In task 1 it is important that you accurately describe the information from the diagram so you don’t lose marks under Task Response. The difficulty is to decide what is the key information as there is often a lot of data to process. One way of thinking about this, is to ask yourself if someone could draw the chart and graph from the information in your report. This is not easy to do and so to help you, you will find below a 8 point checklist, an exercise and a practice suggestion.
Here is my 8 point checklist to help you include the relevant details. I suggest you use it to check your own work: you should be able to answer “yes”to all the questions.
1. Type of diagram
Have you correctly identified whether it is a bar chart/line graph/pie chart/flow chart/table?
2. The correct tense
Have you correctly identified whether the data in the chart relates to past time, a current state of affairs or a future prediction? This includes not just using the correct tenses but also including specific times in your report.
3. The subjects
Have you included all the subjects that are referred to in the diagram? Even if you have a bar chart ortable naming 8 different countries for example, you still need to refer to them all in your report.
Have you included references to the units? These may be units of time (months/years etc), money (millions of £) or simple numbers (10,000s). To do this, you need to read the x and y axes carefully.
5. Highs and lows/Beginnings and ends/Biggest and smallest
Have you included the extremes shown in the diagram? In nearly all charts and graphs these are key features to include as they give the reader a frame for understanding the chart or graph. When there is a lot of data, you may not include every extreme so you need to use your judgement.
6. Patterns and trends
Have you noted any patterns?
In dynamic charts (when there is a change in time), it is nearly always important to note whether the general trend is upwards or downwards.
In static charts (when there is only one time frame), it can be important to note patterns. For example, if you look at my sample report on holiday destinations, you will see that I group England, Scotland and Wales together and note that they have a similar pattern.
Is there anything in the chart that is completely different to the general pattern? If so, this too is very likely to be a key detail that needs to be noted.
8. Ordering information
Have you ordered the information in a logical way? It is no good putting all the right information in if the keys points are hidden away. This can happen if you follow the order of the chart without thinking. Possible logical ways of ordering the report include:
- start with the most significant detail
- start with the general pattern, then note exceptions
- group items that are similar
- move from the largest to the smallest
- move from the first in time to the last in time
The exercise is to look at this sample task 1 report and then try and draw it. Your version need not be exactly the same as the original but it should look very similar.
This bar graph shows the quarterly changes profits for Microsoft, Ford and IBM in 2012. The first point to note is that while both Microsoft and IBM are predicted to show a substantial growth in profits in this period, there is going to be little movement in the figures for Ford. It should also be remarked that although IBM will start the year with the lowest margin, it is predicted to be the most profitable company by the end of the year.
If we look at the numbers in detail, we see that Ford is expected to make a first-quarter profit of around $825 million and this should rise marginally to $900 million by the end of September, only to fall back to its starting point by December. In stark contrast, IBM is predicted to show a steady growth in profits throughout the year, shooting up from just over $180 million to exactly $1,200 million by the year’s end. After a difficult first quarter where its profits drop by around half to around $200, Microsoft is forecast to follow a similar pattern of steady growth from April to December, finishing at $600 million.
Download the task with answer and notes: Bar chart - US Companies profit forecast (4211)
The practice suggestion is quite simple. Look at one of your own reports and then try and draw the original graph/chart/table. If you cannot do it, go back to the diagram and see what you have left out.