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IELTS Writing Task 1 – Describing trends

Posted on March 11, 2011 by

I am often surprised at how IELTS students lack the basic ability to describe trends. A trend is simply the direction of data, usually occurring over a period of time. In the event we are given a data source on our IELTS examination that presents trends (as in, for example, graphs, charts or tables), we must be able to describe what is going on accurately.

Thus, in this post I’d like to review a few phrases we can use to describe trends. To get us started, let’s look at this graph:

Sleeping patterns among British males (2009)

Here, we can see a graph outlining the number of hours of sleep the average British male (of varying ages) received in 2009.

For those of you who have read my Task 1 ebook, you know that our first step is to identify the broad, minor and minute details depicted in this data source. Broadly speaking, the above graph appears to show a slight decline in daily sleeping hours between British youth and the elderly. The minor trends appear to be threefold: (1) a decline between a British male’s teenage years and twenties, (2) a leveling between their twenties and forties and (3) a gradual rise between their forties and old age. We should also note that the last figures in the graph (denoting sleeping patterns in old age) are lower than those present at the beginning of the graph (denoting adolescent sleeping patterns). Minute details would include all of the precise figures that make up the data presented. For example, the adolescent sleeping figure of ‘9.2 hours per night’ would be considered a minute detail. In this graph, we are given 6 minute details. Minute details should only be included in our IELTS Task 1 response to help emphasize a key point in the trend presented (this is usually a change in the direction of the trend, the beginning of the trend or the end of the trend).

OK, in our analysis above, we used the following words to describe the overall trend of this graph: decline, leveling and gradual rise. How else could we say these trends?

decline: slight drop, modest reduction, light fall, slide, depresses to
leveling: reaches a plateau, hits its lowest point, remains steady at, remains stable, unwavers, without variation
gradual rise: slight recovery, modest gain, lightly inflates to, increases modestly

To show some of this in action, we could summarize the entire trend depicted in this source as:

The adolescent figure of 9.2 daily hours of sleep experiences a modest reduction as a British male moves into his twenties. This new sleeping pattern is slightly less than 8 daily hours of sleep and remains stable until a man reaches his mid-forties, when his daily sleeping duration increases modestly by perhaps 30 minutes or so.

Here, we can see some of these new trend-describing phrases in action (I’ve bolded them). This piece is further helped by certain keywords that make the various ideas presented work together cohesively (notably: ‘This new sleeping pattern’).

Hope that helps some of you better outline the data you are presented in the Task 1 section of your examination! For those of you interested in my Task 1 ebook, you can pick it up from my website here.

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Academic Task 1: How to write at a 9 level

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General Task 1: How to write at a 9 level

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Model response to an Academic Task 2 question seen 12 July 2014


(I’ve made this response a little bit longer than needed to demonstrate additional vocabulary and grammatical structures. Your IELTS essay would not need to be this long.)

Some argue younger people are not suitable for important positions in the government, while others think this is a good idea. Discuss both views and give your opinion.

Government jobs carry with them serious responsibilities. It is therefore no surprise that a person’s age and experience come under scrutiny when positions in government need to be filled. Many feel influential government jobs should be reserved for those who are older and have more experience, while others feel the criterion for these positions should be capability, namely whomever is most able to carry out the job. This essay will look at both sides before drawing a logical conclusion.

On the one hand, many argue that younger people should be made ineligible for important government positions, and the implications of this opinion are clear. Those operating at senior levels within a country’s military, for example, require field experience to prevent disastrous decisions that could cause the needless loss of life. Were younger people allowed to fast track their ascension within a country’s military, they could find themselves having to make critical choices based more on theoretical study than practical experience, and this could have catastrophic results. Thus, is it understandable why many feel younger government workers should be incubated before given promotion to important positions.

However, there are several plausible counters to this argument. For one, younger workers bring creativity and fresh ideas to government. For example, young government workers in Canada successfully pushed to increase HIV understanding and dispel stigmas attached to the disease in the 1980s, a development that encouraged tolerance and reduced irrational fear. In addition to fresh ideas, it should be remembered that to get a government job, one has to successfully engage a rigorous screening process. If a younger person engages this process as well or better than an older person, it is hard to argue that age should be a decisive factor when offering employment. It is clear from these reasons that there is merit to awarding important government career options to younger people.

Although the above look reveals solid evidence for both sides of the argument, it is felt that the healthiest approach to designating government positions is to ensure candidates fulfil rigorous training programs. Thus, a person’s age should not be considered a universal precursor to the awarding of government jobs.

How to use concession in your argument essay

Looking at a point that opposes your own can be tricky in an argument essay. In this video, we go over what concession is and how you can use it.

Igor scores band 8.5

In this episode of IELTSCast, Igor, an IELTS instructor in Kazakhstan, details how he managed to score band 8.5. The resources Igor suggests are:

(Book) Listening Strategies for the IELTS (Beijing University Press)
(Website) – A Chinese social networking site with well established IELTS communities.
(Website) Everyone’s favourite former examiner Chris Green’s work at

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