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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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Ryan's Recent Posts Posts

First model essay of 2017! I make up all of the examples!

Some people feel raising the age limit required for obtaining a driver’s licence can enhance road safety. Would this be an effective strategy in your country?

The age at which a person is legally able to drive is a very important consideration. In my home country of Canada, successful test takers can drive independently at the age of 16, an age that I feel is too young. I thus agree that raising the driving age limit in my country would enhance road safety. To prove this, I will look at a driver’s maturity and the motivators behind their decision to drive.

Firstly, the experimental nature of the adolescent growth stage makes it a dangerous time at which to drive. Adolescent men, for example, are scientifically reported to have heightened levels of aggression, a trait that statistically diminishes by the time they are 20 years old. Thus, removing people prone to these more immature emotions can clearly have real ramifications on the overall safety of driving in Canada. Increasing the driving age should therefore be supported.

This position is further exemplified when looking at motivators behind a person’s decision to drive. For 16 year olds in Canada, these motivators tend to be social in nature, such as using a car to meet friends. Although many would argue this is a sign of healthy social development in a human being, it is a driving arrangement that sets up scenarios that can be very distracting for an inexperienced driver. In Canada, for example, traffic accidents are reportedly higher among 16 to 18 year olds travelling in cars with several passengers. Because motivators become less social as a person enters their twenties, these statistics suggest Canadian roads would be safer were the age limit of drivers raised and their motivations for driving evolved.

As the above shows, raising the age at which a person can drive would increase the safety of roads in my country. It is my hope that Canada does indeed take steps to put this new restriction on driving in place.

My Task 2 ebook has been updated for 2017!

I’m very proud to present to you the 2017 version of my Task 2 ebook!


The 5th version of my popular Task 2 ebook is finally ready for download! As always, it is completely free to those of you that have purchased an earlier version!

(Existing customers: email your receipt to ryan@ieltsielts.com to receive the free update!)

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What’s in the updated version?
Here is what’s new in the 2017 version of Ryan’s ebook:

-89 pages of step-by-step IELTS advice! ✓✓

-All model responses have been read by an examiner and unofficially gauged Band 9! ✓✓

-There are new sections on applying argument and discussion essay structure to (1) advantage/disadvantage, (2) cause and effect, (3) problem and solution, and (4) double action Task 2 question types! ✓✓

-Learn how to concede points in your argument essay while remaining faithful to your thesis! ✓✓

-New discussion that will help you understand the IELTS Writing rubric and how the breadths influence each other! ✓✓

-A section outlining subtle language patterns in Task 2 questions that are often misread by candidates! ✓✓

-The perfect companion text to Ryan’s videos! ✓✓

Here is the table of contents:

table-of-contents

I’ve been updating this popular ebook for over five years! Buy it today and receive all future updates free of charge!

Academic and General Task 1 updates coming in January!

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