IELTS TASK 2 WRITNIG: STRUCTURING PARAGRAPHS

Today we will continue with a description of how to structure a TASK 2 paragraph. The first thing to understand is that there is no rule about this. A good paragraph will have a TOPIC SENTENCE that describes what the paragraph is about and it will be highly focused but there are actually many different ways that paragraphs can be written.

Here is one possible outline for a paragraph:

Topic sentence (a short sentence which says specifically what the paragraph is about)
main point 1 (first point supporting the topic sentence)
– support sentence 1 (explain what is meant by main point 1)
– support sentence 2 (explain what the consequences are of support sentence 1)

main point 2 (second point supporting the topic sentence)
– support sentence 1 (explain what is meant by main point 2)
– support sentence 2 (explain what the consequences are of support sentence 2)

There are many other structures that could be used. The point is that the paragraph expands and develops the arguments related to whatever the topic is that you are responding to.

Here is how such a paragraph might look for the previous post related to the use of mobile phones:

To begin with, it is argued by some that cell phones cause some problems. (The topic sentence-it tells you what this paragraph is about) Face-to-face communication is a case in point. (This is the first main point: it just means face-to-face communication is an example.) When people go to dinner, for instance, everyone sits around the table using their mobile phone, ignoring their friends sitting right in front of them. (That is support sentence 1 that explains main point 1). This can lead to a breakdown in the relationships between people if they feel offended and hurt when their friends show no interest in talking to them. (This extends the argument by showing a consequence of the previous sentence – it is support sentence 2 for main point 1. Now we add main point 2.) In addition, mobile phones can be very expensive. (second main point.) The problem  is that the cost of a smart phone is often very high and models come out frequently. (first support sentence explaining the problem) When young people are lured into constantly updating their phone, the financial burden can be enormous leading to significant stress and pressure on the individual, which may have a detrimental effect on their daily life. (Second support sentence that shows the consequence of expensive phones.)

This is only one possible way to structure the paragraph. There really is an unlimited number of ways this can be achieved. The KEY POINT is that the paragraph is targeted on the topic that has been asked, it extends and develops the argument and DOES NOT simply list some main points without support sentences.

EXTENDING AND SUPPORTING the main points is critical. Essays which simply list a number of main points without developing these arguments cannot achieve a high score. Look at what the Public Band Descriptors say about this:

Band 7 (Task Response): presents, extends and supports main ideas

Clearly, if this is not done, it is impossible for the candidate to be awarded Band 7.

TASK 2 WRITING: INTRODUCTIONS and STRUCTURE

Here is an IELTS Task 2 task:

“Some people say that computer technology has been an extremely valuable development. Others disagree.
Discuss both sides of this issue and give your own opinion.”

The very first thing to understand here is that the wording: “Discuss both sides of this issue and give your own opinion.” DOES NOT tell you the order in which the essay should be written. That is, I DO NOT have to discuss the issue FIRST and then give my opinion.

First, the candidate must decide where they stand on the issue. MAKE YOUR LIFE SIMPLE! Write the essay in the simplest way that will get you a high score and this DOES NOT mean saying ‘I partly agree and partly disagree’. To write an essay like that well, is quite difficult.

I will take the side that computer technology is a good thing.

Now the question tells  me I MUST do THREE very important things to answer the question fully:

1 write about WHY some people think computer technology is bad
2 write about WHY I think it is good
3 show my opinion throughout the essay i.e. IN EVERY PARAGRAPH 

This is easier than it sounds. Here is one structure that could be used:

Introduction (all sides addressed, clear opinion given)
Body paragraph 1 (other side)
Body paragraph 2 (my side)
Conclusion (restate my opinion)

There is, of course, no rule about the number of paragraphs in the essay. Candidates could write 4 body paragraphs if they wanted … BUT … you have 40 minutes and only 250 words, so this is not really a great idea.

The word length for this essay would be:

Introduction (40 words – 2 sentences)
Body paragraph 1 (90 words)
Body paragraph 2 (90 words)
Conclusion (40 words – 2 sentences)

We have already discussed introductions. I will put my opinion right there IN THE INTRODUCTION so the reader is VERY CLEAR about what I think. I WILL NOT SAY “I think” or “in my opinion” because this is not allowed in academic writing BUT, if you look carefully at the IELTS Public Band Descriptors, they DO NOT say you cannot do this in an IELTS exam. Nevertheless, I want to write a good essay by ANY STANDARD so I won’t do it because it is not acceptable in high level writing.

INTRODUCTION
To introduce the topic I need a general sentence that raises the issue of computer technology. There are tens of thousand of ways to write such a sentence. Here is one way:

“Over the past 50 years computer technology has exploded into every part of modern life.”

This sentence stands alone. It does not carry on into another sentence. Its only purpose is to raise the issue of computer technology so the reader has an idea about what this essay is about.

The second sentence of the introduction will give my opinion on this issue but it will also raise the other side of this issue because I was asked in the task to address both sides of the issue AND give a clear opinion. I will do all of this in the next sentence:

“While some people may argue that computer technology has a number of drawbacks, it is very clear that it has far more advantages than disadvantages.”

Can you tell which side I am on? I have not said “I think” or “I believe” but it is very clear that the writer is in favour of computer technology. It is also clear that the writer might recognise some of the disadvantages (“far more advantages the disadvantages”) but that for the writer these disadvantages are not nearly as important as the advantages. This is a very clear opinion and it is right here in the introduction.

PLEASE NOTE that NOTHING in the way the question is asked REQUIRES that I discuss this topic and THEN give my opinion. It is absolutely fine to give my opinion and justify it later – this approach also makes for a very clear essay.

The entire introduction is therefore:

“Over the past 50 years computer technology has exploded into every part of modern life. While some people may argue that computer technology has a number of drawbacks, it is very clear that it has far more advantages than disadvantages.”

I can write this in a better way but this is quite simple and yet still does what is required at Band 7 in the IELTS Task 2 Writing Band Descriptors for Task Response;

“gives a clear position”

Note that one important way I have achieved this is because I used the expression: “While some people may argue …” because this shows the reader clearly that this IS NOT the writer’s opinion – this is what OTHER people say. In an indirect way, this phrasing gives the writer’s opinion.

FIRST BODY PARAGRAPH
In this paragraph I will present the other side of the argument, the side I DO NOT agree with. So I begin with a paraphrase of the first clause above: “While some people may argue that computer technology has a number of drawbacks, …”

One way to begin might be:

“To begin with, IT IS ARGUED BY SOME that computer technology causes several problems.”

(I will discuss the structure of good paragraphs next time.)

SECOND BODY PARAGRAPH
The second body paragraph presents THE WRITER’S SIDE and it is achieved very simply.

“Nevertheless, despite these arguments, computer technology has so many more advantages than disadvantages that its use is imperative.”

Note that this word “Nevertheless” carries a lot of meaning – while it is similar to “although” or “however” it carries more meaning than either of these words. It essentially means that what I have said is true but what I am about to say is still true regardless of what I said before.

(I will discuss the structure of good paragraphs next time.)

CONCLUSION
We really need to develop the second body paragraph to know exactly how to write the conclusion but we can give a general idea here and then we will come back and revise it in a couple of days time:

“In short, although computer technology may have some disadvantages, it has far more advantages especially for xxxx and xxxxx.”

Notice that I have had to leave the two aspects of computer technology that I should have discussed in the second body paragraph blank because we have not written the paragraph yet. BUT … we will – tomorrow.

We will also add an extra sentence to the conclusion then as well.

Nevertheless, you can see that even this one sentence conclusion gives a very clear opinion. So we have achieved something very important here: in every paragraph of this essay we have been able to express a very clear opinion and it really wasn’t that hard to achieve.

IELTS TASK 2 WRITING: TIPS & INTRODUCTION

This advice may well sound too simple to be serious. It is indeed simple advice, but it is critical to IELTS Writing success.

When you write an essay, how many times do you look back at the question to check that what you are writing is answering the question you think you have been asked?

Many candidates get a very low IELTS score in Task 2 writing because they have not answered the question they were asked. Look at what the Public Band Descriptors say about this:

Band 5: addresses the task only partially;
Band 4: responds to the task only in a minimal way or the answer is tangential (not directly related to what was asked)
Band 1: answer is completely unrelated to the task

If you think Band 1 would not be given to a good writer, think again.

How do you make sure you are writing on the topic you have been asked?

STEP 1:
Re-read the question every time you start a new paragraph and identify which part of the question the paragraph you are writing answers.

STEP 2:
Every time you write a sentence identify how that sentence answers the question you have been asked. Don’t do this from memory – take your pencil and POINT to it on the question paper.

Even though you are under severe time pressure, do not just write the essay without constantly referring back to the question you have been asked.

The penalty for missing the topic and writing an irrelevant answer is huge – do not become a victim to this frequent mistake by IELTS candidates.

THE MYTH OF ESSAY TYPES
Too many teachers place far too much emphasis on essay types in the IELTS Writing Test. They will tell you about problem and solution type essays, advantages and disadvantages essays, agree and disagree type essays and so on. This is a real TRAP.

READ THE QUESTION. ANSWER THE QUESTION.

I cannot say this enough. Too many students write essays that are unrelated to at least one part of an essay question because they talk about advantages and disadvantages when that was not the question that was asked.

Here is a very simple example of this. Suppose you were asked this question:

“Some people think that children learn history best from historical television programs. Others believe they can learn best from history websites.
Discuss the advantages of both of these methods and give your own opinion.”

This essay IS NOT asking for advantages and disadvantages. In this question candidates must do three things very, very clearly:

1. Explain some of the benefits of learning history from TV programs
2. Explain some of the benefits of learning history from history websites.
3. Explain clearly which they think is best.

On point 3, candidates MUST give a clear opinion. That opinion might be that it is possible to learn effectively both ways or that one way is better than the other. BUT … it must be a very clear opinion and NOT something like:

“… the issue is so complicated that individuals must make up their own minds about this matter.”

Many students fail to put clear opinions on these types of essays, either not giving an opinion at all, giving a very confusing opinion or stating an opinion unsupported by the essay they have written.

If you read the question carefully, it is very clear what you have to do. DON’T TRY TO REMEMBER PATTERNS for essays. READ THE QUESTION and ANSWER THE QUESTION ASKED.

I promised to show how to write the full introduction today but I have made this slight detour to explain the importance of giving a direct response to the question asked because the way we must write the full introduction is determined by the need to give a direct answer to the question and we will continue this tomorrow.

TASK 2 WRITING – THE INTRODUCTION

We have talked a lot about Task 1 essays over the past 5 weeks or so and I want to take a break for a day or two to mention some very important aspects of Task 2 Writing.

Here is a Task 2 question:

“Some people argue that early marriage is part of traditional lifestyle in some countries and should be respected. Others say it is damaging to young girls and their future.
Discuss both sides of this issue and give your own opinion.”

While there are many ways this question can be answered, the simplest way to achieve a high score is to make sure you give avery clear position right in the introduction.

Look at what the Public Band Descriptors say at Band 7 under Task Response:

“presents a clear position throughout the response”

Given this information, it may not be a good idea to write an introduction like:

“This essay looks at ideas in favour of and against early marriage.”

or

“This essay will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of early marriage and give my opinion.”

or even this, which someone is teaching candidates in Bangkok:

“This essay will look at the pros and cons of early marriage and after our consideration I will give my opinion.”

While these introductions do give a clear position about what the candidate is going to write, none of them make cleat what the candidate believes and this makes the whole essay a little less clear than it could be.

These introduction fail to give a clear opinion in the introduction and the next two paragraphs, if they just list the advantages and disadvantages, may also fail to make it clear where the writer stands.

If the writer then leaves their opinion to the conclusion, it may not be clear at all and this could mean the candidate has not addressed one part of the task and would lead to a Band 5 for Task Response according to the Public Band Descriptors:

“addresses the task only partially”

So what could the writer have done to solve this problem?

One approach might be something like this (second sentence of the introduction):

“While some people may suggest that early marriage is simply a reflection of culture and tradition, this argument fails to take into account the damage and devastation it can cause in the lives of many young girls.”

The very strong language “damage and devastation”, makes it very clear where the writer stands even though they have not written “I think” anywhere.

This also sounds like it is going to be a much more interesting essay to read.

Try it out. Take a position and make it clear. It is not too hard once you get the idea.

NOTE:
This example is really written at a quite high level. Here is a simpler version that also gives a clear opinion:

“While some people may suggest that early marriage is simply a tradition, it is clear that it is unfair to the girl.”

Of course, it does’t matter which side of the argument you take:

“While some people think that early marriage is bad for girls, it is an important part of several traditional cultures and should be respected.”

Both these are simpler than the example above and both give a very clear opinion of where the writer stands.

We will talk more about introductions tomorrow as I would normally advise students to write a 2 sentence introduction where the sentences shown here would actually be the SECOND SENTENCE of the introduction.

A LITTLE BIT OF GRAMMAR IN TASK 1 WRITING

The key to a good result in the IELTS Writing Task 1 is:

Write a structure which has 3 parts: introduction, overview (key features) and details (data).
Write sentence structures that include subordinate clauses.
Connect the sentences logically.

Here is a very simple example graph (a real IELTS exam would have 2 or 3 more lines):
Consumption of Red Meat

When writing the sentences for the details part of the essay you should make sure you use this type of sentence design:

Connective + time + description + data

The order these can be rearranged to vary the sentence structures. Here is an example:

It can be seen in the graph that from 2002 to 2004 the consumption of red meat remained constant at 1500 g/week.

This follows the pattern: Connective + time + description + data

However, the sentence could have been written this way:

In detail, the consumption of red meat, which stood at 1500 g/week  in 2002, remained constant until the end of the period in 2004.

This follows the pattern: Connective + data + time + description +time

Candidates who fail to write the details section of the Task 1 without the ‘time’ and ‘data’ (or whatever the axes of the graph are labeled in) are destined to get Band 5 for Task achievement according to the Public Band Descriptors which say:

Band 5: “there may be no data to support the description”

Here are some very simple sentences that describe the graph above in the format required in the IELTS exam:

INTRODUCTION:

The graph gives information about the consumption of red meat between 2002 and 2010.

A better sentence would be this:

The graph gives information about the amount of red meat which as consumed over the period between 2002 and 2010.

(Why is this a better sentence?)

OVERVIEW:

Overall, the consumption of red meat tumbled over the period shown.

Here is a better sentence that says the same:

Overall, although consumption of red meat was relatively stable at both the start and end of the period, it tumbled dramatically between 2004 and 2008.

(Why is this a better sentence?)

DETAILS:

In detail, red meat consumption began at 1500 g/week in 2002. Consumption stayed constant at 1500 g/week until 2004. From 2004 to 2008, consumption of red meat went into free-fall, declining 60% to reach just 300 g/week. Consumption levelled out at 300 g/week for the remainder of the period.

(49 words)

While all of these sentences are grammatically correct there is NO LINKING between them, ALMOST NO COMPLEX STRUCTURES and NO EXAMPLES OF REFERENCE (where a word like “this” or “it” is used to refer to something talked about earlier).

Here is another attempt:

In detail, although red meat consumption, which began at 1500 g/week in 2002, stayed constant at this level until 2004, it plunged dramatically after this time, falling continuously over the next 4 years to 300 g/week by 2008. This represented a substantial decline of 60%, in relative terms. Consumption subsequently levelled out and remained constant at 300 g/week for the remainder of the period.

(64 words)

(Why is this better than the first attempt?)

SUBORDINATE CLAUSES

Notice the use of the subordinate clause structure with “although”:

In detail, although red meat consumption, which began at 1500 g/week in 2002, stayed constant at this level until 2004, it plunged dramatically after this time, falling continuously over the next 4 years to 300 g/week by 2008.

It is very important that candidates understand that subordinators like: “although”, “even though”, “while”, “whereas” and all other subordinators require two clauses. The sentence pattern is:

[subordinator] + clause , clause

e.g.

Although sales began at 200 cars per month in 2000, they soared spectacularly to over 1000 per month by 2010.

We could also write:

Sales began at 200 cars per month in 2000 although they soared spectacularly to over 1000 per month by 2010.

Here the pattern is:

clause + [subordinator] + clause

Candidates should note that linguistic research shows that this is a higher level sentence structure that is not used by lower level English learners!

IELTS WRITING AND SPEAKING: SUBORDINATION and IELTS GRAMMAR

In the IELTS Writing and Speaking tests the rules for grammar are almost identical. The IELTS Public Band Descriptors say this in relation to Grammar:

BAND 4: uses only a very limited range of structures with only rare use of subordinate clauses
BAND 5: attempts complex sentences but these tend to be less accurate than simple sentences
BAND 6: uses a mix of simple and complex sentence forms
BAND 7: uses a variety of complex structures

Subordinate structures are just one kind of complex structure but you can see how important they are in the IELTS exam by the statement that appears at Band 4 level in the Public Band Descriptors:

BAND 4:  “only RARE USE of subordinate clauses”.

The implication here is that if you want to get higher than Band 4, your use of subordinate clauses must be more than rare.

So what are subordinate clauses? Today we will look at just one kind and in the next several posts we will deal with a number of additional kinds.

Do you need to know more than one kind of subordinate structure?

Look at what the Public Band Descriptors say:

 BAND 7: “uses a VARIETY of complex structures”.

It is clear therefore that if you want a higher band score you MUST know how to use a RANGE of subordinate structures.

Relative Clauses
I will not go over the grammar of these here but just show some examples of how they could be used in an IELTS exam.

Remember that relative clauses are ones that begin with: who, that, which, where, when, why.

SPEAKING TEST
How do you get to work/school?

“I use the bus which passes right near my home so it is very convenient”.

“My dad drives me to school, which takes about 30 minutes”.

Do you like travelling?

“I like travelling to places which are not crowded”.

“I like to see people who have different cultures and speak different languages”.

WRITING TEST
TASK 1 WRITING:

“This graph shows the method which is used to make pencils”.

“This flow chart shows the steps which must be followed to get a passport”.

“This graph illustrates the popularity of various foods which were consumed by people who lived in the UK in 2002″.

(There are 2 relative clauses here.)

“In detail, the consumption of fish, which began at 80 grams per week in 1990, grew steadily over the period to reach its highest value at the end of the period in 2010, when it hit 180 grams per week”.

(There are 2 relative clauses here.)

In Task 2 writing the opportunities to use subordinate structures are really unlimited:

“To begin with, computers, which have become much more affordable over recent years, give people the opportunity to communicate very easily and cheaply”.

I have deliberately used “which” in most of these examples (however, note the clauses beginning with “who” and “when”).

Check a grammar book for these two types of relative clauses and how they are used:
DEFINING CLAUSE

“I like food which is really spicy”.

(Defining clause because it tells you which kind of food I like – there are no commas in this clause).
NON-DEFINING or EXTRA INFORMATION CLAUSE

”Margarine, which was introduced in 1970, became the most popular spread by the end of the period”.

(Non-defining clause because it is not essential to the meaning of the sentence and it is marked by a comma in front and at the end of the clause.)

Practice using all the different types of relative clause markers (who, that, which, where, when, …etc.) so that you can produce a variety of relative clause structures in the test.

We will look at another example of subordination next time.

TASK 1 ACADEMIC: TASK 1 WRITING STRUCTURE

We have talked a lot about the big picture in Task 1 IETLS Writing and we will continue to look at some other examples but today I want to look at the ESSAY STRUCTURE as a reminder to those who may have forgotten.

Although there are three main types of question in Task 1 Writing, the structure of the response is the same in each case:
1. Introduction
2. Overview
3. Details

THE INTRODUCTION
You must write a sentence that simply says what the data is about. In doing this you must not use long phrases from the question. Look at the following examples:

“The graph illustrates information which compares the methods of travel in a Chinese city between 2000 and 2010.”

“The graph compares the proportion of expenditure on a number of household items over the period which occurred between 1995 and 2015.”

You will notice that both these sentences contain relative clause structures. This is not an accident.

THE OVERVIEW
All Task 1 questions must have an overview statement that sets out the key features, the MOST IMPORTANT aspects of the information – THE BIG PICTURE.

Here is what the PUBLIC BAND DESCRIPTORS say about this issue:

BAND 6 (Task Achievement): “presents an overview with information appropriately selected”
BAND 5 (Task Achievement): “no clear overview”

Can you see the penalty if you don’t have an overview statement of the big picture in your essay?

We have looked at many ways to do this over the past month for the mathematics questions and also briefly looked at process and maps, which we will do more on in the future. While in graph type Task 1 questions you would look for trends in the data or magnitude differences (or both), in a process you look for the main stages in the process and in a map for the most significant types of changes that have occurred. For example:

GRAPH TASK

“Overall, consumption of fruit and ice-cream increased significantly over the period shown while the intake of sugar underwent a substantial decline. In addition, the data also shows that the amount of pasta consumed remained relatively steady.”

NOTE: All the highlighted words here are very important – do you know why? (We will come back to this tomorrow).

PROCESS TASK

“In brief, pencils are made from graphite and wood in a three step process which produces the leads and the wooden pencil cases first before they are glued together into complete pencils.”

“In brief, the manufacture of cement is a three step process while the production of concrete involves a single step.”

Again, notice that these sentences are NOT SIMPLE SENTENCES but involve various subordinate structures. (Relative clauses, subordinate clauses, participle phrases – conditional sentences are also subordinate structures although there are none here.)

MAP TASK

“In brief, significant tourist developments occurred at Laguna beach over the period from 1950 to 1990.”

“In brief, the school underwent an expansion in the teaching and outdoor sporting facilities over the period which occurred between 2000 and 2005.”

THE DETAILS
In the details section you must describe the big picture in detail, in the same order that it has been presented in the overview statement, making sure not to leave out any important information such as important data or parts of the diagram in a process or map question. Leaving out key, big picture, information could lead to the award of Band 4, according to the Public Band Descriptors.

To avoid this happening you must go through the data or diagram very logically making sure you have covered all the most important aspects of the data.

In mathematics questions we generally do not put data in the overview because we want it to be a very simple overall picture of what is shown in the data.

BUT …. In the details section, DATA MUST BE GIVEN. Here is what the PUBLIC BAND DESCRIPTORS say about this issue:

BAND 5 (Task Achievement): “there may be no data to support the description”

GRAPH TASK

“In detail, sales of cars, which stood at 100 units per month in 2000, soared by the end of the decade in 2010, when they hit their highest point at 800 units per month. …..”

PROCESS TASK

“In detail, clay, water and ground graphite, which are placed in a mixing container, produce graphite dough, when the mixture is stirred for 20 minutes. …..”

MAP TASK

“In detail, the small huts on the southern end of the beach were transformed into luxury villas sometime between 1950 and 1970 while the sand dunes to the east of the huts were developed into landscaped gardens. …..”

GRAMMAR
Good use of grammar is essential, which means a mixture of various forms of subordinate and complex structures. In the case of process questions, it also means using present passive and for map questions it could involve past passive. The exact grammar needed really depends on the question. For example, if one map was now and one map was in the future, the candidate would need to use future structures to describe the expected changes.

Anyone located in Bangkok, Thailand who requires help with IELTS preparation, call Jum on the hotline at 09 3962 2496, send her a message on Line using her Line ID: jummanie or contact her via email: warapron@ielts-english.info

IELTS TASK 1 WRITING: GROUPING DATA

IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT GROUPING DATA
Here is the graph from yesterday’s question showing the percentage of people using various forms of transport in the past month (note: people often used more than one mode of transport)  but the overview has been written in a slightly different way.
trends02

“Overall, the proportion of people making a journey by car underwent a dramatic increase over the period shown while the percentage of people who travelled by bus and bicycle fell significantly. In addition, the popularity of travelling by train declined initially and then rose, although it did not reach the level it had at the start.”

I see many students say the data can be divided into a certain number of groups in the introduction and then just mechanically go through the data as it is presented without actually grouping it in the organisation of the essay.

Some teachers tell students to write a sentence like:

“It is immediately obvious that this data can be divided into three groups.”

But then they fail to teach their students to actually use this grouping in the organisation of the essay i.e. write about EVERYTHING THAT INCREASED, then write about EVERYTHING THAT DECREASED and finally write about EVERYTHING THAT STAYED STEADY (or dipped or peaked or whatever else the data shows).

If the candidate writes that: “the data can be divided into 3 groups” but then simply goes through the data in the order it is given, making no attempt to GROUP it, they should not expect a high score. It is NOT LOGICAL to write about something that increased, then something that decreased, then something else that increased, then something that stayed constant and finally something that decreased.

This is not useful and would very likely cause a lower band score. Look at what the IELTS Public Band Descriptors have to say about this:

BAND 7 (Coherence and cohesion): logically organises information and ideas
BAND 5 (Task Achievement): recounts detail mechanically

A logical approach would GROUP the data into what increased, what decreased and then what remained constant, for example, and deal with ALL items that belong to each group in the appropriate section.

DON’T JUST SAY THE DATA CAN BE GROUPED, structure your essay to clearly SHOW the grouping.

If you look back through every big picture description we have written over the last month, you will notice that we did this EVERY TIME. Personally, I would never waste my time to write that the data can be grouped into 3 groups (or whatever number is shown in the data) although it is not wrong to do it, instead, I would structure the essay to demonstrate that these groups exist in the way done in the overview given here.

Anyone located in Bangkok, Thailand who requires help with IELTS preparation, call Jum on the hotline at 09 3962 2496, send her a message on Line using her Line ID: jummanie or contact her via email: warapron@ielts-english.info

IELTS TASK 1 WRITING: THE BIG PICTURE – COMPLEX TRENDS

Over the past month we have covered many important aspects of Task 1 IELTS writing and today I want to discuss a complication that can occur with the trends that can occur.

Look at the graph shown here that covers the period from 1990 to 2010 and shows the percentage of people using various forms of transport in the past month (note: people often used more than one mode of transport). THIS IS NOT A REAL QUESTION! It has so many bars in order to show the trends very clearly.
trends01

As in an example we looked at recently, the trends have some variation but the general trends are very clear.

“The percentage of people who travelled by bus fell significantly over the period shown while the proportion of people making a journey by car increased very dramatically.”

This should be getting quite simple now. BUT … what about train travel?

Train travel decreased overall if you compare the percentage of people who travelled by train in 1990 to the proportion who travelled in 2010, but the story is actually more complicated than this and the size of the fall (around 40%, in relative terms, is too big to ignore). A more detailed response might say:

“In addition, the data also shows that the popularity of train travel fell in the first half of the period and then began to increase although it did not reach the same level that it had in 1990.”

The candidate must make the decision about whether the size of the dip is big enough to worry about and this will depend on the data given in the question.

Look at the more realistic example in the second bar graph which also shows the percentage of people using various forms of transport in the past month (note: people often used more than one mode of transport).
trends02

The trends for Bus and Car transport are very clear, the problem areas are the trends for train and bicycle use. The very big picture in both cases is that the proportion of people using these methods fell overall BUT the dip in train travel for 2000 is too significant to simply ignore. In the case of bicycle use the slight rise in the final year is not so significant and it could be ignored in giving a very brief picture of what happened.

IN BRIEF
One way to write the big picture view here might be:

“The percentage of people who travelled by bus and bicycle fell significantly over the period shown while the proportion of people making a journey by car increased very dramatically. In addition, the proportion of people travelling by train fell initially and then rose, although it did not reach the level it had at the start.”

IN SHORT
Candidates must look at the data when this sort of thing occurs and decide if the irregularity is big enough to talk about, as in the case of Train travel, or if it is small enough to ignore, as in the case of Bicycle travel.

Anyone located in Bangkok, Thailand who requires help with IELTS preparation, call Jum on the hotline at 09 3962 2496, send her a message on Line using her Line ID: jummanie or contact her via email: warapron@ielts-english.info

IELTS TASK 1 WRITING: THE BIG PICTURE – ONLY MAGNITUDES

Today we will look at an example where the teachers who tell students to look for the key features by looking only for what is big and small are actually correct. HOWEVER, it is very, very important to understand that this is not always the case, as we saw in the dramatic examples of the past 2 days.

This bar chart represents the water use given in percentage in a number of different regions in 1995.
Water use08a

THE BIG PICTURE
The horizontal axis just has a list of regions, which does not allow us to identify a trend. However, there is more than one way to group this data, for example, we could look for a big gap between Agricultural water use and Industrial water use (Africa, Asia, Latin America) and those regions where there is a small gap (North America and Europe). We can also do it just by looking for the regions where Agricultural use is high and those where Industrial use is high. It makes no difference which way we do it.

AGRICULTURAL WATER USE HIGHEST
Africa
Asia
Latin America

These regions also had a very low use of water for industrial and domestic purposes

INDUSTRIAL WATER USE HIGHEST
North America
Europe

In these regions domestic water use accounted for the lowest level of consumption with Agricultural use a little lower than industrial use . In fact, it was about 15% lower in North America and 33% lower in Europe, in relative terms. We will look at how to calculate these figures later as we have mentioned “relative terms” many times over the last month.

One way to write the big picture view might be:

“Overall, Agriculture accounted for the highest amount of water use in Africa, Asia and Latin America while use of water for Domestic and industrial purposes in these regions was very low. In addition, the data shows that Industrial use of water was highest in North America and Europe with the proportion of water used for Agriculture a little lower and Domestic use very low in both countries.”

IN SHORT

When you look at this bar chart, it almost looks like there are trends shown BUT when you look carefully, you realise that no trends can be identified here and you must find another way to group the data. (If this chart is drawn to show the regions in order of their use of water for Agriculture, it is very easy to get trapped and think there is a trend).

Water use08

After trends, we always look to see if we can describe differences in MAGNITUDE and in this example, that is exactly what we do.

Notice that we DO NOT USE NUMBERS in the big picture statement. We do not want to confuse the reader and make them think we are giving details for the graph, so we avoid using numbers BUT in these magnitude questions, this can lead to language that is not entirely precise e.g. “a little lower”. Nevertheless, we will solve this issue in the details section by giving very precise information about the magnitudes we are describing.

Anyone located in Bangkok, Thailand who requires help with IELTS preparation, call Jum on the hotline at 09 3962 2496, send her a message on Line using her Line ID: jummanie or contact her via email: warapron@ielts-english.info

(Data source: http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/y3918e/y3918e03.htm )