IELTS Writing. Task 1. Bar graph
It is common in the IELTS Writing paper to be asked to describe a bar graph. Bar graphs, also known as bar charts, are similar to line graphs in that they have two axes and are useful for showing how something has changed over a given period of time, especially when there are significant changes. Bar graphs consist of rectangular bars, which can be orientated horizontally or vertically, with the lengths proportional to the data values that they represent. They are typically used for comparing two or more values.
To get a band 9 in IELTS Writing task 1, you should follow this answer structure:
- General overview
- Specific features
Let’s look in detail how to apply this structure to an IELTS bar chart question.
IELTS bar graph question
The bar chart shows the crime rates in two European cities from 2015 to 2019. Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.
And now let’s learn how to answer IELTS bar chart questions.
IELTS bar graph answering strategy
You should start your answer by writing an introduction. The introduction is 1 or 2 sentences, where you paraphrase the information from your question. You should mention two things in your introduction:
- what your graph shows
- for what period of time
In our example, the introduction can look like this:
The bar chart provides information about the percentages of crime in cities A and B between 2015 and 2019.
See how I used synonyms to paraphrase the question:
shows → provides information about
crime rates → percentages of crime
two European cities → cities A and B
from 2015 to 2019 → between 2015 and 2019.
2. General overview
The second paragraph of your answer is a general overview, where you briefly describe major trends on your graph. Ideally, you should describe 2-4 key features.
To make major trends easier to notice, you can outline A’s bars and B’s bars like this:
Now it’s obvious that:
- B experienced a downward trend
- A experienced an upward trend
- both cities showed fluctuations
- Initially A had a lower rate, but in 2019 A outraced B
Use word overall to start your general overview. In our case, the overview may look as follows:
Overall, B experienced a downward trend, while A showed an upward trend throughout the period. Both cities’ crime rates had some fluctuations. Although A initially had a lower rate, it outraced B at the end of the period.
3. Specific details
After we’ve written the introduction and general overview, it’s time to give the specific details. You should describe the specific features in 2 or 3 paragraphs.
You can group data in such way:
- Details about B
- Details about A
When you have two cities (or two countries or any other two things depicted on the graph), the simplest way of grouping data — is to describe each city’s trend in a separate paragraph.
When giving specific features, you have to write exact numbers/percentages and include as much details as you can.
In our case, the specific details may look as follows:
B’s crime rate was about 43% in 2015, being higher than A’s rate by approximately 5%. Then, it rose to almost fifty percent in 2016. However, the figure showed a gradual decrease to about 47% in 2017, and continued to decline steadily to the end of the period, reaching around 42% in 2018 and hitting a low-point of about 37% in 2019.
Percentage of crime in A was less than 40% in 2015, and it decreased in 2016, when about one third of population in A had criminal records (as opposed to almost a half in B). However, the figure experienced a steady growth during the next two years. It rose to approximately 39% in 2017, then increased by around 3% in 2018, and remained steady for the next year, outracing the rate of B.
- When analyzing a bar graph, we cannot always give exact details (due to inaccuracies of the chart), so use words around, about and approximately when giving inexact data.
- Give data for each year shown on the chart
Bar graph vocabulary is here!