Top Tips for IELTS

Using paragraphs to organise your answer in a task 1 table

In this lesson I help you with a complex table in IELTS task 1. The idea I want to sell you is that it helps to spend time thinking about patterns in the table and how you will organise your answer. Task 1 is very largely an organisational task and to do it well, you need to learn how to organise your answer in paragraphs. The main ideas are:

find patterns in the data

organise the patterns

write in paragraphs

The table

This is a complex table. There are 21 different pieces of data for you think about and organise. One thing is sure is that you cannot include all the data – you need to summarise it and select the main features ( see video here).

I suggest you think about the questions:

  • What is the big picture? How can I summarise the table in a sentence or so? – This gives you your summary statement.
  • How can you group information together? – This will show you your paragraphs.

The percentage of workers in agriculture, manufacturing and services in 7 European countries in 2014

IELTS table of employment

The big picture/summary

Sometimes this is the hard one to see. In this case, I hope it’s easy. The big picture is that the highest proportion of people works in services in every country and the lowest in agriculture (with one exception).

This is your summary statement. I’d put this right at the start of your report as it will help the reader/examiner understand what you are writing.

How to group information together

There are two steps here:

  1. find patterns in the information
  2. organise those patterns into paragraphs

There are almost always different ways to do this – as you should see from my examples below. You just need to make sure that your groupings are logical.

An “X axis” approach

A simple way to group the information is just to write about agriculture, then manufacturing and then services. The benefit of this approach is that it is clear. If you do this though you want to be smart about it. It is not enough just to list all the information. You want to analyse/process those figures and find some patterns to help you write and avoid repetition.

A top tip is to look at the variation from the biggest to the smallest – this is almost always key data. So

agriculture = 1% (almost nothing) to 30% = huge variation

manufacturing = 15% to around 40% = significant/doubling

services = 44% to 84% = almost same range as manufacturing = doubling

Note how the organisation in this variation. It is super clear no? First I do one , then the other, then the other. But the note too now I link the sentences together and compare between the different sectors. This is a case where repeating language is a good thing!

The figures for agriculture varied significantly. In Romania and Ukraine around 30% and 10% of the respective workforces worked in agriculture, while in all the other countries except this figure was 3.5% or lower. There was less marked variation in the manufacturing sector with the percentages ranging from a high of 37.4% in the Czech Republic down to around 15% in the UK and Greece. There was approximately the same degree of variation in the service sector. The UK, Greece, France and Germany all had around three quarters of the workforce employed in the service industry.  By contrast, only 60% of Czech workers and fewer than 45% of Romanian workers were employed in services.

 

A Y axis approach

An alternative is to look at the countries on the y axis and see if you can group them together in some way. This may be slightly harder to do but it can still work. What I see is:

UK/Greece/France and possibly Germany all follow the same pattern – very low agriculture and very high services

Czech/Romania/Ukraine – all lower in services – Romania very high agriculture and Czech manufacturing

The organisation may be less clear this time but I hope you see that I am still grouping information. This time I am taking a country by country approach and picking out the important numbers.

The employment statistics for these sectors in UK, France, Greece and Germany followed a very similar pattern with the figures for agriculture varying between 1.3 and 3.5 %, manufacturing 5.2 and 24.6%, and the services 73.8 and 83.5%.

The Czech Republic, Ukraine and Romania all differed somewhat. These countries all had a lower percentage of people working in the service sector with only 43.9 % in Romania and 58.8 and 60% in Ukraine and Czech republic respectively. In Romania the agricultural sector accounted for around a quarter of the workforce and this figure very slightly exceeded the percentage of Romanians employed in manufacturing. Ukraine too had a greater proportion of workers in agriculture, but this was less than half that amount at around 12%. While in the Czech Republic there was nearly 40% of the workforce worked in manufacturing and that is around 10% more than in any other country,

The complete answers

Here are the two complete answers. Which is better? I’m not sure, but they both work. There is almost always more than one logical approach.

Version 1

This table shows the percentage of the population working in the agricultural, manufacturing and service sectors in 7 European countries in 2014. It is immediately clear that in each case the highest proportion of people was employed in the service sector and that, with one exception, the lowest was employed in agriculture.

The figures for agriculture varied significantly. In Romania and Ukraine around 30% and 10% of the respective workforces worked in agriculture, while in all the other countries except this figure was 3.5% or lower. There was less marked variation in the manufacturing sector with the percentages ranging from a high of 37.4% in the Czech Republic down to around 15% in the UK and Greece. There was approximately the same degree of variation in the service sector. The UK, Greece, France and Germany all had around three quarters of the workforce employed in the service industry. By contrast, only 60% of Czech workers and fewer than 45% of Romanian workers were employed in services.

It is notable how the UK, France, Germany and Greece all had a very low proportion of people employed in agriculture and a very high proportion in services. In contrast, the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Romania all had a much more significant percentage of workers either in manufacturing or agriculture.

Version 2

This table shows the percentage of the population working in the agricultural, manufacturing and service sectors in 7 European countries in 2014. It is immediately clear that in each case the service sector employed the highest proportion of people and that, with one exception, agriculture employed the lowest.

The employment statistics for these sectors in UK, France, Greece and Germany followed a very similar pattern with the figures for agriculture varying between 1.3 and 3.5 %, manufacturing 5.2 and 24.6%, and the services 73.8 and 83.5%.

The Czech Republic, Ukraine and Romania all differed somewhat. These countries all had a lower percentage of people working in the service sector with only 43.9 % in Romania and 58.8 and 60% in Ukraine and Czech Republic respectively. In Romania the agricultural sector accounted for around a quarter of the workforce and this figure very slightly exceeded the percentage of Romanians employed in manufacturing. Ukraine too had a greater proportion of workers in agriculture, but this was less than half that amount at around 12%. While in the Czech Republic nearly 40% of the workforce worked in manufacturing which was around 10% more than in any other country,

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8 Responses to Using paragraphs to organise your answer in a task 1 table

  1. Xie September 11, 2015 at 6:31 pm #

    Hi Dominic is it per cent, percentage or percent?

    • Dominic Cole September 11, 2015 at 6:37 pm #

      Good question. It works like this:

      per cent is the correct way to refer to numbers: e.g. “34 per cent of the population.” So if you use a number use per cent.

      percent is the same as per cent only that it is American usage – perfectly acceptable in IELTS

      percentage is a countable noun and is mostly used without a number: e.g. “A large percentage of the population”. So if there’s no number, it’s works best to use percentage

  2. Sajid Mansuri September 14, 2015 at 2:01 am #

    Hi,
    It’s better to write keypoint in introduction or conclusion in last paragraph??

    • Dominic Cole September 14, 2015 at 2:32 am #

      Hi

      My personal preference is to put it up front near the beginning. There are different possibilities though and the end can work. I’ll do a lesson on this

  3. Sahil Suri September 16, 2015 at 9:57 am #

    Hi,

    Your essays and everything on this Website are really supportive for all.
    I think you are doing the best ,by giving free details on all the stuff related to IELTS.

    Thanks a lot

  4. Azniza September 24, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    Hi, what is the ideal length for task 1? Is 170 words okay?

    • Dominic Cole August 21, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

      170 is about right. You need to make sure you get at least 150 of course and you don’t want to write too many words as you may repeat yourself or go off topic or spend too long writing. That said, a high quality candidate – aiming for 7.0 or above – may sometimes need more words!

  5. Elza June 2, 2016 at 6:22 am #

    Hi,

    I have been following your writing pattern pattern for a while. It is really helpful. I am going to take my IELTS exam soon. Hope these tips will help me to get through the exam.

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