Top Tips for IELTS

Avoiding repetition in task 1

This is a quick lesson on some ways to avoid repetition in task 1. It’s a particular problem when you have a series of numbers to summarise and unless you are careful you can end up with several sentences using very similar language to describe the figures. The particular solution I suggest here is learning to group similar items together.

Seeing the problem

Look at these two sentences and see what the problem is:

The number of people doing part-time courses rose by 23%….. 

The number of people studying online increased by 27%

I hope you see that this is a problem of repetition. It isn’t really enough just to change a word here and there. The two sentences have an almost identical structure.This can be a serious problem as it can affect both your grammar and your vocabulary score and you need to find more variety.

Finding a solution

Remember it’s a summary task

It helps to remember that task 1 is a summary task. This means that you

should not include every item of data

should group similar items together

The idea is that if you group similar items together then you will not need to repeat the same phrases to describe them. I show you examples of this below.

Don’t feel you have to include every piece of data
Grouping similar items is part of writing a summary and can help you avoid repetition

Look for similar items before you write

To get this right you really need to look for and notice similarities before you start writing. If you start writing too soon, it’s very easy to simply repeat structures and phrases.

Part of your thinking/planning process should be to look for items that are similar and can be grouped together. Why? Points of similarity are normally key points that need to be included.

Don’t leave it until you write to look for similar items of information

Remember to order the information in your paragraphs

It also helps to remember that it’s important to order the information in your paragraphs in a logical way (there are points for this!). What do I mean by this? Well, if you’re summarising numbers, it’s normally a good idea to start with the highest and then go in order to the lowest.

If you do this you should find it much easier to group similar items together because you will be describing them together and not in separate sentences.

It’s easier to group information together if you also remember to organise your paragraphs in a logical way

Some language to help you

There are a number of ways to avoid this form of repetition.


This is a very neat solution. I hope you see from the colour coding below how  you can use respectively to combine two pieces of information into one sentence,

The number of people doing part courses and studying online increased by 23% and 27% respectively.


This is another neat solution. The key word here is in some ways approximately. If you give an approximate figure then you are then able to group similar items together and not repeat language.

The number of people doing part-time courses and studying online both rose by approximately 25%.


This is a similar (!) idea.

There was a similar rise of around 25% in the number of people doing part-time courses and studying online.

Other comparisons

It’s also possible to use other comparisons. Also note the use of figure here.

The rise of 27% of people studying online was 4% higher than the figure for people doing part-time courses.

Other solutions

There are of course other solutions. Here are two to think about:

Word forms

This is useful when you re describing trends. Most trend words have both a noun and a verb form. So you can say for example:

There was a rise of 

It rose by


A lot of repetition comes from repeating noun phrases. Here is where pronouns such as it and this can come in useful:

While the proportion of people studying language for personal pleasure was 43%, the proportion of people studying language for business purposes was 23%.

The proportion of people studying languages for personal pleasure was 43%, this figure was only 23% for people studying it for business purposes.

Practice exercises

Here are a few very quick exercises for you. There are no “right” answers. You just need to find a way to avoid some of the repetitions here:

  1. The amount of coal used by power stations rose by 21% and the amount of coal used in domestic homes rose by 15%.
  2. The number of female students in the school who learned more than 5 subjects was around 45%, while the number of male students was only 32%.
  3. The number of books borrowed from public libraries in 2o16 was 23 million and the number of videos borrowed from public libraries was 75 million.




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