Tagged: numbers

‘Other’ in IELTS Task 1

ūüė¶¬†Bakso was chosen by 60% of students, Martabak¬†by 20%, Siomay by 15%, and only 5% chose Other.


OK the problem here is that ‘other’ is rarely¬†used as a noun. Generally it is¬†used as a noun modifier: “other people”, “other things”, etc. In the above example, what¬†is the noun that is being modified by ‘other’? Well, all of the items in the chart belong to a class, or group, and the name of that group is usually given as a label on the chart. In any case we know that Bakso, Martabak, and Siomay are all different kinds of Asian fast food, so we can write:

ūüôā Bakso was chosen by¬†60% of students,¬†Martabak¬†by 20%, Siomay by 15%, and only 5% chose other kinds of Asian fast food.

‘Other’ is used as a noun in sociology, psychology and anthropology to identify and possibly¬†explain¬†‘something different from us’, either as individuals or as a society. In these contexts there is a related concept: ‘otherness’.


‘Stood at’ in a chocolate bar chart

In this post we’ll do¬†two¬†things.¬†First, you will read a text and complete (draw) a bar chart based on the text.¬†Next we’ll think about the use of ‘stood at’ in this kind of text, which is very similar to the writing you do in IELTS Task 1.

Reading (and drawing!)

  1. Copy this chart to a piece of paper:


  1. Read this article. As you read, complete the bar chart on your paper.
  2. Check your completed chart against mine.

Stood at

Now let’s notice how the writer uses¬†‘stood at’:

  1. The time frame in the ‘stood at’ phrase is past and finished.
  2. The number being described in the ‘stood at’ phrase (in this case the price of Freddos) remained the same for a significant period of time (in this case 3 years).
  3. The number is represented as a number (and not, for example, as a percentage).
  4. The number is subject to some kind of change throughout the period.
  5. The following structure is applied: subject + stood at + number + past time expression

Note that the time expression can also appear at the beginning:

past time expression + subject + stood at + number





















Completed chart:


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Games of the future? Perfect!

In IELTS Task 1 writing candidates are often required to make future predictions based on data in graphs, tables, and charts.

This can be an opportunity to display some sophisticated grammar, in particular the future perfect tense!

In a previous post I showed you how to use a phrase beginning by + time expression to build a sentence using past perfect tense. In fact we can take the same approach with other perfect tenses:


In this example we can say:

By 2020, sales of all devices will have increased.

Here I used the structure:

by + future time expression + subject + will + have + V3

We can then add other information in the usual manner using will for prediction:

By 2020, sales of all devices will have increased. Sales of the PS4 will be double sales for the Xbox One, which will in turn be three times sales for the Wii U.

Future perfect is very rarely used by native speakers because there are very few opportunities to use it!¬†This is one of the reasons why future¬†perfect, and indeed the other ‘perfect’ tenses, helps to increase your IELTS score for grammar in both writing and speaking.

Pay careful attention to the structure of future perfect and good luck with your future predictions in IELTS task 1!


Change in graphs, tables and charts


fast food 550

ūüė¶ In 2015 sales of all 3 types of fast food increased dramatically.

This is a common error. Unfortunately there is no information about change IN 2015, only FROM 2005 TO 2015:

ūüôā Between 2005 and 2015¬†sales of all 3 types of fast food increased dramatically.

If you are not specific about the time frame then your reporting of data will be inaccurate and you will receive a low score in IELTS for Task Achievement.

Before you write, decide exactly when the change happened and design a suitable time expression. These are the most commonly used:

  1. from time 1 to time 2
  2. between time 1 and time 2


How low can you go?

ūüė¶ Women having a first child¬†was¬†low in both years (1995 and 2005).

Women¬†was¬†low(?!) Here we have some subject / verb disagreement, and so I’m guessing that¬†it¬†was actually a different singular countable noun that was low, and not ‘women’!

ūüôā The percentage¬†of women having a first child¬†was¬†low in both years (1995 and 2005).

Your opening theme was ‘women’. If the women you mention¬†were¬†indeed low then¬†this could mean several things (click for captions):

When you’re describing numbers, you must¬†describe numbers. Remember that numbers are represented by statistics words: number, amount, percentage,rate, ratio, etc.¬†If you do not use one of these words then your writing becomes very difficult to follow, and obviously this affects your IELTS score.


Don’t forget the whole!

ūüė¶ The graph illustrates information about the results of a poll of theatregoers regarding disturbances during theatre performances. In general the 4 most disturbing problems are coughing, rustling sweet papers, whispering and arriving late. Their percentages stand at above 50%.

Thanks to the context setting at the start of the essay, I¬†can see that ‘50%’ means “50% of the ¬†theatregoers who took part in the poll.” But it’s not immediately obvious and I had to read the opening a second time to make sure I understood what you¬†meant. If a text is difficult to understand then it will receive a low score in IELTS for¬†coherence and cohesion. In the example above it can also affect your score for task achievement, because¬†you don’t really¬†say anything meaningful about ‘50%’. (See IELTS Task 1 Writing band descriptors)

A good strategy to introduce and develop percentages in IELTS Task 1 can be seen in this extract from an article in The Economist (analysis below):

Data collected by USC Annenberg (University of Southern California) demonstrate that the ‚Äúhyper-sexualisation‚ÄĚ of men in films has increased substantially in less than a decade. Of the 100 top-grossing films at the US box-office in 2007, 4.6% of male characters [1] were seen dressed in ‚Äúsexualised attire‚ÄĚ and 6.6% [2] were shown ‚Äúwith some nudity‚ÄĚ. In 2014 those figures stood at 8.0% and 9.1% [3]. 2013 marked the highest point of this trend¬†(the year that ‚ÄúMan of Steel‚ÄĚ, featuring Mr Cavill, was released), with 9.7% of male characters [4] shot in sexually alluring clothing, and 11.7% [5] taking some‚ÄĒor all‚ÄĒof their kit off on film.

That said, Mr Cavill and Mr Harington would do well to remember that these figures are paltry when compared to those of actresses. In 2014, 27.9% of female characters [6] wore ‚Äėsexy‚Äô clothing and 26.4% [7] exposed their chests, legs, or other body parts on camera: they are roughly three times more likely to be objectified on screen than men.


What is ‘good’ about this reporting of percentages?

[1] The first percentage is expressed using the following pattern:

x% + of + noun (‘male characters’) + verb (‘were seen dressed..’)

Notice that the reader knows exactly what is meant by ‘male characters thanks to the clear context setting of the opening sentence. Setting a context like this makes your writing¬†coherent. When you use this structure you explicitly state the¬†‘whole’ – in this case ‘male characters’.

[2] The second percentage obviously also applies to ‘male characters’, and so there is no need to repeat ‘..of male characters’.

[3] ‘Those figures’¬†signals back to the previous two percentages, which we understand refer to ‘male characters’. Notice the structure:

past time expression (‘In 2014’) + subject (‘those figures’) + ‘stood at‘ + x%

[4] ..follows the structure:

x%¬†+ of +¬†noun¬†(‘male characters’)

[5] is in the same sentence as [4], and so we can assume the figure also refers to ‘male characters’.

[6] ..follows the structure:

x%¬†+¬†of¬†+¬†noun¬†(‘female characters’).

We’re not surprised to read ‘female characters’ because this new context was set in the opening sentence of the paragraph. Again, this context setting makes your writing both cohesive and coherent since you explicitly state the whole (now ‘female characters’).

[7]¬†is in the same sentence as [6], and so we can assume the figure also refers to ‘female characters’, which is the new context of this second paragraph.

Whatever you do..

Make sure your first mention of a percentage includes an explicit reference to the whole:

x% + of + noun (the whole)

Would anybody like to try and re-write the text about theatregoers to make the ‘50%’ figure mean what it’s supposed to mean? Answers in comments below! ūüôā


PS. Another example of what I’m talking about just came to my attention:

Researchers¬†identified 990 fatal shootings in 2015¬†‚Äď more than twice as many as had ever been recorded in a single year by the federal government ‚Äď and Washington Post data journalists and graphic designers built an¬†interactive, searchable database¬†detailing those incidents.

A team of Washington Post reporters dug into the data and revealed that most of those who died were white men armed with guns who were killed by police in threatening circumstances. But The Post also uncovered some troubling patterns: A quarter of those killed were suicidal or had a history of mental illness. More than 50 of the officers involved had killed before. And while only 9 percent of people killed by police were not armed, unarmed black men were seven times more likely than whites to die by police gunfire.

source: Washington Post

Only 37% student?!

ūüė¶ AAS students which have just about 37% students, submit assignments on time.

Although the grammar is messy, you seem to be saying that AAS students are not completely AAS students Р63% of each AAS student is not an AAS student!?

Perhaps you mean:

ūüôā AAS students, who represent just about 37% of all students, submit assignments on time.

You are much more likely to make sense if¬†you construct a noun phrase in which your percentage number is followed by ‘of’:

x% + of + ‘the whole’(???)¬†+ verb + etc.

Make sure you state the ‘whole’ explicitly. For example if you are discussing male and female representation among students, then the ‘whole’ is students. If you want to say that 50% of students are female, do not write 50% of females are students. For a more detailed look at what I mean by the ‘whole’, take a look at my post Don’t forget the whole.

Use this structure with the first two or three numbers that apply to each new theme that you introduce and your reader will understand what the numbers refer to. You will also receive a good score in IELTS in all four criteria.