Top Tips for IELTS

Comparisons in task 1 tables

This post shows you one simple way of varying your language of comparison in task 1 reports. This matters because in task 1 you very often need to make comparisons and it is no good if you use the same words and structures all the time as your grammar is marked not only for accuracy, but also for range.

The approach I take here is to think about using different words and different word forms in describing a table.

A task

Look at this table and decide what the major comparisons and contrasts are . These will be the main points that you need to make in your report. The tip is to divide and conquer by looking at columns and rows.

IELTS table - sports in the UK

Ask the right questions

One tip is to ask yourself questions about what you see in the table. Try this simple quiz:

Instructions: Click the answer button to see the correct answer.

  1. How would I generally compare the two age groups?
    1. The younger boys played more sport
    2. There was no notable difference between the two groups
    3. The older boys played more sport

  2. Were any sports different when thinking about the age groups?
    1. Swimming
    2. Cricket
    3. Football
    4. Basketball

  3. Which sport was most popular in the younger age group?
    1. Basketball
    2. Football
    3. Cricket
    4. Rugby

  4. Which sport was least popular in the younger age group?
    1. Swimming
    2. Football
    3. Cricket
    4. Rugby

  5. Which sport was most popular in the older age group?
    1. Football
    2. Basketball
    3. Rugby
    4. Cricket

  6. Which sport was least popular in the older age group?
    1. Cricket
    2. Swimming
    3. Rugby

  7. How would I describe the popularity of the sports when comparing the two age groups?
    1. Similar
    2. Identical
    3. Different

Copyright (C) 2010 by
For similar quizzes, visit HTML-Only Self-Study Quizzes which is part of Activities for ESL Students, a project by The Internet TESL Journal.

My answer

Looking at the columns and rows I see three major comparisons that must be included:

  1. the younger boys played more sport (the columns)
  2. some sports were more popular than others (the rows)
  3. the same sports were equally popular in both age groups (the rows and the columns)

Any answer that does not highlight these points would be marked down on task achievement, so it is worthwhile spending time on this analysis.

Vary your comparison words

The next stage is to write the report. The trap here is to use the same language all the time, something it is very easy for you to do if you are not careful. Don’t worry though, you don’t need lots of new words. You just need to use the words you already have, but more flexibly. The keys are:

  1. use different comparing words
  2. use different comparing structures

To show you what I mean, here are a few variations for you to consider. I’m going to choose In each case I suggest one word and show you how it can be used in different ways. The point is that if you change the form of the word, you change your gramamtical structure and that is a good thing.

Tip: think about changing nouns to verbs or nouns to adjectives


This is probably the first word you’ll want to use. Note how it can be used both as a verb and as a noun and see also the different prepositions it uses.


This is the next most important word. Here I have just shown you the noun forms, but you should note that in each case you end up using a different grammatical structure.



This is a handy alternative: a simple word that is very effective when making comparisons. Here the main variations are between the noun “difference” and the adjective “different”.


This is another very useful alternative with a noun and verb form that can be used for comparisons sometimes. It is mostly used of course when there is a time element to the diagram, but it can also be used in other cases too.

Write the report

Now of course you need to write report. Try writing it for yourself and then comparing it with my effort which you can find as a comment below. You can also try this exercise to test your comparison language:

write the report

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10 Responses to Comparisons in task 1 tables

  1. Dominic Cole December 21, 2010 at 9:35 pm #

    This table shows how age affected the amount of sport boys took part in in the UK in 2010 by comparing boys from 6 to 11 years old with boys from 12 to 16 years old.

    It is immediately clear from the table that boys in the younger age group were more active in sport than their older counterparts. In football, basketball and cricket this difference was around 10% but fell to only 2 % in rugby. The one exception was in swimming where there was no change in the figures.

    If we compare the sports, we can see that there was no difference in the comparative popularity of the sports between the age groups. In both cases, football was by far the most popular sport at an average of approximately 82%, with cricket and basketball coming next at around 40% and 30% respectively. By contrast, swimming and rugby were the least popular sports at 19% and 22%.

    • Anonymous March 15, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

      Hi I did get the % calculation in sport task. Can you give examples. Thank you so much.

  2. Mark December 23, 2010 at 4:31 pm #

    I will take the IELTS exam this coming January, I just want you to know that your work greatly help in boosting my confidence.

    I am from Philippines, we used English as a medium in our teaching but it only help a little when in comes to a situation like this.

    But anyway I just want to say thank you.



  3. ielts sample December 28, 2010 at 6:54 am #

    Your work is helpful for students who want to boost their bands.

  4. AK June 21, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    I improved my skills from your lessons, Thanks alot.

  5. Madhar December 6, 2011 at 2:07 am #


    Thanks it is a really helpful site.Very interesting and everything is nicely explained.
    I have a question about the the words that show an opinion in describing tables things like “It is immediately clear” and “football was by far ” my English teacher said its not proper because it has an opinion on it which is not allowed an IELTS as he suggested .
    what do you think about this ? and is it proper or not ?

    Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Dominic Cole December 6, 2011 at 4:13 am #

      Interesting question. The central point is that you can only describe the data that is shown in the graphic. You should not include opinions that include hypotheses or are in some way personal or include inferences.

      I would suggest that “football was by far” is essentially descriptive of the data in the chart and is not really a personal opinion – except that what people understand by “by far” will vary slightly. If you want to argue that this language is a personal opinion, you would then be unable to use any words such as “slightly”or “dramatic” etc. Without this language, you would only be able to use numbers. That for me would be a fairly serious mistake – this is a language task after all.

      • Madhar December 12, 2011 at 5:18 am #

        Thank you so much … ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. kaml March 2, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    The table shows the aged school boys who took part in five sport categories ,divided to two groups according to their ages .one group is between( 6-11 )and another between( 12-16)in the UK -measured in percentages .(could i have your comment on my introduction please )

  7. Mireya Millar September 4, 2016 at 11:53 am #

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