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

You might be given one or two data tables. You will need to compare the data between different periods or different entities for a given time. This is a common question for IELTS Writing Task 1.

 

Remember, don't write everything you see in the table, rather focus on only 1 or 2 major features in each table. In fact, this suggestion applies to all types of IELTS  Writing Task 1 questions.

 

On this page, you will find a complete discussion on IELTS Task 1 Table 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

You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.

The table below shows expenditures of four car companies on advertising in the UK in 2002.

Write at least 150 words.

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: advertising expenditure of car companies

Micro Keywords: Companies are Renault, Rover, Vauxhall, Ceririzine; Media are Press, Cinema, Outdoor, Radio and TV.

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 issue to discuss about, 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

  • Renault (among the car companies) was the leading spender: 132 million dollars in total

  • TV (among the media) attracted the highest advertising expense: 239 million dollars

  • Study area: UK in 2002. Units are measured in millions of dollars.

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 structure.

 

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 table below shows expenditures of four car companies on advertising in the UK in 2002."

We can paraphrase the statement above as:

"The data table illustrates how many millions of dollars each of the four car companies spent for advertisement in the United Kingdom in 2002."

That's it, quite simple. Our first paragraph is complete, and you have already used 23  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 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, Renault was the leading spender on advertisement and TV attracted the highest expenses."

Sentence 2(Summary Statement 2)

"Though the companies varied in their expenses on Press, Cinema and Outdoor advertisements, each of the them spent exactly the same amount of money on radio promotion."

Sentence 3(Outline Sentence)

"Major features are explained in the following paragraphs."

Complete Overview Paragraph

"Overall, Renault was the leading spender on advertisement and TV attracted the highest expenses. Though the companies varied in their expenses on Press, Cinema and Outdoor advertisements, each of the them spent exactly the same amount of money on radio promotion. Major features are explained in the following paragraphs."

Quite simple. Previously we wrote 23 words for the first paragraph (paraphrasing the question sentence). And just now we have added 46 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)

"Renault led the promotional expense tally spending total 132 million dollars, whereas the other 3 companies spent equally 100 million dollars each."

Sentence 2(Second Major Point)

"However, attracting total 239 million dollars, TV received the highest advertisement  expenses from all the four companies."

Sentence 3(Extension Sentence 1)

"In terms of advertisement types and advertising companies, TV was followed by Press and Renault was followed by Vauxhall respectively."

Sentence 4(Extension Sentence 2)

"Meanwhile, all the four companies spent equally 15 million dollars each for radio promotion."

Complete Body Paragraph 1

"Renault led the promotional expense tally spending total 132 million dollars, whereas the other 3 companies spent equally 100 million dollars each. However, attracting total 239 million dollars, TV received the highest advertisement  expenses from all the four companies. In terms of advertisement types and advertising companies, TV was followed by Press and Renault was followed by Vauxhall respectively. Meanwhile, all the four companies spent equally 15 million dollars each for radio promotion."

We have just added 64 more words in the essay to write the first body paragraph. That means we have already completed 75% of our IELTS Task 1 essay! See how simple it is! We are just describing the major features that are very obvious in the pictures.

We've written 23 for the first, 46 for the second and 64 words for the third paragraph. That means we have already used 131 words for an IELTS Task 1 essay question, and we have one more paragraph to write. That means we are very close to write the minimum required number of words for a Task 1 essay.

 

Many students might fear of adding more words after reaching 160/170. We tell you, don't panic, there is nothing wrong with adding few more words, as long as it's not too many. In fact, we recommend our students use 170-190 words, and never exceed 200. 

 

However, one thing you must remember, don't write less than 150 words, not even 149. If you write less, you will lose marks.

 

Awesome! Let's move to the final paragraph, 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)

"On the other hand, Cetirizine spent the highest 70 million dollars on TV promotion,  followed by Vauxhall."

Sentence 2(Extension of the Exceptional Feature) 

"However, Outdoor and Cinema always received the least amount of advertising expenses."

Sentence 3(Final Sentence)

"Finally, TV grabbed the highest share of advertising expenditure from all the four companies, and Renault was the leading spender in advertisement purpose."

Complete Body Paragraph 2

"On the other hand, Cetirizine spent the highest 70 million dollars on TV promotions, followed by Vauxhall. However, Outdoor and Cinema always received the least amount of promotional expenses. Finally, TV grabbed the highest share of advertising expenditure from all the four companies, and Renault was the leading spender in advertisement purpose."

We've added 48 more words to the previous 133, and just finished the final part of our 4 paragraph essay. That means we have completed an IELTS Task 1 essay with 181  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 Table Chart Question

"The data table illustrates how many millions of dollars each of the four car companies spent for advertisement in the United Kingdom in 2002.

Overall, Renault was the leading spender on advertisement and TV attracted the highest expenses. Though the companies varied in their expenses on Press, Cinema and Outdoor advertisements, each of the them spent exactly the same amount of money on radio promotion. Major features are explained in the following paragraphs.

Renault led the promotional expense tally spending total 132 million dollars, whereas the other 3 companies spent equally 100 million dollars each. However, attracting total 239 million dollars, TV received the highest advertisement  expenses from all the four companies. In terms of advertisement types and advertising companies, TV was followed by Press and Renault was followed by Vauxhall respectively. Meanwhile, all the four companies spent equally 15 million dollars each for radio promotion.

On the other hand, Cetirizine spent the highest 70 million dollars on TV promotions, followed by Vauxhall. However, Outdoor and Cinema always received the least amount of promotional expenses. Finally, TV grabbed the highest share of advertising expenditure from all the four companies, and Renault was the leading spender in advertisement purpose."

181 words

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

Process Diagram                Line Graph      

Pie Chart                            Bar Chart

Multiple Graph                    Maps Question

Don't forget to check the following resources: