IELTS Grammar for Academic Task 1 (Graphs)
Like most people, describing a graph is probably something new for you.
Luckily, IELTS grammar for Academic Task 1 graphs requires a narrow range, so focusing on grammar rules isn’t necessary.
Instead, I’ll teach you what to say and when to say it.
This lesson covers;
If you’re new to the IELTS test, check out this overview by Cambridge.
Otherwise, let’s see how to get a high score in grammar for IELTS.
IELTS Grammar: Tenses
Present Simple Passive
We can use present simple passive with any graph.
We can use it even if the chart shows data from the past, the present or the future.
To do this, we describe what we see on the chart.
So if this is the question;
We can say;
- It can be seen that broccoli imports increased throughout the period. (used with past simple)
- Broccoli imports are shown to have increased throughout the period. (used with perfect infinitive)
- Broccoli imports are seen to have decreased by the end of the period. (used with perfect infinitive)
I would only recommend using this grammar for IELTS Task 1 one or two times.
Any more than that wouldn’t be natural.
Sometimes you’ll get a question in the Academic Writing Task 1 test that doesn’t state any year.
Here is an example of a question like this.
When there’s no year, assume the graph is based on current data and use the present simple.
This will ensure you’re accurate, which is necessary for a high IELTS grammar score.
Here are some example sentences;
- In Qatar, spinach is the most imported vegetable, whereas garlic imports are the highest for Oman.
- Qatar and Oman both import 300 tonnes of ginger.
- The imports of broccoli in Qatar and Oman are 220 and 300 tonnes respectively.
Past simple is the most common tense in grammar for IELTS Academic Task 1 because most charts show data from the past.
Here’s what one of these questions looks like;
Here are some example sentences;
- In Qatar, spinach was the most imported vegetable, whereas garlic imports were the highest for Oman.
- Qatar and Oman both imported 300 tonnes of ginger.
- The imports of broccoli in Qatar and Oman were 220 and 300 tonnes respectively.
Will & Going to
Sometimes the graph will have predictions for the future.
Using ‘will’ or ‘going to’ is not suitable for these types of predictions, so we never use these tenses to describe an Academic Task 1 graph.
Instead, we use;
- is expected to
- is forecast to
- is predicted to
- is projected to
- is shown to
So here’s a chart with predictions until 2040.
And to keep your IELTS grammar score high, use one of the phrases above. Here’s an example;
- Qatari imports of ginger are expected to increase to approximately 400 tonnes in 2040.
When a graph has predictions for the future, we might also need present perfect.
This is because graphs with future predictions often have data for the current year.
Here’s an example based on the chart above;
- This year, the imports of ginger have increased to roughly 300 tonnes.
If you use the preposition ‘by‘ to reference a year on the chart, past perfect is required to maintain accuracy and keep your IELTS grammar score high.
So for this graph;
The example is;
- The imports of garlic started at about 300 tonnes and by 2020 had increased to around 400 tonnes.
As you can see, the required grammar for IELTS Task 1 includes most of the tenses.
IELTS Grammar: Prepositions
Improving your accuracy of prepositions is a lot like learning vocabulary.
As you need to use them accurately, you must learn whole phrases instead of single words.
This is because a certain level of accuracy in your grammar for IELTS Writing is essential.
The most common preposition phrases in IELTS grammar are outlined below.
Prepositions for Any Graph
Some graphs show you data for just one year, and others show you data for several years. Below are examples of each type.
In both questions, you can see the figure for Qatar spinach imports in 1990.
The following descriptions are suitable for both charts;
- In Qatar, the amount of spinach imported in 1990 was 450 tonnes.
- In Qatar, 450 tonnes of spinach were imported in 1990.
- In Qatar, spinach imports had a figure of 450 tonnes in 1990.
- In Qatar, the figure for spinach was 450 tonnes in 1990.
- In Qatar, the figure was 450 tonnes for spinach in 1990.
However, the preposition phrases in the rest of this lesson are only used when the chart displays two or more years.
This means that the language below is not suitable for the question above about Qatar and Oman in 1990.
As long as there is more than one year, they are suitable for any graph such as the four questions.
Prepositions for Describing Data
Data in the First Year
- Pea imports began at 150 tonnes.
- Pea imports started the period at 150 tonnes.
- Pea imports started with 150 tonnes.
Data in Any Two Years
- Spinach imports decreased from about 450 tonnes in 2000 to about 400 tonnes in 2010.
- There was a decrease in spinach imports going from about 450 tonnes in 2000 to about 400 tonnes in 2010.
- From 2000 to 2010, spinach imports decreased by about 50 tonnes.
- From 2000 to 2010, spinach imports had a decrease of about 50 tonnes.
- In 2000, spinach imports were about 450 tonnes, and there was a decrease in 2010 of about 50 tonnes.
Data in the Final Year
- Garlic imports ended the period with 400 tonnes.
- Garlic imports ended the period at 400 tonnes.
- Garlic imports ended the period on 400 tonnes.
- Garlic imports ended the period with a final figure of 400 tonnes.
- Garlic continued to increase to reach 400 tonnes at the end of the period.
Prepositions for Describing Which Year
The Whole Time Period
- The amount of broccoli being imported increased during the entire time period.
- The amount of broccoli being imported increased over the entire time period.
- The amount of broccoli being imported increased throughout the entire time period.
- The amount of broccoli being imported increased from the start until the end of the period.
- The amount of broccoli being imported increased for every year shown.
The First or Final Year
- 500 tonnes of spinach was imported at the start of the period.
- 350 tonnes of spinach was being imported at the end of the period.
- 350 tonnes of spinach was being imported by the end of the period.
- The figures for spinach continued to decrease to end the period with 350 tonnes.
Describing Two Years
- Ginger imports were 250 tonnes in 1980 and 310 tonnes in 2000.
- Ginger imports were 250 tonnes in 1980, and, after 20 years, had increased to 310.
- There was a 60-tonne increase in ginger imports between 1980 and 2000.
- There was a 60-tonne increase in ginger imports from 1980 to 2000.
Describing Between Two Years
- In 1980, about 250 tonnes of ginger was imported, and, over the next 20 years, this figure increased to around 310. It then decreased for the second half of the period to finish with approximately 260 tonnes.
- In 1980, about 250 tonnes of ginger was imported, and this figure increased until 2000, reaching around 310. It then decreased for the second half of the period to finish with approximately 260 tonnes.
The prepositions listed above will ensure you have enough range to get a high Grammatical Range and Accuracy score for any graph question.
The preposition phrases above include enough range in your grammar for IELTS examiners to give you a high Grammatical Range and Accuracy score.
However, if the prepositions above are too difficult for you, try this lesson by IDP.
IELTS Grammar: Punctuation
The standard punctuation rules apply in the IELTS Writing test.
However, there is a very common mistake in grammar for IELTS Academic Task 1.
The legend in the question always capitalizes the first letter of each category.
I’ve highlighted what I’m referring to in this graph.
Make sure that you don’t copy those capital letters and just follow standard punctuation rules.
Here’s an example.
- Broccoli, garlic, pea and ginger imports had increased by the end of the period, whereas spinach imports had decreased.
IELTS Grammar: Superlatives
I’m sure you already know about superlatives, but I have some important information about grammar for IELTS Academic Task 1.
Firstly, knowing how to use superlatives accurately is essential.
Next, beyond a doubt, the most common superlatives you’ll need are; the largest, the biggest, the smallest, the highest and the lowest.
However, the appropriate superlative depends on the question, so adapt your vocabulary appropriately.
There are also some common mistakes that IELTS candidates make in this grammar area. These include;
- Using incorrect terms like ‘the top position‘ or ‘first place‘ instead of the appropriate superlative.
- Forgetting to hyphenate terms like ‘second–highest‘ or ‘third–lowest‘.
- Forgetting to include a definite article. For example, ‘Spinach was the highest.’
I’ve also included useful vocabulary to use with superlatives in the example sentences below for this chart.
- In 1980, spinach had the highest figure, but garlic replaced it as the biggest import by 2020.
- In 1980, spinach had the highest figure, but it was replaced by garlic as the biggest import by 2020.
- In 1980, spinach had the highest figure, but by 2020, it had become the second-highest.
- In 2020, garlic accounted for the most weight being imported.
- In 2020, garlic was the vegetable with the most weight being imported.
- In 2020, the vegetable that accounted for the most weight being imported was garlic.
- Of the five vegetables, garlic had the most weight being imported in 2020.
To get a high score in Task 1 requires a narrow range of vocabulary and grammar when describing graphs.
This means that you already have a sufficient range by combining what you’ve learned in this lesson, the Task 1 cohesive device lesson and the Task 1 vocabulary lesson.
The next thing is to make sure you have the accuracy.
If you just need to improve your grammatical accuracy in a few areas, my strategy to improve grammar would be a better option for you.
If you’re weak in grammar, the grammar section of the British Council’s website would be a good place for you to go next.
Also, if you’re not familiar with how IELTS grammar is assessed, you can see the official description here.
As Task 1 and Task 2 are marked in the same way, you can gain a deeper understanding from my lesson about how IELTS examiners decide your score.
You can also use this activity by British Council to practise grammatical accuracy and complex structures to improve your IELTS grammar score.
Of course, you’ll also need to understand the requirements of Task Achievement in Academic IELTS Task 1 so don’t miss that lesson, or the lessons for overviews, writing the answer, maps and processes.
If you ever need to review this lesson, you’ll find all the same language with different examples in this video.