Top Tips for IELTS

Pie charts – a quick start guide

This quick lesson is intended to guide you through the basics of describing a pie chart in IELTS. The idea is show you some of the problems pie charts present and suggest some of the language you need to describe them.

Note  that this is an introductory lesson only and that in the exam itself you are unlikely to get a pie chart by itself.

What pie charts show

There are two key ideas here:

  1. pie charts show percentages – the figures always add up to 100% of a whole
  2. pie chart show comparisons – they are an easy visual way to show the differences between items

This means that the key language for describing pie charts are usually the language of percentages/proportions and the language of comparisons.

Key language of pie charts – percentages

Pie charts always show percentages. This is the case even where the numbers on the chart may not be expressed in percentages. If you look at these two charts they present the same data in two different ways.

Vary your number/percentage language

To improve your score you want to vary the language of numbers and percentages slightly. You can do this by using the numbers in the pie chart or percentages. Some key words include:

  • proportion
  • amount (for uncountables)
  • number (for countables)
  • a half/third/quarter etc
  • figure
You should be prepared to use language and not just figures to describe the data in your report – IELTS is a language test.
It is also good advice to round figures up or down to the nearest large number. You do not want to include every detail in the report but summarise key details.

Test your skills

 

quick quiz

Look at the chart below and decide which numb rephrase best fills the gap. The idea is to show you how there are a variety of ways to express numbers in English.

Numbers in pie charts

Start
Congratulations - you have completed Numbers in pie charts. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Return
Shaded items are complete.
1234End
Return

 

Key language of pie charts – comparisons

The second key language area is comparisons. The idea is that by looking at the pie chart you can see visually how the different items compare. Important points to include are:

  • the largest
  • the smallest
  • any items that are similar to each other
There are many ways to make comparisons in English, you should try and vary the way you use comparisons in your report.

Test your skills

 

Quick quiz

Look at the pie chart below and decide which word or phrase best completes the gap. The idea is to see how many different ways there are of making comparisons in English.

Comparisons in pie charts

Start
Congratulations - you have completed Comparisons in pie charts. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Return
Shaded items are complete.
12345
End
Return

Organising your report

In any task 1 the challenge is to present the data in a logical and coherent way. How you do that will depend on the data, but here are two pointers if you are describing a pie chart by itself in one paragraph

  • Organise your  paragraphs around one main idea – this will normally involve rephrasing the title of the pie chart
  • start with the highest amount and move to the lowest
  • group similar items together
Try not to make your report a simple list, rather try to organise it around main points.

Test your skills

 

Quick quiz

Look at the pie chart and answer the questions below about how you might organise the information in the report.

Understanding the data

Start
Congratulations - you have completed Understanding the data. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Return
Shaded items are complete.
12345
End
Return

Further resources

If you are looking for more guidance on pie charts, you could try:

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