Top Tips for IELTS

Academic task 1 – trend vocabulary

This post looks at some vocabulary for IELTS writing task 1 when you need to describe a graph or chart that has a time element. I begin by looking at some of the most common vocabulary you need. Then I give you some variations and talk about  some grammar.

Test yourself first

Before you read on, you may want to test your knowledge first.


The most basic trend vocabulary – a few variations

Let’s look at this graph and see what words we need to describe it. Put simply we need language that describes

  • up (2009 to 2010),
  • down (2008 to 2009),
  • up and down (between 2006 and 2009)
  • no change (2006 and 2007)
  • the top (2010)

The trend vocabulary I am going to suggest may seem very basic. It does, however, allow you to say the same thing in up to 6 different ways.That’s good.

Tip: if you find yourself repeating a word, try changing the form of it from a verb to a noun

You should also note that, even with this basic language, there are a variety of grammar problems that cause many candidates problems. That’s bad.

Up variations

Down variations

Up and down

Sometimes you need to describe a graph that goes up and then down. Here we have fewer options.

No change


Preposition problem 1 – by and to

Prepositions are horrid in English. Have another look at the graph:

Note how these two sentences mean exactly the same:

The rate of unemployment rose to 12% in 2010.

The rate of unemployment rose by 5% in 2010.

Preposition problem 2 – in and of

This one is harder. We use “in” to describe changes in things and “of” to describe changes in number or amount. For example,

There was a rise in the rate of unemployment

There was a rise of 5% in the rate of unemployment.

More task 1 advice


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134 Responses to Academic task 1 – trend vocabulary

  1. Maram January 16, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

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    your blog was really useful.
    Thank you ♥.♥

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      o really? I wish this blog was made by me 😉 😛

    • Anonymous November 13, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

      Really, your blog is great, I may even say it’s the best one among the other IELTS prep websites. Thank you very much for the materials and advice introduced!

  2. Anonymous February 23, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

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    • Anonymous December 9, 2011 at 2:43 am #

      its the best blog

  3. Liyana April 28, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    1) which is more accurate
    “reached its peak”
    “reached a peak”

    2) Is it okay to mix past tense with continuous tense?
    i.e-sales were consistently above 200 million, rising sharply to a peak of 350 million.

    • Dominic Cole June 18, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

      1, I would prefer “reached a peak”.

      2, Your example is fine. (what you have there is in fact a participle and not a continuous tense)

    • Anonymous March 8, 2015 at 6:07 am #

      reached its peak

  4. Silvia July 4, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    It is a great web. Here I have found very useful examples, I am going to continue studying using your web to be well prepared for my IELTS test. Thank youuuu

  5. anura mirihagalla July 5, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    you are doing a great job.txxx

  6. afef July 14, 2011 at 2:37 am #

    thanks dominic you r the best)))

    • Dominic Cole July 14, 2011 at 5:57 am #

      Not quite the best! But glad to be of service.

  7. jess July 14, 2011 at 6:02 am #

    Sir, u r great……ur tips are relly very useful. u r doing a great job. Thanks a lot.

  8. Hien July 14, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Sir..please help me with this
    -Is it ok to write:”From 1990 to 2008,there was a fluctuation between 6% and 8% .”?
    -And by the way,is “8%” counted as a word?..I know this sounds silly but some word count tools DO count numbers as words..


  9. Dominic Cole July 15, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    I would prefer you used the verb: typically in English we choose to use verb forms whenever we can. We simply don’t like abstract nouns. So

    “The @@@@ fluctuated between 6% and 8%”

    I understand that most examiners would count 8% as one word.

  10. mary July 21, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    Thank you very much sir.
    ur tips are relly very useful.
    God spee you.

  11. shabnam August 9, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    thank u so much ….. it’s a very useful blog …

  12. selmon August 11, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    I find this website recently, it is a great ielts study tool , I love it!!!

  13. parneet August 25, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    doing great job sir i like ur blog

  14. kinga dorji September 5, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    thank u very much. it was very helpful and useful.

  15. has September 14, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    hi thanks for the post. you are doing a great job.
    how would you use the word @to plummet

    • Dominic Cole September 15, 2011 at 1:39 am #

      The idea of plummet is to fall very quickly and a long way. To give you an idea, we have a spoken idiom in English (not something you can use in task 1 writing) “to drop like a stone” – I guess you can see the meaning from that.

      An example:

      “While there was little or no change among the majority of activities, the number of people that expressed a preference for eating out plummeted to a low of 5% in 1995.”

  16. Emma September 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm #


  17. Ahmed September 24, 2011 at 10:58 am #

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  18. Luz September 29, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Dear Dominic Cole:

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  19. ana October 2, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    thanks for the tips, Dominic. Hope to do well for the paper.

  20. chandan October 19, 2011 at 3:12 am #

    thanks sir. your methodology to teach IELTS is superb. I am trying to make the best of it.

  21. Joel Owani November 6, 2011 at 11:53 am #



  22. kat November 18, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    I have ielts exam tmr! I’m so nervous and keep reading ur blog! it is really useful, thank you very much 🙂

  23. Nisha Kriplani November 21, 2011 at 5:12 am #

    Thank You Dominic for creating such a webpage..its really being very helpful for preparing IELTS…I am appearing for IELTS on this dec 3rd…nd ur webpage is really helping me a lot…thnksss

  24. mitra November 22, 2011 at 1:48 am #

    tnks alotttttt

  25. junesweetman November 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Sir, u r great……ur tips are relly very useful. u r doing a great job.

  26. bilawal November 26, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    sir thank you very much
    sir please you guide me
    that which tense is used in writing task 1
    present simple
    past simple

    • Dominic Cole November 27, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

      That will very much depend on the wording of the question. Read the question carefully for the time period of the graph and also look at the axes of the graph. If it relates to the past – use past tenses. You should also note that you may need to use the future.

  27. udesh December 1, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    thank you very much Sir…

  28. aisha December 5, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    its really very helpful webside. All ielts modules are explained in very nice and easy way.
    i hope i will achieve my target with the help of your brilliant webside.
    thank you so much.

  29. Namfon December 8, 2011 at 2:54 am #

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  30. RESHMA ROSHAN December 9, 2011 at 11:49 pm #

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  31. Mahmood Ali Malik December 15, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    Hi dominic cole, I almost read your website and believe me its great. I was searching for a person like you. Thank you so much for the great input in IELTS. I have my IELTS test tomorrow 17th Dec 2o11. Let see what happen 🙂

  32. Anonymous December 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    thank you so much buudddyyyyy i am very gald now coz tommorow will be my exam and i have so much trouble in graph thank you

  33. qamar ahmad December 20, 2011 at 3:58 pm #


  34. Anonymous December 29, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    God bless you sir! this was really helpful

  35. sbs January 5, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    i have lots of problem in my grammer actually i get confused while using tense. can u provide me a single tense used exercise so that i can used it same way.

    • Dominic Cole January 5, 2012 at 7:43 am #

      I aim to be doing more and more grammar in the next few months. Truth to tell, most candidates have problems in IELTS because of language difficulties – the exam itself is easy enough, it’s the language that is the hard part.

    • cheema January 28, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

      please advice me a best way to improve my ielts writing module.

  36. Ea January 9, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    Thank you so much for your great effort and I really appreciate your kindness and generosity. With your help, in few weeks time, I scored 6.0 in writing due to my lack of practice and also too nervous for the first time sit and most important thing, my careless in task2 question!(Ianswered 1 instead of 2)
    Eventhough my result does not meet the course requirement and I’ll have to re-sit, but without your blog, I strongly believe I couldn’t reach that band!

    Thank you again and may you have the very happy and pleasant year! with good health and good luck throughout the year^^

  37. DAPHNE January 17, 2012 at 10:36 pm #


    Can we say ” CO2 emissions rose from 10 tonnes to 15 tonnes in June.

    Rise from— to is OK?

  38. Irosh January 26, 2012 at 1:26 am #

    Dear Sir,
    Your blog is great and very useful. My sincere gratitude for creating such an extraordinary blog for others.
    I admire your good work.

    Thank you

  39. sonia February 23, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    hey sir.m very thankfull for ur this site.i am having dates for ielts nd its very tuff task for me to explain a graph..after ur suggestions on ur site now i am quite confident about this matter.

  40. sonia February 23, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    hey sir.m very thankfull for ur this site.i am having dates for ielts nd its very tuff task for me to explain a graph..after ur suggestions on ur site now i am quite confident about this matter.

  41. soso February 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    sir ur web is really helping me,but i m really week in using i can improve this,

  42. noor March 11, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    thank u sooooooooooooooooooooooo much sir its a mirace for me to i found this web for my ielts preparation tnank u so much again

  43. NSA March 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    thank u sooooooooooooooooooooooo much sir its a mirace for me to i found this web for my ielts preparation tnank u so much again

  44. sahida April 2, 2012 at 5:04 am #

    wow its really nice…..i learnt more useful skills with ur guidlines….thank you sir……….great……………

  45. saadah April 4, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    What is the different in the words used here;

    rose by 100 mm & rose to just over 150 mm

    Are the preposition ‘by’ and ‘of’ interchangeable like these

    an increase by 3% @ an increase of 3%

  46. Dr Braun April 6, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    Hi there,

    Thank you very much indeed. You really do a great job!!!

  47. Catherine April 14, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Hello Dominic , I have a question – when I describe lines in a line graph ..should I say for example- The blue line illustrates …or the blue figure illustrates, or the figure of gym activities(example)

    • Dominic Cole July 26, 2012 at 9:37 am #

      I personally would not refer to blue at all. The idea is that you are describing the data in such a way that someone can read your report and understand the graph without having to look at it.

  48. zen, April 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    you are really great dominic.thanku so much. your lessons are really helpfull for me.

  49. adeel May 3, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    great help dear…that’s the way we can get better band

  50. G.Probert May 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    Yes….thanks. A very useful well organised site. Well done and thanks

  51. kiran dath jain May 18, 2012 at 3:26 am #

    my whole hearted gratitute for this great task of yours…kerala

  52. SRK May 19, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    Great effort sir, God Bless you

  53. ritch May 31, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    hi sir,thanks for this site,it hepls a lot,but i want to see if my writing is good now.can you hekp me pls..

  54. Fabir June 26, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    I would like to know if I use this vocabulary is it OK to get 7

    • Dominic Cole July 5, 2012 at 2:35 am #

      Could be. But you need to remember that vocab is just one marking crtierion. You also need to focus on task achievement (getting the right detail), coherence and grammar. A very common mistake in task 1 is for candidates to focus too much on learning “words for graphs”.

  55. vijaya July 3, 2012 at 5:11 am #

    thank you so much sir, i have IELTS Test after a week,please suggest me what things i have to do for test preparation? and what are the tipes for test specially in reading and writing section?

    thank you

    • Dominic Cole July 4, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

      You won’t improve your English much in a week. The best thing to do now is to think carefully about your exam strategy for each paper and make sure that when you go into the exam you focus on answering the question.

      Best of luck.

      • Tik July 7, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

        Thank you sir, this advise is specific for me! I am going to use your website
        effectively because I am so weak in English.

        Be blessed!

        • Dominic Cole July 8, 2012 at 3:38 am #

          Great. A small thing (but I am a language teacher), the noun is “advice” and the verb is “advise”!!

  56. vijaya July 5, 2012 at 7:26 am #

    thank you very much for your quickly reply and i will do as per your suggestion again i would like to thank you sir.

  57. Sreelatha July 19, 2012 at 8:10 am #

    Hi sir,
    I am keen in getting more than 7. I found ur site is useful.but I am not a native speaker and worried about my writing. Is there any way to improve my writing. Can u help me in correcting my essays please.


    • Dominic Cole July 19, 2012 at 11:17 am #

      Sorry I don’t have the time for that – I can only suggest you contact a teacher on the find a teacher page – the idea is that these are all professional tutors whom will give you a personalised service – something i can’t do.

  58. sreeatha July 28, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    hi sir. thanks for the suggesstion

    i have taken iets and scored 6 in writing, 6.5 in listering, 6.5 in speaking.i am planning to do ielts in september. can u suggest me how to proceed. i have a kid to lookafter . so i am not finding much time in a day to practice much.please help me in suggesting what to do?

  59. stella nantongo August 31, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    iam going to do ielts just 2mor and i must say this website is very helpful

  60. burhan September 28, 2012 at 4:32 am #

    this web site is very good

  61. burhan September 28, 2012 at 4:34 am #

    but i have problem with writing and spelling

    i wand advise

  62. Anonymous September 30, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    i have got 7 thanks

  63. Malik Usman October 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    nice effort sir
    keep it up plz

  64. Mishenka November 21, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    Hello Mr. Cole,

    I feel really worry about my preparation for IELTS, In three months I will have to take it and I feel I won’t be able to pass it. I am 40 and English always was so difficult for me. I have a lot of material, but I don’t know how can I start. I appreciate your advice. God bless you!

  65. Reddy December 11, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    I love your blog…

    Sexy Tip: “If you find yourself repeating a word, try changing the form of it from a verb to a noun”

  66. mazdakam December 29, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    Thank you.

  67. Uyen February 16, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    Dear sir,
    Do you have any alternative source of this paper as I couldn’t see these pictures. Your note seems really important to me.
    Thanks teacher alot.

    • Dominic Cole February 16, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

      Sorry. Thanks for letting me knw. Are you using Safari? At the mo, I have issues with Safari that I am trying to sort out. All I can do is suggest you try a different browser.

  68. fassee February 24, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    I am just in love with this blog. I have also made a blog for ielts test preparation. do visit my blog ielts package, as i need your inputs. Thanks

    • Dominic Cole February 24, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

      Sadly, blogspot is one of those platforms that is inaccessible to me in China

  69. Akylbek March 6, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    Hi! i will take the IELTS exam on 6 of april. it will be the third try. I really have a problem with writing first time I earned 6 second time even worse 5.5. Both of them were in september 2012. There are advices that i should read a lot to write better, but that did not work in my case. I recieved 7.5 and 8 in reading simultaneously with 6.0 and 5.5 in writing. Summarise is that how can i improve my writing differently from reading a lot?

  70. Sara March 17, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    Dear Dominic,

    When I go through the discussion in your blog, I find that a lot of my questions are already answered. Thank you so much for taking time and guiding the IELTS test takers form all over the world.

  71. suneel March 23, 2013 at 2:58 am #

    Hi dominic,

    I am going to write exam on 16th april, could u plz give some suggestions for how to plan my ielts preparation to get good score.

    • Dominic Cole March 23, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

      Too difficult I’m afraid to give you personal advice – each candidate really is different. Be very wary of sites that tell you that they have everything YOU need for IELTS preparation. That is at best misleading – they have no idea who you are. Some people can prepare in a week successfully, some will need months and months.

      That said, my basic advice is get to know the exam first. It is a pretty straightforward test really with no secrets. But some people can be surprised about how the writing and speaking are graded for instance – so check out my pages on the band scores. It is also sensible to do one complete practice test right at the start of the process to give you an idea of what it involves. The problem there is that you have no real way to assess your own writing/speaking without a teacher – hence my standard advice to talk to a teacher at least once to see where you are. After that, it is a case of improving the skills that you are weak in. That is the part that depends on the individual.

      I am currently in the process of putting together a series of articles on IELTS preparation in general. The first of these will appear this Monday with luck. The topics for you to consider are:

      do you understand what IELTS is?
      do you have different ways to practise to improve your skills
      do you have a practice schedule?

  72. Akylbek March 26, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

    Thank you to your answer dear teacher

  73. simi June 3, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    it’s easy to understand…..

  74. hammad November 20, 2013 at 4:09 am #

    dear sir,
    I have ielts in couple of weeks any advices, what should I do next couple of weeks,
    last time I got: 7.5 in listening, 5 in writing and 6 in reading and speaking. need 7 overall
    Thank you.

  75. seema khanna December 6, 2013 at 6:47 am #

    Its really helpfull.I have exam on Jan 10.Kindly give some tips in writing.Thanks

  76. neha December 16, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    I hav only one month for ielts preparation. How should i prepare for it? Please suggest me some tips.

  77. real January 3, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    can i write down the following 2 sentences as i found those from somewhere…….

    here was a dramatic fall in the sales of TV…..instead of………there has been a dramatic fall in the sales of TV…

    and….the sales of TV fell dramatically…… instead of….. the sales of TV has fallen dramatically.

  78. real January 3, 2014 at 1:31 pm #


  79. Anonymous February 8, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    I like it

  80. punjaban girl March 7, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    nice explnation….plz
    upload more useful examples of flow chart ,diagram etc

  81. saman March 13, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    sir, I have given Ielts academic exam 5 times and every time I am getting 6 bands in writing module,
    my requirement is 7 bands in each module. my next exam is on 5 april.
    I am good in other 3 modules and getting above 7 but I need your help in improving my writing.
    Can you help me ??

    • Dominic Cole March 13, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

      The only way I can do that is on my site. if you ask me a specific question (the best place is the forum) then I will try and give you an answer or even post a special lesson for you.

  82. Sevinj April 10, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    Sir Domenic, I couldn’t find the chart about rainfalls. ( You offered to test ourselves).

    • Dominic Cole April 10, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

      Thanks for letting me know. I’ll get it fixed – it got lost when I moved server. I’ll have it up in a couple of days.

      • Sevinj April 10, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

        Thank you for attention!

  83. Rose June 23, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    This blog is very useful and its of great help to me at the moment…Thank you so much for all the explanations 🙂

  84. JMC July 25, 2014 at 6:52 am #

    Your site is a big help!

    Thank you so much.

  85. Tran Thi Ngoc Minht July 31, 2014 at 7:49 am #

    I have recently started to learn IELTS. I find out your useful website while Im on the way to finding the best way to learning IELTS. Im going to work hard every single day on your website. Every post that you make is very useful. Thanks a lot!

  86. Anonymous August 12, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    thanks , this is the best blog I have never seen . it helped me a lot

  87. syed najmul hassan September 5, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    great job !

  88. Li September 22, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

    The best website on Internet, by far!

  89. Natália September 25, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    very helpfull!!!! thanks a lot for this explanation.

  90. Le Viet Dung October 28, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    Your page is really useful for me. Thank you so so much !

  91. Anonymous November 9, 2014 at 6:50 am #

    you save my day

  92. Samah November 16, 2014 at 7:06 am #

    Thanks a lot it is very helpful..

  93. Gurwinder tejay February 3, 2015 at 6:13 pm #

    Hllo sir plzz help me i am very week in reading and my main problem is grammer in others module what i do sir for improve this Plzzzz help me sir

  94. emeka February 3, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

    Your teaching methods are just top notch.
    They are really class.
    I understand your lessons on grammar and writing more than i ever learnt in high school.
    Keep it up.

  95. hosein June 29, 2015 at 8:44 am #

    hi master,
    i found this site is very useful and sophisticated … specially when ielts teachers haven’t enough time for or don’t want to improve 4 skills of candidates in form of free…..
    anyway… since now, i decide to present in to the online courses by this great site. thanks a lot…
    best regard …

  96. Anonymous July 1, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

    Hello sir i have 7 bands in IELTS but i am not happy with my speaking skills as i lack in impressive vocabulary and sometimes Can not pronounce a Word correctly that i m not familiariser with. Please Give me solution to this.

  97. gulnar July 19, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    I am very glad to be here, thank you for useful information, Dominic !

  98. Anonymous July 25, 2015 at 1:16 pm #

    I also adore you Sir!

  99. shelly July 26, 2015 at 3:53 pm #

    you are so incredible!!! thank you!thank you! it really helped me a lot!!!
    you are my savior!!!

  100. Азиза September 28, 2015 at 6:44 pm #

    Thank you sir for helping many people like me who can’t afford personal tutor ! You’re doing a great job!

  101. janet October 12, 2015 at 3:47 am #

    Hi,sir,could i ask u the example”there was an increase of 6%” and “there was a 6% increase” or ”there was a 6% of increase” which one is better? is there any difference among them?

    • Dominic Cole August 25, 2016 at 8:25 am #

      There was a 6% increase is the best option. Though there was awn increase of 6% also works

  102. janet October 12, 2015 at 3:52 am #

    it was incredible!

  103. Jorge November 1, 2015 at 4:17 pm #

    Thanks a lot! very useful!!!

  104. parm June 8, 2016 at 10:28 am #

    It’s very useful.

  105. Imee June 17, 2016 at 1:46 am #

    Thank you so much for all your help.

  106. Selim July 30, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

    I have no word to mean this job. I am overwhelmed. Immense thanks goes to you, Sir.

  107. Sajid August 8, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

    To mention the time frame can I use during 1990 to 2000 or is it inappropriate?


  1. Une fiche de vocabulaire Toeic sur l'augmentation, la stabilité et la baisse - November 2, 2012

    […] saurais trop leur conseiller de consulter l’excellent site et en particulier la fiche 1 puis la fiche 2 qui proposent en préambule un exercice […]

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