IELTS Writing Task 1 Grammar and Vocabulary Guide

This post will help you improve your grammar and vocabulary for IELTS task 1 writing questions.

IELTS grammar

The IELTS writing test marking scheme is divided into four parts:

  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy
  • Task Achievement
  • Lexical Resource
  • Coherence and Cohesion

Grammar therefore accounts for 25% of the marks in your writing test.

You are assessed on two things:

  1. Your ability to produce grammatically accurate sentences;
  2. Your ability to use a wide range of grammar structures.

Grammar is often the area that students struggle with the most and it can easily bring a student’s scores down.

Accuracy of grammar

Examiners look for how many ‘error free’ sentences you have. You therefore need to make sure each sentence has no errors. Even a small mistake like an article in the wrong place or misplaced plural counts towards this.

This is why it is so important to check your work after you finish writing. Always try to leave yourself two minutes at the end to check your work. Simple errors, which could be fixed with a quick check, will really bring your marks down in this area.

Range of grammar

A good answer will have a range of appropriate structures and tenses. Many students try to insert complex sentences and tenses in to their answers. This is not how to do it and will result in your answers looking unnatural and you making mistakes.

If you write a good answer, complex sentences, such as conditional and relative clauses will flow naturally.

Below is some advice on certain grammar structures that will help boost your mark in part one of the writing test, if used appropriately. I have only included advice for charts, such as pie charts, line graphs and bar charts, in this post. I will deal with process diagrams in a separate post.

Describing Trends

In IELTS writing task 1 you may have to describe trends. This may come up in a line graph, bar chart or when comparing more than one chart.

There are two main grammatical structures we can use to describe trends.

  1. There + be + adj. + noun + in + noun phrase

Example:

There was a gradual rise in the price of oil.

There has been a sharp drop in the price of oil.

Possible adjectives

  • gradual
  • moderate
  • modest
  • sharp
  • dramatic
  • slight
  • steep
  • steady
  • significant
  • considerable
  • rapid

Possible nouns:

  • variation
  • decline
  • decrease
  • dip
  • drop
  • fall
  • peak
  • fluctuation
  • growth
  • increase
  • rise
  • slump
  1. Noun phrase + verb + adverb

Example:

The price of oil rose gradually.

The price of oil has risen dramatically.

Possible verbs:

  • rise
  • jump
  • grow
  • climb
  • increase
  • rocket
  • fall
  • drop
  • decline
  • decrease
  • go down
  • plummet
  • plunge

Possible adverbs:

  • gradually
  • moderately
  • modestly
  • sharply
  • dramatically
  • slightly
  • steeply
  • steadily
  • significantly
  • considerably
  • rapidly
  • slowly

Describing Increases and Decreases

When describing any of the charts in IELTS writing task 1, you might have to describe increases and decreases. There are three main ways you can describe increases and decreases.

  1. Noun phrase + verb + adverb

Example:

The price of property fell sharply

The percentage of homes dropped dramatically.

  1. There + be + noun + in + noun phrase

Example:

There was a fall in literacy levels.

There has been an increase in the cost of coffee.

  1. Using fractions

Example:

The price of oil halved in less than a year.

The price of oil have halved since July.

By July, the price of oil has halved.

Making Comparisons

IELTS writing task 1 will often require you to make comparisons between data sources, groups and times. Here are five grammatical structures you can use to make comparisons.

  1. More/few/less + noun + than

Example:

Overall, more people preferred public transport than taxis.

  1. of one syllable -er + than

Example:

A higher number for people preferred public transport than taxis.

  1. More/less + adj. of more than one syllable + than

Example:

Taxis were more popular than public transport.

  1. of one syllable -est.

Example: 

The highest % of commuters preferred taxis.

  1. The most/least + adj. of more than one syllable.

Example:

The least popular mode of transport was buses.

Summarising

IELTS writing task 1 is essentially a summarising task. Your overview paragraph should contain two or three sentences summarising the main features of the graph. In order to help you do this, here are some short phrases.

  • To summarise, the most marked change is….
  • Overall it is clear….
  • Overall the majority/minority….
  • In sum, the most noticeable trend is….

Don’t say ‘to conclude’. This is only for discursive essays.

Tenses

Using the appropriate tenses in IELTS writing task 1 is essential if you want to get a high band score.

The key is to look at the title of the chart and the information contained on both axes to establish what time frame is used. This will help you establish what tense you should use.

Example:

  • If the time is one point in the past, for example January 1990, then we should use the past tense.
  • If it has projections for the future, for example 2045, we use future tenses.
  • It there is no time, we use present simple.

Below are a range of tenses that could be used in task 1. Remember, the tense you use will depend on the information displayed in the graph. This is not a complete list of tenses and an awareness of all the English tenses will help you achieve the IELTS score you need.

  1. Present Perfect:

We use this tense generally to talk about an action that happened at an unspecified time before now. The exact time period is not important.

In writing task 1, we use this tense to talk about changes in data that have happened over a period of time.

Example

The price of oil has fallen by $5 a barrel every week since July.

  1. Present Perfect Continuous

We use this tense to show that something started in the past and has continued up until now.

Example

Oil prices have been decreasing since July.

  1. Future Perfect

We use this tense to state that something will be finished by a particular time in the future.

We often use it with ‘by’ or ‘in’.

Example

The price of oil will have reached $300 a barrel by 2020.

  1. Past Simple

Use this tense to talk about an action that started and finished at a specific time in the past.

Example

The price of oil fell from $150 in Jan 2014 to $50 in Jan 2015.

Approximations, Percentages and Fractions

In many of the IELTS writing task 1 questions you will have to deal with percentages. This is a good opportunity to express these percentages in a different way and boost your score. A way of varying this language is to express them as fractions or proportions.

Remember that you should vary your language as much as possible in order to score high in the ‘lexical resource’ part of the test.

It is also fine to use approximations, for example, 49% can be expressed as nearly a half.

Below are a range of expressions that can be used to express percentages.

Fractions

73%- nearly three quarters

51%- just over a half

49%- just under a half

32%- nearly a third

3%- a tiny fraction

50%- exactly a half

26%- roughly one quarter

49%- around a half

24%- almost a quarter

77%- approximately three quarters

Proportions

70%- a large proportion

71%- a significant majority

15% a small minority

3%- an insignificant minority

I hope you have found this post useful and if you have any grammar queries, please comment below.

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You might also be interested in the following pages:

10 Most Common Task 2 Topics 

Task 2 Essay Structures 

How To Write An Introduction 

Agree or Disagree Lesson

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