IELTS Writing Task 1: How to Analyse Tables (Not Over Time)

IELTS Writing Task 1: How to Analyse Tables (Not Over Time)

A lot of my students freak out when they see a table. All they can see are the numbers, which means they have to look hard to find the main trends. Even if they can identify (find) one main pattern, they often miss something important.

In this post I show you how to make notes on the table so you can recognise (see) and remember ALL the main trends and key similarities or differences. You can check out a sample answer (and much more) for this question here.

As well as our Task 1 sample answers, check out our Task 2 sample essays here: IELTS Writing Task 2 Sample Answers.

You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel for some IELTS Speaking Sample Answers: HowtodoIELTS YouTube.

What kind of Table?

The first thing to remember is that there are two main kinds of chart – some focus on changes over a period of time (also known as ‘dynamic’), while some focus on one period of time (known as ‘static’).

You need to be able to recognise the two different types as they require different vocabulary and grammar. In a previous post I showed you how to analyse the first kind of table (over time), and in this post we will look at the second type (not over time).

Look at the table below, based on a real question from the IELTS Writing exam from Feb 2018. It focuses on the percentages of males and females that cycled in a particular town in 2012, organised into five different age groups. You can check out a sample answer (and much more) for this question here.

Firstly, you should notice the following things:

  • This chart is not over time  – just one year (2012).

  • The data is organised in two main ways – gender (males and females) and age (five groups).

  • The figures are proportions of the total number (the % of males or females), not the number of people (males/females).

Main Trends and Key Similarities / Differences (Gender)

Next pick up your pencil and make notes on all of the main trends and key differences and/or similarities. Remember that you need to look ACROSS (gender) and DOWN (age) the table.

Let’s look at gender (across) first – you should be looking for an overall pattern if possible. You can see that the proportion of females that cycled was higher than males. And in fact this pattern is not just overall, but for EVERY age group, without exception.

To help me remember this I drew a big arrow at the top from Female to Male and wrote above it Overall ‘gender trends’: Female bigger than Male for all groups!”

You should also look at the size of the differences. For example, you can see that the smallest gender gap was in the youngest group, whereas the next two groups had the biggest differences, and finally the gap for the two oldest groups was not so big.

I made a note of all these differences, drawing small arrows between each set of figures, and noting the size of the differences.

Main Trends and Key Similarities / Differences (Age)

Now, let’s turn our attention to analysing the pattern DOWN the table. You can see that for both Females and Males, as people got older there was a smaller proportion of people cycling, with the exception of the oldest group.

Again to help me remember this, I drew two big arrows going down the table for Female and Male, and I wrote below it “getting smaller”.

I also drew two small arrows pointing to the figures for the oldest groups and wrote ‘not follow trend’.

As the trend is the same for both Females and Males I wrote at the bottom “Same overall ‘age trends’ for Female and Male!”

So in the exam, your question paper should end up looking something like the one below. This might look like a mess but believe me, this will really help you to find all the important information needed to get a high score for your Task Achievement in IELTS Writing Task 1.

Try it out and let me know how it goes.

Now it’s your turn! Put your answers in the comments.

Using my notes write some sentences to describe these trends and key differences.

Check your ideas with my model answer here.

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IELTS Writing Task 1 Sample Answer: Bicycle Riding (Table)

IELTS Writing Task 1 Sample Answer: Bicycle Riding (Table)

This sample answer is based on  a real IELTS Writing Task 1 question from Feb 2018. But there is so much more in this post than just a sample answer. Aren’t you guys lucky? I’ve also included:

  • A quick analysis of the question – check here for more detailed analysis.

  • Line by line analysis of the sample answer.

  • Links to vocabulary games and exercises based on the sample answer.

  • Cool topic-related links about all things bike-tastic!.

 

As well as our Task 1 sample answers, check out our Task 2 sample essays here: IELTS Writing Task 2 Sample Answers.

You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel for some IELTS Speaking Sample Answers: HowtodoIELTS YouTube.

Question Analysis 

Looking at the table above, you can see the question focuses on the percentages of males and females that cycled in one town in 2012, organised into five different ages.

If you need more help with analysing this table, check out my recent post on how to identify the main trends and key points.

I suggest making notes on the most important patterns, so in the exam, your question paper should end up looking something like this:

Sample Answer

The table illustrates the proportions of people across different age categories who rode bicycles in one particular town in 2012. Overall, the table clearly shows that a higher proportion of females cycled in the given period compared to males across all ages, although only marginally for the youngest group. This group (0-9 yrs.) also had the largest proportion of cyclists, and age was a clear predictor for decreased cycling activity for both males and females, with the exception of the oldest age group (60+), which bucked this trend.

Turning to the figures, just over half of all young girls and boys aged 0-9 years rode bikes in the town, with 52.5% and 51.2% respectively, amounting to the smallest gender gap of any age group. In contrast, 43.6% of 10-19 year old girls chose to ride bikes, while only 25.1% of boys did the same. This pattern continued with the 20-39 age group, with 18.2% of young women cycling compared to 10.8% of young men. The gender differences were less significant in middle aged cyclists (40-59), with 13.7% (female) and 9.3% (male). Finally, the over 60s reversed this trend with more cyclists than the previous two age groups, with 19.8% and 14.6% respectively for females and males.

Analysis 

Firstly, it’s important to note that this answer has clear paragraphing. The first paragraph contains an introductory sentence and the overview. The second paragraph presents the detailed figures.

Although in IELTS Writing Task 1, paragraphing isn’t mentioned in the band descriptors below band 8, it is still a good idea to use paragraphs to organise your writing as it makes it more logical, which helps the examiner to read your answer, and that is always a good thing!

Paragraph 1: Introduction and Overview

The table illustrates the proportions of people across different age categories who rode bicycles in one particular town in 2012. Overall, the table clearly shows that a higher proportion of females cycled in the given period compared to males across all ages, although only marginally for the youngest group. This group (0-9 yrs.) also had the largest proportion of cyclists, and age was a clear predictor for decreased cycling activity for both males and females, with the exception of the oldest age group (60+), which bucked this trend.

  • The first sentence introduces the chart, by paraphrasing (not copying) the question.

  • The second sentence begins the overview of the table by describing the the most important overall trend (more female than male cyclists for every age).

  • The third sentence completes the overview by describing another important trend (younger people cycle more, except for the over 60s).

Paragraph 2: Detailed Figures

Turning to the figures, just over half of all young girls and boys aged 0-9 years rode bikes in the town, with 52.5% and 51.2% respectively, amounting to the smallest gender gap of any age group. In contrast, 43.6% of 10-19 year old girls chose to ride bikes, while only 25.1% of boys did the same. This pattern continued with the 20-39 age group, with 18.2% of young women cycling compared to 10.8% of young men. The gender differences were less significant in middle aged cyclists (40-59), with 13.7% (female) and 9.3% (male). Finally, the over 60s reversed this trend with more cyclists than the previous two age groups, with 19.8% and 14.6% respectively for females and males.

  • The first sentence begins the description of the detail by talking about the youngest age group (girls cycled slightly more than boys), commenting on the smallest gender difference.

  • The second sentence gives details of the 10-19 age group, comparing figures for older boys and girls, and noting the contrasting large gender difference.

  • The third sentence presents the figures for the next age group (20-39), again with figures for each gender, noting the trend in gender difference is the same as the previous group.

  • The fourth sentence continues with the next group, again with figures for women and men, noting a smaller difference.

  • The fifth and final sentence gives the figures for the over 60s, noting that these figures are higher than the previous two groups. No conclusion is required for Task 1 writing. 

Useful Vocabulary (See Quizet link below for free practice activities)

the largest proportion (n) – the biggest share of the total

different categories (n) – different groups

a particular thing (n) –  the specific thing

marginally (adv) – slightly

a clear predictor (n) – a clear reason for a trend

an exception (n) – something not following the trend

to buck a trend (v-n) – to go against the trend

respectively (adv) – relating to each one in order

amounting to (phrasal verb) – is the same as

gender gap (n) – the difference between male and female

less significant (adj) – not as important

a pattern (n) – a repeated series of events

FREE Online Vocabulary Practice 

I’ve prepared some vocabulary games and exercises on Quizlet for these words taken from the sample answer. Quizlet is a really fun and convenient way to learn and practice vocab and it’s free!

Try it out, and use it whenever you have a spare few minutes.

If you need more help using Quizlet, check out this video lesson (starts from 34m36s).

Check out Quizlet for great online vocabulary activities for free!

Learn more about everything Bike-tastic! – Related Articles and Videos

Check out these links for fun and interesting videos and articles about bikes!

Check out the article about cool and unusual bikes!

 

The Best Songs about Bikes

15 Benefits of cycling

20 Strange and Beautiful Bikes

Cycling World Records

Most Bike-Friendly Cities

5 Ted Talks about bikes 

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Beware the IELTS Scammers!

Beware the IELTS Scammers!

Dave and I have noticed a significant increase recently in people on social media and other websites offering fake IELTS certificates (also known as IELTS Test Report Forms).

Beware scammers on Facebook offering fake IELTS certificates!

Beware Fake Certificates!

Luckily these offers are pretty easy to spot:

  • They often guarantee you a high band score (no one can guarantee you that!).

  • They claim you will receive a ‘verified IELTS certificate’ without even taking the test (like winning the lottery without buying a ticket!).

  • They suggest they have insider contacts within British Council or IDP to help you (this is just bullshit).

What is guaranteed is that they will ask for a large fee and the certificate that you will get will be FAKE and useless, and the immigration department or university you apply to will verify your result online and reject your application.

Worse than that, they may blacklist (ban) you, so you won’t be able to re-apply to that university or country in the future!

We strongly recommend that you just ignore these scammers, and even better report them to security.ielts@idp.com

Beware Fake Registration Websites!

We are also aware that there are more and more websites pretending to be British Council IELTS registration sites. These websites are trying to carry out identity fraud by stealing your personal information.

Therefore, we recommend that before you enter any personal details, please make sure that you are using the official and secure British Council or IDP sites in your country. You can access them here:

British Council Online Registration System

IDP Online Registration System

Beware fake registration websites. Only use official British Council or IDP sites.

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IELTS FAQ: How are your IELTS Band Scores Calculated?

IELTS FAQ: How are your IELTS Band Scores Calculated?

How are your band scores calculated for each skill, as well as your Overall Score? The process of marking and scoring your IELTS exam can seem complicated and confusing. In this guide I will explain everything you need to know about the following:

  • Overall Band Score

  • Listening and Reading Scores

  • Speaking Scores

  • Writing Scores

If you need some writing feedback from a former examiner about your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your current band scores, check out IELTS Writing Band Score and Correction Service.

An example IELTS Certificate (or IELTS Test Report Form), with band scores for four skills and an Overall Band Score.

Overall Band Score

Students get a whole or half band score (0-9) for each of the four skills (Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking).

The average of these four scores is calculated by adding them together and dividing by 4. This figure is then rounded up or down to the nearest whole or half band score to produce an ‘Overall Band Score’.

 

       Listening  

       Reading  

       Writing  

       Speaking  

Average (of 4 Skills)

Overall Band score

  Donald   

6.5

6.5

5

7

6.25

6.5

   Kanye   

4.0

3.5

4.0

4.0

3.875

4.0

   Taylor   

6.5

6.5

5.5

6.0

6.125

6.0

Listening and Reading Scores

In the IELTS Listening and Reading exams, a member of the British Council or IDP exams team will mark your answers to the 40 questions for each test, using an answer key from Cambridge.

Each correct answer scores one point and the the total (raw) score out of 40 is calculated for both the Reading and Listening tests. These raw scores for each skill are then converted into a whole or half band score (0-9). 

Below is a guide to how many points you need to achieve a particular band score, but this will change depending on the difficulty of the test. For example, if you have a difficult listening test, the score needed for band 6 might be 21 or 22. If the listening test is easier, you might need to score 24 or 25 to get the same band score.

As you can see from the table below, a higher raw score may be needed in General Training to get the same band score compared to Academic reading. This is because Academic reading texts often contains more difficult vocabulary or more complex styles of writing.

IELTS Listening

IELTS Reading (Academic)

IELTS Reading (General Training)

Band score

Raw score out of 40

Band score

Raw score out of 40

Band score

Raw score out of 40

5

16

5

15

4

15

6

23

6

23

5

23

7

30

7

30

6

30

8

35

8

35

7

34

Speaking Scores

An IELTS examiner at British Council or IDP will assess your speaking overall for the three parts of the speaking test. Parts 1, 2 and 3 are equally important but they do not give separate scores for each part.

Overall, your speaking will get a whole band score (0-9) for each of the four criteria:

– Fluency and Coherence (F) – Ability to keep going and structure 

– Lexical Resource (LR) – Vocabulary 

– Grammatical Range and Accuracy (GR) – Grammar 

– Pronunciation (P) – Correct sounds, word and sentence stress, intonation and rhythm.

You can find more information about the band descriptors for IELTS Speaking here:

The exams office at BC or IDP will calculate an average score, and this figure will be rounded down to the nearest half or whole band score (see the table below).

     F       

     LR    

    GR     

     P      

Average Score

Final Result

          Speaking             

5

7

7

6

6.25

6*

*rounded down to the nearest half or whole band score.

Writing Scores

Task 1 and Task 2 writing will be marked separately by two different IELTS examiners.

For each task, your writing will get a whole band score (0-9) for each of the following four criteria:

– Task Achievement (TA) – Opinion and Ideas

 – Coherence and Cohesion (CC) – Organisation and Linking

– Lexical Resource (LR) – Vocabulary and Spelling

– Grammatical Range and Accuracy (GR) – Grammar and Punctuation

You can find more information about the band descriptors for IELTS Writing here:

Task 1 Band Descriptors

Task 2 Band Descriptors

The exams office at BC or IDP will calculate an average score for each Task, and a combined score (Task 2 = 66%, Task 1 = 33%). The final figure is rounded down to the nearest half or whole band score.

It is very important to remember that Task 2 is worth twice as much as Task 1 (Task 2 = 66%, Task 1 = 33%).

TA

CC

LR

GR

Average Scores

Final result

Writing Task 1

5

7

7

6

6.25

Writing Task 2

6

6

6

5

5.75

Combined Writing Score (Task 1 = 33%, Task 2 = 66%).

5.91

5.5*

*rounded down to the nearest half or whole band score

Now it’s Your Turn! Comment below!

Still confused? Do you have any questions for us? We’re always happy to help.

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IELTS Grammar: How to Use Modals for Opinions and Suggestions

IELTS Grammar: How to Use Modals for Opinions and Suggestions

Students who want to achieve band 7+ for their IELTS Writing Task 2 need to use a wide range of grammar structures. In this article I show you how to use a range of modals naturally to express opinions, as well as make suggestions and predictions, which will help improve your grammar band score.

For more examples of good grammar in use, check out our Task 2 sample answers here: IELTS Sample Answers.

You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel for some IELTS Speaking Sample Answers: HowtodoIELTS YouTube.

Grammar Doesn’t have to be Complex 

Although there is no ‘grammar test’ as part of the IELTS exam, it makes up 25% of your IELTS writing and speaking scores.

In order to get a high band score for your writing you need to be able to naturally use a wide range of grammar structures. For Task 2 writing, this means correctly using complex structures, but it also means using more basic structures naturally, including modal verbs.

Sample Essay

Below is a sample essay for the following question.

Some people think that all university students should study whatever they like. Others believe that they should only be allowed to study subjects that will be useful in the future, such as those related to science and technology. 

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

Look at the phrases that are in bold. For each one, do you think they are expressing (saying) something more certain or less certain?

One question that has caused a great deal of controversy over the years is which subjects students study at University. I believe that students should have the choice to study whatever they like. However we have to overcome the problem of enough graduates in important subjects. In this essay the arguments surrounding this issue will be discussed.  

Many people argue that students should choose their own subjects at university. The principle reason for this is because students will probably be more motivated so they will be more likely to work harder and for longer and therefore achieve more, be more successful and probably more satisfied. A good example is a student who has a passion for art or science. They will be more likely to do extra work to improve their knowledge or develop their skills to a higher level. Another reason is that if students follow their passion it can often lead to more creativity. An example here is Steve Jobs, who followed his passions to become one of the most creative and successful entrepreneurs of modern times.

Other people suggest that students should not be allowed to choose. They argue that if society allowed students to do this, then we might be left with a lack of graduates in some ‘core’ subjects essential for the future. An example here is important subjects such as science or technology, which might not be popular without encouragement. This could result in a less skilled labour force with a negative impact on the economy. However I would suggest that this is not a serious problem as we could deal with this issue by making core subjects more attractive. This could be done through financial policies, for example reduced fees, offering bursaries or guaranteeing jobs for studying the target subjects.

In conclusion, there are clear advantages of allowing students to choose their own subjects both for individuals as well as wider benefits. Nevertheless we must ensure there are enough students who select important subjects. This could be achieved using financial incentives or job guarantees. Regardless, we must always make sure our Universities are flexible enough to meet the challenges that society will face in the future.       

Use the Correct Grammar for the Right Situation

Let’s look at the sample answer again. I’ve coloured phrases that are more certain in red and phrases that are less certain in green. It’s now clear to see that in my first body paragraph I am more certain about my opinions, whereas in the second body paragraph I am less certain.

First Body Paragraph: 

Many people argue that students should choose their own subjects at university. The principle reason for this is because students will probably be more motivated so they will be more likely to work harder and for longer and therefore achieve more, be more successful and probably more satisfied. A good example is a student who has a passion for art or science. They will be more likely to do extra work to improve their knowledge or develop their skills to a higher level. Another reason is that if students follow their passion it can often lead to more creativity. An example here is Steve Jobs, who followed his passions to become one of the most creative and successful entrepreneurs of modern times.

Second Body Paragraph: 

Other people suggest that students should not be allowed to choose. They argue that if society allowed students to do this, then we might be left with a lack of graduates in some ‘core’ subjects essential for the future. An example here is important subjects such as science or technology, which might not be popular without encouragement. This could result in a less skilled labour force with a negative impact on the economy. However I would suggest that this is not a serious problem as we could deal with this issue by making core subjects more attractive. This could be done through financial policies, for example reduced fees, offering bursaries or guaranteeing jobs for studying the target subjects.

Analysis: First Body Paragraph (more certain)

In this paragraph I am confidently explaining my opinion about why students should choose their own subjects, by suggesting they’ll probably be more motivated, work harder and be more successful.

So I use language that matches my confidence. However this is academic writing so I’m still not 100% confident. Look at the table that compares good and bad ways to express certainty.

I didn’t say “Students will be more motived so they will work harder” or “If students follow their passion they will be more creative.” 

This is too strong so instead I used “will probably be more motivated” or “can often lead to more creativity

Good phrases for strong opinions

(Strong – 80%)

Poor phrases for strong opinions

(Too Strong – 100%)

Students will probably be more motivated……

…will be more likely to work harder.

If students follow their passion it can often       lead to more creativity.

Students will be more motivated…

…so they will work harder.

If students follow their passion they will be more creative.

Analysis: Second Body Paragraph (less certain)

In this paragraph I first make predictions about possible negative effects of allowing students to choose (a lack of graduates for important subjects and it’s possible impact on the economy). Then I suggest a possible solution (making important subjects more attractive through financial incentives).

By using less certain language, I show that these are just possible ideas. I didn’t say “We will be left with a lack of graduates.” or “This will result in a less skilled workforce.” or even “This can be done through financial policies.” 

Those structures are too strong for academic writing so instead I used  We might be left with a lack of graduates.“, This could result in a less skilled workforce.andThis could be done through financial policies.” 

Good phrases for predictions and suggestions  

(Possible – 50%)

Poor phrases for predictions and suggestions

(Too Strong – 100%)

We might be left with a lack of graduates.

 This could result in a less skilled workforce.

This could be done through financial policies.

We will be left with a lack of graduates.

This will result in a less skilled workforce.

This can be done through financial policies.

Plan your Language

As well as brainstorming and organising ideasit’s important to think about how certain you want to be about these ideas.  Yes, I said want because remember your essay doesn’t have to follow your real opinions, and you should try to use a range of grammar.

When you are planning your body paragraphs, keep in mind what language you will use to express your opinions and suggestion/predictions. For example if you have a discuss both sides question, which requires you to choose a side, then use more certain language for your chosen side but use less certain language for the other side.

Likewise in a problem and solution essayyou could choose to use stronger language to talk about the seriousness of the problem, but weaker language to discuss solutions.

Now it’s your turn! Put your answers in the comments.

Governments should spend money on railways rather than roads.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Brainstorm some main ideas – then write some strong/weak opinions and strong/weak suggestions or predictions using suitable language.

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