Graphs and Tables: How to deal with them?
Graphs and tables are the most common visuals used in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1. Since many students seem to have problems with analysing and describing them, here is our advice.
First of all, you need to bear in mind that each type of diagrams serves its own purpose. Thus, trends over a specific period of time are usually presented in a line graph. Here you should pay attention to the horizontal and vertical axes as they provide most of the information. A bar chart shows the same kind of information but with the units presented as bars or columns. Another kind of bar chart (also called a histogram) may show numerical distributions rather than changes. Pie charts show proportions, normally represented as percentages.
Tables give detailed data and may be used to display changes over time or they may show distributions of variables according to place or type. They usually require more interpretation than graphs do.
So, what should we do when we see a graph or table in IELTS Writing Task 1?
- We should analyse the task carefully before we start writing. Read the headings and note any labels or words. It is very important to understand the graph or table we are given. So, when looking at it, we should pay attention to the following details:
- What is the information or data in the graph or table about? (This information is normally supplied with the graph or table.)
- What are the units of measurement used?
- What is the area (place) involved?
- What is the time-scale involved?
- What is the purpose of the graph or table?
- As soon as we know the answers to all these questions, we can identify the key features of the graph. Key features are the most noticeable, significant facts contained in the graph. We should select at least three key features, which will form the basis of our answer. We should not try to mention everything. Once we know what the key features are, we can make some quick notes.
- Now, we should write an introduction in our own words, describing the information given in the graph. We can use individual words from the question paper, but if we copy long phrases or whole sentences, these words will be deducted from the total word count of our answer. Our introduction should state what the main idea behind the graph or table is and can also include the units of measurement and the time frame.
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