This article will help you improve your score for IELTS Writing Task 1 vocabulary and grammar.
Firstly, you should know that the IELTS writing test marking scheme is divided into four parts:
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy
- Task Achievement
- Lexical Resource
- Coherence and Cohesion
Therefore, grammar accounts for 25% of the marks in your writing test.
You are assessed on two things:
- Your ability to produce grammatically accurate sentences;
- Your ability to use a wide range of grammar structures.
As a result, grammar is often the area that students struggle with the most, as it can easily bring a student’s scores down.
Accuracy of grammar
Examiners look for how many ‘error-free’ sentences you have. Therefore, you 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.
As a result, you must check your work after you finish writing. Always try to leave yourself two minutes at the end to proofread your work. Simple errors, which could be fixed with a quick check, will really damage your marks 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 into their answers. This is a poor strategy that will make your answers look unnatural and can result in you making mistakes.
A good answer uses complex sentences (such as conditional and relative clauses) that flow naturally. In other words, don’t insert complicated sentences or tenses just for the sake of it.
Below is some advice on certain grammar structures that will help boost your score 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 discuss process diagrams in a separate post.
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.
- There + be + adj. + noun + in + noun phrase
There was a gradual rise in the price of oil.
There has been a sharp drop in the price of oil.
- Noun phrase + verb + adverb
The price of oil rose gradually.
The price of oil has risen dramatically.
- go down
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.
- Noun phrase + verb + adverb
The price of property fell sharply
The percentage of homes dropped dramatically.
- There + be + noun + in + noun phrase
There was a fall in literacy levels.
There has been an increase in the cost of coffee.
- Using fractions
The price of oil halved in less than a year.
The price of oil has halved since July.
By July, the price of oil has halved.
IELTS writing task 1 will often require comparing data sources, groups and times. Here are five grammatical structures you can use to make comparisons.
- More/few/less + noun + than
Overall, more people preferred public transport to taxis.
- of one syllable -er + than
A higher number of people preferred public transport to taxis.
- More/less + adj. of more than one syllable + than
Taxis were more popular than public transport.
- of one syllable -est.
The highest % of commuters preferred taxis.
- The most/least + adj. of more than one syllable.
The least popular mode of transport was buses.
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. 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.
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 chart’s title and the information on both axes to establish what time frame is used. This will help you establish what tense you should use.
- 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.
- If there is no time, we use the 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.
- Present Perfect:
We use this tense generally to talk about an action that happened at an unspecified time before now. The exact 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.
The price of oil has fallen by $5 a barrel every week since July.
- Present Perfect Continuous
We use this tense to show that something started in the past and has continued up until now.
Oil prices have been decreasing since July.
- Future Perfect
We use this tense to state that something will be finished at a particular time in the future.
We often use it with ‘by’ or ‘in’.
The price of oil will have reached $300 a barrel by 2020.
- Past Simple
Use this tense to talk about an action that started and finished at a specific time in the past.
The price of oil fell from $150 in Jan 2014 to $50 in Jan 2015.
Approximations, Percentages and Fractions
You will have to deal with percentages in many of the IELTS writing task 1 questions. This is a good opportunity to express these percentages differently 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 to score high in the ‘lexical resource’ part of the test.
For instance, use approximations. E.g. 49% can be expressed as “nearly a half”.
Below are a range of expressions that can be used to express percentages.
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
70%- a large proportion
71%- a significant majority
15% a small minority
3%- an insignificant minority
IELTS Academic: Writing Task 1 in 6 Simple Steps
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