General advice for Task 1 essays: Essay structure, clauses and sentence structure, vocabulary, length, and managing your time.


This works for most Task 1 essays:

Paragraph 1: Describe the figure or table. What kind of figure is it? How many are there? What is the subject matter, the time frame, the geography, and the categories? What are the units of measure? Write about all aspects of the diagram, but do not mention any data or information that it contains.

Paragraph 2: Write 2 or 3 sentences about the most significant observations in the data or information.

Paragraph 3: Write about some interesting details.

A summary paragraph is not called for.

Clauses and sentence structure:

Do not write any opinions or conclusions. That is for Task 2.

Focus your words on the figure and the information content. Do not write phrases or clauses about what you are doing, for example "Looking at the chart..." "Turning to the table,..."

Avoid subjective clauses that use "opinion" words such as:

It is clear that...
It is obvious that...
It is evident that...
It is notable that..
It can be seen that


1. Avoid anthropomorphic verbs - "see," "witness" and "experience". Inanimate objects like years and data values do not see things. You can use these figures of speech (literary devices) in Task 2, but Task 1 essays are in a science /math context, so use a science/math vocabulary.

2. Avoid descriptive words that express sensational feelings for the same reason. Examples are "dramatically," "enormous," "rocket," and "plunge." Use mathematical expressions instead.

3. The most frequently misused words are "figure," "fluctuation", "rate" and "peak." Read about these words here:

Vocabulary Words For Task 1: Reference Post

4. Verbs to use in your opening sentence.

The verb "illustrate" means "make a picture." Use this verb for maps, diagrams, process flows and other pictorial graphics.

Do NOT use this verb for graphs, pie charts and bar charts.

The verbs to use with these data plots are: show, compare, give, plot or present.

For example:

The diagram illustrates the different stages in the process of making cement from raw materials to a finished product.


The minimum word count is 150.

There is no penalty for a long essay, but longer essays tend to get poor scores. The reasons are:

  1. You have more chances to make mistakes. You will lose points for every spelling error and grammatical mistake.
  2. You do not have time to proofread carefully.
  3. You will have less time for Task 2, which counts double to your overall score.
  4. You will likely not be following the instructions of "selecting the main features." You will be tempted to write about every data value indiscriminately! The instructions always say this:

"Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant."

Note that there are some graphics which have a meager amount of information, so to reach the minimum word count, you have to write about everything. It is important not to omit something important. For example, if the infographic has a pie chart and a table, and you only write about the pie chart, you will lose points.

Planning and managing your time.

The best way to score high is to practice. This will give you confidence in the examination room. Practice on every different kind of figure: tables, charts, graphs and diagrams.

Learn time-management when your write your practice essays.

Spend 5 minutes planning your essay before you write a single word.

- You know the three-paragraph essay structure, so you do not need to think about it.

- Pick out the key words to describe the infographic. Common words for aggregating data are categories, types, kinds, and groups.

- Pick out two or three important features. Plan to put these in your "overall" paragraph.

- Look for opportunities of higher-level groupings, sums and ratios that you can compute from the data values for a more sophisticated comparison. For example, on a line graph with many curves, sum the total at the beginning to compare with the sum at the end. Was there an overall increase or decrease?

Leave 5 minutes for revising and proofreading your essay.

Here is a reference site for Task 1 essays:

An efficient and fast way to organize the report is into three main parts - an opening statement, overview and detail paragraphs:

The opening statement is your first paragraph where you state exactly what is being illustrated or compared in the graph, chart, table, diagram or map. You can use the prompt in combination with the graphic but write this in your own words.

The overview outlines the important and relevant information and trends that are evident in the graphic. Think of the big picture here. This is a general summary of what can be taken away from what you see.

In the detail paragraphs you logically divide the information so that the trends you identified in the overview can be clearly seen. You must include specifics here (dates, numbers, percentages, measurements, etc.). Try to use logic when you organize these paragraphs.

Where to get practice topics

Many sites (and books!) have topics that are poorly written or badly designed. Sometimes the graphs are mathematically invalid and impossible. Sometimes there are grammatical errors in the instructions. If you use these examples, they will not help you. They will only confuse you and hinder your learning.

Use sites written by native English speakers.

For example, this site has more than a hundred to choose from. /

However, I can not recommend that you use the "model answers" provided with the topic and graphics. I read a few of these answers and the paragraphing is flawed. Just use the topics. I have also found a few of the graphics that are unsatisfactory.

This site has some sample practice essays submitted by students. Use the ones with a verified source.

Types and subtypes of bar charts.

Bar charts are very frequently used in Task 1 exams, so it may be helpful to understand the different types you could see. Note that sometimes bar graph is used. It means the same thing.

Subtypes of bar charts are: time-series bar chart, grouped (clustered) bar chart, stacked bar chart, and horizontal bar chart.

Time series: the major grouping is time periods.
Grouped: There are several bars per major category. These are in the minor categories.
Stacked: Categories are placed on sequentially on each bar.
Horizontal: Bars are lying on their sides rather than being upright.

In Task 1, time series bar charts and grouped bar charts are very common. Horizontal bar charts are very rare. Maybe I have seen one stacked bar chart.

Here are examples for you to compare:

Grouped Bar Chart

Horizontal Grouped Bar Chart

Time-series stacked bar chart

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AlpheccaStarsmathematical expressions

can you suggest me some mathematical words to use please?

Thank you.

Do you know correlation? It is useful when comparing two or more graphs. There is positive correlation, negative correlation and uncorrelated.

Variation / vary (used for values that change over time)

Curve shapes are sometimes useful. Common ones are: linear, exponential, logarithmic.

Slope - the slope of a linear function can be calculated to obtain a rate of increase or decrease.

Learn to express magnitudes of increase or decrease: e.g. a factor of two, twice, triple, quadruple, tenfold

Use calculated numbers rather than descriptive words. For example, instead of "slightly" calculate the value e.g. about 5%.

Use other terms that you have learned in your maths classes. Look them up in a good dictionary to get the English equivalents.

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