Task 1 Writing: Comparison Bar Charts

Sample Answer

 The bar chart, which reveals data compiled in 2000, compares the attitudes of males and females to a range of movie genres.

In brief, while both men and women had similar attitudes to Comedies, Mystery and Action movies, both War and Sport related movies were enjoyed by dramatically more men than women, whereas a very significant predominance of women enjoyed Romantic movies more than men.

In detail, around 17% of men and women enjoyed Action movies whereas the number who liked Comedy and Mystery movies fell to around 7-9%, which is a significant 50% drop, in relative terms.

In contrast, although men and women had similar attitudes to these movie types, War movies, which 20% of men enjoyed, were 7-times more popular with men than they were with women. While War movies were more popular overall than any other movie type, they were enjoyed by only 3% of women. Similarly, Sport related movies were popular with around 13% of men but only 1% of women.

This situation was reversed, however, for the Romantic genre, which was the second most popular type of movie and enjoyed by about 18% of women but only around 1% of men. This represented a massive 18-fold difference and was the highest disparity (difference) between men and women of all movie types.

 

(214 words)

007 Task 1 Time Spent on Leisure Activities

Here is a full answer to the Task 1 posted on the Facebook page a few days ago. The answer is a little long (your target should be around 170 words) but it illustrates a very complete answer.

The graph presents information about the amount of time people spend on various leisure activities.

In brief, although the time spent on VCD and DVDs was relatively stable, that (the time) spent watching television and using the internet rose significantly while the time spent listening to the radio, which accounted for the main leisure activity in 1995, fell by a very substantial amount.

In detail, in 1995, watching television accounted for about 13% of free time, while ten years later it had risen to about 17%, which represents a rise, in relative terms, of approximately 30%. Furthermore, the time spent on using the internet, which began at only 10%  in 1995, grew steadily until the end of the period in 2005, when it reached 23%, amounting to (which amounted to) an explosive increase of 130%.

In contrast to these rises, the amount of free time spent on listening to the radio fell from the start of the period in 1995, when it was 25% of free time activity, to finally reach about 16% by 2005, representing (which represented) a fall of more than 30%, in relative terms.

Finally, although the amount of time spent on watching VCDs and DVDs fluctuated by 1-2%, in absolute terms, it remained relatively stable at around 10% of leisure time activity throughout the period.

 (212 words)

IELTS SPEAKING: ACHIEVING BAND 8 (Part 4)

This is the final part of “Achieving Band 8”. For pronunciation at Band 8 the Public Band Descriptors say this:

  • uses a wide range of pronunciation features
  • sustains flexible use of features, with only occasional lapses
  • is easy to understand throughout; L1 accent has minimal effect on intelligibility

As pointed out in an earlier post, which you can read in the “Speaking” Category on the IELTS English blog, when I ‘googled’ the words “good pronunciation” and “pronunciation features”, I came up with:

  1.  pronounces the words and sounds of English correctly: enunciation
  2.  uses the correct stress in English words and sentences
  3.  uses the correct intonation
  4.  links words together correctly when speaking: what the University of Technology Sydney calls “pausing and chunking”

So what does this mean in the IELTS exam for achieving Band 8?

  1. Speak CLEARLY so the examiner can understand EVERY word spoken
  2. Put FEELING and EXPRESSION into your voice so you are using word stress and intonation ALL the time
  3. Consistently group words into meaningful chunks: a simple example is the statement “this is a problem”, when properly grouped together the “this-s-a” part almost sounds like one single word: “this-s-a problem”; “this-s-a table”; “this-s-a chair” the words are not spoken individually and mechanically like: “this / is / a / problem”

This last point, what UTS describes as ‘chunking’, is really another aspect of speaking ‘smoothly’.

To achieve Band 8 the candidate must show ALL (“uses a wide range of pronunciation features”) these pronunciation features continuously, not just some of the time, (” sustains flexible use of features, with only occasional lapses”) and must clearly enunciate words so that they are easily understood for the whole test (“is easy to understand throughout”).

Easy, right?

No! It is extremely difficult, which is why less than 1% of candidates in Thailand achieve it.

Is it worth trying for? ABSOLUTELY! Believe in yourself and your ability, that is the first step to being successful at anything.

IELTS Task 1 Writing : Bar Chart

Here is the full Task 1 question for a Bar Chart.

Sample Answer

The graph shows the number of students applying to four different faculty areas at 3 universities in the USA between 1990 and 2010.

In brief, the bar chart reveals that while student interest in Biology and Engineering fell dramatically over the two decades, applications for Business and Social Work grew substantially over this same period.

In detail, student participation in Biology and Engineering declined precipitously (very sharply) after 1990, when 3000 students were applied in Biology and 4000 in Engineering. By 2000 this participation had halved in Biology to 1500 and dropped by around 30% to 2500 for Engineering. After 2000, this dramatic fall-off continued, finally reaching about 900 students for Biology and 600 in Engineering, which was the lowest of all faculties for the entire period ending (which ended) in 2010.

In contrast, although student interest in Business and Social Work was at its lowest level in 1990, when 2000 students applied for Business and 1000 for Social Work, these faculty areas grew substantially to roughly double in popularity by 2010, when Business had 4000 student applications, which was the highest of all faculties, and Social Work had around 1800.

(187 words)

IELTS SPEAKING: ACHIEVING BAND 8 (Part 3)

For Grammar Range and Accuracy the Public Band Descriptors say this at Band 8:

  • uses a wide range of structures flexibly
  • produces a majority of error-free sentences with only very occasional inappropriate language or basic/non-systematic errors

This is a difficult criteria to satisfy.

It means you must be able to use a wide range of sentence types: simple, compound, complex (subordinate clauses, relative clauses, if-conditionals, modal verbs, perfect tenses), compound/complex and do it almost error free. Systematic errors like repeated mistakes with articles, subject-verb agreement, plurals, modals are also not allowed at this level.

One of the big differences between Band 7 and Band 8 is the much greater level of accuracy required at Band 8 level (“a majority of error-free sentences “) compared to Band 7 (“frequently produces error-free sentences”)  and it is one of the things that makes Band 8 so hard to achieve.

Task 1 Writing: Bar Chart Overview

BAR CHART OVERVIEW

Here is a simple overview for the bar chart:

“In brief, the bar chart shows that enrollments in Biology fell consistently over the two decades shown.”

It isn’t good enough for Band 7, but it is an accurate overview of part of the data so would help achieve a Band 6 for Task Achievement.

Another overview could be:

“Overall, the data reveals that enrollments in both Business and Social Work grew substantially over the 20 year period shown.”

This is also not good enough for Band 7, but it is an overview that is in fact better than the last one because it now covers 50% of the data in the diagram.

So what would a really good overview look like (remember it should cover all the significant trends in the data):

“In brief, the bar chart reveals that while student interest in Biology and Engineering fell dramatically over the two decades, enrollments in Business and Social Work grew substantially over this same period.”

This covers the most significant features of the data and uses a SUBORDINATE CLAUSE structure to do it and that will get me Band 6 and higher for grammar. It also begins with a TRANSITION SIGNAL (‘In brief’) that tells the reader they are about to read a brief summary of the data. That helps give coherence and cohesion to my essay and that will improve my score for this criteria.

IELTS SPEAKING: ACHIEVING BAND 8 (Part 2)

The Public Band Descriptors say this about Lexical Resource (vocabulary):

• uses a wide vocabulary resource readily and flexibly to convey precise meaning
• uses less common and idiomatic vocabulary skilfully, with occasional inaccuracies
• uses paraphrase effectively as required

This means the candidate uses the correct words to talk about whatever topic they are asked when explaining their opinion (“precise meaning”) and they do it fluently without pausing (“readily”).

It also means the candidate has a wide enough vocabulary that they can use some less common words. That doesn’t mean some big complex words that even native English speakers hardly ever use, it simply means words that accurately explain the meaning the candidate is trying to express but are above the level of basic vocabulary. An example might be using the word “vehicle” instead of “car”, or “financial management” instead of “taking care of money” or “sustainable development” instead of “develop in a way that doesn’t use up all the things in the world”.

I made a long post on the blog about idiomatic vocabulary recently. You will find it here.

This post was about achieving Band 7 in vocabulary but it applies even more to Band 8 where examiners are expecting to hear much more use of idiomatic language. This criteria makes it difficult to achieve Band 8 in vocabulary.

Finally, being able to “paraphrase effectively” means that when the candidate cannot remember the word they want to use, they are able to explain what they mean by using other words. For example, suppose I am trying to tell the examiner I keep something valuable that I own in my wardrobe but I can’t remember the word “wardrobe”, I might say this:

“…. I keep it in …. mmmmm … I keep it in ….. oh, look, it is on the tip of my tongue … you know … that thing people keep their clothes in … I keep it there …..”

“that thing people keep their clothes in” effectively explains exactly where I keep it AND I also said “it is on the tip of my tongue” which is an idiomatic expression meaning “I can almost remember but just can’t think of it at the moment”.

More next time.

IELTS SPEAKING: ACHIEVING BAND 8 (Part 1)

Here is what the Public Band Descriptors say for Band 8 under Fluency and Coherence:
  • speaks fluently with only occasional repetition or self-correction
  • hesitation is usually content-related and only rarely to search for language
  • develops topics coherently and appropriately
What does this mean?

Quite simply, it means that the candidate speaks almost as fluently as a native English speaker: “only occasional repetition or self-correction” – means it doesn’t happen much; hesitation is used “only rarely to search for language” means that the grammar and vocabulary of the candidate are almost “second nature” – they don’t have to take time to think of the grammar or vocabulary when they answer.

In addition it says the topic must be developed in some detail (“develops topics appropriately”) and directly answers the question asked (“develops topics coherently”). In short, the answer has to make sense AND be developed with some amount of detail.

More next time for those interested.

TASK 1: BAR CHARTS

Here is a bar chart. Your task, if you chose to accept it, is to write the overview. The chart describes the changing enrollment numbers at three universities in 4 different faculty areas. Remember, you cannot get Band 6 if you do not have some sort of overview.

Eamil an overview that could get Band 6 to barrie@ielts-english.info over the next 2 days. A winner will be picked at random from all entries.

The prize is a free 1 hour writing clinic on either Task 1 or Task 2 writing (winner’s choice) at our office in Phayathai Plaza Building (next to Phayathai BTS).

I will post a solution in 48 hours.