IELTS Writing Tip 4: “Avoid phrasing problems”

Can hamburgers increase? Can fish fall?





When you are analysing your task 1 before you write about it, look very carefully to identify what the subject is i.e. what is it exactly that is being measured?

A common mistake when writing about IELTS graphs in task 1 of the test is to get the subject wrong.

The first graph is about the consumption of fast foods, not ‘hamburgers’, ‘fish and chips’ and ‘pizza’. These are labels used to describe the lines in the graph. Very often these labels have to be modified in order to be used correctly, for example ‘pizza’ should be ‘the consumption of pizza’.


Here’s another example. Look at the sample graph below.


Do you sometimes write sentences like these?

In general it can be seen that company A and company B decreased while company C increased.

In year 2000, company A stood as the highest in waste, which was 12 tonnes.

Company C increased and became the most of waste production in 2015.


The three sentences do not contain grammar errors. However, if you look at them again, none of the sentences are accurate in meaning. The companies are not going anywhere. They are neither increasing nor decreasing. Company A did not stand as the tallest and company C did not become waste.


It is very easy to make phrasing mistakes like these as you focus mostly on the lines and the categories that describe the lines. However, if you shift your focus on the y axis, you would clearly see what the graph is about. An easy way to make sure that you understand the graph correctly is by taking one number from the graph and then describing it. For example, look at the end of the green line: company B, year 2015, the number is three. Three of what? Three tonnes of waste produced. By who? By company B. when? In 2015. So, you could say: There were 3 tonnes of waste produced by company B in 2015. So, all the numbers in the line graph represents how many tones of waste produced by company A, B, and C from 2000 to 2015. There you have your introduction sentence. Keep this method in mind while analyzing and reporting the main features of the graph and you will have no problem in phrasing.




Below are some examples of sentences taken from IELTS graphs where the subject is wrong. At the end of the sentence in brackets is a word which is missing.

Have a go at writing the corrected sentence in the box using the word (you may have to add in some more information such as ‘the number of’ or change the form of the missing word).

  1. Cinema’s increased from 2000 to 2005. (attendance)
  2. Saudi Arabia fell significantly to 270 million barrels a year. (oil production).
  3. 2000 to 2010 saw DVDs drop from 70% to 60%. (purchased).