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Answer IELTS part 1 line graph writing tasks

Here are the ten steps needed to write the best IELTS part 1 line graph writing task answer that you can.

Step One

Read the question carefully. Make sure that you understand what is being described by the line graph. Make absolutely sure that you know what you are being asked to write about.

Usually, this question will ask you to select and report the main features of the line graph and make comparisons where relevant. You are not asked to give reasons for trends shown in the graph.

sample graph

Step Two

Remind yourself that you should give yourself a maximum of 20 minutes to answer the IELTS part 1 writing task. Remind yourself that you have to write at least 150 words. This is a very important step. You are writing to a deadline in the IELTS exam and you really should try to keep to it. If you want IELTS exam writing practice, you can get it here.

Step Three

Identify what is shown along the X-axis – the horizontal axis – of the graph. If time is shown, is the data relating to the past, the present or the future? The time shown will affect the tenses you use to describe the graph data e.g there is a difference between these three sentences:

Sales fell during this period.
Sales are predicted to fall during this period.
Sales are currently falling.

Remember that we use the present simple to describe the actual graph. We say that the graph shows….. and …..recent sales of chocolate can be seen in the graph. Read more about this here.

Step Four

What does the Y-axis -the vertical axis – show? Do you know what you are describing? Is it sales? Visits to somewhere? There’s no point putting pen to paper until you have identified what you are describing. Some of my recent students think that they can describe the line itself.

The line increases between 2002 and 2003.

The sentence above is terrible. It’s not the line that increases. It is whatever the graph shows e.g. sales of chocolate bars.

Step Five

Look at the graph. In this case, we have two sets of data shown. Try to identify key features of what is shown in the graph. Let’s imagine that the lines show the sales of two different chocolate bars. The blue line represents sales of bar-a and the red line sales of bar-b.

Here are some relevant notes which pick out key features and show comparisons between the sales of bar-a and bar-b :

  • Sales of both chocolate bars rose at the same rate between 2000 and 2002.
  • Sales of bar-b rose dramatically between 2002 and 2003 from around 48 sales a year to approximately 72 sales a year. Contrast – bar-a sales remained steady and constant.
  • Sales of both bars continued to rise at the same rate between 2003 and 2004.

Make sure that you know when to stop. You only have 20 minutes to complete this task. You don’t have to describe every detail of the graph. In fact, you will find that doing this will ruin your piece of writing.

Step Six

Now is the time to remember phrases and expressions to use in this piece of writing. Listen to this and complete the dictation task. Can you identify any language that would be useful in other graph descriptions?

Here is the kind of language that you need to make a note of and learn.

Step Seven

Plan your paragraphs. You should be aiming to write three (or sometimes four) paragraphs to answer this type of question.

paragraph one

In the first paragraph, give an overview of what the graph shows or represents. You should mention what is represented by the lines of the graph and what the time period is.

paragraph two

In this paragraph, you should try to describe the main points ie sales of both ba-a and bar-b rose.

paragraph three

Hee, we give more details about what the graph describes. This is where we mention detail – we refer to what happens in the graph and give numerical detail.

Remember that the example graph above is relatively simple. Graphs in your IELTS writing examination will be more complex than this.

Step Eight

Take a deep breath and start writing. If the planning part has taken you five minutes, you’ve got fifteen minutes to complete the task. You really don’t need that long to write 150 words. Really! You don’t!! If you have planned carefully and you’ve had lots of practice, this part should be the easy part. You’ve done this before, haven’t you? If you write twelve twelve-word sentences, that’s a 144 words. You could spend fifty seconds on each sentence and this would only take you ten minutes. I’m not saying that all of your sentences should be the same length. Think about it and you’ll get the point I’m trying to make. You’ve got plenty of time! You should be able to finish the writing task with time to spare.

Step Nine

It’s amazing how many students don’t edit their own writing. You should be able to spot your own mistakes. Learn what kind of mistakes you make normally and train yourself to find these mistakes. Find a teacher to help you . Its amazing how much a piece of writing can be improved through the editing process.

Step Ten

Repeat step nine!! Surely you can correct and improve one more sentence before you move on to IELTS writing task 2? Have you checked your punctuation? Make sure you have used the correct words.

It’s important to remember that to improve your IELTS writing, you must do lots of IELTS writing before the exam. Reading this ‘blog post is a good beginning but putting pen to paper is the next logical step. If you need direction and help, find a teacher to get some online English classes.

Use a word or phrase challenge for IELTS

Use new words and phrases BEFORE the IELTS exam

How many times do you learn a new word or phrase and then think your work is done? How often do you look for the meaning of a word in the dictionary but never try to use the word yourself? (more…)

Idioms for IELTS

A piece of cake

This refers to a task task that can be accomplished very easily.

Anybody who thinks that the IELTS exam is a piece of cake is fooling themselves.

Remember that you won’t do yourself any favours if you simply throw these idioms into conversation during your IELTS interview. You must practice using them appropriately before the exam.

More free listening practice for IELTS

Free listening practice for IELTS

It’s always great to discover a new source of fantastic listening practice material online. My students have been very enthusiatic about the range of listening practice materials, in video format, available on this site.
TED is a non-profit organisation devoted to ideas worth spreading in the areas of Technology, Entertainment and Design. The listening practice material is not specifically for IELTS students but sometimes IELTS students need to push the boundaries of their listening before they start to improve.

Here are six reasons why the TED talks are good IELTS listening practice material:

  1. There are hundreds of talks to listen to.
  2. You can search for talks subject – find something that interests you.
  3. You can search by length – some talks are only 3 minutes long.
  4. You can search by rating – eg funny, beautiful, inspiring.
  5. Some of the talks have subtitles in your language.
  6. This listening practice material is free to use

Visit the TED talks site right now to listen to some interesting and inspiring practice material.

Read about the position of adverbs here.

Formal and informal language for IELTS

Contractions in the IELTS exam

In the IELTS Academic writing module, avoid using contractions. Contractions set a more informal tone to a piece of writing. It is fine to use contractions in the speaking module – in fact, not using contractions when speaking will make your English sound halting and a little forced.

The number of job applications hasn’t increased over the last ten years.

The number of job applications has not increased over the last ten years.
(more…)