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How to identify the main points in a line graph

In this lesson I show you a way to identify the main points in a line graph when you have two lines. A very common mistake here is to miss key details and/or to write a confused summary just focusing on vocabulary. So how do you get it right?

Focus on each line in turn and identify the key details
Then look at how the two lines compare
Do NOT try and look at the whole graph at once

Look at the question and see the possible problems

Remember that your task is to write a summary of this graph. You need to summarise accurately what happens to each line and to make a comparison between the two lines. There is a lot of information here – about 20 pieces of data – so don’t try and understand it all at once. Break the problem down. Before you write you need to know:

  1. what happens to the blue line
  2. what happens to there green line
  3. how the two lines compare

So why not look at each of these in turn? That way you can be sure of identifying the key points.

main points in a line graph


Remember that the key points are likely to be found by looking at

the start and the end – this gives you an overall trend

the high points and low points – these are almost always key

where the lines cross – these are important for comparison

periods of no change – don’t ignore these!!!!

where the lines change direction – these points of change 

Test your skills

Look at this graph. It should look much easier now. Do not try and describe the whole line – that is not the task. Instead look for 4/5 details you want to include and think about the overall trend. Look at the icons on the line below and see if you can see why I have marked them. Then click on them and you’ll see my notes.

Try again – a bit harder this time

This is the same exercise. Again just look for the key points and the overall trend. I’ve made it a little harder by not showing you where the notes are. See if you can identify the main points for yourself. You’ll find my notes by moving your mouse/finger over the line. Do you agree with my notes?

And again – this time just look for comparisons

Now you should have a good idea about what the main points are. But remember you need to compare – the question always asks you to compare. To do this, you need to look

at the beginning and end

where the lines cross

any big differences between the lines

A sample answer

Points to note in this answer are how it is carefully organised into paragraphs and that the key points are identified. The first paragraph summarises the topic and main trends (both go up/house prices went up more and were higher at the end). The second paragraph summarises the rise in rental accommodation. The third paragraph looks at house prices and also makes the key comparisons.

Note that I do not describe all the details of the lines.

This chart shows how the rate of increase in the cost of buying a home and renting accommodation rose in the three years between January 2013 and January 2016. It is immediately apparent that, while both increased, the rate for house prices went up more and by the end of the period was higher than the rate for rentals even though it started at a lower point.

Although the cost of renting rose consistently throughout this period, the rate of increase remained comparatively steady throughout this period going up from approximately 4% to just under 4.5% by 2016. This upward trend was only interrupted by two fairly minor dips in the first quarter of 2013 and the second half of 2014.

The rate of increase of house prices was much less steady and fluctuated considerably after an initial sharp increase. During 2013 and into early 2014 it rose from just 3% to about 5% and was almost a full percentage point higher than for renting. After this high there was a lengthy period of  fluctuation with the peak of around 5% being reached in early 2014 and a low of 4.2% at the end of year. It is of note that during 2015 rental accommodation was rising a very similar rate.

Get more help with task 1 See a similar exercise with pie chartsThe words you need to write about main points


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8 Responses to How to identify the main points in a line graph

  1. Dr Salem September 9, 2016 at 11:35 am #

    Sir Dominic
    Thank you for your effort.
    I am wondering if I can fined a tutor to speak English .
    Actually I found various site with low cost, but, all them american accent whereas I am intetest for British accent .


  2. Fenbsion September 11, 2016 at 8:53 am #

    Thanks for this succinct, step-by-step report lesson Dominic.

  3. Ola September 23, 2016 at 11:15 am #

    HI sir,

    Thank you for the great explanation!,

    I do have a question here about the sample answer. in the third paragraph it mentioned “. After this high there was a lengthy period of fluctuation with the peak of around 5% being reached in early 2015 and a low of 4.2% at the end of year.” year 2

    well, didn’t 5% being reached in the early 2014? not 2015???

    and a low of 4.2% at the end of the year (is supposed to be also for year 2014, right?)

    Thank you

    • Dominic Cole September 28, 2016 at 9:17 pm #


      Great reading skills and fine comment. Correction made. 2015 to 2014.

  4. Carmen October 11, 2016 at 5:19 am #

    Hello Dominic, firstly, i want to say thank you so much for your website. it is marvelous!
    I found this lesson fairly useful! but I have been struggling to see your notes on the graph.
    I do not know what I am doing wrong.
    can you support me?
    thank you 🙂

  5. Anonymous October 21, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    thanks for the explanation .please can explain more on reading.

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