[Video học tiếng Anh] IELTS Writing Task 1: How to describe BAR GRAPHS

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Are you preparing for the writing section of the IELTS? In this lesson, we will look at Writing Task 1, and I will teach you how to describe a bar graph. This is one question type that can be on the IELTS, so it is a good idea to prepare yourself for it. I will take you through what happens in Writing Task 1, what key grammar you can use for it, and how you can improve the organization of your description by using compare-and-contrast vocabulary. Good luck on your exam!


Hi there. My name is Emma and in today's video we're going to talk about the test known as the IELTS. So if you are going to be writing the IELTS, this video is for you. Now, in this video we're talking specifically about if you're writing the academic IELTS. If you're, you know, just here for general interest, you can still learn quite a bit from this video because we will be talking about different vocabulary and grammar. So this video can also help you if you're not taking the IELTS also.

Okay, so what are we going to be talking about specifically in this video? Well, if you're taking the IELTS you probably know that there's a writing part of the IELTS. The writing part has two sections, we call them Writing Task 1 and Writing Task 2. In this video I'm going to cover a small bit of Writing Task 1. So, in Writing Task 1 you're going to be given some sort of visual image. Okay? So you might see something like this, this, or this. It might be a chart, it might be a table, but you're going to see some sort of visual and you need to describe what you're seeing. So this video... I've covered different types of Writing Task 1 and I'll talk about the links to some of these other videos at the end, but in this specific video we're going to be talking about bar graphs. Okay?

So, first of all: What is a bar graph? Well, so I have here three different types of charts or graphs. We have this one, this one, and this one. This is called a pie chart. Okay? I've covered this in another video, so if you're interested in learning how to write about pie charts, you can check out that video. But you'll notice with a pie chart it looks kind of like a pizza or a pie. It's in a circle and it's... Has different colours representing different percents.

We have here, this is called a line graph. So you'll notice that there's a line and, you know, sometimes this represents time, sometimes it represents other things, but with a line graph you'll notice, like, increases and decreases, but it's one connected line. We're not covering either of these in this video.

What we're going to be covering is another thing you might see on the IELTS, which is you might be given a picture like this. This is called a bar graph or a bar chart. So we have here these rectangular-shaped things that are each a different colour. These are known as bars. Okay? So, I know a bar is a place you go to buy beer, but in this case a bar is not that, it's actually this kind of rectangle on the chart. So, on the IELTS you may get a picture of something like this. You might actually get a picture of two things together, or you might get a picture of something a lot more complicated than this. In this case we're going to talk about: What would you do and say, and what are some tips if you get a picture of a bar graph or a bar chart?

Okay, so what are you going to have to do? Specifically they're going to ask you... After you get a picture like this, they're going to ask you to describe what you see. Okay? So you're describing the main information. You're also going to have to maybe make comparisons, say how things are similar or how things are different, which is contrast. So, for example, if this is, you know, different activities, maybe you might say that the red is shopping and the blue is golfing. In this case, shopping is less popular than golfing. Okay? So pretty much you need to compare the different bars and say: What are the same about them? Which ones are similar and which ones are different?

You're also going to have to report any main features or trends. Okay? So maybe you'll see a pattern and you're going to have to write about, you know, some of these main points you see when you look at the visualization. You do not write your opinion. Okay? So if this is a graph on education, maybe this is elementary school, secondary school, university, master's, and like a doctorate or something - you do not write what you think about it. Okay? All you do is in this type of question you're just writing what you see and what it means. You're not writing your opinion on anything. So you should not write the words: "I think" or "In my opinion", you'll actually lose marks for this. So in task 1, no opinion; that's for task 2.

Okay, so for something like this, and we will look at an example question, you have about 20 minutes.

You know, you're responsible for your timing, but something like this should take you about 20 minutes and you need to write at least 150 words. If you write less, you lose marks. So it's very important to write at least 150 words.

There is such a thing as too many words, so you don't have to write 800, that would be very bad. You know, writing 500 would be very bad. You're aiming for around 150 words. You know, maybe 170 is fine, but you don't want to write way too much either.

Okay, so now we're going to look at an example of a question for this and some more tips on how to... How to write when you look at a bar graph.

Okay, so I have here an example of an IELTS question. So, here's the chart and here is the question itself. It says: "The chart shows information about changes in the average housing prices in three different cities between 1990 and 2000. Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and making comparisons where relevant."

So, for a question like this you will again have about 20 minutes, and you'll also have... You have to write about 150 words.

So, what do a lot of students do when they see this?

They go: "Oh my gosh. I... I don't know what to do. I panic."

Right? A lot of students get really stressed out, but this is something you can do. So, the number one thing you need to do is take a breath, first thing, and then think about: What are you seeing? Don't just start writing. Think about: What can you actually see? What is happening here? Okay? So, for example, here we have on this side... This is called the Y axis. We have the percentage of change in housing prices. Okay, so I see here the word "percent" and I see the numbers 10, 5, -5, and -10.

So this is showing percent. Okay? And what kind of percent is it showing? Housing prices, so the cost of buying a house. How has it changed over time? And then I can also look here and here.

Okay, so we're looking at the year 1990 and we're comparing it to 2000. Usually the graph would also have a title. I didn't have enough space to write the title, but in terms of the visual you might see something like this.

There are different types of bar graphs. So sometimes you'll just have, you know, maybe one part of it, sometimes you'll have multiple bar graphs you need to interpret, sometimes you'll have a pie graph and a bar graph, so key here is take your time to really think about what you're seeing.

So in this case we have three different colours: blue, green, and red; and we have three different cities: Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.

So, I made up this, by the way.

This is not actually reflective of housing prices in these cities. I have no idea what housing prices are right now, so you know, don't take this as fact because it's made up numbers.

So when you look at this, what can we see right away? Well, we can find Toronto. This is Toronto in 1990 and this is Toronto in 2000. Okay? If I look here this is about 5% and here it's 10%. I can also look at Montreal. Montreal here is in the negatives. It's -5%, compared to here in 2000 which is 5%, so it's a positive number. And then we can look at red which represents Vancouver, this is the same as Toronto, it's 5%, and this is, again, the same as Toronto, 5%.

So, you can start by asking yourself some questions. Okay?

What are you looking at? You can look at the bars and think about: Which is the tallest bar?

So in this case the tallest bar in 1990 are both Toronto and Vancouver. In 2000, the tallest bars are also Toronto and Vancouver. You can look at the shortest bar. Well, in this case, in terms of negative, we see Montreal. Okay?

In this case, again, it's Montreal.

So looking at which is the tallest and which is the shortest are some questions you want to ask yourself right off the bat. You also want to look at change over time. Okay? You know: How is this graph changing? Is something increasing? Is something decreasing?

In this case we see Toronto increased, Montreal increased, and Vancouver increased. Everything has increased over time.

You also want to compare: How are these bars the same and how are they different? So I'll look: Okay, you know, in this case Toronto and Vancouver are the same, Montreal is different. Toronto and Vancouver have both increased, Montreal has decreased. In this case all three have increased, but Toronto and Vancouver are greater. You know, they show greater increase than Montreal.

So noticing these types of patterns and just really analyzing: "What are you seeing?" will really help you in terms of your answer.

So key point here: Don't just write. Take a minute to actually understand what you are looking at.

Okay, now let's look at some other tips on how to do... How to analyze a bar graph.

Okay, so you've now understood what you're looking at. You've read the question carefully and you've also looked at the visual, in this case, a bar graph.

So what do you do next?

Well, it's a good idea to have a plan on how to do these questions. So, for example, what I would recommend is first write an introduction. Your introduction should not be long. Okay?

A lot of students, they start the introduction and then they run out of time because they spent too much time on the introduction. For this, you only really need to write maybe two sentences for your introduction. What your sentences should say in your introduction is it should pretty much say all of this, so you need to talk about what kind of chart it is. In this case it's a bar chart or a bar graph, and you can pretty much say all of this information.

Now here's the tricky thing: You can't just copy what you see here. Okay? So in your answer, your answer should not be, you know: "The chart shows information about changes in the average housing prices in three different cities between 1990 and 2000." If you copy the question you will lose marks. Okay? It does not show what you're capable of, so do not copy the words in the question.

You need to use your own words to say all of this information, but use your own words. Okay? So one way to do this: Instead of saying... If they say: "chart" here, you can change that to "bar graph". Okay? Instead of using the word "show", maybe you can use the word "demonstrate" or "indicate" or, you know, "represents", "illustrates".

So there's a lot of great words you can use instead of "show".

In terms of the three different cities, you can actually name the cities. In this case we looked at Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver. You know, you'll also have to include details about the dates, but you can change some of these words around.

Instead of: "average housing prices", maybe you could change that to: "the price of housing". You know, so there's different things you can do. The main point here is change the wording and change the sentence structure if you can.

So that's key in your introduction.

Again, you are not giving your opinion here. Okay?

So whether you think: "Oh, it's great that, you know, all these Canadian cities, you know, their housing prices are going down", you don't give your opinion about it.

Okay, the next thing you should do... So, your introduction is, again, about maybe two sentences. You can now give a sentence or two about the main trend you see. So the main trend is the most important or the... The most... You know, the thing you see that is kind of like the biggest thing. So in this case we looked at housing prices of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. One thing that was a very big trend is that everything increased. All of the cities increased over time in terms of their housing prices. That's a main trend.

So anything that's a big pattern that when you look at you notice: "Okay, all of these things show the same pattern" or maybe, you know, it might be that one of the main trends is that Vancouver is the most expensive and Montreal is the least expensive.

These types of things are things that you can write about overall. So in terms of when you're talking about main trends, there's two great words to use. "Overall" or, and I'll just put that here, "In general". So these are two great words that can start off this sentence where you can show off what is the big picture or the main idea.

Okay, and that should be maybe, you know, two sentences. After you finish the main trend, then you're going to have a new paragraph. And in this new paragraph is where you're going to say most of the details. Okay? So you're going to say specific numbers. You're going to, you know, really do comparing and contrasting between them.

Toronto is like this, Vancouver is like this, Montreal is like this, and you're going to look at each thing individually and, you know, together. So in this case the key here is detail. Okay? So you want to have as much specifics and detail as possible, and you're pretty much summarizing what you see, but paying attention to specific numbers and specific details. A good tip with this...

So this is where the majority, your biggest paragraph is going to be here. You can introdu-... You can use your introduction and the main trend as one paragraph if you want or two, but your biggest paragraph is going to be the detailed description. Okay? This should be, you know, maybe five, six sentences so it should be a lot longer, maybe even more.

In this case what you want to do is you want to write the most important and talk about it, or the biggest trend you see, and then go smaller to something that maybe isn't so important. So you're paying attention to the most important information, and then you're going to the least important information, but you're including it all.

And finally, you can write a conclusion. It's not necessary, but it does wrap up your answer quite nicely. And your conclusion can just be one sentence just explaining, you know, what you saw in one sentence. So this is a good plan on how to write... How to write when you're describing a bar graph.

All right, so now let's look at some more tips on how to do this type of answer.

Okay, so one way to deal with, you know, you're going to be very nervous probably or maybe a bit anxious while you're writing the IELTS, one way to deal with this with the writing is to actually have some phrases memorized that you're used to using. This can help you save time, and as well this can help you with the word count on the IELTS because you need at least 150 words.

So, I have here some key phrases. You don't have to memorize all of them, but maybe pick one or two and you can use this on the IELTS, practice these, and you know, they can really help with your describing of a bar chart or a bar graph.

So, for example: "It is clear that..."

If we looked at the example we were just using: It is clear that Vancouver has had the greatest increase in average housing prices. It is clear that Montreal has, you know, increased a little bit. Okay? So pretty much you can use this as the beginning of your sentence to talk about some of the patterns you're seeing. What's even better than this is the next one: "It is clearly evident that..."

Why is this better to use?

Well, for the simple reason of it's longer and you need to, you know, have 150 words. Right? So each word you use counts. So let's count: one, two, three, four; versus one, two, three, four, five. So you're getting an extra word in there.

We can also use the next one: "We can see from the chart that..."

Or: "We can see from the bar graph that..."

Again, you just insert the information, whatever it is that you're looking at. You know, this is a way to introduce what you're seeing.

You can also say: "According to the bar chart..." or "According to the bar graph..."

So these are great expressions you can use which will really help you save time thinking about how to start a sentence. But, you know, here's a bit of caution: Don't reuse the same one again and again and again. You don't want to use this for each sentence you're writing. Okay? So it's good to know these, but use a couple of them and don't use them for each sentence because you don't want it to have too much repetition.

Okay, another thing that will help you in terms of bar charts or bar graphs is your vocabulary. It's very important that you have, you know, a high level of vocabulary for the IELTS. You want to show that you know multiple words that have the same meaning, but that the words are different.

So I'll give you an example.

One thing we just talked about was housing prices and how there's been an increase. So I could say: "Toronto's housing prices have increased", and, you know, I'd probably give the amount at 5%. Now, this is great, but one problem students have is they keep using the same word again and again and again, and so they don't get as high a score on their vocabulary. So we could add something to this to make it, you know, a bit more special or a bit better.

You know, maybe we could add an adverb. We have words like: "dramatically", or "steadily". So there's different things... "Slightly", which means just a little bit. So we can add an adverb here to describe: What kind of increase was it? Was it a big increase or a small increase? We can also use "increase" as a noun. In this case it's a verb, but we can change this so it's in the noun form now. "There has been an increase in Toronto's housing prices." Or we can use a different word altogether. "There has been a rise", "a rise" is a synonym of increase. They have the same meaning, but they're different words.

So finding synonyms that, you know... You'll often have to talk about increases and decreases, so finding... And staying steady.

So finding ways to, you know, to say these words but to have multiple words that mean the same thing, synonyms of these words is really, really a good idea in order to improve your vocabulary mark on your writing for the IELTS.

Okay, so let's look at some more tips on how to improve. Okay, so I have two more tips on how to really help you with looking and analyzing bar charts or bar graphs.

One of them is knowing your grammar. You get marked on the IELTS for how well you're able to write in terms of your grammar. So, on this task when you're looking at bar charts you're often asked to compare different things.

So in the case that we looked at before you had to compare Vancouver to Toronto to Montreal, but you might be comparing different things. Maybe you're comparing, you know, hobbies of men to hobbies of women. Or maybe you're looking at different ages and, you know, levels of schooling or something like that.

So you'll probably have to compare and contrast different things. So one thing you should know is how to make superlative sentences and comparative sentences. So as a reminder, superlatives is when you're comparing three things or more, you could be comparing three, four, five, six, 10, you use the superlative.

And what you're doing is you're saying out of those three things, which is the highest? Which is the lowest? Which is the greatest? Pretty much you can do it with anything.

For example, if you're looking at mountains, a superlative would be: Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. So superlatives have this ending, "est" and it also has "the" in front of it. Okay?

So what we were talking about with housing prices, Vancouver has the highest housing prices, as an example. You also have here "the least" and "the most". These are also superlatives. Then we have these things called comparatives.

We use comparatives when we're comparing two things. So superlatives, this, is for three or more; comparatives are when you're just comparing two different things.

So, for example, if we wanted to compare Montreal and Toronto, we could say:

"Toronto has a higher population than Montreal."

Or, you know, with housing prices:

"Montreal had a smaller increase than Toronto."


So the key here is you have "er" and you also have "than". So these are comparatives.

Another thing that you can really do to help your mark on the IELTS and your vocabulary is using different transition words for compare and contrast.

Compare is where you're saying how things are the same or similar.

Contrast is when you're saying how things are different.

So on the IELTS Task 1 you're going to have to say how things are similar and how things are different.

So, in terms of contrast we have some great examples of expressions here. You can use the words: "In contrast,".

So, for example: "Vancouver has very high housing prices. In contrast, Montreal has low housing prices." You can use the words: "On the contrary," in the same way as "In contrast,". You can also use the verb form of "different".

A lot of students don't know about this word, but I think it's great whenever you're doing comparisons. "Differ" is a verb and it means to be different from. So, for example: Toronto differs from Vancouver. Montreal differs from Toronto. It just means that there's a difference.

Notice also the preposition that comes after "differs". We say: "differs from" something. If I wanted to talk about apples and oranges: Apples differ from oranges. Okay?

So very good vocabulary here to use. We also have words for when we're talking about how things are similar, when we're comparing things. So we have the word "both". Both Toronto and Vancouver are great cities. Toronto and Montreal-sorry-are alike in many ways. They are similar. Toronto has had an increase in housing prices, similarly, Vancouver has had an increase. Okay?

So using these types of words can really help you in your mark in terms of your vocabulary and organization.

So, we've covered a lot today and you might be asking questions, like:

"Oh my god, comparatives and superlatives, ugh, I don't remember any of that."

Or you might be confused by it.

Similarly, with comparing contrast you might think: "Well, how do I use this in a sentence?"

Those are all very good questions, and I wanted to tell you that we have a lot of resources that can help you with that. So earlier in the video I talked about how you want to change the question into your own words. We have a video on how to do that about paraphrasing. When I talked about superlatives and comparatives, we have a video on that, on what they are and: How do we...? How do we write them? How do we do them correctly?

Compare and contrast, we have a great video on some expressions we can use when we compare

and some expressions we use when we contrast. So these extra videos are really good for this task, so I highly recommend watching them and really understanding how these things work.

So we've covered a lot today, and there's a lot more that you can study, so invite you to check out our website at www...

Ugh, sorry. www.engvid.com. There, you can actually find more resources on all sorts of different things from IELTS to pronunciation, to vocabulary, all sorts of great videos, and you can also try our quiz on bar graphs which can really help you practice everything you learned today.

So I hope you subscribe to my channel and I hope you keep watching.

Until next time, thanks for watching and take care.



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