This lesson gives you a model IELTS pie chart answer. But what is really about the language you need for task one academic writing. My answer may surprise you. It’s SIMPLE language used well – that means CLEARLY. Another key word (one that I repeat a lot below) is VARIETY. The idea is that if you can use simple language in a varied way, then you can write an excellent task one answer – without having to learn lists of words.
Test yourself before you start
Look at the pie charts below and think of the type of language you need to write the answer. To help you, I will tell you that my answer includes 4 major language areas: one of which is the language of transport. What are the others?
Test yourself a little more
Before you read my model answer, try and think of different words and ways of describing
- 1990,2000 and 2010
- 4%, 6% and 10%
Now try and think of as many different forms of the word “commute” as you can. Can you think of any collocations?
What words do you know for “stay the same”,”go up” and “go down”? Are there any adverbs or adjectives you regularly use with these words?
Pie charts show you proportions. Can you think of any other related number words you might want to use?
Now read my answer
What you should immediately see is that very nearly all this is in colour. Read on and you will discover why.
We can see from these charts how commuters travelled to work in London in 1990, 2000 and 2010.
In all three years, a majority of commuters used rail transport to get to work. However, there was a steady decline in the proportion of commuters using the underground system, this fell from a high of 38 per cent in 1990 to 34 per cent in 2010. In contrast, use of the train network remained almost unchanged at around 23 per cent in this period.
The means of transport that increased most in popularity was the bicycle. In 1990, only 4 per cent of commuters chose to cycle to work. By 2010, this figure had more than doubled, with one in ten people commuting to work by bicycle. By way of contrast, the percentage of car drivers fell from 22 per cent in 1990 to 19 per cent twenty years later. The figures for motorcyclists and pedestrians remained fairly constant at around 5 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.
In general, it is possible to say that there were only minor changes in commuting patterns during this period and that was a move away from commuters using the underground system in London towards cycling.
The language you need to use in task one is normally quite predictable. What this means in practice is that you should be prepared to use a variety of different words. The words you use need not be complex, just varied. Below, I show you how I have varied my language in three key areas. You may think my language is simple. You’d be correct. But if you think it is too simple, I’d suggest you think again. This is a very good answer because I vary my words.
1. The language of change
The change words are highlighted in red. Note that I don’t use complex words, but I use the core words of “fall” and “change” in different ways and accurately.
a steady decline in – note the preposition in here and the adjective (steady) to qualify decline
fell from a high of – “high” is very good here, a nice alternative of “peak” – a word that is sometimes overused and works better in line charts generally
remained almost unchanged at – again see the preposition “at” and the qualifier “almost: both of these show accuracy and variation
that increased most – a simple word again, but the word order may trick you
fell from …. to – I am not afraid to use the simple “fall”; I can do this because I used decline earlier – variation is enough.
remained fairly constant at – I have repeated the word “remained” – that’s not a real problem because I have changed the way I have qualified it
only minor changes in – change is a simple word. I could have used “variations”instead, but what I want you to see is that “minor changes” is effective enough because of the qualifying “minor”
a move away from – this is another very effective use of a simple word (“move”), it works well because it is used in combination with other words in a set phrase “a move away from”. The message here is not to learn words by themselves but focus on how they are used with other words.
2. The language of time
You need to refer to time in your answer. The trick here is to make sure that you change the language you use. Nothing complicated required.
in 1990, 2000 and 2010/in these three years/in this period/during this period – all four of these phrases mean much the same
20 years later – another good variation (what is the difference between 1990 and 2010; answer 20 years)
in 1990/ by 2010 – these may look the same, but mean different things; you should note how things “had” changed “by” 1990 – prepositions may be small words but they can mean a lot
3. The language of numbers
Pie charts show percentages and proportions and these are the two words you will and should use most. Don’t look for variation for variation’s sake – accuracy matters too. I do, however, change between these quite frequently, something you want to learn to do.
a majority of – more than 50%
the proportion of – the standard word
38 per cent/around 23 per cent/only 4 per cent – note how I use around and only to show an approximate figure and that it is a low figure. You might also want to notice “per cent” is written properly as two words.
this figure had more than doubled – figure is a super useful word that can be used for numbers
one in ten – another way to talk about percentages
the percentage of – another standard word that I can use because I have so many variations
around 5% and 10 per cent respectively – “respectively” is a useful for talking about two sets of figures at the same time. Here motorcyclists and pedestrians show a similar pattern so I want to write about them together, “respectively” allows me to do this
4. Transport language
This language is a bit different – this is topic language that you cannot predict, it all depends what the chart is about. Just as before though, the idea is to change the words you do have. My particular suggestion is that you think about word forms. “Commute” is the right word: there isn’t really any other way of saying except “travel to work”. That isn’t a problem though because “commuter”, “commuting” and “commute” are in a way all different words. If you can use them all, you are showing the examiner variation.
commuters travelled to work/commuters used rail transport/commuters using the underground system/people commuting to work by bicycle – all of these are “commute” words, but note how I change the way I use the word each time
use of the train network/the underground system – the words to note here are “network” and “system”
the means of transport – I could also use “mode of transport”, but that is in the question
the bicycle – not at all simple though it may look it – articles are really hard. “The bicycle” here means the category of bicycle.
car drivers/motorcyclists/pedestrians – I don’t want to repeat “car”, motorcycle” and walking”, so i think of the people instead and find connected words. The only one that may be new to you is “pedestrian”, which means someone who walks.