Top Tips for IELTS

How to compare and contrast numbers in task 1

Some of the most important language in task 1 is the compare and contrast vocabulary. This is because the instructions tell you to

  make comparisons where relevant

You also need to describe numbers. This lesson helps you out with different ways to compare and contrast numbers.  It is not all about more and less.

1. Comparisons between sentences

One way to make comparisons is to start a new sentence with a word/phrase that shows that you are about to make a comparison with the previous sentence. The basic words you need here are:

In contrast

The most popular form of holiday among the Welsh was self-catering with over 60% choosing to cook for themselves. In contrast, only 5 % of the English chose this form of vacation and hotel accommodation was much more popular at 48%.

In comparison

Almost 50% of the English, Scots and Northern Irish chose to stay in a hotel for their holiday. In comparison, staying in self-catering accommodation was much less popular with around 10% of people choosing this.


The general pattern was for hotel accommodation to be the most popular with around half the people choosing it. The majority of the Welsh, however, chose to stay in self-catering accommodation.

On the other hand

It is clear that a majority of the British chose to stay in hotel for their holiday. On the other hand, there was an exception to this because over 50%  of the Welsh opted for self-catering accommodation.

Note that we normally use a comma after In contrast and In comparison.

Note that there are lots of different ways to use compare and contrast and these are just the most basic examples. If you are looking for a higher band score, it’s good advice to learn different ways to use these words.

Note too that typically however is not used as the first word in a sentence.

2. Comparisons within sentences

Another possibility is to compare two pieces of information within the same sentence. The basic words you need here are:


While there are 4 million miles of train lines in the UK, there are only 3 million in France.


Whereas the majority of the French prefer to travel to work by train, only a small minority of the British do.


Although 15% of the French read novels, only 5% of the British do.


Almost 25% of French females study maths with a private tutor, but nearly 60% study English with one.

3. Comparisons with more or less/fewer

This is another obvious way to make comparisons and contrasts. You should note though that you are normally going to compare numbers and nouns and not adjectives. You want to remember these two key bit of grammar:


Remember that after more/less/fewer we use than

5% more girls chose to read books than go to cinema.


If the word is uncountable we use less, if it is countable we use fewer:

Fewer mobiles phones were bought in 2013 than 2014.

Less oil was consumed in 2013 than 2014.

4. Qualify your comparisons with much/far/slightly or a number

This is similar. The idea here is that you still use less/more/fewer but this time you explain how much. Typically, the best way to do this is to use a number:

Far fewer people chose to travel by train than by car. [Where’s the detail?]

25% fewer people chose to travel by train than by car. [Better now we have detail and not just a comparison]

5. Comparisons with most or least/fewest

When you are looking for details to include, the highest/lowest number is almost always important. This too is a form of comparison.

The most popular form of entertainment in the UK was going to the cinema.

The least common form of transport was taking a taxi.

6. Comparisons with similar or same or as…

Don’t forget that some of the numbers you will be comparing are similar. These are the basic words and structures you need.

Similar (to)

The percentages of females and males who studied languages at university were very similar.

A similar amount of gas and electricity was used domestically in homes.

The figures for 2012 were very similar to the figures for 2013.

Same as …as

The percentage of females who studied at university in 2011 was almost exactly the same as in 2012

7. Comparisons with differ/different/difference

If something is similar, it can also be different! Here is another set of basic variations for you:

The amount of time spent at home differed by almost 25% according to gender.

There was a difference of over 25% in the amount of time males and females spent at home.

This figure was very different among males, only half of whom watched television. 

8. Comparisons with numbers

Another way to make comparisons is to do some simple arithmetic! Here are some simple variations:

[5 million] more/less/fewer

5 million fewer units of gas were sold in 2014.


Twice as many people elected to use gas and not electricity for cooking [note the twice as …as structure]

Twice the amount of gas was used for cooking in this period. [note that we amount with uncountable nouns]

Three/four etc times 

Four times as many people chose to heat their house with electricity as with gas.


Half the number of people chose to use gas as electricity.

Electricity was half as popular as gas for cooking.


More help with task 1 Try another numbers lesson – do some mathsDo some numbers exercises


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24 Responses to How to compare and contrast numbers in task 1

  1. Rose June 14, 2014 at 10:36 am #

    I used to find Task 1 really confusing because I didn’t understand the general ideas about how to write reports on graphs or charts. Your lessons have helped me to see the “big picture”. Thanks for your great lessons.

  2. Taslim Uddin June 19, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

    It is really work for me. Thanks.

  3. shimelis Etifu June 21, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    i think this is much more helpful for whom taking the exam and for general knowledge as well. thank you!

  4. a.belgasem June 22, 2014 at 10:38 pm #


  5. Ed July 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    Hi Dominic,

    This is another great summary, which I benefit a lot from the post. THANK you.

    By the way, I would like to ask some grammar questions as I am confused.

    For the above practice sentence 1, why you put ” the Japanese” and “the Canadians” instead of “Japanese” and ” Canadians”?

    The same question applies to sentence 3 and 6 for ” the Australian”, “the British” and “the Korean”.
    I was told that if we put “the” in front of Australian to to indicate they are a special group of Australian we are referring to.

    Thank you in advance.


  6. Ed July 12, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    I am confused because in sentence 2, 5 and 9 there is not “the” in front of Americans, Australians and Canadians.

    I am really confused as to when we have to add the article “the” in front of Americans, Australians or Canadians. I searched on the news from Australia and I see most of time there is no “the” in front of Australians.

    Can anyone help me with this?

    Thank you.


  7. Anonymous October 1, 2014 at 5:27 am #

    can u tell me plz about the correct usage of the

  8. Maggie November 27, 2014 at 12:33 am #

    That is very helpful, thanks

  9. pavankumar December 30, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    Dear Dominic ,


    i was wondering if you could help me. would you please tell me more about the structures of these words

    in contrast, whereas,in comparison ,however ,on the other hand ,while ,although ,but, please explain all these with

    using different tenses and word structures please sir help me

    • Dominic Cole September 6, 2015 at 1:05 pm #


      Sorry that is much too big a question for a comment. I’ll try and get something posted on the site to help

  10. Anonymous January 4, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    thanks sir dominic for all these tips and samples. It really means a lot especially maybe for those people reviewing on their own

  11. sajid patel June 7, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

    Thanks so much

  12. Igor July 29, 2015 at 7:17 pm #

    Hello, Dominic
    you provide the example:
    “The percentage of females and males who studied languages at university were very similar”

    If you use “were” then, I think it should be percentages

    Read more: How to compare and contrast numbers in task 1 |
    Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives

    • Dominic Cole September 6, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

      My mistake – now corrected. Thank you for that.

      • Jinson Jose September 15, 2015 at 8:34 am #

        A real teacher always accepts mistakes without any hesitation…you are a perfect teacher…
        Well done!!

    • Dominic Cole September 5, 2016 at 9:47 am #

      Thank you. Now corrected.

  13. Abdelrahman Amin August 2, 2015 at 1:44 am #

    Many thanks and heart greetings from Egypt to you…

  14. Jinson Jose September 15, 2015 at 8:29 am #

    Dominic Sir,
    You are really great…
    All these articles are interesting.
    Best wishes

  15. nicol May 6, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    the best lesson ever great work

  16. Phuong Nguyen June 23, 2016 at 1:06 am #

    My teacher told me that ” whereas can not stand at the first of a sentence”. Is it right ?

  17. jevin September 22, 2016 at 10:33 am #

    Hi Dominic

    Could u pls explain the rules of using ‘ rather/rather than’ and ‘instead ‘? Can I use ‘ rather’ in the beginning of a sentence ?


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