IELTS TASK 1 WRITING: Trends & Magnitudes

Tomorrow we will move on to discuss the third major type of mathematics questions – COMPARISON TASKS but today I want to look at a question which you should no longer find very difficult.

The graph shows the percentage of government spending on public schools in inner city areas as a proportion of the whole city education budget. (NOTE: this data is not real!)
public schools01

The first thing the candidate should notice here is that the data has years. This means you can find trends in the data. These trends exist even though the data is a little erratic. You must be very careful about this: do not ignore a trend just because the data jumps around a little.


New Zealand


The candidate should also notice that the proportion of spending in Australia was far higher throughout the entire period than spending in the other countries. Similarly, New Zealand spending was IN GENERAL lower than spending in other countries. This should be noted in the response.

A big picture view of this data might look like this:

“Overall, although the proportion of spending rose significantly in Australia and Canada, it fell in New Zealand and remained fairly steady in Norway. The data also shows that the highest level of spending occurred in Australia while the lowest, in general, was in New Zealand.”

The reason the words “in general” are added here is that if you look at the proportion of spending in the first two years, New Zealand spending is not actually the lowest (Canadian spending is lowest) but New Zealand spending is not much higher and it is significantly lower in all the following years.

This is a very complete response to the main features of the data and was not too difficult to do.

The most important thing that candidates should realise when they look at an IELTS WRITING TASK 1 is that both TRENDS AND MAGNITUDES should be considered as possible summaries of the data. We have seen examples where sometimes ONLY THE TREND is important and we have seen other examples where ONLY THE MAGNITUDES are important but there are many, many questions where BOTH TRENDS AND MAGNITUDES are significant. Nevertheless, if you know this when you go into the exam, questions like this one should be fairly easy.

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