IELTS Writing Task 1 - Bar Graph (Material, Sample Writing and Exercise)

We have discussed how a line graph is described in the previous post. Today, I would like to discuss another graph commonly used in IELTS Writing Task 1, the bar graph. As I said, I am going to breakdown each graph in IELTS Writing Task 1, and this is the second article that I write. You can read the first article in here, and learn the general structure of writing task 1 in here.


Bar Graph

Before discussing the bar graph above, let's take a look at the common structure of IELTS Writing Task 1 below:

Paragraph 1

- Introduction
- Explaining Variables
- Explaining Major Trend

Paragraph 2

Trend 1 (proportion, lowest/highest point, increase/decrease)

Paragraph 3

Trend 2 (proportion, lowest/highest point, increase/decrease)


Now, let's discuss how a bar graph should be described step by step.

Paragraph 1

Introduction

As usual, the first thing that we have to do when doing IELTS Writing Task 1 is explaining what the graph is about. This is done by paraphrasing the original title. Take a look at an illustration below.

The online sales of smartphones, laptops and tablets in the first quarter of 2019 (original title)

The number of smartphones, laptops and tablets that have been sold online from January until April 2019 (paraphrased title)

So, the first sentence of your writing would be like this:

The bar graph shows the number of smartphones, laptops and tablets that have been sold from January until April 2019.

Explaining variables

To explain the variables, we have to pay attention to what is presented in the abscissa (x) and ordinate (y), as well as other additional information. Since we have explained the types of gadget and months in previous sentence, we only need to explain the number of the sales as follows:

Units are presented in millions.

Explaining major trend

Major trend helps you organize your ideas better, and will be the basis of what will be explained in paragraph 2 and paragraph 3. From the bar graph, we know that the sales of laptops experienced a decline from January until March, but then increased by the end of the period. In contrary, the number of smartphones being sold online experienced a stable growth from January until March, and then decreased in April. We can put these explanations in the second paragraph, considering the more stable trend of the sales of both laptops and smartphones. The sales of tablets, however, is somewhat different from those of laptops and smartphones, in a way that it reached it highest sales in February and March, not in the first or the last quarter of 2019. So, let's put this in paragraph 3.


You can put the explanation in either the first paragraph or make it as the main ideas of paragraph 2 and 3. Take a look at how I explain the two different trends below:

The graph indicates that the online sales of laptops gradually decreased in the first three months and then reached its highest sales in April. In contrary, the number of smartphones sold in January until March witnessed a gradual increase, and then decreased in April. Unlike laptops and smartphones, the online sales of tablets did not peak in January or April, but in February and March.

Suppose we are going to put the major trend in paragraph 2 and 3, then our first paragraph would probably look like this:


The bar graph shows the number of smartphones, laptops and tablets that have been sold online from January until April 2019. Units are presented in millions.




Paragraph 2

In paragraph 2, we need to give detailed information, which will be based on the major trend that we have previously discussed. Here, you will explain the number of the gadgets being sold, how the number increased or decreased, and when the sales reached its peak. Take a look at this example:




The graph indicates that the online sales of laptops gradually decreased in the first three months. In January, nearly 50 million laptops were sold. In March, it was just a little above 20 millions, which means that the number decreased by around 10 million units each month. However, the sales of laptops skyrocketed in April, just a little above 50 millions. Unlike that of laptops, the number of smartphones sold in January until March witnessed a gradual increase. It started at around 19 million, doubled in February, and reached its highest sales in March, making up around 70 million units. In April, the sales of smartphones was reduced by 30 million units. 



Take a look at the underlined sentences. Those are the main ideas derived from the major trend that I previously explained. In paragraph 2, we have to add detailed information, and this is represented by sentences that are not underlined. Remember that the transition of one ideas to another has to be smooth and hence, we need to use connectors such as however and unlike.


Paragraph 3

The idea of writing paragraph 3 is pretty similar to that of paragraph 2. We need to give detailed information about the sales of tablets which seems to be a little bit different from the other two gadgets. Take a look at an example below:




The online sales of tablets exhibit a very different trend, since it did not reach its peak in either the first or the last month, but in February and March. In January, there were only 30 million units of tablets being sold. The number doubled in February, and then leveled off in March. Despite the dramatic increase, tablets reached its lowest sales in April, making up around 20 millions only.



Please note the connecting sentence (the underlined sentence) that I use to transition from the paragraph 2 to paragraph 3. It is important for us to transition from paragraph 2 to paragraph 3 smoothly because it helps us get a high score in cohesion and coherence.


The whole writing task 1 above will look like this:



The bar graph shows the number of smartphones, laptops and tablets that have been sold online from January until April 2019. Units are presented in millions.

The graph indicates that the online sales of laptops gradually decreased in the first three months. In January, nearly 50 million laptops were sold. In March, it was just a little above 20 millions, which means that the number decreased by around 10 million units each month. However, the sales of laptops skyrocketed in April, just a little above 50 millions. Unlike that of laptops, the number of smartphones sold in January until March witnessed a gradual increase. It started at around 19 million, doubled in February, and reached its highest sales in March, making up around 70 million units. In April, the sales of smartphones was reduced by 30 million units.


The online sales of tablets exhibit a very different trend, since it did not reach its peak in either the first or the last month, but in February and March. In January, there were only 30 million units of tablets being sold. The number doubled in February, and then leveled off in March. Despite the dramatic increase, tablets reached its lowest sales in April, making up around 20 millions only.

Word count: 207


Compared to the previous line graph, I already make a little progress in terms of the number of words used in the writing. I wrote 211 words last time, while now I manage to reduce to only 208 words. The problem still persists though, because the actual IELTS Writing Task 1 should only consist of 150 words to 190 words maximum (I suppose this is the most ideal number of words, although not mandatory). I still have 18 extra words, but I suppose it's fine for now, I'll try to deal with this problem later.

We can also put the major trend in paragraph 1, so that the writing will look like this:


The bar graph shows the number of smartphones, laptops and tablets that have been sold online from January until April 2019. Units are presented in millions. The graph indicates that the online sales of laptops gradually decreased in the first three months. Meanwhile, the online sales of tablets exhibit a very different trend, since it did not reach its peak in either the first or the last month, but in February and March.

To begin, nearly 50 million laptops were sold i
n January. In March, it was just a little above 20 millions, which means that the number decreased by around 10 million units each month. However, the sales of laptops skyrocketed in April, just a little above 50 millions. Unlike that of laptops, the number of smartphones sold in January until March witnessed a gradual increase. It started at around 19 million, doubled in February, and reached its highest sales in March, making up around 70 million units. In April, the sales of smartphones was reduced by 30 million units.

The sales of tablets shows a different pattern. In January, there were only 30 million units of tablets being sold. The number doubled in February, and then leveled off in March. Despite the dramatic increase, tablets reached its lowest sales in April, making up around 20 millions only.

Word count: 207



Tips for IELTS Writing Task 1 Bar Graph

1. Efficiency is the key

When doing IELTS Writing Task 1, we have to make sure that all information is included to get maximum score for Task Achievement marking criterion. However, we shouldn't repeat the same information because it makes the writing becomes longer than it is supposed to be. Take a look at an example below.

The bar graph shows the number of smartphones, tablets and laptops that have been sold online in the first quarter of 2019 from January until April.

There phrase in the first quarter of 2019 and from January to April actually mean the same, so there's no need in repeating them. We shouldn't repeat this information in different paragraph either. We just need to explain it in the first paragraph, and that's it.

It may look like a subtle mistake, I know. We're rarely aware if it does exist in our writing until we take a very careful look. That's why I mention it here.

2. Avoid over-using certain cohesive device

One thing that differentiate a 7,8 and 9 band score writing is the use of cohesive device. One may under-use them, that the transition between ideas becomes too mechanical, or over-use them that it becomes too noticeable. If we over-use or under-use cohesive devices (like when we use too many however or too many after that in our writing), the chance is that we won't get maximum score for cohesion and coherence marking criterion. It's important to remember the cohesion and coherence marking criterion explained as follows:

Band score 9

  • Uses cohesion in such a way that it attracts no attention


Band score 8

  • Sequences information and ideas logically
  • Manages all aspects of cohesion well


Band score 7

  • Logically organizes information and ideas and there is a progression throughout
  • Uses a range of cohesive devices appropriately although there may be some under-/over-use (you should try avoiding this if you want to get more than 7.0)

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