IELTS TASK 1 WRITING: SIMPLIFYING COMPLEX DATA

We have looked at some quite difficult questions over the past few days and here is one more although after yesterday , it may not look so difficult!

The table gives information about energy generation in a number of different countries:

electricity generation01

The problem again is the amount of data that is here. What is the BIG PICTURE?

  1. The first thing we should notice is that there is NO TREND in this data so we will look at the differences in magnitude.

Looking at the total energy production in the last column we see that we can group the data like this:

HIGHEST PRODUCTION: (around 500 KwH)
Germany
France

MEDIUM PRODUCTION: (around 300 KwH)
UK

LOWEST PRODUCTION: (around 150 KwH)
Spain
Norway

Note that the countries have been listed in order of magnitude within each of these groups.

2. We should also comment on the major sources of electricity with about equal amounts coming from Thermal and Nuclear with much lower levels from Hydro and very little from Geothermal.

The BIG PICTURE overview might look like this:

“Overall, Germany and France generated the highest amount of electricity while the UK generated a significantly lower amount and the smallest levels of electric were produced in Spain and Norway. The data also shows that the five nations produce about equal amounts of electricity from Thermal and Nuclear energy whereas a much lower proportion of is generated from Hydro with only a minor contribution from Geothermal.”

This is a quite an extensive overview that covers both major aspects shown by the data.

Note that the details about where each country got their energy would be covered in the ‘details’ part of the essay but that this should be mentioned because there are some very significant differences:

Germany (Thermal 60%; Nuclear 30%)
UK (Thermal 60%; Nuclear 25%)
Spain (Thermal 50%; Nuclear 25%)

France (Nuclear – around 75%)

Norway (Hydro about 99%)

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: Based on Test 4, IELTS Practice Tests 2 Express Publishing)

IELTS TASK 1 WRITING: SIMPLIFYING COMPLEX DATA

Sometimes there is so much detail in the data that some of it MUST be ignored so that the response can be written in 150 words in no more than 20 minutes. HOWEVER, YOU MUST BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT THIS. You cannot ignore KEY FEATURES – what we are talking about here is ignoring some of the less important detail in order to give the most important information that is shown.

This is really not just an exam requirement. If you want people to understand the most important features of the data, the essay should not be full of a whole lot of less important detail. If you only write about the most important features, the essay will be very easy to follow.

Here is a quite difficult task, which is a real past IELTS exam question. (I must thank one of my past students, Kotchaphop Kornphetcharat, for this question as he sent it to me as part of his preparation for the IELTS Exam.)
prisoners01

  1. The first thing that the candidate should see in this question is that there are years in the data. This means you can look for trends.
  • Increase in prisoner numbers:
    Great Britain
    USA
  • Decrease in prisoner numbers:
    Canada
    New Zealand
    Australia

Note the the order of the countries listed here is not an accident, they are grouped in order of the magnitude of the number of prisoners, this creates a very logical structure to the response and is NOT just a mechanical listing of the countries in the order they are given in the data. Remember in the IELTS WRITING PUBLIC BAND DESCRIPTORS under TASK RESPONSE, it says:

Band 5:  recounts detail mechanically

Our response is NOT mechanical because we have grouped the data into what went up and what went down as well as then grouping the data WITHIN those groups in order of magnitude.

The problem with this question is that when you look at the data for New Zealand and Australia, you see that it is really quite complex: in New Zealand the data fell sharply at first and then rose throughout the remainder of the period although overall prisoner numbers DID FALL over the whole period. Similarly, in Australia, it is even worse where numbers plunge at first then rise and then plunge again. Nevertheless, overall the prison population DID FALL in Australia despite the erratic trend.

I could write about all this detail but it would significantly increase the length of the essay and the time it would take to write it. These variations in numbers are details rather than key features and so I will ignore them when I write my response. I do, however, make a reference to this problem by saying “… although it was erratic in Australia and New Zealand.

“Overall the numbers of people who were sent to prison increased significantly in Great Britain and the USA over the period shown while imprisonment in Canada, New Zealand and Australia witnessed a decline although it was irregular in Australia and New Zealand.

Note that if I had the time, I would write about some of this detail but if I write all this detail in the ‘details’ part of the essay, my essay will end up being around 250 words in length!

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: Cambridge IELTS Book 2 Test 4)

 

IELTS TASK 1 WRITING: TOO MUCH DATA

If you are faced with a simple question where the data is not very complex, IELTS Task 1 Writing can be very simple. Unfortunately this is not always the case and sometimes candidates can be faced with very complex questions. Of course, this is also true in real life where data can look very complex at first.

The ‘trick’ and the task of candidates in an IELTS WRITING exam is to identify the KEY FEATURES of the data. Here is an example where there is more information than we really want to see in an IELTS TASK 1 WRITING:
foreign students01

1. The first thing we should notice is that there are years given in the table, which means we can look for trends. If we look at the three destination countries we see that student numbers increased in every country:

Australia: more than doubled from 10,000 to over 22,000
USA: increased by almost 4 times (from more than 4,000 to almost 16,000)
China: increased by a little more than 2 times (from about 6,000 to more than 13,000)

2. However there are other important details here that have nothing to do with the trends and that is the fact that Australia has more students than either the USA or China. (Student numbers in Australia in 2011-12 were about 30% higher than in the USA and a little over 50% higher than in China.)

3. If we now look at the percentage change in student numbers we see something extremely important: the numbers in Australia decreased in the last two years shown while in the USA and China the numbers continued to increase. Note that while the final year is not given for China the numbers were still going up year-on-year at least up until 2011 when the numbers in Australia had already started to fall.

So the big picture view might look like this:

“Overall, the number of Vietnamese students who studied in the three countries shown increased very significantly over the period shown although most students chose to study in Australia. In addition, the data also shows that the popularity of Australia over the last two years given decreased while the popularity of the USA and China continued to increase.”

This is a fairly simple summary of what is really quite complex data. When faced with an IELTS TASK 1 WRITING question, always look for the BIG PICTURE and you will find that it does’t matter if you get a hard question with a lot of data, you will still be able to identify the most important aspects of the information.

BUT

… as you can see in this example the big picture may involve BOTH trends AND the MAGNITUDE of the quantities shown and you must look carefully to see the you include all the most important aspects of the data.

Note also that sometimes it is simply not possible to talk about all the details shown and we will look at one of these examples next time.

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://monitor.icef.com/2014/04/spotlight-on-vietnam-quality-issues-demand-for-study-abroad-and-graduate-employability/ )

IELTS TASK 1 WRITING: COMPLEX QUESTIONS

We have looked at a number of questions over the past few days where you have to group the data by size in order to give the big picture view of what is happening. Depending on the data that is given, this can be very simple or it can be a matter of judgement on how the grouping is done. As long as the grouping is done logically, it will not matter if people group the data in slightly different ways. We will look at an example like this a little later.

The problem that can occur with these questions is that you can be faced with a huge amount of data. If you are unlucky enough to face a question like this, keep in mind the nature of your job. You must give the BIG PICTURE VIEW. You must show clearly the key features of the data.

Here is an example that is not too difficult but that has the beginnings of one of these difficult questions with a large amount of data.

International Student Numbers Studying In Australian Universities

University……………………………………….. Total…….… Int………. Int %
Federation University Australia (VIC)……..…….12,941….…..6,332………..48.9
University of Adelaide (SA)………………..……26,383………6,935……..…26.3
RMIT University (VIC)……………………………57,433……..26,590……….46.3
University of New South Wales (NSW)…………52,326……..13,132..………25.1
University of New England (NSW)……………..20,912…….…1,079…………5.2
Australian National University (ACT)………..….20,934…..…..5,566……….26.6
University of Notre Dame Australia (WA)……….10,960……..….327……..…3.0

There are all sorts of things that could be discussed here. For example:

  • the universities with the highest total numbers
  • the universities with the highest numbers of foreign students
  • the percentage of foreign students at each of the universities

The problem is that you have only 20 minutes and 150 words to write your response. (Note that there is no penalty for writing more than 150 words but it is best to keep to no more than around 170 words maximum to give you time to write a good response and maybe a minute or two to read what you have written to check it for errors.) This means that you must choose only the most important aspects to write about.

There is another important point about choosing only the most important things to write about. If you read a response that talks about every possible feature of the data, not only will it be very long, it will also be very confusing and it will be hard to identify what are the most important features. This is the reason why the IELTS Public Band Descriptors say, at Band 4, for Task Achievement:

  • may confuse key features/bullet points with detail;

and at Band 5, also under Task Achievement:

  • there may be a tendency to focus on details

In this question, the data is looking at foreign students so it is the percentages studying in the different universities that is the most important aspect. The total numbers at the universities is a detail that is not important here, it is not wrong to mention it, but it is a detail. What matters most is the percentages of foreign students at these Australian universities.

Largest percentage of foreign students (around 48%)
Federation University Australia
RMIT University

Medium percentage of foreign students (around 25%)
Australian National University
University of Adelaide
University of New South Wales

Smallest percentage of foreign students (around 5%)
University of New England
University of Notre Dame Australia

Note that grouping data is critical if you want to achieve band 7. According to the IELTS WRITING PUBLIC BAND DESCRIPTORS at Band 7 under Coherence and Cohesion :

– logically organises information and ideas;

What about the number of foreign students? If time permits, I will write about this as it does contain an interesting piece of information which is not revealed by the percentages of foreign students alone.

For example, Federation University Australia and RMIT University both have around 48% of foreign students in their student bodies but RMIT has 4 times more foreign students and I would want to mention this fact in the response as it adds a lot to fully understanding  the data.

In complex questions, candidates must make a judgement about what are the most important features and sometimes you must be ruthless in discarding some of the details that may look quite important – we will look at some real IELTS Writing Tasks where this occurs. In the question shown here, it is not so complex that we could not talk about the details of the foreign student numbers although the information about the biggest and smallest universities overall would most likely be left out as it is only a detail and does not add to information related to the foreign students.

Sometimes these judgements are not so simple and, in my opinion, are one of the more challenging aspects of writing Task 1 essays. Lots of practice with a huge range of questions can help candidates improve their skills 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

(Data source: http://www.australianuniversities.com.au/directory/international-student-numbers/ )

IELTS TASK 1 WRITING: MAGNITUDE & DOUBLE GRAPH TASKS


Here is another example of a magnitude task. These should be getting easy now.

The pie chart shows U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions from1990 to 2012.
magnitude03

Even though we know the years that this data apples to, there is no time scale in this data, so we cannot identify a trend. The procedure is therefore to group the data by magnitude:

High (22%)
Space cooling

Medium: (around 10-12%)
Other
Lighting
Electronics
Space heating/water heating/Refrigeration

Low: (around 5%)
wet cleaning
Cooking
Computers

So the BIG PICTURE would be:

Overall, the greatest single contribution to green house gases was caused by Space cooling while a much smaller amount of gases was created by Other, Lighting, Electronics, Space heating, Water heating and Refrigeration. The data also reveals that by far the smallest volume of gases was produced by wet cleaning, Cooking and Computers.

This is all quite simple now, BUT, there is some REALLY BAD NEWS!

It is not likely that you will get a single pie chart like this in the IELTS writing test. What is much more likely is that the pie chart in todays question will come with the pie chart in yesterday’s question and you will need to write about both these pie charts in a single question.

This is not so difficult. It is really just two quite simple questions combined into one.

In your introduction you just say what is shown in the first pie chart and then what is shown in the second.

For the overview, you identify the most important features of the first pie chart AND the most important features to the second, exactly the same as we have done yesterday and today. This combination is the overall statement of the BIG PICTURE.

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.c2es.org/technology/overview/electricity)

IELTS TASK 1 WRITING: BIG PICTURE, NO TREND

Here is another example of a question with no trend. This graph shows the energy use of a number of household appliances/activities:

magnitude02

We see that the data here was put together in 2010 i.e. it covers a single year but there is no time scale at all. This means there are NO TRENDS in the data and we must group by size.

The simple rule to follow is to see what groups does the data fall into and we will usually look for high, medium and low but this is not guaranteed – it depends totally on the data. Here it is most logical to use 3 groups:

High: (3 times higher more than any other single item at 42%)
Space heating and cooling

Medium: (around 12%)
other
water heating
lighting

Low: (each around 5% or less)
Refrigeration
Electronics
Wet cleaning
Cooking
Computers

Remember that the best way to reduce the length of the response is to give average figures where the data allows us to do this instead of giving every figure separately.

A possible over statement might be:

“Overall, space heating and cooling is responsible for the highest amount of energy use while other appliances, water heating and lighting consume far lower levels of energy. In addition, the data also shows that all other areas of energy use shown each use a very low amount of energy.”

A very important note with this question is that this is real data, it has not been simplified for an examination which is why there are so many items in the pie charts. If you look at the Cambridge IELTS books at past exams, you will know that it is not normal to see so many items in a real test question. Nevertheless, even though the chart has many entries, it is not very difficult o describe it.

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://simsgreenenergy.com/services/)

IELTS TASK 1 WRITING: MAGNITUDE TASKS

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:

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 2.17.56 AM

This data can be put into 3 groups:

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 2.25.12 AM

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.”

IN BRIEF

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:

160213-03

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: warapron@ielts-english.info

(data source: http://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/2014/04/and-the-best-waste-performing-country-in-europe-is-estonia/ 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.)

IELTS TASK 1 WRITING – TRAPS IN TRENDS

Be careful when you look at data to define the trend accurately. Two problems come up frequently in IELTS writing, in fact, these issues are common in all statistical analysis.

Don’t be fooled by strong tends into thinking that a trend that is not so clearly as strong does not exist.

Look at the graph here that shows gives information about the popularity of the consumption of organic foods (foods grown without chemicals and fertilizers). There are clearly very strong upward trends in Australia and the USA but the trend in the UK may not appear strong at all by comparison. This is where a little mathematics can be extremely valuable.

Many candidates would say that consumption in the UK stayed fairly constant, BUT DOES IT?

Consumption rose from 10 to around 22 i.e. it more than doubled! This is a very significant rise and it should be mentioned. It would wholly incorrect to say that consumption was fairly steady in the UK – consumption doubled.

Look at the increase that occurred in Australia: start = 45; end = 92; rise = just over 2 times

The rise in consumption in the USA was even more significant: start = 25, end = 73 rise = around 3 times

In fact, all three countries show very significant increases in the consumption of organic foods in this data.

Sure! organic food was much more popular in Australia than it was in the UK and this is an extremely important point to make in your essay, but don’t be fooled into thinking the trend in the consumption in the UK is unimportant just because the figures were lower than for consumption in the other nations.

Don’t get tricked by the fact that the absolute value might be low. When you are looking at trends, it is the change that is important. Absolute values may also be important, as we see in the example today and also yesterday, but this is in addition to the importance of the trend.

Here is a sample overview for this question:

“Overall, he consumption of organic foods in the three countries show a very significant increase although the level of consumption was highest in Australia, followed by that in the USA with consumption in the UK the lowest of all nations.”

In the example yesterday and also in this one, we see a very important type of IELTS Task 1 question: in these cases it is NOT ONLY THE TREND that is important BUT ALSO THE MAGNITUDE differences between the items shown in the data. Be careful to include both in questions like this if you want to achieve a good score.

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 – TRENDS and MAGNITUDES

Over the past week we have looked at a range of Task 1 questions to see how we should write about “the big picture”. This is one of the most basic and important aspects of producing a good IELTS Task 1 essay.

To review the major point of the past few days, when dealing with a mathematics type question look to see if you can identify a trend and don’t fall into the trap of thinking that trends only occur with time. It is true that these are by far the most common types of trend both in the IETLS Writing Test and real life. But, as we have seen, there are extremely important trends in other variables such as age, income level, education level, fitness level and many other quantities.

When you face an IELTS Task 1 task look at the data to see if there is a trend in the data. It does not matter if it is a bar graph, a line graph, a table or a pie chart, all of these forms of data can be used to show a trend. Step 1 in writing a response is to check the data to see if it contains a trend. If the data has a trend, WRITE ABOUT IT in your essay.

But don’t get fooled: Despite the fact that this data contains years, the trends are very small and by far the most significant thing here is the huge differences in the types of accommodation that people use. (We will discuss magnitude differences in the next several posts.)

Percentage of Australians Living in Various Housing Types:

DWELLING STRUCTURE ………….2006 ………… %……….…..2011…….…… %
Separate house……………………5,472,527……….76.6………5,864,573………75.6
Semi-detached/terraced…………….658,858…..…….9.2…………765,978……….9.9
Flat/apartment………………………..932,862……….13.1………1,056,236………13.6
Other dwelling……………………..…..76,080…………1.1…….……66,666………..0.9

The trends that exist here are a very small increase in the percentage of people living in semi-detached houses and flats and the slight decrease in the proportion of people who live in separate houses.

These trends can certainly be mentioned and in a high level answer should be mentioned but the huge differences in the types of housing should also be a major part of the answer. So, an overview statement might look like this:

“Overall, while most people chose to live in a separate house, a very much smaller proportion lived in semi-detached houses and flats and the numbers choosing other dwelling types was extremely low. The data also reveals that there was a slight decrease in the proportion of people living in separate houses whereas the percentage living in semi-detached houses and flats saw a small increase.”

IN BRIEF

This is a complex question because although the trends here are not the most important thing, in a high level response they probably should not be ignored. Here the most significant issue is the percentages of people who chose particular dwelling types because the differences are very dramatic. Later we will look at questions where the magnitude differences are the only thing that is important but be aware that you will see many questions like this where BOTH TREND AND MAGNITUDE differences need to be discussed.

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.propertyobserver.com.au/finding/residential-investment/17079-higher-proportion-of-people-now-living-in-apartments-and-townhouses-abs-2011-census.html )

IELTS TASK 1 WRITING: TRENDS IN EDUCATION LEVEL

4 TRENDS IN EDUCATION LEVEL

Here is another type of trend, this time with education level, that is seen from time to time in the IELTS Writing Test.

234538

This graph shows a clear connection between education level and exercise:

Here we see a very dramatic illustration of the connection between education level and the percentage of people who exercise which is sustained across all age groups. Also notice that the percentage of people who exercised witnessed a decrease with age group across all education levels although it was greatest with the group with the lowest education level.

Here is a possible overview statement:

“Overall, the percentage of people who exercised increased with education level  and this was sustained across all age groups. In addition, the percentage of people who exercised experienced a decrease with age group across all education levels although it was greatest with the group with the lowest education level.”

Now this is quite a complex question but we can see the big picture fairly easily once we start to practice this type of question. This graph is another one with two competing questions but they are starting to look a little less complicated now.

IN BRIEF

Just because data does not have years, it does not mean there is no trend. The examples here are very common and you may be able to think of other situations where you can identify a trend in something that has nothing to do with years. e.g. the number of books a person reads and the extent of their general knowledge; the number of pizza eaten and the percentage of people who are overweight.

Always look for trends in data and don’t think there are none just because the data does not have years.

Next time we will look at cases where there is NO TREND of any kind at all.

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.statista.com/statistics/234538/exercise-rate-by-age-group-and-education-in-the-us/)

IELTS TASK 1 WRITING: TRENDS IN INCOME LEVEL

3. TRENDS IN INCOME LEVEL

Income level is another area where clear trends can be shown:

Spending-Deciles_WSJ

Here we see very clear decreasing trends in the percentage of spending on food and health care with income level and a spectacular increase in the percentage of spending with income level for pensions and insurance while the proportion of income used for entertainment was fairly steady across all income groups.

The data for Transport and Education is a little more complex although it is still easily described. Transport spending increased until mid-income levels although it then witnessed a substantial decline while the proportion of spending rose across all income levels for education, with the exception of the two lowest income levels, where the percentage of spending was the highest of all income levels.

This question is quite complex because it is real data and had not been simplified for a test question but even though it is complicated, it is not too difficult if you keep in mind the question: “What are the most important aspects the data is telling me?”

IN BRIEF

In summary, an overview statement for this question might look like this:

“Overall, the percentage of spending on food and health care decreased with income level while the proportion of spending on pensions and insurance saw a spectacular increase and the proportion of income used for entertainment was fairly steady across all income groups. In addition, transport spending increased until mid-income levels although it then witnessed a substantial decline while the proportion of spending generally rose across all income levels for education.”

Notice that this is a little simplified compared to the comment above but the detail of the higher spending on education in the lower income groups can be dealt with in the details part of the essay.

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://micawberprinciple.com/cars-are-the-great-middle-class-wealth-destroyer-970/)

IELTS TASK 1 WRITING: TRENDS WITH AGE GROUP

2. TRENDS IN AGE GROUP

Trends are not just found in years. For example, consider the use of the internet in different age groups:

c-g001-eng

This data is very interesting and it shows something extremely important: TWO COMPETING TRENDS.

If this were a real IELTS question you would need to comment on BOTH of these trends – questions such as this do occur in the exam and candidates need to know how to deal with them. Although these questions look very complex, if you look for the big picture, you will see that they can be described fairly simply.

In this example we can describe the big picture this way:

“In brief, the data reveals that internet use soared within each age group although internet use with increasing age witnessed a substantial decline.”

This type of trend is extremely common in everyday life because it gives important information about the nature of life. This is seen here in this example and in many others like: the connection between road accidents and age, the link between age and exercise and in many other situations. These questions are therefore also seen from time to time in the IELTS exam.

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.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2009002/c-g/10910/c-g001-eng.htm)

IELTS Task 1 WRITING: TWO MAIN TYPES OF MATHEMATICS TASKS

In Task 1 maths questions there are two basic types of questions:

1.   Questions where trends are most important

2.   Questions where the magnitudes are the most important.

You will also see many questions where both these aspects may have to be mentioned. How do you know? Look at the question and ask yourself: “What is the main thing the data is showing me?”

We will look first at a variety of trend questions and then look at some magnitude tasks and finally look at some tasks where both these aspects are significant. This will be covered over the next several days to keep posts to a reasonable length.

TREND TASKS

1. TRENDS IN YEARS

The most common type of trend occurs with years, for example:

Income Gains

Increase or decrease in some quantity over some period of years e.g. an increase in income over a period of time.

IN BRIEF

A possible overview statement here could be:

“Overall, this graph shows a clear upward trend in all incomes although by far the most significant increase occurred for people with incomes in the top 1%.”

These types of questions can include increases, decreases, trends which are fairly steady, trends which rise to a peak and then fall etc. There is an enormous number of examples but as mentioned earlier the candidate is only required to give the BIG PICTURE VIEW, don’t worry about explaining every little detail. In fact, if you concentrate too much on detail, you can get a lower mark.

The overall trends must be very clearly described – do not get too tied up in detail. The three bar graphs below show an increase, a fairly steady trend and a decrease, despite the bars being a little irregular. You must learn the skill of being able to identify the BIG PICTURE view in data, rather than worry about every little detail.

trends

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://blogs.creighton.edu/creighton2040/2014/08/01/fast-food-workers-mcdonalds-and-the-nlrb/)

IELTS Task 1 – Maps – THE BIG PICTURE

It is not sufficient in map questions (or any other type of question, for the matter), to simply say there were many changes. This is not a clear overview as it could apply to almost any data and it gives no idea at all about how things changed.

For map questions you need to consider what types of changes occurred. For example:

significant tourist developments
infrastructure and housing development
increase in recreational facilities
increase in sporting facilities and teaching classrooms
urban development of a rural area into a small town
development of a tourist resort
renovation and extension of the existing building to create more facilities

There are a huge number of changes that can be shown on maps.

This big picture must sum up the most significant features of the change and be very specific about these changes.

Here is an example:

ielts-task-1-maps mofified

“In brief, the map illustrates the transformation of an uninhabited island into a tourist resort which incorporates accommodation, eating and recreation facilities.”

Another version might be:

“In brief, the map illustrates the development of a tourist resort and infrastructure on an uninhabited island.”

There are many ways that the big picture here can be given.

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: Cambridge IELTS 9, Cambridge University Press)

TASK 1 WRITING – THE BIG PICTURE IN PROCESS TASKS

In a process question the big picture must be handled differently to the mathematics tasks. When you are given a process, a simple way to explain what is happening is to look at how many stages are in the process.

Here is an example from the IELTS Specimen Materials published by Cambridge University Press:

hydropower

Although this process looks extremely complicated, when you look closely you will see that there are 3 main parts in the process: collecting the water, generating the electricity and distributing the power to the population.

So here is how this could be described:

“In brief, hydroelectric power generation is a three stage process which includes collecting the water, generating the electricity and distributing it to the population.”

It should be noted that process questions are different to the mathematics type questions where many details can be left out. In a process question it is very rare to get a diagram where unimportant details have been drawn: most details are important in process and map questions.

In this question, for example, if the candidate wants a high score, they would need to talk about the valve, which can be opened and closed. They would also need to talk about the pump and what it does and the fact that distribution of electricity to the town occurs through underground cables.

In a process (and map) question it is important to comment on all the important parts of the drawing.

[On a final note, for the engineers and scientist reading this, you will be aware that this diagram is scientifically incorrect and defies both geographic facts related to the production of rain and physics principles related to the conservation of energy. Do not concern yourself with these types of issues in the exam. Describe the diagram that has been given to you; remember, you are just describing the process nothing more.]

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

THE BIG PICTURE IN IELTS TASK 1 WRITING

Here is another example of a big picture in IELTS Task 1 writing. This graph shows road accident figures in Thailand between 1999 and 2012. Note that overall the trend is down but also note that from 1999 to mid 2002 the number increased and only began to fall after this time.

IN BRIEF – THE BIG PICTURE

The number of road accident rose from 1999 to 2002 although numbers then plummeted by the end of the period.

NOTE

It would be incorrect to just say that the numbers fell over the period because there was a very significant rise (of almost 25%, in relative terms) until mid 2002. If you are trying to achieve a high score, this is part of the big picture that cannot not be ignored.

However! And this is very important. IT is very wrong to describe all the little changes that you can see: in Task 1 IELTS Writing you are required to report the key features of the data – not every little detail. In the Public Band Descriptors is says this:

At Band 4 under Task Achievement:

  • may confuse key features/bullet points with detail;

and at Band 5, also under Task Achievement:

  • there may be a tendency to focus on details

This means that if a candidate DOES NOT describe the key features but simply goes through the data and describes every little detail they will get a poor mark in the writing test: candidates MUST give the BIG PICTURE in task 1 essays.

Accidents in 2012

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.thaiwebsites.com/caraccidents.asp)

IELTS TASK 1 WRITING: KEY FEATURES – THE BIG PICTURE

Yesterday we talked about the basic requirement in Task 1: to describe the relevant information and not express your opinion.

Today, we want to discuss the scariest issue of all related to Task 1 writing. In Task 1, you are not required to write about every little detail you see on the illustration in front of you. You need to write about THE BIG PICTURE: what is the main information shown, what are the most important features.

This is sometimes not easy to see but if you always ask yourself what is the most important data shown in the diagram, you will find that you can do questions that really look quite complex.

The problem is that you must be careful to make sure you do not give such a big picture that you miss really important details.

Here is an example:

unemployment01

The graph below shows the unemployment rate in Thailand and although the figures are quite erratic, it is clear that the rate decreased and then remained fairly steady, in absolute terms. This is the big picture.

What if you just said the rate decreased over the period. This is a true statement and is supported by the data but it ignores the fact that from 2012 to the present the rate has been fairly steady. For a high score this important detail should not be ignored.

So what about the spike in 2009? Yes, I would talk about it if I had time, but this is a detail – the big picture is the fall and then the relatively steady rate, in absolute terms. (It is a detail because it occurred briefly and did not change the overall trend.)

Deciding on the BIG PICTURE is one of the challenges in Task 1 writing so we will look at some more examples over the next few days.

I might add that you need to be very careful here. I know that many online resources and even some teachers tell their students to simply say what is big and what is small but this may NOT be an adequate description of the data when clear trends are shown. Unfortunately, life is more complicated than simply saying what is big and what is small in many of the questions you will face in the exam.

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.tradingeconomics.com/thailand/unemployment-rate)

TASK 1 IELTS WRITING – THE BASICS

A number of problems arise in Task 1 writing that cause candidates very serious problems. IELTS English will cover in detail a number of issues related to Task 1 writing over the coming days in an attempt to give candidates as much help as possible in meeting the requirements of this writing task.

Task 1 writing is called an INFORMATION TRANSFER task. That simply means the candidate needs to explain in words what is shown in the data. It is exactly the same as writing a summary or paraphrase in academic writing where you use only the resource article that you are quoting from and introduce nothing new – it is an essential skill at university.

This has a very important implication which candidates often fail to realise. In Task 1 writing you never give your opinion of why something is happening or what you expect will happen in the future when it is not shown on the graph. Here are some examples:

MATHEMATICS TASKS:

If a graph shows that car sales increased over a period of time, you DO NOT explain why – you say what the number was at the beginning, what it was at the end and could also say how much sales increased over the period shown.

Suppose that this line shows a clear upward trend in sales right up to the present time BUT you cannot conclude that the sales will continue to increase in the future – we do not know what happens in the period that is not shown on the graph so we say nothing about it. Many candidates predict what will happen in the future when this information is not available in the data.

PROCESS TASKS

Suppose you must write about a series of diagrams that show how to filter waste water so it can be re-used. You simply explain how the process works: you do not talk about the need to save water – just explain what is shown on the diagram.

MAP TASKS

Suppose a map shows the development of a resort on a small island (there is a question like this in Cambridge IELTS 9 – these books are extremely useful for exam preparation as they are THE ONLY source of real IELTS examination questions). It is not appropriate to explain that this is a peaceful island that is ideal for relaxation and enjoying a holiday with your family. Actually, we do not know this, we can only comment on what we see. Restrict all comments in map questions to simply say what the changes are that have occurred or that are planned for the future. DO NOT comment on issues related to anything else.

IN SHORT

In Task1 writing, explain the trends, magnitudes and changes that you can see but do not comment on anything you cannot prove to be true from the illustration in front of you. Irrelevant comments can lose marks according to the Public Band Descriptors.

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

Measuring Vocabulary Skill in IELTS Speaking

Part Three of the Speaking Test is used to measure your vocabulary level. If you look at the Public Band Descriptors they talk about “familiar” and “unfamiliar” topics. Part I and Part 2 contain “familiar” topics. You know this because they ask questions about “you”. In Part Three, where the questions are more general, the questions involve unfamiliar” topics and you know this because instead of asking “… where do you like to go for a holiday” they will ask you “where do people in YOUR COUNTRY like to have a holiday”.

Your vocabulary score is determined by your use of lexis (words) in this part of the test. For example, according to the Public Band Descriptors a candidate at:

Band 3
  • Uses simple vocabulary to convey personal information.
  • Has insufficient vocabulary for less familiar topics.
  • Gives only simple responses and is frequently unable to convey basic message.
  • Has limited ability to link simple sentences.
Band 4
  • Is able to talk about familiar topics.
  • Can only convey basic meaning on unfamiliar topics.
  • Makes frequent errors in word choice.
  • Rarely attempts paraphrase.
Band 5
  • Manages to talk about familiar.
  • Is also able to talk about unfamiliar topics.
  • Uses vocabulary with limited flexibility.
  • Attempts to use paraphrase but with mixed success.
Band 6
  • Has a wide enough vocabulary to discuss all topics at length.
  • Makes meaning clear in spite of errors.
  • Generally paraphrases successfully.
Band 7
  • Uses vocabulary resource flexibly to discuss a variety of topics.
  • Uses some less common and idiomatic vocabulary.
  • Shows some awareness of style and collocation, with some inappropriate choices.
  • Uses paraphrase effectively.
Band 8
  • Uses a wide vocabulary resource readily and flexibly to convey precise meaning.
  • Uses less common and idiomatic vocabulary skillfully, with occasional inaccuracies.
  • Uses paraphrase effectively as required.

Look carefully at the first two bullet points in these descriptions.

From Band 3 to Band 6 there is a transition of increasing ability to talk about BOTH familiar and unfamiliar topic areas but it is only at Band 6 where the candidate is able to talk about all topics AT LENGTH.

  • Band 3: The candidate cannot talk about unfamiliar topics
  • Band 4: The candidate can give only basic information about unfamiliar topics
  • Band 5: The candidate can talk in a limited way about unfamiliar topics
  • Band 6: The candidate can talk AT LENGTH about unfamiliar topics

These words AT LENGTH are very significant. Candidates who deliberately don’t speak very much because they are worried that the more they speak the more errors they will make, will never have the opportunity of getting higher than Band 5 for their Lexical Resource (vocabulary) score.

 

IELTS Reading Test – TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN

Here is a reading task I was doing today with a student. It comes from Cambridge IELTS 8. This series of books is the only source of real IELTS exams available and therefore make a great resource in preparing for the exam.

TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN tasks require that you say whether a statement is:

TRUE = agrees with the text
FALSE = contradicts the text
NOT GIVEN = there is no information about the statement in text

The problem is that if you simply search for keywords you will get these wrong because you will definitely find the keywords but you have to read the passage AND the statement carefully to see if it AGREES or DISAGREES with the passage OR the passage DOES NOT actually give the information that is in the statement.

Here is a simple example. The text is about the creation of the FAA (the Federal Aviation Administration) in the USA. This organization takes care of air safety although you don’t really have to know anything about this before you read the article.

Here is the very first line of the text:

“An accident that occurred in the skies over the Grand Canyon in 1956 resulted in the establishment of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).”

Although this is only one line from the text, it is the only line we need to be able to answer the following three questions.

Say which of these statement are TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN:

1. The FAA was created as a result of the introduction of the jet engine.

2. The FAA was formed because of an aircraft accident over the Grand Canyon.

3. The FAA was founded after the crash of a DC3 plane.

Have a go at this, it is not too hard but look carefully at the parallel language that is used.

 

Scroll down for the answers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
ANSWERS TO READING TASK

1. The FAA was created as a result of the introduction of the jet engine.

This statement is FALSE because the introduction of a jet engine, although it did occur at about this time, was not responsible for the creation of the FAA. How do we know? Because the text said it was a plane accident over the Grand Canyon (the text describes … an accident that occurred in the skies over…”) that resulted in the creation of the FAA so this statement directly contradicts what is in the text: therefore it is FALSE

2. The FAA was formed because of a aircraft accident over the Grand Canyon.

This statement is TRUE because it directly agrees with what is stated in the text. The words in the text “an accident in the skies over..” indicate that this was a plane crash.

3. The FAA was founded after the crash of a DC3 plane.

This statement is NOT GIVEN. We know that the FAA was created as the result of a plane crash but we do not know what kind of plane it was, it could have been a DC3, there were certainly DC3s still flying at this time but we are not told what kind of plane it was: therefore the statement is NOT GIVEN