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Which kind of Task 1 Writing questions are the most difficult? In my experience as an IELTS Teacher and Examiner, most students say it’s tables!

In this article I show you how to make simple notes on the table, so that it will be easier to recognise (see) and remember all of the important trends.

Tables are Challenging

It’s no surprise that students struggle with tables. After all, it is much easier to see the overall trends in a line chart or a bar graph.

But in a table you are just looking at the naked data. Just look at the example below taken from a previous IELTS writing exam (taken from Cambridge 10).

There are a lot of figures to process and it’s practically (nearly) impossible to see the trends quickly and then remember them as you are writing your report.

So what you need to do is make notes on the table about all the important changes. For the table above you need to note changes in sales and also changes in position.

Let’s look at changes in sales first.

Make Notes about Figures

In the table below you can see I’ve roughly calculated the changes in sales of coffee and bananas for each country between 1999 and 2004, and I’ve made notes at the side of the most recent figures.

For example, in the UK the amount of coffee sold increased by more than 10 times so I’ve made a note of that as x10+, and I drew an arrow to show a large increase.

Similarly, for Sweden it increased by a very small amount (compared to other countries) so I only drew an arrow to show a very slight increase and no figure.

Make Notes about Positions

Next, in the table below you can see I noted all the positions for both time periods so I can clearly see any changes.

For example, in 1999 the UK sold the 3rd largest amount of coffee, whereas in 2004 it sold the most amount of coffee.

So I wrote 3 and 1 in the columns for 1999 and 2004 respectively, and I drew with an arrow to show the direction of the change.

By the way, it is now easy to spot (see) that the order of the country names for both Coffee and Bananas matches their positions in 2004.

Group, Select and Compare Trends

Now you can see the trends easily, what you need to do next is recognise any general patterns and identify (decide) which are the most important trends.

For example, it is now clear that sales of coffee in all five countries experienced (had) an upward trend, whereas for Bananas two of the the three countries saw a downward trend.

Similarly,  it is clear that the leading seller of coffee changed from Switzerland to the UK, going from 3rd to 1st and increasing by over 10 times.

In contrast Switzerland remained the top seller of Bananas and increased their share by 3 times.

For a band 7+ you should notice important comparisons if possible.

So you could note that the UK ended up selling four times as much coffee as Switzerland in 2004.

 You could also note that Switzerland ended up selling nearly five times as many Bananas as the UK in 2004.

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

Look again at the table. What other trends can you see?

Write some example sentences like mine.

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