FeedBurner

You might also be interested in:

How to like it, share it and save it

   

Get more help with IELTS preparation on the main pages of my site

Home page

Speaking Guide

Writing Guide

Essay writing guide

Academic task 1 guide

Letter writing guide

Reading guide

Listening guide

IELTS vocabulary

IELTS grammar

Keep up with me on Facebook - all the updates and even more advice there

   

Or just get all my free lessons by email

Subscribe to DC IELTS by Email

,

27 Responses to A model pie chart report – step by step

  1. Viola September 16, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    WOW!!

  2. Kay September 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    GREAT!

  3. Nadia Utrera September 23, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

    SMART!!!!!!!

  4. Iranian Candidate October 18, 2011 at 6:07 am #

    Dear Mr. Cole

    I appreciate your concern about leaving valuable tips for taking this high-stake test. Also it is kind of you to put all these information online for free. I am going to take the test On Nov 26 so I was wondering if you could reply my comments and give feedback on my performance. Thanks you in advance.

    Regards

    • Dominic Cole December 8, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

      I do try and answer all my comments. If I don’t, it simply means that I am taking a break form the site.

  5. Reader November 12, 2011 at 4:04 am #

    it’s a really great and very helpful lesson.

    Excellent!

  6. Hyder Mohammed November 18, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    Dominic you’r awesome 🙂

  7. Thelonious M November 28, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    Very helpful! Fantastic stuff. Thanks heaps.

  8. mara January 4, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    hello sir, my exam is in 2 days and I’d really be grateful if you check my writing for these two charts and tell if I’ve gotten it right! here it is:

    These two charts show us the change of popularity in different leisure activities in the United States of America between 1999 and 2009. We can see that seven out of eight leisure activities are identical and show slight changes to a higher or lower percentage while others almost maintain their pace or disappear completely. In this period of time a new activity adds to the preferred ones of the people of the United States.
    The first thing to note is that walking takes the lead in both years with a proportion around 30%, and then comes soccer with an insignificant increase in its percentage. Both of jogging and swimming have almost doubled in this period of time whereas aerobics and bicycling fell in numbers.
    Camping has almost remained the same with the slight increase of 1%, while yoga which ranked 5% in 1999 has disappeared all together in 2009 to be replaced by a new activity called weightlifting with the percentage of 10%

    it’s 163 words, please tell me if it’s good enough!
    thanks in advance 🙂

    • Dominic Cole January 4, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

      Hi there

      I simply don’t have the time/resources to check work properly from the site. I have had a quick look though and the one thing that stands out is tenses. You use a range of present tenses (simple and present perfect), while you must use a past tense to describe data that is in the past (1999 – 2009). Best of luck. let me know how it goes.

  9. mara January 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    Hello again 🙂
    I just wanted to tell you that I’ve gotten my IELTS score today, I got:

    Listening 8 , Writing 7, Reading 7 and Speaking 7.5

    an overall of 7.5
    and I have you and this awesome blog to thank for this because I took no courses whatsoever and studied depending on your tips only!

    so, THANKS a billion :))

  10. syushu June 16, 2012 at 2:46 am #

    GOOD INFO FOR ME TO PREPARING FOR MY FINAL EXAM QUESTION

  11. Es September 16, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

    Great Piece Dominic!! quite helpful indeed xxx

  12. jaspreet kaur February 8, 2013 at 1:33 am #

    hello sir ,
    i just want to information related reading and writing also because its huge hadal of my life just few days left my exam. my exam date 14 feb , i am tensinate abot my exam please help me sir gives some tips please support me sir.

    • Dominic Cole February 12, 2013 at 2:02 am #

      There isn’t a lot you can do immediately before the exam to improve your English. Take a look at my exam days tips at the top of the page.

  13. rakz February 11, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    hi dominic, do i need to download any apps for mac and ipad to view the images inside the boxes. thanks 🙂

    • Dominic Cole February 12, 2013 at 2:00 am #

      Hope not! They appear fine on my Macbook and Ipad. Let me know if you have problems – I am having one of my periodic tidy ups.

  14. Phuong Uyen April 23, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

    Can I ask, if the two charts with one in the past and one in the future, which tense should we use to describe and compare?

    • Dominic Cole April 23, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

      Good question. Let me do a lesson on this for you. Typically the main language you want for an example like that is the language of change. I’ll try and get this done in the next few days.

  15. Lilach May 24, 2014 at 3:21 am #

    Hi,
    Is it o.k to write this essay without a summary?
    Thanks!

    • Dominic Cole August 25, 2016 at 4:05 pm #

      In short no. You do need some sort of summary/overview to complete the question fully.

  16. PAVAN November 18, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

    The pie chart illustrate the outcome of survey on several leisure activities
    Of Americans in year 1991 and 2009.

    As observed, the favorite free-time activity of American pupils in 1991 and
    2009 was Walking, 29% and 31% respectively. However very less people of
    America have chosen Yoga (5%) and Jogging (3%) as their pass time in 1991
    and 2009 respectively.

    It can be seen from chart that popularity of Jogging(3%) and Aerobics(4%) saw
    an declining trend in year of 2009. On the other hand, Swimming(18%) saw an rising trend in 2009,double of American have it as their leisure activity than people in 1991.Popularity of Soccer and Camping were remained almost same in 2009 but,
    5% of people who were doing Yoga in 1991 was clearly replaced by Weightlifting with popularity of 10%.

    Overall, the three activities Soccer, Camping and Walking almost have same popularity in 2009 as in 1991 where as, Weightlifting introduced as new leisure
    Activity in 2009 replacing Yoga from 1991.

  17. Anonymous May 20, 2015 at 4:54 am #

    Awesome sir

  18. Raj December 29, 2015 at 6:22 pm #

    I have learnt A lot by browsing this useful site.
    Thanks a lot in updating my Writing and other Skills

    Awesome site to Augment knowledge with respect to IELTS

  19. tawaz August 25, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

    thanx

  20. Mimi September 23, 2016 at 2:46 pm #

    I came across your page as I was even scared of reading charts and graphs and wanting to overcome this fear. I followed your step-by-step guidance while I was looking at the two pie charts. I think I am understanding how to make a Task 1 essay better than before and feeling the fear lifted away from my mind. I’m glad to have found your page. Thank you.

  21. Cassie April 12, 2017 at 5:28 am #

    Hi,
    Thank you for putting so much effort on this website!
    I have a question here about ‘difference between’. In the introduction part, it says ‘there were a number of differences in popularity between the various activities.’ , to me it seems like the difference is between activities, like soccer 20% but walking 30%. To me ‘differences between popularity in various activities’ seems more relevant to the next paragraph.
    Can you give some advice on my understanding of this phrase? Thank you!

Leave a Reply