• christopherianwils

IELTS Bar Chart-Step by Step Guide

Updated: Jul 27

There are 5 steps to writing a good IELTS bar chart response:

1) Analyse the question

2) Identify the main features

3) Write an introduction

4) Write an overview

5) Write the details paragraphs

Steps 1 and 2 of the planning process should take around 5 minutes. It is essential that you don’t miss these out as they are the key to writing a high-scoring essay.

Before we begin, here’s a model essay structure that you can use as a guideline for all IELTS Academic Task 1 questions.

Ideally, your essay should have 4 paragraphs:

Paragraph 1 – Introduction

Paragraph 2 – Overview

Paragraph 3 – details

Paragraph 4 – details

Now that we have all these tools we need, we’re ready to begin planning and writing


The bar chart below shows the sector contributions to India’s gross domestic product from 1960 to 2000.

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

Write at least 150 words.

Contribution as % of India's GDP


Step 1 – Analyse the question

The format of every Academic Task 1 question is the same. Here is our practice question again with the words that will be included in all questions highlighted.

The bar chart below shows the sector contributions to India’s gross domestic product from 1960 to 2000.

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

Every question consists of:

  • Sentence 1 – A brief description of the graphic

  • Sentence 2 – The instructions

  • The graphic – chart, graph, table, etc.


Sentence 2 tells you what you have to do.

You must do 3 things:

1. Select the main features.

2. Write about the main features.

3. Compare the main features.


All three tasks refer to the ‘main features’ of the graphic. You do not have to write about everything. Just pick out 2 or 3 key features and you’ll have plenty to write about.

Our practice graphic is a dynamic bar chart. That is, it includes a timeline giving data from several different points in time.

So, for this question, we need to identify the main trends (that is, the general developments or changes in situation) in the three key sectors of the Indian economy – agriculture, industry and service – between 1960 and 2000.

Alternatively, a bar chart may be static with the data coming from one point in time, as in the example below. For this graphic, we would need to compare the different variables, that is, the different leisure activities favoured by Canadian boys and girls.


Step 2 – Identify the Main Features

The graphic in IELTS bar chart questions should not be difficult to interpret. Each question has been created to test your language skills, not your mathematics ability.

All you are looking for are the main features. These will usually be the easiest things to spot. As we’ve just seen, the type of key features will depend on whether the bar chart is dynamic or static.

There will be lots of information in the graphic to help you identify them. Here are some useful questions to ask?


  • What information do the 2 axes give?

  • Is it dynamic or static?

  • What are the units of measurement?

  • What are the time periods?

  • What can you learn from the title and any labels?

  • What is the most obvious trend?

  • Are there any notable similarities?




So, what main features stand out in our practice graphic?

There are 3 main features/trends in this IELTS bar chart:

Main feature 1: The contribution of the agricultural sector dropped steadily.

Main feature 2: The contribution of the service sector increased each decade.

Main feature 3: Industry remained static from 1980 to 2000.


Step 3 – Write an Introduction


In the introduction, you should simply paraphrase the question, that is, say the same thing in a different way. You can do this by using synonyms and changing the sentence structure. For example:

Question:

The bar chart below shows the sector contributions to India’s gross domestic product from 1960 to 2000.


Introduction (Paragraph 1):

The bar chart illustrates the relative percentage contributions made by the agricultural, industrial and service sectors to the Indian economy between 1960 and 2000.

This is all you need to do for the introduction.


Step 4 – Write an Overview (Paragraph 2)

In the second paragraph, you should report the main features you can see in the graph, giving only general information. The detail comes later in the essay. You should also make any clear comparisons you spot.

This is where we write about the general trends. Here are the ones we picked out above.


Main feature 1: The contribution of the agricultural sector dropped steadily.

Main feature 2: The contribution of the service sector increased each decade.

Main feature 3: Industry remained static from 1980 to 2000.


Now form these ideas into two or three sentences with a total of around 40 words. State the information simply using synonyms where possible. No elaborate vocabulary or grammar structures are required, just the appropriate words and correct verb tenses.

For example:

Overview (Paragraph 2):

Overall, the significance of agriculture declined steadily while services grew in importance decade by decade. A different pattern emerged for industry, which initially showed a slowly increasing percentage but then plateaued from 1980 onwards.


Step 5 – Write the 1st Detail Paragraph


Paragraphs 3 and 4 of your IELTS bar chart essay are where you include more detailed information about the data in the graphic. In paragraph 3, you should give evidence to support your first 1 or 2 key features. Don’t forget to make comparisons when relevant.

Here are our first 2 main features again:

Main feature 1: The contribution of the agricultural sector dropped steadily.

Main feature 2: The contribution of the service sector increased each decade.


And this is an example of what you could write:

Paragraph 3:

In 1960, agriculture contributed by far the highest percentage of GDP, peaking at 62%, but it then dropped in steady increments to a low of 12% in 2000. The service sector, on the other hand, had a relatively minor impact on the economy in 1960. This situation changed gradually at first, then its percentage contribution jumped from 28% to 43% between 1980 and 1990. By 2000 it matched the high point reached by agriculture in 1960, showing a reversal in the overall trend.


Step 6 – Write the 2nd Detail Paragraph


For the fourth and final paragraph, you do the same thing for your remaining feature/s. We have one main feature left to write about.

Main feature 3: Industry remained static from 1980 to 2000.


Here’s an example of what you could write:

Paragraph 4:

Industry remained a steady contributor to India’s wealth throughout the period. As a sector, it grew marginally from 16% in 1960 to exactly a quarter in 1980 then remained static for the next two decades, maintaining a constant share of the overall GDP.



Here is what the full answer looks like:

The bar chart below shows the sector contributions to India’s gross domestic product from 1960 to 2000.

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

Write at least 150 words.

Contribution as % of India's GDP


The bar chart illustrates the relative percentage contributions made by the agricultural, industrial and service sectors to the Indian economy between 1960 and 2000.


Overall, the significance of agriculture declined steadily while services grew in importance decade by decade. A different pattern emerged for industry, which initially showed a slowly increasing percentage but then plateaued from 1980 onwards.


In 1960, agriculture contributed by far the highest percentage of GDP, peaking at 62%, but it then dropped in steady increments to a low of 12% in 2000. The service sector, on the other hand, had a relatively minor impact on the economy in 1960. This situation changed gradually at first, then its percentage contribution jumped from 28% to 43% between 1980 and 1990. By 2000 it matched the high point reached by agriculture in 1960, showing a reversal in the overall trend.


Industry remained a steady contributor to India’s wealth throughout the period. As a sector, it grew marginally from 16% in 1960 to exactly a quarter in 1980 then remained static for the next two decades, maintaining a constant share of the overall GDP.




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