IELTS Writing Task 1 - Pie Chart (Material, Sample Writing and Exercise)

In the previous articles, we have discussed how line graph and bar graph are supposed to be described. Today, we are going to discuss the pie charts, which are also commonly used in IELTS Writing Task 1. In IELTS Writing Task 1, it is possible to have a single pie chart or two pie charts. As far as I know, it is pretty unlikely that we only have one pie chart, because it would mean that there is very little information to be written, making it nearly impossible to write 150 words.

So, normally, we have two pie charts or a pie chart and another graph. We're not going to discuss a combination of pie chart and other graph today, since my initial plan was that I would explain every single graph in IELTS Writing Task 1, and then continue with combined graphs. Now, let's take a look at sample pie charts below.


Pie Chart


The first thing that we need to figure out when doing IELTS Writing Task 1 is how the ideas are going to be structured. What information should be included in paragraph 1, paragraph 2 and paragraph 3? Before we start writing, it is very important to make a first draft. In this first draft, we only need to focus on the main ideas, because the detailed information will be given later. For IELTS Writing Task 1, the structure will look like this:





Paragraph 1

  • Introduction
  • Explaining variables
  • Explaining major trend

Paragraph 2

  • Giving detailed information of major trend 1 (percentage, proportion, lowest/highest, increase/decrease)

Paragraph 3

  • Giving detailed information of major trend 2 (percentage, proportion, lowest/highest, increase/decrease)



Okay, now let's discuss how the pie charts should be described step by step.


Paragraph 1

Introduction

First, we have to write an introduction that will explain what the charts are about. This is done by paraphrasing the original title. Take a look at an example below.


  • Average household expenditure in 2019 and 2020 (original title)



  • The pie charts compare the annual family spending in the year 2019 and 2020 (paraphrased title)


Explaining variables

This part of IELTS Writing Task 1 includes information about the unit of measurement (percentage), years, and the five types of household spending presented in the charts. We only need to explain this in the first paragraph since the rest of the writing will deal with the more detailed explanation of the charts. For the pie charts above, these are some of the additional information that must be written in the first paragraph:



There are five types of household spending presented in the charts, namely food, housing, healthcare, other goods and services, and education. Units are measured in percentage.




We don't have to explain the year because we already did it in the first sentence. Always remember to avoid unnecessary repetition.


Explaining major trends

Major trends will enable us to arrange our ideas better and help us with the paragraphing. In most cases of two pie charts, the major trend would be increase and decrease. The major trend of the pie charts above can be written as follows:

The pie charts indicate that there was an increase in the allocation of money for healthcare and other products and services. In contrary, households allocated less money for food, education and housing.

The whole paragraph 1 will look like this:



The pie charts compare the annual family spending in the year 2019 and 2020. There are five types of household spending presented in the charts, namely food, housing, healthcare, other goods and services, and education. Units are measured in percentage.




Paragraph 2


Here, we have to give a detailed explanation on how family spending on healthcare and other goods and services experienced a growth.  Take a look at an example below.




In 2019, households only spent 5% of their budget for healthcare and 7% for other products and services. In the following year, healthcare spending makes up one fifth of household expenditure. The same trend is shown by the budget allocation for other goods and services that increased by 11% in 2020.




Note
To maximize our vocabulary range and accuracy score, we need to do a lot of paraphrasing and avoid repetition of certain words. For example, instead of over-using the word increase, we can use the word grow or climb. We can also use the words surge, skyrocket, or jump if there is a significant increase. If we already use a lot of Verbs, we can use Nouns as an alternative, such as growth (instead of grow). You may also notice that instead of using 2020, I use the phrase in the following year, which is another attempt to avoid repetition.

One may ask, "Do we really have to use vast vocabulary to demonstrate our mastery of the English language?", to which I would most likely respond: "Yes, we do". Well, trying our best to avoid repetition is the least the we can do. The purpose of English proficiency test like IELTS is to measure our mastery of the language, after all.

Besides avoiding the repetition of certain words, we also need to avoid over-using percentages, and try to find some other ways of explaining the proportion of the household spending. For example, I use difference in this sentence:


  • The same trend is shown by the budget allocation for other goods and services that increased by 11% in 2020


Actually, I could have written it like this:


  • The same trend is shown by the budget allocation for other goods and services that increased to 18% in 2020


However, I already used such explanation for healthcare, and this is why I tried to find another way to explain the budget allocation for other goods and services.

Other than difference, I also used fraction to replace percentage in this sentence:


  • In the following year, healthcare spending makes up one fifth of household expenditure


Actually, I could have written it like this:


  • In the following year, healthcare spending makes up 20% of household expenditure



Paragraph 3

The way we do paragraph 3 is the same as the way we do paragraph 2, only now we're dealing with different trend. While the budget allocation for healthcare and other goods and services increased, the amount of money spent on food, housing, and education declined. Paragraph 3 will most likely look like this:



In contrast, households spend less and less money on food, housing and education. In 2019, more than a half of the budget was allocated for food. In 2020, the number was just a little above 40%. Albeit the decline of food consumption, food still has the largest proportion of household spending in 2020. Similarly, budget allocation for housing slightly decreased from 20% to 19%. Education experienced the most dramatic 11% budget reduction and only made up 2% of household expenditure in 2020.




Take a look at some of the paraphrased words (underlined) in paragraph 3.



In contrast, households spend less and less money on food, housing and education. In 2019, more than a half of the budget (which means that it made up more than 50%) was allocated for food. In 2020, the number was just a little above 40% (which means that it makes up 41%). Albeit the decline (instead of decrease) in its consumption, food still has the largest proportion of household spending in 2020. Similarly, budget allocation for housing slightly decreased from 20% to 19%. Education experienced the most dramatic 11% budget reduction (instead of significant decrease) and only made up 2% of household expenditure in 2020.




The whole writing will look like this:



The pie charts compare the annual family spending in the year 2019 and 2020. There are five types of household spending presented in the charts, namely food, housing, healthcare, other goods and services, and education. Units are measured in percentage.

The pie charts indicate that there was an increase in the allocation of money for healthcare and other products and services. In 2019, households only spent 5% of their budget for healthcare and 7% for other products and services. In the following year, healthcare spending makes up one fifth of household expenditure. The same trend is shown by the budget allocation for other goods and services that increased by 11% in 2020.

In contrast, households spend less and less money on food, housing and education. In 2019, more than a half of the budget was allocated for food. In 2020, the number was just a little above 40%. Albeit the decline of food consumption, food still has the largest proportion of household spending in 2020. Similarly, budget allocation for housing slightly decreased from 20% to 19%. Education experienced the most dramatic 11% budget reduction and only made up 2% of household expenditure in 2020.

Word count: 194






We have learned from the two previous articles (which you can find here and here) that IELTS Writing Task 1 should consist of 150 to 190 words. It means that I still have 4 extra words in my writing. Let's see if I will be able to write more efficiently and write 190 words maximum in the next article.

Besides lexical items that we use in our writing, it is also important that we use cohesive devices to arrange our ideas logically. As you can see from the sample writing above, I used several connectors such as in contrast, albeit, and similarly. You may also notice that I always put the main idea of each paragraph first, and then give the more detailed information. Take a look at how I developed each of the main idea in the writing.



The pie charts compare the annual family spending in the year 2019 and 2020There are five types of household spending presented in the charts, namely food, housing, healthcare, other goods and services, and education. Units are measured in percentage.

The pie charts indicate that there was an increase in the allocation of money for healthcare and other products and servicesIn 2019, households only spent 5% of their budget for healthcare and 7% for other products and services. In the following year, healthcare spending makes up one fifth of household expenditure. The same trend is shown by the budget allocation for other goods and services that increased by 11% in 2020.


In contrast, households spend less and less money on food, housing and education. In 2019, more than a half of the budget was allocated for food. In 2020, the number was just a little above 40%. Albeit the decline of food consumption, food still has the largest proportion of household spending in 2020. Similarly, budget allocation for housing slightly decreased from 20% to 19%. Education experienced the most dramatic 11% budget reduction and only made up 2% of household expenditure in 2020.




The underlined sentences are the main ideas. Understanding how main ideas are developed and a good paragraphing will help you get high scores in Task Completion as well as Coherence and Cohesion marking criteria.


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)