In this IELTS Academic Writing tutorial you’ll learn different ways to describe a Pie Chart for IELTS.
We will talk about the best language to use and teach you how to structure your writing to get the best results from your IELTS Academic Writing Exam.
We will begin by giving you some general tips for describing a Pie Chart in your IELTS Academic Writing Exam.
These tips are good to keep in mind from the moment you take the first look at the Pie Charts given to you, to the moment you finish your writing:
- If you cannot compare the information of your Pie Charts, don’t panic. In such a case giving a summary of each picture is fine.
- Avoid giving personal opinions at all costs. (E.g. If the graph shows rising prices and you know it’s because of a war in Middle East, do not say anything. Your personal opinion must not be mentioned.)
- Always pay attention to the time frame of your Pie Charts and use the appropriate tense (past, present or future).
- Focus on getting all of the appropriate data from the Pie Charts/Graphs into your writing.
- These are quick tips, if you are still struggling you should consider enrolling in an online course to prepare for IELTS.
How to Structure your Writing for IELTS Academic Task 1 – Pie Chart
Now we will give you a step by step guide on how to structure your Pie Chart description to receive great results on your IELTS Academic Writing Exam.
Step 1 – Prepare
Look for the biggest and smallest sections of your Pie Charts – what do they represent? What is the percentage?
Make a quick analysis – note down the times, dates and measurements.
See the big picture, avoid getting lost in the details. After all this is a summarizing task.
When you are confident you have selected the main features, carry on to Step 2.
Step 2 – Organise your findings into two groups
When organising the information into two separate groups focus on these topics:
- Major trends
- Major groups
- Group information
- Other similar ideas
Step 3 – Structure everything into this Four Paragraph model
Write one sentence explaining what the graphs shows. You can paraphrase the title.
Pie Chart title: Holiday destinations chosen by Welsh people 1955-2005.
Your first sentence: The pie chart shows the vacation preferences of Welsh people over a fifty year period starting in 1955 and finishing in 2005.
Talk about the information that you have separated in Step 2. Focus on the first group.
Talk about the information that you have separated in Step 2. Focus on the second group.
Two sentences summarising your description. (What are the major overall trends, changes, etc.)
Vocabulary for describing a Pie Chart For IELTS
Now that you have the understanding of how to structure your description of Pie Charts and Graphs for IELTS Academic Writing, let’s talk about the language you should use.
Here are a few examples of good wording for the largest section of your Pie Chart:
It is clear that ____represents the largest portion of _____, whereas _____ is undoubtedly the smallest.
Sales of _____ stood at __% in 1925, which is the majority of_____.
(If the percentage is around 60%) – Nearly a third…
(If the percentage is around 52%) – Over a half of all respondents…
Here are a few examples of good wording for the smallest section of your Pie Chart:
A small fraction…
Exactly 30% of students…
(If the percentage is around 25%) Roughly a quarter of respondents
…whereas sales for _____ were just 10%.
In 1955 approximately three quarters were ____, whereas in 1960 this had fallen to just under a fifth.
Quick Presentation on How to Describe A Pie Chart
Audio Tutorial: How to describe a Pie Chart
Hello there, IELTS students.
In this tutorial, we’re going to look at how to describe a pie chart for IELTS Academic Task 1.
My name is Ben.
You know me from IELTS Podcast.
This tutorial is divided up in 3 parts.
First, we’re going to look at the language.
Then I want to give you some tips.
And then we’re going to look at an easy essay template.
Four paragraphs, really simple, and it’s a good way to prepare for the IELTS.
So grab a pen and paper (you’re going to need it) because I’m going to give you lots of terms,
lots of tips,
and I think it would be really beneficial for you if you did actually write these down as you hear them.
Because it’ll help you to remember them.
You’ll have them down there on paper as an easy reference.
It will improve your listening skills (and of course it will improve your speaking skills because as you write them down, you’ll be hearing the perfect pronunciation… Well, native English pronunciation… Even if I do have a little bit of an accent from the North but it doesn’t really matter. It’s not going to destroy your IELTS speaking exam).
Alright, let’s get going.
So the language for portions.
I’m going to give you a variety because you cannot always use the numbers.
Because it gets boring and you’ve got to show a range of vocabulary to pick up points for lexical resource.
So if it’s “60%” you can say “nearly a third.”
“nearly a third”
If it’s “52%” you can say “over a half.”
“Over a half of all respondents…” or
“Over half of all respondents replied ‘yes.'” or
“Over half of all the respondents were from Scotland.”
If it’s a small percentage (2%, 3%, 1%) you can say “a small fraction.”
“A small fraction of sales originated in Vietnam.” for example.
We can also say, “Exactly 30% or students studied economics.” for example.
If it’s around a quarter (24% for example, 26%,) you can say “roughly a quarter of respondents.”
And if it’s around three quarters (75%, 74%, 76%… whatever) you can say “Around three quarters of sales were from Nigeria.”
Hopefully you’ve still got your pen in your hand.
I’m going to give you a very useful sentence that you can definitely use when you’re describing a pie chart.
All you have to do is identify the largest section and the smallest section.
And then basically memorize this sentence:
“It is clear that x represents the largest portion, whereas y is undoubtedly the smallest.”
Let me put it in context.
“It is clear that education represents the largest portion whereas the environment is undoubtedly the smallest.”
One very easy sentence and you can use it in every single pie chart essay.
… Well, not “every single.” There may be some cases where you cannot use it but it’s just a general rule.
It’s good to have a sentence like that.
Now, some more language.
We can say “About half the amount of televisions were from Iraq (or wherever).”
“Precisely a third of the televisions were sold in Glasgow (wherever).”
“Almost a quarter…”
“A small fraction…”
“A large sector…”
Copy all of those down.
Show the examiner that you have a variety of language.
You’ve got a large lexical resource.
Now, we’re also going to need the language for comparisons.
So if we’re making comparisons, here are some set phrases. We can say:
“Twice as many people prefer Kellogg’s over (I don’t’ know) supermarket y own brand (or whatever).”
“Nearly four times as many people listen to IELTS Podcast than (what the hell’s whatever)…”
“Whereas sales for x were just 10%.”
So I’ll just link those together. What we could say is:
“In 1955 approximately three quarters were male whereas in 1960 this had fallen to just under a fifth.”
That’s a useful little phrase there, “whereas,” especially when we’re making the comparisons.
Now, if we’re following the four-paragraph model, we’re going to finish with a summary.
Just outlining the overall characteristics of the graph/of the pie chart.
Here are some perfect sentences you can use in this final paragraph. We can say:
“In all countries observed, the largest amount of sales were seen in Wales.”
We can say:
“Overall the majority of the countries experienced x, y, zed.” or
“Overall the majority of people interviewed said they preferred beef (or whatever).”
“Overall it is clear the amount of sales… Blah, blah, blah.”
“To summarize the most marked change is the jump from vegetarianism to veganism (or whatever).”
And the final sentence you can use is:
“Overall amongst the six regions, five make up the largest expenses followed by three representing the lowest.”
Or to be a little bit more specific:
“Overall amongst the six regions, England and Wales make up the largest expenses followed by Scotland representing the lowest.”
So another sentence there that you can basically copy and paste and drop into the essay, assuming it is in context.
So be careful there; it has to be relevant. You can’t just copy-paste it and just dump it in the essay. So make sure it’s relevant.
Now, we’re going to look at some tips.
Sometimes, with IELTS Academic Task 1, it’s impossible to compare the information.
Maybe you’ve got a table followed by a pie chart, and they just don’t correspond.
So in this case, what you do is just write a paragraph about the pie chart, and a paragraph about the table.
Next one. Next tip.
Avoid stating opinions.
Now, imagine we’ve got a pie chart showing holiday visits to Germany in 1980, and holiday visits to Germany in 2010.
And there’s been a change; there are more visits nowadays.
And maybe we want to say it’s because of the popularity of Berlin.
Maybe we know because we have a friend in Germany that the change is because Berlin has become very trendy.
We do not mention it.
We never put our opinion in there.
All we have to do is summarize the data. We don’t have to put anything of the reason why, unless it’s actually in the data.
But if it’s your opinion and you know why sales have increased, like the prices of oil has increased, or whatever, it doesn’t matter.
Don’t put it in there. Just stick to what’s on the paper.
Check the time frame on the pie chart.
Does the pie chart show you information from 1960?
In which case, you’re going to use the past tense.
Does it show you information from the current year?
Which you’d use the present.
Or is it a forecast?
In which case of course, you’ll use the future tense.
So check the time frame, use the appropriate tense.
If you want to pick up more points, extra points, use a passive construction.
Grammatical range and accuracy. Show a range of the grammar structures you know.
So use a passive construction that’s with the verb “to be.”
The next one, which is very important.
Focus on getting the appropriate data from the graph into your writing.
I want to go into more detail about this point in the next slides.
2 seconds. The next points.
Now, another tip (which is very valuable) especially if you’re going to write your pie chart using the four-paragraph model that I’ll explain in a few minutes.
What you need to do is learn how to paraphrase.
It’s not a difficult task.
What it consists of is reorganizing the information using a different structure, but still it stays the same.
So for example, if we have some pie charts and the title is “Holiday destination chosen by Welsh people 1955-2005.”
Your first sentence in this essay (if we’re following this four-paragraph model) will just be a very, very simple paraphrase of the title.
We’re not complicating things, we’re just going to paraphrase it and we’ve got maybe 10% or 15% of the essay out of the way.
And it’s a perfectly acceptable introduction.
So I’ll just go over the title one more time:
“Holiday destination chosen by Welsh people 1955-2005.”
Your first sentence:
“The pie chart shows/the pie charts show the vacation preferences of Welsh people over a fifty-year period starting in 1955 and finishing in 2005.”
Now, a side note here:
Learn the nationalities.
Learn that people from Vietnam are called Vietnamese.
People from England are (obviously) English.
From Canada, Canadian.
From the United States, generally considered American.
This is important because it just gives you more flexibility when you’re paraphrasing.
Because using the nationality is just saying the same thing, and you can adopt it into different structures.
So that just gives you a little bit more flexibility there.
Now, those were some tips just regarding your general preparation.
Now, if you’re actually in the exam, what I would like you to do is follow what I call a three-step prep.
This is an adopted process/adopted model that a friend of mine (Dominic).
On his blog Dominic: DCIELTS.com. Go check that out. I’ll put the links in the post.
But here, I’ve adopted it from that.
And it’s a very practical process you can use for writing your IELTS Academic Task 1 pie chart.
First of all, what you do is 3 steps.
Step 1. Prepare:
Look for the biggest and smallest sections.
Analyze the time, the dates, and the tenses, and the measurements.
Is it in kilos?
Is it in kilos per hour?
Is it in square cubic feet?
Have a look at that data.
Also, when you’re analyzing see the big picture. Don’t go for the details.
This is a summarizing task and I want you to just have a look at the overall picture.
What is happening?
Are sales increasing?
Are they falling?
Has the portion increased?
Has it decreased?
And in this step 1, you look at it all and then it’s very important that you select and report the main features.
Step 2. Organize this information into 2 paragraphs.
So following the four-paragraph model, we’ve got the first paragraph is a paraphrase of the title. And then we’ve got 2 body paragraphs.
And the first body paragraph, what we’re going to do is we’re going to put the information that we’ve organized in this step.
So here, we’re going to look for the:
We’re going to group similar ideas together.
Now, it’s going to be the first paragraph…
Paragraph 2 will also be similar.
These are your 2 body paragraphs where we put the information that we’ve analyzed in that 2nd step where we’re putting it into the paragraphs and we’re going to write about it.
It’s basically deciding what we’re going to write about.
Then we write the essay using the template.
We’ve got the first… Well, I’ll explain the paragraph model in a second…
In this stage when we’re writing it, remember to check for errors once you’ve finished.
And follow your essay plan.
If ideas pop into your head, ignore them. Just follow your plan.
It’ll keep you calm, it’ll keep you on track, it’ll keep you within the time limit.
So don’t deviate from that.
Now, that’s the three-step plan.
Now, we’re going to look at the template which we can use to structure the actual final essay.
Paragraph 1 will be one sentence. We’re just going paraphrase the title.
Paragraph 2, groups of information from the organization we did in step 2.
Paragraph 3, same groups of information collected from the organization in step 2.
Paragraph 4 will be one or two summary sentences showing the major overall trends from the graph.
In this stage, we’ll use the summary sentences that I talked about at the very beginning.
So write these down:
Paragraph 1 is the paraphrase of the title.
Paragraph 2 and paragraph 3, we’re going to just put the groups of information that we’ve organized previously.
And paragraph 4, 2 summary sentences. The major overall trends.
So like I said before, the guide was adopted from Dominic Cole’s site: dcielts.com.
Have a look there. Lots of detailed resources.
And also, if you haven’t already, I strongly recommend that you go to ieltspodcast.com.
Sign up there, leave your email, and you’ll get lots and lots of valuable resources.
And it’s just pure content. Pure step-by-step tutorials that I sent every week to subscribers.
So yeah, that’s one of the best things you can do to guarantee your IELTS success.
If you’re having any problems, send me an email. I’ve helped lots of students. I enjoy helping them.
I love it when I get the emails back saying, “I got an 8 and I’m going to Holland (wherever).”
So if you’re going through a tough time, just keep on working.
Keep doing it, and eventually you will get there.
I’ve been in similar situations. You just got to persevere.
So, all the best.
Remember to sign up and send me an email. Tell me how it’s going.
All the best.
IELTS Academic Task 1 How to describe a Pie Chart
Useful Resources for Academic IELTS
Graphic Detail – Great resource from the Economist.com -perfect for chart descriptions and graphic explanations of current events.
Sample Academic Task 1 Diagrams – from bar charts to pie charts, lots of sample diagrams.
Learn how to describe a bar chart for IELTS, full tutorial here.
High quality IELTS essay correction for feedback and improvement, here.
These are the two basic rules you should follow:
Check the graph title, and the pie chart subtitles, look for dates!
– if the year is before the present year (i.e. 2018), use the past tense
– if the year is after the present year (i.e 2019), use the future tense
– if there is no year, use the present simple tense
Check you don’t accidentally switch the tense half way through.
Sometimes you will get charts and graphs that will require you to use more than one tense, but do this deliberately and with caution.
For a more in depth tutorial about tenses check out this page: 126 IELTS Academic Task 1 – What tense?!
Sample Describing a Pie Chart Ebook