Tagged: task 1

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:


top of page

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

😦 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:

🙂 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