Top Tips for IELTS

Task 1 writing practice

This lesson is to give you more practice in describing numbers in task 1 and to show you the different possible variations. This is an important area to practise as there is a very common problem where candidates simply repeat all the figures in the graph as they are given. This is a mistake as you need to remember that this is primarily an English language task and you need to be able to show you have a range of vocabulary.

Do you see the problem?

Take a look at this chart and the description of it below. What is the problem?


This chart shows that Indian food was the most popular form of take away food in York in 2011 with 43% of the inhabitants preferring it. The next most popular was pizza at 23%, followed by Chinese food at 18% and fish and chips at 11%. The least popular form of take away food was kebabs at only 5%.

I hope you can see the problem. There is an awful lot of repetition here. This is partly the word “popular” but also the “%”. This is an easy trap to fall into. To avoid doing this you need to learn some variations.

4 solutions

I suggest below 4 different, yet connected, ways you can learn to vary your language. I believe that it helps to analyse and practise these different methods consistently if you want to be able to use it in the exam.

1. Think comparisons

If you compare two items, you do not need to repeat all the numbers. The point is that if you give one number, you do not need to give another number if you compare:

The most popular take away food was Indian food at 43% and this was almost twice as many as chose pizza.


Pizza at 23% was only slightly more popular than Chinese food.

You should also remember there a number of different ways you can make comparisons and this gives you even more flexibility:

  • more
  • less
  • as/as
  • not as/as
  • most
  • least

2. Think fractions

Another way to avoid using too many numbers is to think about fractions: here too the benefit is that you start to use more language.

While 43% preferred Indian food, just under a quarter chose pizza.

You will find a more complete list of number words and phrases in my lesson describing numbers.

3. Think other words, not just percentage

There are other  useful words that you can use instead of “percentage”. So you can write:

A slightly smaller proportion of people chose to eat Chinese food than fish and chips.

Some of the words you can use like this are:

  • number/amount
  • proportion
  • figure
  • one in ten/four in ten

4. Think word order and group information together

Another possibility is simply to change the order of information in the sentence and group similar items together. You will probably use comparison language as you do this:

Chinese food and pizza were both considerably less popular than Indian food at 18% and 23% respectively.


Indian food at 43% was more than twice as popular than both Chinese food and pizza.


As I mentioned above this is an area that needs practice if you are to get it right. Here is my suggestion. Look at the chart above and try and find 4 different ways to describe kebabs.

I will post some possibilities myself as a comment below. If you want to post your variations, I will take a look and add my comments.

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35 Responses to Task 1 writing practice

  1. Dominic Cole July 25, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    In contrast, only a relatively small fraction of people expressed a preference for kebabs.

    While approximately one in ten chose fish and chips, less than half that number of people chose kebabs.

    About half as many people chose kebabs as fish and chips.

    While over 40 per cent chose Indian food, an eight of that total preferred kebabs.

  2. TheIELTSSolution July 26, 2011 at 3:27 am #


    The four solutions provided are useful to explain the chart. And these would apply in writing IELTS. You have discussed those solutions in a comprehensible way and well structured. I have also noticed that you can freely express your thoughts in order to further explain what you are trying say. You shared us good information.

    Thank you.

  3. kanu July 26, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    its really a great help for students like me. Thank you very much.
    Here I have written something on this task plz have a look and correct me as well.

    The pie chart compares the proportion of five different type of take away food loved by York residents in the year 2010.

    At first glance, it is clear that out of all five forms of take away food, Indian food was the most favorite carry away food.

    Specifically, it can be seen that above four in every ten people in York preffered to eat Indian food stuff. In contrast, pizza and cinese food were less popular than Indian food at 23% and 18% respectively. .
    On the other hand, nearlly one in ten used to have fish and chips, while only five per cent York habitants liked to eat Kebab.

    • Dominic Cole July 26, 2011 at 11:04 am #

      This works. Well done. You’ve got the idea. Now you just need to work a little on yourt language.

      One thing to be careful of is “register’ of language. This means that you need to use “academic” type words. So

      “love” = prefer/enjoy
      “stuff” = delete this word

      Also “inhabitants” not “habitants”

  4. Mahmoud July 26, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    Hi Dominic, Thank you for the very useful lesson

    I tried twice but still I couldn’t reach exactly 150 words.

    will it be a good idea to add a conclusion at the end ?


    In conclusion, take away food types differed significantly in popularity based on variant choice and taste of multi-cultured New yorkers.

    thanks again

    • Dominic Cole July 26, 2011 at 10:57 am #


      Sorry, my mistake. I will rewrite my instructions slightly. The task isn’t to write 150 words here, rather it is to write at most a paragraph. In my experience, you are unlikely to get just a pie chart in task 1 – if you do, it would be more complex than this one. My focus here is to get you to write varied sentences in a paragraph of probably 60-75 words.

      You can write a conclusion in task 1. The difference in conclusions in task1 and essays is that frequently the task 1 conclusion comes first in the form of a topic sentence. So,

      From this pie chart we can see that there was a considerable variation in preference for take away foods in York. [conclusion/topic sentence/key idea]. It is striking how almost a half of the citizens of York preferred Indian food. Pizza and Chinese food were the next most popular at 23% and 18% respectively, while only one in ten expressed a preference for fish and chips . Kebabs were the least popular by some distance at only 5%.

      Your conclusion is a little dangerous. Is there anything about multi-cultured New Yorkers in the pie chart? No. You need to restrict yourself only to what is in the chart. If you draw conclusions from the chart, the examiner will simply cross them out and not include those words in the total. Stick to the facts and figures.

      (By the way, the facts are made up in this chart and the city is York in the UK – where I currently live.)

      • Mahmoud July 26, 2011 at 11:05 am #

        Sorry, Excuse my rush ..

        I didnt read the details well, i saw York assumed its New York 😀

        my mistake ..

        Sorry again

        • Anonymous July 26, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

          i guess New York is probably a more attractive place to live!

    • Zen July 1, 2014 at 6:19 am #

      Hi, to reach a total of 150 words, u really shld include an introduction and a conclusion, wherein conclusion must only be a paraphrased overview, at least 2 sentences, no more explanations, no new ideas only summary or highlights…just sharing 🙂

  5. kanu July 26, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    Thanks alot for your precious advice. I will keep in mind about ‘register’ next time before writing task1 and task2.
    with regards

  6. Afsane September 12, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    Thank you Dominic, it was a very helpful lesson.
    my problem is that I “think”i can produce such sentences as yours when I read them, but what i end up writing is not actually the same! not that i’ve got grammatical mistakes or such kinda problems, i just fall short of ideas, and cant decide which way to choose to express the stuff on diagrams or charts..
    well, i guess it can be solved by more practicing and writing.. the only problem is that i haven’t got much time left. i’m taking ielts in 4 days!! hahahaa… 🙂

    • Dominic Cole September 13, 2011 at 12:47 am #

      Yep. Practice does help. Looking at the language in your comment though, you clearly have good English. My answers are all band 9, so don’t worry too much! Let me know how it goes.

  7. sameer September 12, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

    Kebab was the least popular take away food among all others in the york in the year 2010.

  8. ieltstaker September 12, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    MR.DOMINIC. PLease See My effort To write TASK 1..and suggest me for my any mistakes. i will take it seriously later on.
    WIth regards.

    The above pie chart illustrates about the preference for the different take away food in york in the year 2010.

    It shows that Indian food was the most preferred food among all others with 43 percent. Followed by, Pizza and chinese food with 23 and 18 percent respectively. While, Only 1 out of 10 people chose fish and chips whose popularity seems far below than those of other foods except Kebab, which is the least popular with only 5 percent of people loving this

    • Dominic Cole September 13, 2011 at 12:50 am #

      It shows that Indian food was the most preferred food at 43 percent. Followed by Pizza and Chinese food at 23 and 18 percent respectively. While only 1 out of 10 people chose fish and chips whose popularity seems far below than those of other foods except Kebab, which is the least popular with only 5 percent of people choosing it

      Good work. One or two minor corrections.

  9. coffeeholic September 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Dear Dominic,

    First of all, I want to say that it’s really great you’re helping us to achieve our goals. It means a lot to me!!!

    Secondly, I you have got some free time please take a look at this paragraph describing this pie chart and leave your comment. Thank you!

    Just less than a fifth picked Chinese food making it the third most popular form of take away dishes in York.

    • Dominic Cole September 25, 2011 at 3:23 am #

      That’s good language. You could argue that “picked’ is a little idiomatic for an academic task, but I would count it as good variation of vocabulary.

  10. Afsane September 29, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    Hi Dominic!
    I got my IELTS scores today. 8.0 overall.
    But i wasn’t very satisfied with my writing score: 7!
    hummm… 🙁

  11. spreddy October 14, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    hi i got 6.5 in my ielts exam how can i got 8 for ovwrall band please tell me

    • Dominic Cole December 8, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

      There is no simple answer to that question I’m afraid. All I can do is point out that 8.0 is an extremely high band score requiring an excellent level of English. To see of you might be capable of getting it, you should test yourself in reading and listening first. They are marked objectively and should give you an idea of your level. Theoretically, your band scores shouldn’t vary between the skills that much, especially at band 8.0 level.

  12. Jennifer December 1, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    This pie chart indicated the preffered take away by the new yorkers in the year 2010.
    It is very clear from the pie chart that Indian food has been the most preffered take away,leading at 43%.On the contrary,the least preffered is kabab at 5% ,though it has its Indian connections.
    The Chinese food which is quite a delicacy,has come as just next to the least preferred take away after kebab at 11%.Less than a quarter respondents of the survey preferred pizza as their favorite takeaway at 23%

    • Dominic Cole December 8, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

      Be careful with your tenses. We are now in the year 2011, this means that you need to be using a past tense to describe the data. Likewise, you repeat the word “preferred” once too often (you also misspell a couple of times). Helpful alternatives are “choose” and “opt”.

    • Zen July 1, 2014 at 6:29 am #

      Jennifer, just sharing what i read, avoid writing your opinion, just focus only on the facts already presented 🙂

  13. jun December 10, 2011 at 3:49 am #

    Dear Dominic Cole
    would you please give us the idea in ielts writing 2, because i find it difficult to write essay without an idea. so if you don’t mind provide idea related to ielts questions. for example, politic , economic, environment, education and so on.



    • Dominic Cole December 10, 2011 at 4:07 am #

      Okay. This is something I was planning to add to the site in any case. But for now here are some suggestions.

      1.Take a look at some of my sample essays, you should find ideas there. Also take a look at writefix – an excellent site with good essays and advice.
      2. Concentrate on vocabulary before you write. If you get good words, then the ideas normally follow.
      3. I find it is often easier for my students to try and think of reasons and not ideas. The ideas you need are normally very simple: “i agree”, “I disagree”. All you need to do then is to think “why do I say that?’

  14. Mahy May 6, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    Hye . i need to ask whats more common to come in task 1 ?
    is it bar chart ? line graph or tables or pies ?
    kindly reply to my this post asap.

    • Dominic Cole July 12, 2012 at 10:26 am #

      You need to be familiar with all the different task types really – not least because they all appear regularly. You should not forget that you may also need to describe aprocess diagram.

  15. Lydia September 17, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    Hi, Dominic.
    First, thank you for your systematic explanation about task 1. It really means a lot t me!

    Second, i’m a little confused about the example given by you—–“Indian food at 43% was more than twice as popular than both Chinese food and pizza.” Is it correct? Shouldn’t it be like ths: “Indian foo at 43% was more than twice as populaas both Chinese food and pizza”?

    Please help me out!

  16. Qurban April 30, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

    Hi to all
    it is first time I participate in this session. so, please give me your comments about my description
    I will be happy. thanks

    The pie chart illustrates the difference of feed spending in New York in 2010.

    Based on the given data it can be seen clearly that, there are five kinds food offers compared.
    Though, from these feed selling Indian food sold with the most proportion which it was only forty three percent. By contrast, the least of York inhabitants spent Kebab that the percentages of this less consumed was 5 percent. Even though, the fish and chips, Chinese food and pizza cost’s percentages listed with 11%, 18% and 23% respectively.
    By comparing, it could be achieve that those people who spent pizza were with approximately double proportion than fish and chips customers and those client who ate Chinese foods catalogued might half by comparing those people spent Indian foods.
    To sum up, it can draw that Indian foods in York had good Bazaar to compare with others listed four types feed. In oppose, Kebab is one of the food which had the lowest consumers.

  17. Yasoda June 1, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    Hi Dominic,

    The free help you have provided to students like us is really appreciable. Here is my effort for the chart. I will expect your feed back 🙂

    The pie chart demonstrates the most preferred take away food in York in 2010, which are Pizza, Kebab, Indian food, Chinese food and Fish and chips.

    It can be observed that Indian food was the most favorite form of take away being consumed at the highest of 43%. The remaining 47% comprised of pizza, Chinese food, Kebab and fish and chips accounting of 23%, 18%, 11% and 5% respectively.

    The percentage of inhabitants in York choosing Pizza as a take away dish was double times higher than people desiring to eat fish and chips. Furthermore, it is interesting to notice that the proportion of people liking pizza was similar to the amount of people admiring Chinese food and Kebab put together.The number of people choosing to eat kebab as take away was significantly lower in compared to other foods consisting the lowest of 5% of the average consumption.

    Overall, the demand for Indian food, was by far higher than the other types of take away foods eaten by the residences in the year 2010.

  18. Jenny August 6, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    Could you tell me when to use ‘by contrast’ and ‘In constrast’? Thank you

  19. Zen July 1, 2014 at 6:37 am #

    Thanks Mr Cole, your tips are very useful and so pleased to let you know i’m learning a lot, i hope you did’nt mind me sharing to my fellow reviewees what i’ve read, more power! God bless. 🙂

  20. jyoti September 12, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

    Hiii just take a look on my take away chart.

    This chart shows how much the take home food was preffered in the York city among people in the period 2010.It is immediately apparent proportion of Indian food was more than that of all,and in exception kebab were the least take away food.

    Coming on to most popular food was Indian food at 43%,as this was twice as many as who chose pizza.A slightly higher per cent of people chose to eat chinese than fish and chips.Indian food was mostly enjoyed by people than fish and chips,chinese,and pizza 11%,18 & 23% respectively.The final point to note among five different take away food kebab was the least amount of food admired by York residents at 5%.

  21. Dominic Cole September 12, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    Okay don’t really run a correction service – time is too short. But thanks for your first comment – it was useful. So here’s a tip for you. Know what your most common grammatical problem is. To score well you need to write complete sentences without mistakes.

    Like lots of people you have a problem with articles/countability. Here I have just corrected that one type of mistake. You should see there is at least one mistake per sentence. This is a problem as examiners look to see how many sentences are correct. If you don’t correct this, your grammar score may remain low.

    Tip. Spend time working on this one problem. Keep on at it until you get it right – or almost right – it is actually quite hard.

    Try this lesson:

    This chart shows how much ___ take home food was preffered in the York city among people in the period 2010.It is immediately apparent THE proportion of Indian food was more than that of all,and in exception kebabS were the least take away food.

    Coming on to THE most popular food was Indian food at 43%,as this was twice as many as who chose pizza.A slightly higher per cent of people chose to eat chinese than fish and chips.Indian food was mostly enjoyed by people than fish and chips,chinese,and pizza 11%,18 & 23% respectively.The final point to note among THE five different take away foodS kebab was the least amount of food admired by York residents at 5%.

  22. jyoti September 12, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

    Thanks dominic,

    I want to tell you that my exam date is on 24th,so can I sort my problems…as you told is right that i dont get the pattern for writing.Now what mistakes you corrected above is that only the one? THE should be in caps.

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