Writing Task 1: Fast Food Restaurants Bar Chart

ielts writing task 1 model bar chartModel Answer: Bar chart about fast food restaurants

Bar charts are pretty common in IELTS writing task 1 academic, many people panic when they see them but they get easier the more you practice. The most important thing to bear in mind is that the report should be concise, so you must be selective. This means that you should never write about every single detail in the chart. Aim for around 170 to 190 words.

Long reports over 200 words are not necessary and could lead to more mistakes. If you can paraphrase the statistics using fractions then that can help with your vocabulary score. There’s more about this at the end of this lesson.

Pick out the key features and cover those. The introduction just simply rephrases the task question, the Overview should never contain numbers or data, just summarise the key features. Write logically without any opinion and no conclusion is needed, make sure you have clear paragraphs, skip a line between them.


ielts writing task 1 structure


The Task

This task is from Cambridge IELTS 12, use only authentic Cambridge materials when practicing. You can find these practice books on Amazon.com

IELTS 12 bar chart


Source: Cambridge IELTS 12

Model answer

The chart illustrates how often people in the USA went to fast food establishments from 2003 to 2013.

Overall, people who ate in fast food restaurants once a week and once or twice a month, accounted for the highest percentages throughout the whole period, whereas people who either never ate in these restaurants, or went every day, showed the lowest percentages.

In 2003 the number of people who ate in fast food establishments once a week and once or twice a month comprised of 31% and 30% respectively. For those in the once a week group, this figure increased slightly but then dropped to around one quarter in 2013. For the once or twice a month category, this declined by 5% then rose to approximately one third by 2013.

Conversely, the figure for people who either ate at fast food eateries everyday, or never, was at 5% or lower throughout the ten year period. The several times a week category averaged around 16% in 2003, rose in 2006, then settled back to around the same figure as in 2013. The few times a year group was relatively stable at 15%.

188 words

Vocabulary and Grammar

Click here for a lesson on the language of trends and how to use prepositions.

When writing about figures you can use:  ‘accounted for / comprised of / this figure increased… / the figure for..’

‘The number of ..’ is used with countable nouns

The number of people / cars / houses / pets / books …. and so on.

‘The amount of …’ is used with uncountable nouns:

The amount of water / rice / coffee / tea / rain ..etc

Click here for a lesson on useful vocabulary in writing task 1

Paraphrasing the introduction:

In the task question it states: ‘The chart below shows…’  this can be written as ‘The chart illustrates…’ do not paraphrase the word ‘chart’ or ‘graph’ and remember that not everything has to be paraphrased when writing the introduction, yes you can keep some words, trying to change every single word adds to your stress and may lose you marks.

The Overview:

Start the overview with ‘Overall’ then pick up the key features and write about those:

Overall, people who ate in fast food restaurants once a week and once or twice a month, accounted for the highest percentages throughout the whole period, whereas people who either never ate in these restaurants, or went every day, showed the lowest percentages.

There are no percentages here and no details are needed. I have used the phrase: throughout the whole period’  to show the time frame. I used superlatives to show the main features:  The highest percentages / the lowest percentages.

Notice the conjunction whereas’ to show contrast between the two. Punctuation is important also as the examiner will be looking at how it is used.

Grouping the information in the main body paragraphs

It is important to write in a logical way in IELTS academic writing task 1. Grouping the information helps the examiner follow your points easily and helps your overall coherence and task response score. Be selective here and do not write about every single piece of information, keep it concise.

ielts writing task 1 model bar chart

Paraphrasing statistics and fractions

As you can see in the model answer there are other ways to write about statistics such as using fractions or the language of approximation. This will help your vocabulary score if you can vary the way you report on the numbers.

Paraphrasing percentages:

  • Four fifths – 80%
  • Three quarters – 75%
  • Seven out of ten – 70%
  • Just over half – 53%
  • Two fifths – 40%
  • Just over a third – 35%
  • Just under a third – 30%
  • One quarter -25%
  • a fifth – 20%
  • Less than a fifth – 15%
  • One in ten – 10% (this is used for people or objects)
  • From two fifths to less than a fifth – From 40% to 15% (for trends graphs)
  • Halved (verb) – dropped by half

I also advise using phrases to show approximation and proportion such as:

  • Just over a fifth – around 22%
  • Just under a fifth – around 18%
  • Slightly less than a quarter – 23%
  • More than two fifths – around 42%
  • Approximately half – 48%
  • Around a fifth – 19%
  • A large number of – around 70%
  • A large proportion of – around 70%
  • A significant proportion of  – around 80%
  • A small minority of – around 5 to 10%
  • A small number / amount of – 5 to 10%
  • An insignificant amount of – around  2%

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