Top Tips for IELTS

An IELTS pie chart exercise

This lesson shows you how to approach a pie chart for IELTS and focuses on

organising your answer logically

seeing patterns

using numbers

You will also find a useful IELTS pie chart exercise at the end.


Step 1 – see the big picture

Before you start thinking about detail I suggest you look first for main points – what I call the big picture. Why? The main points help you structure your summary.  I suggest that you typically  want to write two body paragraphs. The question is how can you find two paragraphs that are logical. There are points for logical organisation.

Ask yourself some simple questions

The starting point is to ask simple questions. Sometimes it is easy to make things too complex. It’s generally the simple things you need to include. These are the questions I would start with:

How many items of expense were there? [You need to make sure you include all items and it may help to say how many there were]

What was the biggest? [This is almost always important and will nearly always be the first thing  you write about]

What was the smallest? [This too almost always needs to be mentioned]

Now try and identify patterns

This is the harder bit normally – it may take a little practice to get right. The idea is to group similar items together and not write a simple list. My suggestion in this case is just to start at the top and work you way down. How many groups do you see? There is not necessarily one correct answer here – you just need to find a logical answer.

See my patterns

I will emphasise that this may not be the only way to do it. You may for instance decide that site preparation belongs in its own category. All I will say is that it is logical and helps me write my summary.

three large items – security, staging of events and site preparation

four  similar ones at around 1 billion pounds – venue construction, Olympic village, park projects and transort

one much smaller one – the media centre

Step 2 – now plan your answer


Once you have analysed the data you are now ready to plan your answer. What you need to do is:

remember about tenses – a very common mistake is to get tenses wrong [here you need the past for 2012]

decide which points to include in your summary statement/conclusion

decide how to organise your paragraphs – I suggest two content paragraphs is good because it helps show the examiner that your writing is organised

think about what vocabulary to use [here you need the vocabulary of comparisons and numbers and some variation of the words from the chart itself]

Step 3 – write

This should be about 5 minutes after you started thinking. Don’t hurry. The better and more you think, the more quickly and better you will write!

See my version and test yourself a little

This is my version. It works because it is

a clear summary

well-organised into logical paragraphs

uses a good range of number and comparison vocabulary

covers all the main points

My answer

Look at the colours to see how logically I have ordered the main patterns.

This pie chart shows the different areas of expense for the London Olympics in 2012.  It is of note that there were eight main areas of expense and that security, the staging of the events and site preparation accounted for almost two thirds of the total cost.

The single most expensive item was in fact security which cost slightly over two and half billion pounds, which was just under a quarter of the total £10.8 billion budget. Staging the events and preparing the site were also very significant costs at £2.3 billion and £1.82 billion respectively.

 There were four more items that all cost a similar amount of around one billion pounds. These were in order the actual building of the sporting venues at more than £1.1 billion, then the Olympic village, other Olympic park projects and then finally transport at just under nine hundred million pounds. It is also of interest that much the smallest amount of money was spent on the media centre, the cost of which was only three hundred million pounds.


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8 Responses to An IELTS pie chart exercise

  1. thebeautyofenglish May 8, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    Very useful! Thanks.

    • Anonymous October 7, 2014 at 10:06 am #


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  4. Shivajirao August 31, 2014 at 6:50 am #

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