How to write about a table in IELTS writing task 1.
Updated: Jan 1st 2022
Tables sometimes show up in academic task 1 writing so you need to be prepared just in case you get one. You will need to use the language of comparisons and if the data changes over time use trends language. Spend a couple of minutes analysing the task first.
The most important point to remember with IELTS academic writing task 1 is that you have to be selective, especially if there is a lot of data in the chart, graph or table. This means that you do not need to write about every piece of data. Grouping the data is another key skill that is needed here.
Here is an example of a table. How would you answer the questions below this table?
How would you paraphrase the introduction?
What would you put in the overview?
What tense is going to be used to describe the data?
What information from the table stands out?
Are you going to use the language of change? or comparisons? or both?
Is it possible to group the information?
Let’s take a look at how we would answer these questions now. The model answer for this table is at the bottom of the page.
Paraphrasing the introduction
For the writing tasks in IELTS, it’s necessary to re-write the introduction in your own words while keeping the same meaning (paraphrasing). You will need to have good vocabulary for this but not everything needs to be paraphrased. Using synonyms and changing the sentence structure are two ways to paraphrase successfully.
- ‘The table shows data about underground railway systems in six major cities with date opened, kilometres of route and passenger numbers per year in millions’
- ‘The table illustrates data regarding underground railways from six large cities in various parts of the world. The information shows when these railways were opened, kilometres of route and yearly passenger numbers in millions.’
The blue words show how I have paraphrased and adjusted the sentence structure. I also made small additions such as ‘various parts of the world’ The word ‘ show’ can be paraphrased to ‘ illustrates’ or ‘indicates’
Writing the overview
Having an overview for academic writing task 1 is very important for a good band score. In the overview, you need to summarise the trends or main features. You have to be selective here if the table has a lot of data. Do not write about everything. Pick out the main features.
Do not mention percentages, detail or numbers here. Pick out the key features of the table. The place for the details is the main body paragraphs. Just remember that there should never be a conclusion for academic task 1 writing.
‘Overall, London and Paris have the oldest underground train systems with far longer routes compared to Los Angeles and Kyoto. Passenger numbers for Tokyo are the highest, whereas Kyoto indicates the lowest number of yearly passengers and the shortest route.’
I chose 5 cities here. London and Paris have the oldest underground train service, LA the newest, Tokyo the highest passenger numbers and Kyoto the lowest amount of passengers and shortest kilometres of route.
I picked out 4 main features here and compared them. I was selective and didn’t go into detail nor did I go into any detail about numbers and data. The language of comparison is also used here: the oldest, the highest, the lowest, the shortest.
What grammar should be used?
The main tense, in this case, is the present tense and the passive voice highlighted in red. We will be comparing the cities and passenger numbers as well as kilometres of railway. Comparatives and Superlatives should also be used in the body paragraphs which I have underlined in green below.
Main Body Paragraphs:
‘The London Underground, which opened in 1863, is the oldest network. It is also the most extensive with 394 kilometres of route. As for Paris, the underground was opened in 1900 and is approximately half the size and serves more passengers. Tokyo’s system is the busiest with 1928 million passengers yearly, however, when compared to London, it has a much smaller route at 155 kilometres.
Regarding the three more modern networks, Washington DC was completed in 1976 and has the longest route. In comparison, Kyoto has only 11 kilometres of route and the lowest passenger numbers of all the cities with 45 million passengers yearly. Following this, Los Angeles, which opened in 2001, has 28 kilometres of track and serves 50 million passengers per year.’
There are some relative clauses here that make complex sentences.
- The London Underground, which opened in 1863, is the oldest network.
- Los Angeles, which opened in 2001, has 28 kilometres of track and serves 50 million passengers per year.
What information stands out?
- The age of the networks: London being the oldest and LA the newest.
- Kilometres of route: London the longest, Kyoto the shortest.
- Passengers per year: Tokyo the highest, Kyoto the lowest.
These are key pieces of information that must be included in the body paragraphs. You can also compare this information to the other cities by using the language of comparison.
Grouping the information
I can see from the table that there are 3 cities with railway systems that are very old (London, Paris, Tokyo) and 3 cities that have a newer system ( Washington DC, Kyoto, LA) so I will use those groupings in my body paragraphs.
In body paragraph one I will write about the 3 older railway networks. In body paragraph 2 I will write about the newer railway systems.
Always take time to analyse the chart or graph in task 1 and decide how you can group the information. This is an important skill in IELTS writing task 1 and will help you get a better band score.
This model answer is more concise at 187 words. Click the blue button to see it.
Any questions? leave a comment below.