Top Tips for IELTS

Energy production bar chart

In this lesson I show you a model answer to a bar chart exercise. I also help you with:

reading the chart

organising your answer

writing a summary statement

avoiding repetition

making good comparisons

The amount of energy produced in millions of tonnes in the UK by sector
power-table

This chart shows the change in level of production between 1995 and 2005 in different energy sectors in the UK. The key points to note are that overall production increased significantly during this period and that natural gas was by far the largest energy sector accounting for around 40% of all energy produced.

While the total amount of energy produced rose steadily  from around 195 million tonnes in 1995 to about 21o in 2000 and then again to 228 in 2015, the only energy sector to increase its output in each year was natural gas, rising from 80, through 88 and then approximately 103 million tonnes. In contrast all the other sectors suffered at least one fall with the output of coal and nuclear power dipping in 2000 and oil in 2005; the production of hybrid power remained fairly steady throughout.

As  already noted, more natural gas was produced that any other form of energy in each year. Oil accounted for the next highest level of production at around 60 million tonnes on average, followed by nuclear power and coal at approximately 35 and 25 million tonnes respectively. Much the least amount of power came from the hybrid sector which produced less than 2 million tonnes one each year.

Reading the chart

You should always spend time reading the chart and understanding it. Don’t rush this process. It helps you:

find the summary statement

organise your answer

avoid silly mistakes

The simple thing to do is start by looking at the key and the axes.

Look at the key

The first point to note is that this chart is time based and shows change over as period of time. You see this from looking at the key which reads 1995 – 2000 – 2005. This tells you that:

you need trend language to describe changes over time (rise/fall etc)

the change over time is likely to be a key point to be noted

Look at the axes

You should see that there are 5 different sectors on the x axis. This tells you that:

you need mention each of the 5 sectors

you need to compare the 5 sectors

that comparison is likely to be one of your key points

Finding the general points for your summary

The first step is to identify the key/general points. Once you have done that then you know how to organise your summary. The sensible approach here is to look at the two variables:

the years

the sectors

Compare the sectors – look for the high and lows

The highest and lowest numbers are often key points that you can mention in your summary. Here you could say that hybrid power was produced in negligible amounts and natural gas was much the highest number.

Compare the years – look for the general trend

Another point to consider is looking to see if the amount of production overall rose over time. To do this you may need to do some maths. Here you find:

1995 = 197 approx

2000 = about 210

2005 = about 228

Here we see a clear rising trend and that is a point to put in your summary

Think about how to organise in paragraphs

Before you start to write you should decide how to organise your paragraphs. The logical way to do this is to write one paragraph for each of the main comparisons. This means:

a paragraph about the change over time – comparing output in each year and how each sector rose/fell

a paragraph comparing the sectors – looking at which sector produced least and which most.

Deciding on the detail to include – look for patterns to group information together

You can’t include everything! It really helps to look for patterns. This means that you can group information together for sectors that followed a similar pattern and you may not need to write down all the detail.

Here the output of oil, coal  and nuclear power all fluctuated slightly. That helps me put them all together as following a similar pattern. I then mention natural gas and hybrid power separately as their have their own pattern.

Think averages

This won’t always work but one way not to repeat lots of figures is to look for an average amount. Note how I say that approximately 60 million tonnes of coal was produced on average,

Use respectively

I could have written:

 Oil accounted for the next highest level of production at around 60 million tonnes on average, followed by nuclear power at around 35 million tonnes on average and coal at around 25 million tonnes on average.  

That’s a lot of repetition. See how I get around it by using respectively

followed by nuclear power and coal at approximately 35 and 25 million tonnes respectively.

Vary vocabulary – use word forms and simple synonyms

You are of course going to need to repeat yourself quite a lot in task 1. If you are writing about energy production you will naturally use the words energy and production more than once. But see how I do vary my language by changing word form and using one synonym output. 

the total amount of energy produced

the only energy sector to increase its output

In contrast all the other sectors

with the output of coal and nuclear power

the production of hybrid power remained fairly steady

more natural gas was produced

the next highest level of production

Language of comparison and contrast

This is a key part of academic task 1 and you should be prepared to use a range of different comparing expressions. It is one of the best ways to use a range of grammar in task 1. See what I do:

by far the largest

While 

In contrast

more natural gas 

next highest level

much the least amount

   

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