IELTS Writing Task 1 needn’t be so difficult, yet many students fear it. They panic when faced with a line graph, bar chart, pie chart, table, or process diagram. There is too much information. They don’t take the time to really look at it and figure it out. Then when it’s time to write, they don’t know what to describe. They write too much or too little, and they add extra information.
But fortunately there’s actually not that much you need to do. You don’t need to describe everything; you only need to report the main features. You don’t need to highlight every difference; you just have to make comparisons where necessary.
So… what should you write about?
How to Make Comparisons
Look at this pie chart:
- What are the first things you notice? Those are your main features.
- What differences do you first observe between the two charts? Those are the comparisons you should make.
For me, I looked at these pie charts and felt they were very similar, with some small differences. Housing and other goods and services switch places as the greatest expense, but they change isn’t very significant. The third, fourth, and fifth are the same, albeit with slightly different amounts.
Thus, we come to structure our essay now that we know what to write.
How to Structure your Essay
Again, for the IELTS Writing Task 1, structuring the essay is pretty simple. You want to do something like this:
- paraphrase the question
- describe a general trend
- Describe half of the data
- Describe the second half of the data
In this case, my general trend is that they are pretty similar. Then each following paragraph tackles one of the two pie charts. However, in order to make comparisons, I’ll introduce the Japanese chart first, and in the second paragraph I’ll describe the Malaysian information with reference to the Japanese data.
Writing the Essay
Generally speaking, for the IELTS Writing Task 1, you ought to use academic language that is devoid of personal pronouns. The language will be a bit different by question type. For example, in describing a line graph you will use a lot of “increase” and “decrease” verbs and nouns, but in the process diagram you’re focused very much on the passive voice. Importantly, though, you have to avoid repeating language from the data too much, and you want to show off your own English as much as possible.
Take a look at my sample answer:
The two pie charts display information about how much money people from Japan and Malaysia spend on different sorts of goods and services. The results are quite similar for each country, with some small differences.
According to the pie charts, the average Japanese household spends more money on other goods and services than any other area, followed closely by food, then housing, and then transport. Healthcare is a very minor expense by comparison, at just six percent.
In Malaysia, people spend more than a third of their money on housing, followed by other goods and services, and then food. This makes it similar to Japan, except housing is takes up a greater proportion of their outgoings than other goods and services. Transport takes up just a tenth of their average household outgoings, compared to a fifth in Japan. Like Japan, the smallest expense is health care, and in fact this is half of the total healthcare costs of a Japanese family.
The words I’ve underlined are attempts to avoid saying “expenditure,” which was used in the question. The words in bold are used to avoid simply quoting actual numbers. It sounds silly, but being able to say “about a quarter” is far better than writing “26%”. It shows you are being creative in your English use.