• christopherianwils

IELTS Table Chart Step by Step

Updated: Jul 27

Here’s our practice question:

The tables below give the distribution of the world population in 1950 and 2000, with an estimate of the situation in 2050.

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

Write at least 150 words.


Step 1 – Analyse the question

The format of every Academic Task 1 question is the same, with the instruction sentence (highlighted below) identical in every question. Here is our practice question again.

The tables below give the distribution of world population in 1950 and 2000, with an estimate of the situation in 2050.

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.

Step 2 – Identify the Main Features

Some students find IELTS table chart questions more difficult to interpret than other types of graphic as they are just sets of numbers with no visual representation. However, they are not as complicated as they may at first look. Remember, the IELTS exam is designed to test your language skills, not your mathematics ability.

All you are looking for are the main features. However, this can be a challenge as tables generally contain a lot of information, making it difficult to pick out the key features. Use the information in the graphic to help you identify them.

Here are some useful questions to ask?

  • 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 information is contained in our table?

The key to understanding it is to use the clues given in the title, the row and column headings and the units of measurement.

For example, the title of the table tells us that it shows changes in world population from 1950 to projected levels in 2050.

The world is divided into regions (Africa, Asia, etc.) and data is given for three specific years – 1950, 2000 and projected data for 2050. This is a clue that we will need to use past, present and future tenses in our essay.

In the first table, the units of measurement are billions of people and in the second table, percentages of the total world population are used.

Don’t look at the numbers in detail at this stage. Instead, focus on general trends. What are the most notable changes in data between 1950 and projected figures for 2050?

There are a number of different features we could select from this IELTS table chart. Here are the three that I’ve chosen:

Main feature 1: The only region where the percentage is expected to increase by 2050 is Africa.

Main feature 2: Europe is expected to have the greatest drop in percentage contribution by 2050.

Main feature 3: The only region showing a fluctuation in percentage contribution over the whole time period is Asia.

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 tables below give the distribution of the world population in 1950 and 2000, with an estimate of the situation in 2050.


Introduction (Paragraph 1):

The table compares changes in worldwide population distribution between the six key regions from 1950 to 2000, with predictions for the year 2050.


Step 4 – Write an Overview (Paragraph 2)

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

Here are the key features we picked out above.


Main feature 1: The only region where the percentage is expected to increase by 2050 is Africa.

Main feature 2: Europe is expected to have the greatest drop in percentage contribution by 2050.

Main feature 3: The only region showing a fluctuation in percentage contribution over the whole time period is Asia.

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 only region where the percentage contribution is expected to increase by 2050 is Africa, while Europe is expected to have the greatest drop in proportion over the same time span. The sole continent showing a fluctuation in percentage contribution over the hundred-year period is Asia.

Step 5 – Write the 1st Detail Paragraph

Paragraphs 3 and 4 of your IELTS table 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 1or 2 key features. Don’t forget to make comparisons where relevant.

Here are the first two again:

Main feature 1: The only region where the percentage is expected to increase by 2050 is Africa.

Main feature 2: Europe is expected to have the greatest drop in percentage contribution by 2050.


And this is an example of what you could write:

Paragraph 3:

From a relatively small percentage contribution of 9% in 1950, the people of Africa are forecast to make up a fifth of the total world population by 2050. This is almost a reversal of the situation for Europe which stood at 22% in 1950 and is expected to continue its steady decline to reach just 7% in 2050.


Step 6 – Write the 2nd Detail Paragraph

For the fourth and final paragraph, you do the same thing for your remaining key features.

Main feature 3: The only region showing a fluctuation in percentage contribution over the whole time period is Asia.


Here’s an example of what you could write:

Paragraph 4:

Another notable trend can be seen in the data for Asia which is the only region to show an increase in proportion contribution over the first fifty years but the prediction of a decline, albeit small, looking forward to 2050. The remaining regions, North America, Latin America and Oceania each make up less than 10% of the total world population and show only minor fluctuations in contribution over the whole time period.


It’s best to mention all the regions if at all possible but you could get away with missing out the last sentence.

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