Tagged: task 1

Comprise or consist?

😦 Overall, the tap comprise of many parts.

This is an easy one to get wrong. Your options here are:

  • Overall, the tap comprises many parts.
  • Overall, the tap is comprised of many parts.
  • Overall, the tap consists of many parts.

..but NOT comprise of!



Blah changed, resulting in blah!

😦 Sales increased dramatically reached 2,000 in July.

So, this is obviously bad grammar because there are 2 verbs in the same clause: increased and reached. There are three possible corrections:

1. Separate sentences

The easiest solution would be to put verbs increased and reached into separate sentences:

🙂 Sales increased dramatically. They reached 2,000 in July.

2. Conjunction

Another approach would be to use comma + conjunction (‘and’) to join two clauses together:

🙂 Sales increased dramatically, and reached 2,000 in July.

3. Comma + __ing

A third solution is to use comma + ___ing.

🙂 Sales increased dramatically, reaching 2,000 in July.

This last example is little used by lower level IELTS candidates but very common in native speaker speaking and writing, particularly when describing statistical changes over time. It’s especially useful when you want to include the result of a series of changes:

Sales increased dramatically but then remained steady, finishing at 10,000 at the end of the period.

Ultimately you want to aim for variety in your grammar, and so aim to use a mix of all three structures in your writing.

Fancy a challenge?

Take a look at the highlighted area of the graph below. Can you describe what’s happening using the three structures that I have demonstrated? Answers in the comments box below!

comma __ing exercise



Trends can make you ill

😦 Australians who disagreed or remained neutral had an upward trend during the period.

I mentioned in a previous post that ‘trend’ is a dangerous word and perhaps best avoided because:

  1. it is usually redundant
  2. it carries with it unusual collocation that does not translate easily from other languages

The wrong collocation can cause meaning to change. In the example above, ‘upward trend’ sounds like some kind of illness, which is something that we ‘have’, for example “I had a cold last week.” We might imagine the following conversation:

You: Sorry I missed our appointment yesterday. I had an upward trend.
Your friend: Sorry to hear that. I hope you’re feeling better!


Once again, it’s possible, and usually preferable to describe a trend without using the word ‘trend’. Avoid it!


In(the) first place

😦 In the first place is over-grazing, which caused 35% of land degradation.

Not a terrible ‘error’ – we know what you mean! But still, it’s important to understand the distinction between ‘in first place’ and ‘in the first place’.

In IELTS Task 1 writing we often find ourselves ranking items as follows:

🙂 In first place is over-grazing, which caused 35% of land degradation. Meanwhile in second place, 20% of land degradation was caused by deforestation.

But what if you’re listing rather than ranking? Let’s say, for example, that you’re listing supports for an argument. In this case you need ‘in the first place’, ‘in the second place’, etc.:

🙂 Mr Jones cannot be the one who stole your car. In the first place he was in a different city when the car was stolen, and secondly he is blind!

In this case ‘in the first place’ means ‘as the first consideration’. It’s often used to introduce reasons that should be obvious but may need to be emphasised, as in the above example. Notice that it is unusual to continue ‘in the second place’, ‘in the third place’, etc. Better to switch to ‘secondly’, ‘thirdly’, and so on.

To sum up..

  • ‘In first place..’ is useful in Task 1 writing (for ranking)
  • ‘In the first place..’ is useful in Task 2 writing (for emphasising reasons)

TIP! If you’re doing this in IELTS Speaking, it can sometimes help you to structure an argument if you count off items using your fingers, perhaps under the table!



PS. See also my earlier post dealing with ‘in second place’ instead of ‘second winner’ (which does NOT mean ‘in second place’!).

The widespread misuse of ‘widespread’

😦 The widespread of this crime can be reduced by imposing stricter penalties.

‘Widespread’ is an adjective, not a noun. Nouns used in this context might include  ‘incidence’, or indeed ‘spread’. These we might classify as ‘statistics nouns’, which are particularly useful in IELTS Task 1 writing.

‘Widespread’ as complement:

🙂 This crime is widespread. However, its spread can be reduced by imposing stricter penalties.

‘Widespread’ as noun modifier:

🙂 Widespread criminality can be reduced by imposing stricter penalties.

And if you’re interested in ‘spreading’ and need a laugh, check out ‘manspreading‘!


‘Other’ in IELTS Task 1

😦 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:

🙂 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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