How to Write an Academic Writing Task 1 Bar Graph Report

Writing a factual report on a bar graph is one of the most common types of questions asked during the IELTS Academic writing test. For this type of question, you will be presented with an image of a bar graph and asked to describe the main features of this graph by writing a formal report of 150 words. This type of task usually takes around 20 minutes and is worth one-third of your overall writing test score. There are around 5 common writing task 1 report types but in this particular article, we will only take a look at reports based on bar charts. IELTS writing task 1 bar charts usually represent the rate of change of certain variables with respect to time.  It’s important to be able to use the necessary vocabulary to express these changes in words. You might have to describe periods of sudden changes (both upwards and downwards) or periods of stability.

The bars are actually coloured rectangular blocks that represent certain variables that can be compared. They can be placed in a horizontal or vertical position.

While teaching in Singapore I developed a number of crucial steps that are necessary to produce a high scoring IELTS bar graph report. In this article, I will demonstrate how to follow these steps will for using the following sample question.

Analyse the question

Although 20 minutes might seem like too short an amount of time to waste on reading and analysing the questions, it is important to read the question carefully before analyzing the data. Doing this ensures that you answer the question fully, which is an integral part of your task achievement score. Every bar graph question consists of a brief description of the graphic, the instructions that tell you what you have to do along with the bar chart. The description gives us a good idea about the type of data we are about to see.

The question also gives us clear instructions on how to answer and what type of information is needed within our report. When analysing the visual information you should make sure you understand what each colour and axis represent. You also need to note down the main features of the graph and you should also take note of any comparisons that can be made between the bar graphs.

Plan your report

The next step would be to organize the information you have gathered during your question analysis and decide on how to layout the most useful pieces of information with your report.

The typical structure for a formal Bar graph report is as follows:

  1. Paragraph 1 – Introduction
  2. Paragraph 2 – Overview
  3. Paragraph 3 – 1st Main Feature
  4. Paragraph 4 – 2nd Main Feature

How to Write a Good Introduction

A great tip for writing a good introduction is to simply paraphrase the first sentence of the question. Try to reorder the words or use synonyms of the words mentioned in the question for example:

Question words: The chart shows components of GDP in the UK from 1992 to 2000

Our introduction is as follows:

The bar chart illustrates the gross domestic product generated from the IT and Service Industry in the UK from 1992 to 2000, measured in percentages.

How to Write an Overview Paragraph

An overview is basically a statement of the general trends found within a bar graph. You do not need to mention specific numbers or details in an overview and it is usually just one or two sentences long. It is sufficient just to summarize the overall trends. These trends can range from a downward or upward trend to an overall period of stability. For example:

Overall, it can be seen that both increased as a percentage of GDP, but IT remained at a higher rate throughout this time between 1992 and 2000

How to Write the Main Body paragraphs

For the 3rd and 4th paragraphs, you will extend the main ideas mentioned in paragraph 2. You simply need to add more details in the form of exact figures and information to support the main ideas/trends that were mentioned in your overview. Remember to compare and contrast features as well. When giving specific features, you have to write exact numbers/percentages and include as many details as you can. Since the exact numbers might be difficult to read, you can use words like around, about and approximately.

Sample Main Body Paragraphs:

At the beginning of the period, in 1992, the Service Industry accounted for 4 per cent of GDP, whereas IT exceeded this, at just over 6 per cent. Over the next four years, the levels became more similar, with both components standing between 6 and just over 8 per cent. IT was still higher overall, though it dropped slightly from 1994 to 1996.

However, over the following four years, the patterns of the two components were noticeably different. The percentage of GDP from IT increased quite sharply to 12 in 1998 and then nearly 15 in 2000, while the Service Industry stayed nearly the same, increasing to only 8 per cent. At the end of the period, the percentage of GDP from IT was almost twice that of the Service Industry.

If you find your English writing skills are lacking in any particular area, then it would be best to consider enrolling in a course. Having an experienced teacher will significantly impact the time it takes for you to prepare. It’s the fastest way to identify the areas of your English language skills that are holding you back from the result you need.



Jonathan has been teaching students to prepare for the IELTS and PTE Exams for more than 10+ years. He's taught English to students in various countries in the world including Singapore, China, Australia, Canada and Colombia.