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Tables. Everyone hates tables. They’re full of data.

And sometimes it feels like an impossible task to describe it all.

You feel just like Sisyphus, eternally rolling your boulder up an infinite mountain. Or like this dog.

IELTS tables are a real challenge!

Read here about how to simplify and analyse tables.

I’ll be totally honest with you: this table is an absolute nightmare! I was sitting with one of the head IELTS trainers when I was marking this one and we had a real tough time figuring out the overview.

In that situation, most (but not all) examiners will be more lenient when it comes to marking the overview. They will take it easy on you because it is a tough graph!

Study the sample answer below so that you won’t feel like that dog on test day!

 

The Question

The table below gives information about populations in Australia and Malaysia in 1980 and 2002. Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

Australia

Malaysia

1980

2002

1980

2002

Total population (millions)

14.7

19.6

13.7

24.3

Male population (%)

49.9

49.9

50.3

50.6

Female population (%)

50.1

50.1

49.7

49.4

Birth rate (%)

1.5

1.3

3.2

2.2

Average annual population growth (%)

1.2

1.3

2.4

2.1

Population aged over 65 (%)

9.6

12.4

3.7

4.3

Examiner Sample Answer (by Dave)

The table compares six demographic indicators of Australia and Malaysia in the years 1980 and 2002. Overall, while the population size in both countries increased considerably over the period, Malaysia’s grew at a much higher rate. Despite the overall rate of growth, the birth rate percentage was in decline by 2002. Both countries had comparable stable figures for the approximately equal male and female population proportions, however Australia had more older people and saw a larger percentile increase there as well.

The total population in both countries witnessed a substantial growth with the figure for Malaysia nearly doubling to 24.3 million while Australia increased from 14.7 to 19.6 million people. The percentage of men and women of Australia remained steady during the period at 49.9% for males and 51.1% for females. In contrast, the Malaysian male population increased its share by .3% to 50.% and there was a reciprocal decline of 0.3% for females.

Both nations experienced a downward trend in birth rates in 2002, with a decline of 1.0% in Malaysia. Overall, Malaysia had a much higher birthrate and annual population growth in 1980 (3.2% and 2.4%) and 2002 (2.2% and 2.1%). In Australia, the changes were less dramatic with the birth rate falling from 1.5% to 1.3% and average annual population growth slipping slightly from 1.3% to 1.2%. Seniors experienced a different trend. Between 1980 and 2002, Australia was home to an extra 2.8% (12.4% overall) of the elderly while the figure for Malaysia rose much less substantially by 0.6% (4.3% in total in 2002).

 

Sample Answer Analysis

The table compares six demographic indicators of Australia and Malaysia in the years 1980 and 2002. Overall, while the population size in both countries increased considerably over the period, Malaysia’s grew at a much higher rate. Despite the overall rate of growth, the birth rate percentage was in decline by 2002. Both countries had comparable stable figures for the approximately equal male and female population proportions, however Australia had more older people and saw a larger percentile increase there as well.

  • My first sentence simply paraphrases the question. Don’t worry about this standard, token sentence – write it quickly.

  • My second sentence begins a torturous general overview. I start with the most important information – population growth for both countries.

  • My third sentence is still part of my never-ending general overview and notes an important decreasing trend related to birth rate %.

  • My merciful final sentence of the overview notes that both countries have similar proportions with the exception of the elderly, of which there are more in Australia.

The total population in both countries witnessed a substantial growth with the figure for Malaysia nearly doubling to 24.3 million while Australia increased from 14.7 to 19.6 million people. The percentage of men and women of Australia remained steady during the period at 49.9% for males and 51.1% for females. In contrast, the Malaysian male population increased its share by .3% to 50.% and there was a reciprocal decline of 0.3% for females.

  • My first sentence details the statistics for overall population growth in both countries.

  • My second sentence describes the ratio changes for men and women in Australia.

  • My third sentence does the same but for Malaysia, where there are fewer females.

Both nations experienced a downward trend in birth rates in 2002, with a decline of 1.0% in Malaysia. Overall, Malaysia had a much higher birthrate and annual population growth in 1980 (3.2% and 2.4%) and 2002 (2.2% and 2.1%). In Australia, the changes were less dramatic with the birth rate falling from 1.5% to 1.3% and average annual population growth slipping slightly from 1.3% to 1.2%. Seniors experienced a different trend. Between 1980 and 2002, Australia was home to an extra 2.8% (12.4% overall) of the elderly while the figure for Malaysia rose much less substantially by 0.6% (4.3% in total in 2002).

  • My first sentence describes the percentage changes for birth rates.

  • My second sentence compares Malaysia which had much higher overall growth rates.

  • My third sentence compares Australia, which had lower growth rates.

  • My fourth sentence introduces the category of seniors.

  • My fifth sentence compares the data for seniors in Malaysia and Australia.

 

Vocabulary Analysis and Practice

The table compares six demographic indicators of Australia and Malaysia in the years 1980 and 2002. Overall, while the population size in both countries increased considerably over the period, Malaysia’s grew at a much higher rate. Despite the overall rate of growth, the birth rate percentage was in decline by 2002. Both countries had comparable stable figures for the approximately equal male and female population proportions, however Australia had more older people and saw a larger percentile increase there as well.

The total population in both countries witnessed a substantial growth with the figure for Malaysia nearly doubling to 24.3 million while Australia increased from 14.7 to 19.6 million people. The percentage of men and women of Australia remained steady during the period at 49.9% for males and 51.1% for females. In contrast, the Malaysian male population increased its share by .3% to 50.% and there was a reciprocal decline of 0.3% for females.

Both nations experienced a downward trend in birth rates in 2002, with a decline of 1.0% in Malaysia. Overall, Malaysia had a much higher birthrate and annual population growth in 1980 (3.2% and 2.4%) and 2002 (2.2% and 2.1%). In Australia, the changes were less dramatic with the birth rate falling from 1.5% to 1.3% and average annual population growth slipping slightly from 1.3% to 1.2%. Seniors experienced a different trend. Between 1980 and 2002, Australia was home to an extra 2.8% (12.4% overall) of the elderly while the figure for Malaysia rose much less substantially by 0.6% (4.3% in total in 2002).

Practice – categorise the vocabulary from the sample answer below: 

Vocabulary for describing growth:

Vocabulary for describing decline:

Ways to say big/fast:

Ways to say small/slow:

Answers:

Vocabulary for describing growth: increased, grew at a much higher rate, substantial growth, rose much less substantially

Vocabulary for describing decline: was in decline, reciprocal decline, downward trend, slipping slightly

Ways to say big/fast: much higher rate, considerable, substantial

Ways to say small/slow: less dramatic, slightly, less substantially

 

Grammar Analysis and Practice: Present Simple

Wait, don’t skip this section right away! I know, I know – present simple. The simplest, most basic grammar.

If you are reading this, you already know about present simple.

But you wouldn’t believe how many students make simple mistakes in the first sentence of their writing and give the examiner a really bad first impression.

My tip is to make sure you get the subject/verb agreement here correct as a reminder to keep getting it correct as you continue writing.

The table compares six demographic indicators of Australia and Malaysia in the years 1980 and 2002.

Red: Subject – is it singular or plural (table is singular, tables is plural)

Table: Verb (if the subject is singular then there is an ‘s’ – compares. If it is plural, then there is no ‘s’ – compare.

Correct: The table compares six demographic indicators of Australia and Malaysia in the years 1980 and 2002.

Incorrect: The table compare six demographic indicators of Australia and Malaysia in the years 1980 and 2002.

Let’s do some simple practice:

1. The pie charts illustrate the band scores for IELTS candidates in Vietnam in 2005 and 2018.

2. The diagram describe the process by which an examiner marks IELTS.

3. IELTS examiners likes marking Task 1 because it is easy.

4. IELT Writing Task 1 stop many students from getting the scores that they deserve.

5. IELTS students almost never spends enough time to prepare.

Answers:

1. The pie charts illustrate the band scores for IELTS candidates in Vietnam in 2005 and 2018.

2. The diagram describes the process by which an examiner marks IELTS.

3. IELTS examiners like marking Task 1 because it is easy.

4. IELT Writing Task 1 stops many students from getting the scores that they deserve.

5. IELTS students almost never spend enough time to prepare.

I know it’s simple – just make sure you do it and then remember that your subjects and verbs should always agree (regardless if it is present simple or not).

 

My Handwritten Notes

IELTS Tables Vocabulary

 

 

Links

 

 

Student Band 5.5 Example (for Comparison)

The table compares six population information of Australia and Malaysia in the years 1980 and 2002. Overall, the population size in both countries increased considerably over the period. The two countries saw differences in the rates of birth, average annual growth and aging population.

After 22 years, the total population in both countries witnessed a substantially growth. The figure for Malaysia nearly doubling its previous data, reaching 24.3 million. While the percentage of men and women of Australia remained steadily during the period, there was a slight growth by 0.3% in Malaysian male population.

The two nations experienced a downward trend in birth rates in 2002. Their older population, by contrast, increased. Between 1980 and 2002, Australia had an extra 2.8% of the elderly while Malaysia rise by 0.6%. Average population growth rate grew by 0.1% in Australia yet fall by 1% for the other nation.

 

Practice: Complete the notes for your overview

1. Population ____________ in both countries

2. __________’s population increased quicker than __________

3. Male and female proportions were relatively _______.

4. ___________ had a higher birthrate, but with a ____________ trend.

5. ___________ had a larger older population.

6. __________’s older population increased more quickly.

 

Now use your notes to write an overview. Try to combine the information into a maximum of two or three sentences. Look back at my overview to check your answers. Write your overview in the comments below!

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


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