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The following pie charts show the results of a survey into the most popular leisure

activities in the United States of America in 1999 and 2009.

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

Step 1: seeing the big picture

The first step is to identify the main points of the two charts. This is not just an
important part of the task and your band score, it will also help you write your
description. The main points are normally obvious. Sometimes they are so obvious that
candidates ignore them. Look at these questions:
1. How many activities are there in each chart? Just count
2. Are the activities the same in each chart? Read the key
3. Are there any changes in popularity between the two years? Look at the colours
You should get these answers:
1. There are 8 activities for each year
2. 7 of 8 activities are the same
3. There are a number of differences in popularity between the two years.

Step 2: choose the details to include

There are 16 different figures you can include. This is too many. The task is to select and
report the most important details. This will include naming all the activities, but not all
the numbers. To do this, try looking for:
1. the biggest number
2. the smallest number
These are generally important details to include. You should also consider what changes
beween the two charts, not least because the task asks you to make comparisons. So, ask
1. whats gone up
2. whats gone down
3. what hasnt changed
4. whats new
Putting this together, we need these details:
1. walking is most popular in both periods
2. yoga disappears and weightlifting is new
3. swimming doubles
4. aerobics, jogging and cycling all fall
5. soccer and camping dont change much

These two pie charts show the changes in popularity of different leisure activities in the
United States of America between 1999 and 2009. We can see that the most
popular leisure activities were almost the same in both periods, but there were a number
of differences in popularity between the various activities.
It is clear that walking was the most popular activity in both 1999 and 2009,
with around 30% of Americans saying that they preferred it. Also, yoga was no longer
among the preferred activities in 2009, but weightlifting was chosen by 10% of people.
The second most popular activity was soccer at just under 20% in both years, a
figure that was matched by swimming in 2009, having almost doubled in
popularity over the previous decade. Most of the other activities became less
popular over the same period of time, with cycling, jogging and aerobics all falling by at
least a half to under 10%. The one exception to this trend was camping which
stayed almost unchanged at around 9%.
The diagram

Understanding the cycle what are the stages in it?

The first step is to remember that your goal
is to provide a clear summary of what the
diagram shows. This cycle is difficult in that
it has no obvious beginning or end. The idea
is to try and look and see if you can divide
the diagram into separate parts. This makes
it easier to write about than if you look at he
whole diagram at once. Put another way, I
ask myself if there are any stages within this
cycle I can use to structure my description.

The top tip is to look for visual clues and

here I see two distinct stages by looking at
the arrows: some point down and some point up.

1. The food chain: Looking at the central part of the

diagram, I see a row of arrows pointing
downwards. This shows how carbon from the
atmosphere is used by plants and animals. It is, if
you look closely, a food chain. The atmosphere
provides CO2 to plants which are eaten by insects
which are eaten by small animals which are then
eaten by larger animals. All I have to do now is put
this into decent English, trying not to repeat the
language of the diagram too much.

2. Return of CO2 to the atmosphere

The second part of the cycle is quite straight forward. There are on either side a set of
arrows pointing upwards to show the return of CO2 to the atmosphere. This shows me
that respiration, fuel consumption and waste products are the 3 ways in which CO2
returns to the atmosphere to complete the cycle.
Thinking vocabulary

This diagram gives you a certain of language. You have the choice of whether to repeat it
in your description or try and vary it. What you do here will depend on how well you
understand the diagram and the words. It is not an absolute disaster in this task if you
do repeat some of the words from the diagram as they are technical terms. You should,
however, try and find alternatives for the more general English words.

carbon dioxide: no alternative

atmosphere: no alternative

terrestrial and aquatic: either repeat the words, or if you understand them try land and

primary, secondary, tertiary: these mean first, second and third level

consumers: try the word eat or vary it to consume or consumption

respiration: this means breathing


This diagram shows how the carbon cycle works in nature. The first part of the cycle is
providing plants and animals on both land and sea with the carbon dioxide they need to
exist and the second part of the cycle is the return of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The first part of the cycle shows a food chain where plants and grasses absorb carbon
dioxide from the air. These plants are a food source for primary consumers such as
insects which are in turn eaten by the second level consumers, including smaller birds
and fish. At the end of this food chain are larger animals and mammals which use the
secondary level consumers as a source of carbon and food.
The second part of the cycle shows how there are two main ways in which carbon
dioxide is returned to the atmosphere. This can either happen as a result of living beings
breathing or consuming fuel, or as a product of the waste and remains from their death.
Reading a process diagram find the beginnings and ends

The first step in learning to write about a process diagram is to see where the
process starts and ends. Sometimes it is evident, frequently it is less so. This is
important information as it will help structure your writing. The obvious thing to
do is to start at the beginning and carry on until you get to the end.

An example

Where is the beginning here? The customer pays by credit card (item 1). Where is
the end? The merchant receives his money (item 7). We now know part of the
structure of our report.

Understand the different stages of the process

The next point is to try and understand how the process works. Typically, there will
be some problem in understanding the diagram: it is not always the case that
everything is in a natural order. The key is to stop and think and look. This is a
visual task and you need to look at all the visual clues. What you are looking for
are normally simple things. It is often a good idea to ask yourself the WH

In the diagram above, we see the following details:

there are 5 parties involved (the pictures) (WHO)

there are 7 stages in the process (the numbers) (HOW MANY)
some of the arrows point in two different directions this needs to be
item 4 seems to be out of order as it is next to 1

Find a way of organising your description

This is another thinking task. Before you start writing, you want to see if there is
some way to organise your report into paragraphs. This is not absolutely essential
but it can help the organisation of your writing. In the diagram above, there does
seem to be a logical solution, as the process falls in to two parts:

1. the customer receives his goods

2. the merchant gets his money
As this is the case, I am going to do the logical thing and divide my description
into two main paragraphs. One to describe the authorisation process until the
customer gets his/her money and one for the payment process until the merchant is

The introduction and conclusion

This is a key part of your description. What you need to do here is to give the
examiner an overall view of the process. Again, you want to ask yourself
questions, such as:

what happens as a result of this process?

is there any change involved?
how many stages are there in this process?
is there one simple process or are there variations within the process?
Typically, you will either write a longer introduction or add a conclusion. You will
not normally need both an extended introduction and conclusion.

The language of the description

Topic language

The process will normally be an everyday event that everyone is familiar with, you
should not need any specialised language. Sometimes, as in this example, you will
be given some topic vocabulary. If you are, be careful of two points:

1. try to vary the language if you can, but dont worry too much if you cant. It
may be that the language you are given is the correct topic language and there are
no, or few, variations
2. dont copy language incorrectly. If you are given a verb, you may need to
change it into a noun
Sequencing language

Some of the most important language you need is vocabulary to say in what order
things happen. It is important to have some variation here. Some very basic options


This diagram shows the different stages in the process of making a purchase with a
credit card. We can see that it is a complex transaction with no fewer than five
different parties involved and there are seven different steps until the merchant
receives payment.
The first step is that the customer offers to pay for the goods by credit card. At that
point, the merchant has to request for the payment to be authorised by the credit
card organisation, which must also request authorisation in turn from the
consumers bank. Once that authorisation has been received, the merchant can then
release the goods to the customer.
The merchant, however, does not receive the money for the transaction until it has
paid a fee to the credit card organisation. After that has been paid, the consumers
issuing bank will transfer the money for the transaction to the merchants own
bank, which will then credit the merchants bank account with the amount of
thepurchase less the credit card fee.

Two pie charts and a line graph farming in the UK

Understanding the question

The question is always the same for these charts and graphs:

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features,

making comparisons where relevant.

This means that when you look at the charts for the first time, you should ask

what are the main features?

how can I summarise them?
what are the comparisons?
How many paragraphs? Normally two

Before you write you want to decide how to organise the report. This means
deciding how many major paragraphs you will write. The answer is almost
always going to be two. If you only write one main paragraph, you wont be able
to make the main points clear. If you write three main paras, you are almost
certainly writing too much.
Here it should be clear that the line graph describes one kind of data and the two
pie charts another. Therefore you should write one para for the line graph and
another for the pie charts.

Line Graph
Finding the main points

This is the key stage. Remember the task is to summarise the main points and this
means selecting and not including absolutely everything. Very often the main
points are simple to see obvious things. Typically,there will only be 2/3 main
points per chart.


Look at the line graph and select the main points that you will use to organise your
writing. At this stage you are not looking for numbers, just patterns. The tip is to
think visually here, look for:

extremes (highs and lows) (beginnings and endings)

major changes (beginnings and endings again)
comparisons (what is the same,what different) (which is greater,which
See my ideas

Finding supporting detail

The next step is to decide what details you want to include. Again, you want to
select here and not include all the detail. The details you choose should support the
main points.


Which numbers will you include in the report? These should support the main
points above.

See my ideas

Pie charts

Finding the main points

When you have two charts with similar data, you should automatically look for
comparisons between the two. The main questions to be asked are:
1. What has changed?
2. What is the same?
See my ideas

The details grouping information

The challenge here is not to simply list all the data.One way to do this is to group
similar bits of info together. In this case,

potatoes and barley belong together

wheat and corn belong together
If you can do this, then you will avoid some repetition and summarise more


These charts show the changes in the number of dairy and arable farms in the UK
and the changes in the arable crops grown between 2006 and 2011

The line graphs show that there were almost twice as many dairy farms as arable
farms throughout this period, with the numbers fluctuating around 2000 farms and
1000 farms respectively. However, this difference did narrow by 2011, when the
number of dairy farms had fallen from 2000 to approximately 1900, while arable
farms had risen slightly to just under 1000. Although arable farming fluctuated
only slightly, there was a steady decrease in dairy farms from 2007 onwards from a
high of around 2050.

The pie charts show that while there were the same five main crops in 2006 and
2011, there was a notable change in the proportion of these crops. In 2006, wheat
and corn accounted for just over and under one third of arable farming respectively,
with potatoes, rape seed and barley all around 10%. By 2011, however, almost a
quarter of arable farmland was devoted to rape seed and corn and wheat were
around 5% less common than before. There was little or no change in potatoes and
In conclusion, the main changes were the growth of rape seed farming and the fall
in dairy farms.

Sample task
The bar chart below shows the different
types of accommodation chosen by the
British when they went on holiday in
2012. Summarise the information by
selecting and reporting the main features,
and make comparisons where relevant
Analysing the key details

Dont look at the whole chart, look at the x axis and the y axis separately

The first step is to analyse the chart carefully. Dont rush this stage. One way to
do this is by asking yourself some simple questions. Ask yourself which is the
biggest/longest? Are there any patterns? As you do this I suggest that you

dont worry about names of countries and types of accommodation. Think colours
and lengths. Look dont read.

look at each element one by one. It can be very confusing of you look at the chart
as a whole.

look at the extremes (the biggest/the smallest) first they are almost always

look for patterns these are also important. Note that a pattern can have
note exceptions these are also details you want to include.

My conclusion from this is that we must state:

hotels were the most common form of accommodation at over 50%

self-catering was second most popular (just below 30%) but there is one
major exception
caravan and camping holidays were typically least popular (around 10%) but
again there was an exception
England, Scotland and Wales follow a broadly similar pattern (Scotland is
only slightly different)
the popularity of caravanning in Northern Ireland needs to be highlighted

Organising the report choose the simplest option

There is always more than one way to organise a report. In the exam you are under
time pressure, so it makes sense to choose the simplest option. Here the 2 main
choices you have are:

go through each type of accommodation (the y axis option)

go through the countries (the x axis option)

My choice would be to use the countries. There are only 4 of them and 3 of those
are very similar and it seems natural and easy to group England, Scotland and
Wales together. Northern Ireland is the odd one out.

This answer is not perfect. It is not meant to be. Rather you should note how it is
logically organised, grouping similar information together. There is one
paragraph for England, Scotland and Wales showing the main pattern. I start by
noting the most evident feature of the chart. I also use England as a model and then
compare the situation in Wales and Scotland. Then there is a separate paragraph for
Northern Ireland, highlighting the key exception.

This bar chart shows illustrates the holiday accommodation chosen by people in
the United Kingdom in 2010. Generally, it is possible to say that the English,
Scottish, Northern and Welsh made very similar choices and that hotels were much
the most popular form of accommodation.

In all four countries approximately half the people chose to stay in hotels. This
figure was highest in England at around 55%, almost twice the number of people
who cooked for themselves (27% of the sample) and far greater than the number
who stayed in campsites (12%) and finally caravans (6%). A similar pattern was
repeated for the Scots and the Welsh. In each case, around 50% of holidaymakers
went to hotels with around 30% in self-catering apartments. The one difference
being that caravan holidays at 12% were twice as popular as camping holidays in
Scotland, while the opposite pattern could be seen in Wales.

The one country that shows a different pattern is Northern Ireland. It is notable
how there just over 30% of the population chose caravan holidays in preference to
self-catering accommodation and camping (both around 12%).