While we have seen that there are any different types of questions where trends are important and these DO NOT always involve time, it also happens that there a huge range of questions where no trend occurs at all. This happens when we are given data at one particular time – it might be data for one year, one month or 1 hour but the key is that time does not progress in the data. In these cases, it is impossible to identify any trend at all.

The approach to these questions is to group data in terms of the magnitude of the data shown: for example, what is high, what is in the middle, what is low.

How many groups do you need? No rule exists to give you: it depends on the data. BUT, remember that the essay is only 150 words and you have only 20 minutes to write it. This means, just like in the trend questions, you have to decide what is really important and what is it reasonable to put together.

Here is an example which gives information about the amount of waste generated in six countries measured in kg per person:

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This data can be put into 3 groups:

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This grouping is really forced on us. We could put Germany in the middle group and just have two groups but the problem is that waste production in Germany is around 50% higher than it is in Belgium, in relative terms, which makes it a little difficult to put in the same group. In simple terms, 500 is much closer to 460 than it is to 600.

The way to reduce the amount of time in writing the essay is to give average values rather than every single number. This is another reason why Germany really has to be put in a group on its own.

Here is a possible overview for this data:

“Overall, waste production in Germany was greatest while that in Greece, Sweden and Belgium was significantly lower. In addition, waste generation in Slovenia and Estonia was the lowest of all countries shown.”


The only way to summarise this data is to group by the magnitude. How many groups you need will depend on the question but we want the numbers to be close enough together so that we can use average values, for example here we would use:


One final point, I know some teachers tell their students to avoid putting units on the data by writing a sentence in the introduction that says how the data is measured. While this may be technically correct for the IELTS exam, no university department would allow a research report to be written without units on the data, it is not even allowed in Australian high school reports – take the time and PUT UNITS ON THE DATA, it can be done very quickly and the words count toward the total and it is how real reports are written all over the world.

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:

(data source: note that this website has some interesting things to say about the nature of these statistics which were provided by the Environmental Ministries of each nation.)