In task 1 of the IELTS writing test, you could be asked to describe a line graph. This is actually very common and so it’s really important that you can do this well.
Today, I am going to show you a typical IELTS line graph and then give you some advice on how to describe it effectively. This will include my own sample band 9 answer, which I will annotate so that you can more easily understand it.
You can read my full guide to describing line graphs here.
The Line Graph – Bakery Sales
Here is our line graph for today:
The graph below gives information about the sales of the three most commonly purchased items in a particular bakery for the year 2014.
Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.
This is a pretty straightforward line graph and I don’t think there are any particular difficulties here. However, it is important to read the question carefully and analyse the graph before you begin writing.
Note that this is not about all of the sales in this bakery. Specifically, it is about “the three most commonly purchased items.” You should mention that in your introduction or else it may seem as though only three items are available in this place.
What do you Need to Do?
With any graph description, you need to describe the data accurately for your reader. That means your language must be clear and precise. Also, you should not attempt to describe every little detail. Note the phrase “selecting and reporting the main features.” This means you have to be selective. You should also “make comparisons where relevant.”
Looking at this chart, we can see that each of the three lines had a pretty different trend from the others. One line went up and then down. Another went down and then up. A third just moved slowly up. Your job is to explain this effectively.
Remember to group your data logically. There are various ways to do this, but here’s how I will structure my essay:
|Introduction||Paraphrase the question and then give an overview.|
|Body paragraph 1||Describe the data from January until about September.|
|Body paragraph 2||Describe the data for the last few months of the year.|
Why have I organised my information like this?
As I said, there are different ways to do it effectively, but I felt that a good way was to group the final changes together. That’s because it is in these final months that there are substantial changes in the sales positions of these three items.
Normally, I would have grouped the sales of bread and buns together and then kept pies separate. That’s because pies seem to be at a very different level. However, because the sales of pies rose above buns at the end, it seems like an awkward way of grouping the information.
Learn more about task 1 structure here.
Common Problems to Avoid
It is worth mentioning a few mistakes that people often make in IELTS writing task 1. To begin with, you might have noticed the phrase “a particular bakery.” A lot of people try to paraphrase the question and this is a good option for task 1, but it can lead to problems. A “particular bakery” means a single business whose name we have not been given.
In such situations, I almost always write “an unknown ____.” For example, my first line for this essay will be:
- The line graph shows information about sales in an unnamed bakery in the year 2014.
Speaking of paraphrasing, you should also not include any reference to “below.” Whilst the task description is above the graph, your essay will be on a separate piece of paper or on a computer screen. To say “below” would be false information.
You also really need to avoid vague language that fails to convey the ideas expressed in the graph. This is actually one of the most common problems people make in task 1. Always make it clear to your reader that the data refers to sales (in dollar terms) of three select items from one bakery.
Sample Band 9 Answer
Here is how I would answer the question:
The line graph shows information about sales in an unnamed bakery in the year 2014. There are three items listed and their sales varied substantially during the period.
In January, bread was by far the most commonly purchased product, with $80,000 of this sold. This was twice as much as the next highest item, buns, and eight times greater than the third one, pies. Over the next two months, however, bread sales plummeted to almost half their initial value while sales of buns increased by fifty percent. From March through to September, buns remained the most profitable item as bread sales fluctuated wildly in second place. Meanwhile, sales of pies slowly and steadily increased.
Towards the end of the year, there were more changes. Sales of bread took off from October onwards, surpassing those of buns to become the most profitable item again and reached $80,000 in sales in December. Sales of buns continued to drop, falling into third place after pie sales shot in November and December.
Now let’s look at the purpose of these sentences:
|The line graph shows information about sales in an unnamed bakery in the year 2014.||This basically paraphrases the question.|
|There are three items listed and their sales varied substantially during the period.||A simple overview of the data. Perhaps it could have been more descriptive, but it says enough.|
|In January, bread was by far the most commonly purchased product, with $80,000 of this sold.||I started at the beginning and focused on the highest data point. This is logical. My language also shows clearly what the data means – ie the sales of this product.|
|This was twice as much as the next highest item, buns, and eight times greater than the third one, pies.||Now I have made a relevant comparison. It shows my language and thinking skills.|
|Over the next two months, however, bread sales plummeted to almost half their initial value while sales of buns increased by fifty percent.||This clearly shows changes, in terms of comparison, over time.|
|From March through to September, buns remained the most profitable item as bread sales fluctuated wildly in second place.||This continues to focus on these two items. It compares them and tracks their overall sales without going into pointless detail. My use of time makes the data easy to understand.|
|Meanwhile, sales of pies slowly and steadily increased.||There was nothing much to say about this but it could not be overlooked, so a short sentence was enough to summarise its trend.|
|Towards the end of the year, there were more changes.||This is a great topic sentence that indicates the change in focus and highlights the grouping of data.|
|Sales of bread took off from October onwards, surpassing those of buns to become the most profitable item again and reached $80,000 in sales in December.||I have selected key data and again made relevant comparisons.|
|Sales of buns continued to drop, falling into third place after pie sales shot in November and December.||This ends in a logical place – the final month. I have shown the major changes in sales positions, which is really the main point.|
My structure was simple but effective and my language was accurate enough to convey the data. I picked only the important parts and glossed over the rest. Remember that you don’t have much time to complete this task!
Notice how few numbers there are. Many IELTS candidates make the mistake of cramming lots of numbers into their descriptions. This shows a lack of thinking and it is also a means of avoiding words. However, IELTS is an English test! You need to use words rather than copying numbers from a graph.