This lesson is designed to help you think about how part 1 IELTS writing works. The idea is that many of the problems with task 1 writing are caused by the thinking part – analysing the data. That matters because the goal in task 1 is not just to describe the information in the chart, but to summarise it by selecting the key data. To do this, you need to spend time thinking – it is not simply a vocabulary exercise.
I’d add that time spent thinking is rarely wasted. If you spend 3/4 minutes thinking of what details to include, the report actually becomes easier to write. All the “ideas” are there (good for your Task Response score) and it becomes much easier to organise the report (good for your Coherence and Cohesion score).
Test yourself first
This is a simple bar chart similar to one you might find in task 1. Your task is to analyse and decide what information you would choose to include in your writing.
- Look at the chart and think for 3/4 minutes
- Make notes of what details you would include
- Try the test – how many of the details I suggest did you find?
Click yes for every detail you made a note of.
Start with the obvious
Sometimes it is easy to forget to include a detail because it looks too simple. Don’t do that. Simple matters. If you don’t include these simple details, your writing will lack clarity. The tip here is to look at the simple (that word again) things like colours and line lengths – let the visual help you. Do that and you get something like this:
- there are 6 countries
- some bars are longer than others – there are significant differences in the proportion of proficient second language speakers among the different countries
- there are two colours of bars – males and females are included in the study
- the green lines are typically longer – generally more females than males are proficient in a second language
Look at the key – use it to organise your answer
The key can also help you. Its role is to show what the different lines mean. One thing that you can do is to use it to organise your answer: in this case, that means making sure you write about:
- a comparison of males and females
I’ve helped you here by re-organising the data. This is what you should see and need to include:
- India is much the largest (around 55%)
- China is the smallest (about a third of India) (around 17%)
- Romania, Vietnam, Russia and Thailand are in that order and approximately similar (between 32 and 42%)
Likewise with females, it’s a good idea to look at the extremes and this is what you get:
- India and Romania are the largest (around 65% and 65% respectively)
- Thailand is the smallest (about 27%)
- There are fairly significant differences between Vietnam, Russia and China
Comparisons are almost always important. Here you should see:
- Typically, more females are proficient than males
- Thailand is the exception because there the pattern is reversed (the lines cross)
- Romanian females appear to be especially good at languages
Look at the axes
Another detail you need to include is that the percentage of second language learners varies considerably from country to country. You can see this by simply looking at the length of the lines on the “y” (vertical) axis. To help you see this, I have re-organised the data in a pie chart:
Key information to include from this is that overall:
- China has significantly the lowest proportion of second language speakers
- India is much the largest
- there are no major differences between Romania, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam
A sample report
Take a look at this sample report and see how I have included the relevant details.
This bar chart shows how second language proficiency varies between males and females in 6 different countries. It is immediately apparent that while there is significant regional variation in second language ability, typically a higher percentage of females than males speak a second language well.
If we look at males we can see that India has much the greatest proportion of proficient second language speakers at around 55% and China has the least at fewer than 18%. There is only a 10% difference in competency ranging from around 40% to around 30% between Romania, Vietnam, Russia and Thailand in second to fourth places respectively. There are,however, notably more female than male second language speakers in every country with the exception of Thailand. So, India once again leads the way with around 65% , closely followed by Romania and then Vietnam and Russia at 56 and 42% in turn. The two countries with fewest proficient second language speakers are China and Thailand at around 30%. The final point to note is that of the countries in the report, India would appear to have the highest overall proportion of proficient second language speakers and China the least.
The “obvious” details form the summary statement/introduction.
The main content paragraph looks first at males and then makes a contrast with females. Doing it this way means you don’t need to repeat a lot of detail.
For both males and females, the first figure included is the highest figure and, typically, the numbers run logically from high to low.
DownloadSample bar chart on foreign languages (5538)
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