IELTS Writing Task 1: change or comparison?

While line graphs always show changes or trends (increase, decrease etc.), this is not always true for bar charts, pie charts and tables.

Here is a bar chart that does show ‘change’:


And here is a bar chart that shows ‘comparison’ rather than change:


Can you see the difference? How will this difference affect what you write in your essay? I’ll go into more detail about the two charts next week, but the important thing for now is to see the difference.

(Charts taken from US Department of Transportation website)

IELTS Writing Task 1: bar charts with age groups

A few people have asked about the question on page 52 of Cambridge IELTS 5. It shows two bar charts with age groups. Click here to see the question.

As usual, I recommend writing 4 paragraphs:

Cambridge IELTS 5, test 2 (page 52)
The charts below show the main reasons for study among students of different age
groups and the amount of support they received from employers.
2020-12-15 19_57_39-

  1. A quick introduction to say what the charts show.
  2. An overview of the main features - one sentence for each chart.
  3. Describe the first chart in detail.
  4. Describe the second chart in detail.

Here’s an example introduction and overview:

The first bar chart compares students of different ages in terms of why they are studying their chosen courses, and the second chart compares the same age groups in terms of the help they require at work.

It is clear that the proportion of people who study for career purposes is far higher among the younger age groups, and decreases steadily with age. The need for employer support also decreases with age, but only up to the point when employees enter their forties.

IELTS Writing Task 1: choosing which details to include

In last week’s lesson I wrote an introduction and overview for a question about two bar charts. For paragraphs 3 and 4, we need to describe each chart in detail.

I usually find that 3 sentences are enough for a good ‘details’ paragraph, which means that we only need to choose 3 things to describe for each chart.

3 sentences about the first chart:

  1. Compare the percentages for students under 26.
  2. Mention the overall trend as students get older, and that the proportions are the same for the 40-49 age group.
  3. Compare the percentages for students over 49.

3 sentences about the second chart:

  1. Write about the two youngest age groups.
  2. Write about the 30-39 age group.
  3. Write about the two oldest age groups.

IELTS Writing Task 1: verbs

Fill the gaps in the following sentences with suitable verbs.

  1. In 1995, people in the UK ______ around 72 billion minutes of local phone calls.
  2. They ______ about half this amount of time making national or international calls.
  3. In the same year, less than 5 billion minutes of mobile calls ______ made.
  4. National and international calls ______ a high point of around 61 billion minutes in 2002.
  5. The time spent on mobiles ______ from 15 billion minutes in 1999 to 45 billion in 2002.

Note: these sentences refer to a bar chart in Cambridge IELTS book 9.

IELTS Writing Task 1: describing details

Here are my answers to the task that I gave you in last week’s lesson:

1) Figures for the two countries that recycle the most

Austria and Belgium are the most environmentally friendly of the fifteen countries, recycling around 60% and 50% of their waste.

2) Figures for recycling and landfill in Greece

By contrast, Greece only recycles 10% of its waste and is the country that puts the highest proportion of refuse (90%)* into landfill.

3) Figures for incineration in Denmark and Luxembourg

Only two countries, Denmark and Luxembourg, incinerate over half of the waste that they produce; more precisely, figures for incineration are almost 60% and roughly 55% in the two countries respectively.

*It’s ok to put numbers in brackets, but don’t do this more than once or twice in your answer.


  1. made
  2. spent
  3. were
  4. reached
  5. tripled / increased / rose

IELTS Writing Task 1: task 1 writing in ‘real life’

I’ll finish the waste chart question next Thursday, but today I want to show you a ‘real’ example of some writing in the style of writing task 1.

Here are some sentences from a BBC article about the UK population:

  • The UK population was estimated to stand at 65.6 million in 2016.
  • 2016 saw the biggest UK population rise for 70 years.
  • Over the decade from mid-2016, projected growth in England’s population is put at 5.9%, for Northern Ireland the figure is 4.2%, while for Scotland and Wales the percentages are 3.2% and 3.1% respectively.
  • The study puts projected UK population growth between 2015 and 2040 at 16%, compared with 10% growth for France and 4% for Germany.
  • The study also says that the number of people aged 85 and over will have doubled from 1.6m in 2016 to 3.2m in 2041.

The reason why I wanted to share these sentences is that they are written in a very similar style to the style that I use in my model answers here on the blog. You’ll see that I’ve highlighted some typical task 1 vocabulary.

If you’d like to read the full article, click here. You might even notice a few mistakes in the original article - it was probably written too quickly!

IELTS Writing Task 1: ‘waste chart’ answer

Today I’m sharing my full sample answer for the task below.

The chart below compares levels of recycling, as well as some less environmentally friendly forms of waste management, in fifteen European countries.