How to Answer a Bar Chart Question for IELTS Writing Task 1

A bar chart presents categorical data with rectangular bars with heights or lengths proportional to the values that they represent. This is one of the seven most frequent question types for your IELTS Writing Task 1 exam.

 

On this page, you will find a complete discussion on IELTS Task 1 Bar Chart question. The discussion will proceed under the following 7 major steps:

  1. Analyse the question

  2. Identify the major features

  3. Remember the 4 paragraph structure

  4. Paraphrase the question sentence

  5. Write an Overview paragraph

  6. Write the Body paragraph 1

  7. Write the Body paragraph 2

In fact, we are going to use this 7 Step Strategy for all the question types for Academic IELTS Writing Task 1. Remember this 7 Step Strategy. It's quite simple. Start applying this method in your writing. You will see the benefit for sure. However, if you need our help with a guaranteed 7+ band score in Writing, just click here

Let's go through the example question below, and see how we prepare the answer applying our 7 Step Strategy.

Example

IELTS Writing Task 1 Bar Chart Question

Source: Cambridge English IELTS Past Papers

1. Analysing the Question

We need to find three major areas in the question sentence: 

  • Topic Words / Keywords (General area of the question topic)

  • Micro Keywords (It helps us prepare a specific answer, rather than being general)

  • Action Words (The words that tell you what you need to do)

Topic Words: waste collection by a recycling centre

Micro Keywords: Paper, Glass, Tins, Gardens; (2011 - 2015, 5 years in a row)

Action Words: Compare (Action words are the words that call for action. However, these words might not always be stated directly, in that case you need to understand what the examiner is expecting from you. For example, if there are more than one diagram or data set or the graphical bar as in this question, you can just go for comparing the major features).

After completing the question analysis part, we need to find the major features in the diagrams.

2. Identifying the Major Features

  • Except 2013, Paper Waste was always the highest amount

  • Except 2013, Glass was always the 2nd highest

  • Tins and Gardens were always 3rd and 4th respectively

  • Total waste collection in a year: 196 tones (2015, top), 176 (2011, 2nd), and 133(2012, lowest)

3. Remembering the Essay Structure

We can complete the essay using only 11 sentences! Yes, it is that much simple! Take a look how we place the 11 sentences in our 4 paragraph essay.

 

1. Paraphrasing the Question Sentence

Paraphrase the question statement using just one or two sentences. 

 

2. Overview Paragraph

Sentence 1: summary statement 1(preview of the essay without presenting data)

Sentence 2: summary statement 2 (more preview without presenting data)

Sentence 3: outline sentence (State how the discussion will proceed.)

 

3. Body Paragraph 1

Sentence 1: first major point

Sentence 2: second major point

Sentence 3: extension sentence 1 (compare/combine the major points stated above)

Sentence 4: extension sentence 2 (extension of the previous sentence, or adding an exceptional feature).

4. Body Paragraph 2

Sentence 1: exceptional feature 

Sentence 2: extension of the exceptional feature

Sentence 3: final sentence (wrapping-up the whole essay, completely based on the discussion above, nothing new)

Let's develop the answer step by step applying the above-stated 4 paragraph essay structure.

4. Paraphrasing the Question Sentence

This is the first paragraph of our IELTS Task 1 essay. This paragraph is all about paraphrasing the question statement. That means you will restate the question sentence in your language without changing the meaning of the original sentence. If you want to write this paragraph perfectly, you need to have a good grip on paraphrasing techniques. We have a full article on how to paraphrase. We suggest you take a look in case you need.

 

This paragraph conveys an impression to the examiner how well you have understood the question.

Let's look at the actual question statement that we are using on this page:

"The chart below shows waste collection by a recycling centre from 2011 to 2015."

We can paraphrase this statement as below:

"The diagram illustrates different categories of waste collected by a recycling centre over the period of five years in a row, from 2011 to 2015 inclusive. Unites are measured in tons."

That's it, quite simple. Our first paragraph is complete, and you have already used 28 out of 150 words. Let's move to the next part of the essay, the Overview Paragraph.

5. Overview Paragraph

Overview is the second paragraph of our IELTS Writing Task 1 essay. This is the most important paragraph as well. Because without an overview paragraph in Task 1, you cannot expect more than band 5 in IELTS Writing section. Therefore, you need to take a very special care for this paragraph. We suggest you take a tour through our detailed discussion on how to write an Overview paragraph.

An Overview simply means a summary of the main features that you are going to discuss in the body paragraphs. Don't use any data in this paragraph, just state the obvious feature that you see in the diagrams. You are writing this paragraph just to convey a general idea about your essay to the readers.

 

Overview Paragraph Structure

Remember our Overview paragraph structure:

Sentence 1: summary statement 1(preview of the essay without presenting data)

Sentence 2: summary statement 2 (more preview without presenting data)

Sentence 3: outline sentence (State how the discussion will proceed.)

Let's form the paragraph:

Sentence 1(Summary Statement 1)

"Overall, throughout the whole period except 2013, paper was the leading amount of waste, followed by glass, tins and gardens respectively. "

Sentence 2(Summary Statement 2)

"However, apart from 2015, total amount of waste from all the four categories was mostly stable over the period."

Sentence 3(Outline Sentence)

"Significant features are discussed in the following paragraphs."

Complete Overview Paragraph

"Overall, throughout the whole period except 2013, paper was the leading amount of waste, followed by glass, tins and gardens respectively. However, apart from 2015, total amount of waste from all the four categories was mostly stable over the period. Significant features are discussed in the following paragraphs."

Quite simple. Previously we wrote 28 words for the first paragraph (paraphrasing the question sentence). And just now we have added 44 more words to write the 2nd paragraph (Overview paragraph). That means we've completed the 1st two of our 4 paragraph IELTS Task 1 essay. Therefore, we're already halfway through. It's time to  move to the Body Paragraph 1 and Body Paragraph 2 respectively.

6. Body Paragraph 1

In the overview paragraph, we have given just a general statement of significant features, we haven't discussed any detail. Now it's time to explain them in the two body paragraphs.

Body Paragraph 1 Structure

Remember our Body Paragraph 1 structure:

Sentence 1: first major point

Sentence 2: second major point

Sentence 3: extension sentence 1 (compare/combine the major points stated above)

Sentence 4: extension sentence 2 (extension of the previous sentence, or adding an exceptional feature).

Let's form the paragraph following the above-stated structure:

Sentence 1(First Major Point)

"Throughout the whole period, the proportional amount of waste collected from all the four categories remained same."

Sentence 2(Second Major Point)

"Followed by Glass, Tins and Gardens respectively, Paper was almost always the leading amount of waste collected by the centre."

Sentence 3(Extension Sentence 1)

"However in 2013, Glass led the tally followed by Paper and Tins."

Sentence 4(Extension Sentence 2)

"Meanwhile, the level of Tins and Garden waste demonstrated neck and neck over the time, though the Garden waste always remained below."

Complete Body Paragraph 1

"Throughout the whole period, the proportional amount of waste collected from all the four categories remained same. Followed by Glass, Tins and Gardens respectively, Paper was almost always the leading amount of waste collected by the centre. However in 2013, Glass led the tally followed by Paper and Tins. Meanwhile, the level of Tins and Garden waste demonstrated neck and neck over the time, though the Garden waste always remained below."

We have just added 55 more words to write the first body paragraph. That means we have already finished 75% of our IELTS Task 1 essay! See how simple it is! We are just describing the major features that we see in the diagrams.

We've written 28 for the first, 44 for the second and 55 words for the third paragraph. That means we have already used 127 words out of total 150 for an IELTS Task 1 essay question. Therefore, we need to write at least 23 more words in this essay, and we have one more paragraph to write. Awesome! Let's jump to the final paragraph, which is the Body Paragraph 2. Remember, we have a complete discussion on how to write an IELTS Task 1 body paragraph. Feel free to check that article anytime.

7. Body Paragraph 2

Body paragraph 2 is the final paragraph of our IELTS Task 1 essay. This is the easiest paragraph in the whole essay. Because here we're just stating other features briefly in the first sentence, adding another overall comparison statement in the second sentence, and then writing a final sentence summarizing the whole essay. Lets's apply our structure for the second body paragraph:

 

Body Paragraph 2 Structure

Sentence 1: exceptional feature 

Sentence 2: extension of the exceptional feature

Sentence 3: final sentence (wrapping-up the whole essay, completely based on the discussion above, nothing new)

Let's form the paragraph following the above-stated structure:

Sentence 1(Exceptional Feature)

"However, the total amount of waste collection followed a different trend."

Sentence 2(Extension of the Exceptional Feature) 

"In 2015, the centre collected total 196 tons of waste, which is the highest amount of total waste collected in one year, followed by 2011 and 2014."

Sentence 3(Final Sentence)

"Finally, Paper was the leading amount of waste over the time, and 2015 was the highest amount of waste collected by the centre in a year."

Complete Body Paragraph 2

"However, the total amount of waste collection followed a different trend. In 2015, the centre collected total 196 tons of waste, which is the highest amount of total waste collected in one year, followed by 2011 and 2014. Finally, Paper was the leading amount of waste over the time, and 2015 was the highest amount of waste  collected by the centre in a year."

We've added 55 more words to the previous 127, and just finished the final part of our 4 paragraph essay. That means we have just completed an IELTS Task 1 essay with 182 words, which is absolutely okay. In fact, you should write somewhere between 150 and 200 words. Now let's see how the whole essay looks like:

A Complete Response to the  Bar Chart Question

"The diagram illustrates different categories of waste collected by a recycling centre over the period of five years in a row, from 2011 to 2015 inclusive. Unites are measured in tons.

Overall, throughout the whole period except 2013, paper was the leading amount of waste followed by glass, tins and gardens respectively. However, apart from 2015, total amount of waste from all the four categories was mostly stable over the period. Significant features are discussed in the following paragraphs.

Throughout the whole period, the proportional amount of waste collected from all the four categories remained same. Followed by Glass, Tins and Gardens respectively, Paper was almost always the leading amount of waste collected by the centre. However in 2013, Glass led the tally followed by Paper and Tins. Meanwhile, the level of Tins and Garden waste demonstrated neck and neck over the time, though the Garden waste always remained below.

However, the total amount of waste collection followed a different trend. In 2015, the  centre collected total 196 tons of waste, which is the highest amount of total waste collected in one year, followed by 2011 and 2014. Finally, Paper was the leading amount of waste over the time, and 2015 was the highest amount of waste  collected by the centre in a year.""

182 words

Prepare for a 7, 8, or 9 band essay

You know there are different structures to answer different types of questions. For instance, if you respond to an opinion essay question, definitely it needs to be written in a different way than that of a problem-solution essay question. Likewise, response to a single pie chart question will be surely different from the answer of a multiple graph question. Also, a map description will be obviously different from a data table discussion. When it comes to a letter writing, you must apply the appropriate formats for different types of informal, semi formal and formal letters. 

In addition to the proper writing structures, your choice of words is also very important, because if you cannot use right vocabulary and expressions, you will fail to convey your intended message to the examiner, and eventually will lose marks for Task Achievement, one of the four marking criteria.

 

Meanwhile, just answering the specific question and using contextual words are not enough, your response needs to be presented in such an organised way that it can give a coherent message to the examiner. To do this, you have to use cohesive devices very carefully, otherwise it will be like, you have constructed a strong building with the finest ingredients (bricks, cement, ceramics etc.), but the building is not liveable, as the doors, windows etc. are not placed properly.

Moreover, just giving an organised clear response is not enough, your sentences have to be free from grammatical errors, otherwise all the hard work will be of no avail. Therefore, if you want to secure a 7+ band score in IELTS Writing, you must confirm that at least 70% of your sentences are free from grammatical errors.

However, do not panic. You can do everything very beautifully. Our IELTS Essay Correction platform is tailored to take you through all the steps required to confirm your desired band score. Once you join our IELTS Writing Assessment Service, an assigned IELTS examiner will look into every word of your essay. He / she will give you a detailed feedback, based on each marking criterion individually. Please remember, our IELTS Essay Feedback Service is not just to finish the quota of your number of essays, rather it is prepared to take you step by step towards your dream score. However, if you have any queries, you can always write in the live chat box below. We are 24/7 available online for your support.

Check our step by step solutions for all the important types of task 1 questions:

Multiple Graphs        Line Graph      

Pie Chart                  Map

Table Chart               Process Diagram 

Don't forget to check the following resources: