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!

trend

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

@guruEAP

‘Other’ in IELTS Task 1

Bakso was chosen by 60% of students, Martabak by 20%, Siomay by 15%, and only 5% chose Other.

studentsandfastfood.jpg

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‘.

@guruEAP

‘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:

Freddo

  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

@guruEAP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Completed chart:

Freddo2

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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:

Games

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!

@guruEAP

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

X accounts for Y in IELTS Task 1

The number of students in 2001 was accounted 33,438 students.

This writer has learned, or noticed, that the word ‘account‘ is often used to describe numbers in IELTS Task 1 writing.

Well, that’s a step in the right direction, but he or she now needs to do some more noticing. And to speed up noticing, we need many many examples!

Take a look at (print?) these examples. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What word nearly always follows accounts when accounts is a verb)? (answer)
  2. What kind of data always follows accounts for when accounts for is describing data? (answer)

Now that we know more about account (we have noticed more), we can see that the use of account in the opening example is inappropriate because the data being described is the wrong kind of data. We cannot use accounts for to  give an objective description of a number in a graph, table or chart.

We saw in the examples that accounts for is part of the structure:

Something accounts for something.

OR

accounts for Y.

Look at the pie chart below. Refer again to the examples and see if you can make a sentence about Firefox using accounts for. As you write, think also about the time frame and what tense you need to use. If you like what you’ve written, please add it as a comment below this post!

X accounts for Y

1. ‘Accounts’ is always followed by ‘for’.
2. The data that follows ‘accounts for’ is a percentage.

Stating subjects in IELTS Task 1

Americans rose steadily, while Indonesians fell dramatically.

Well, maybe. Something like this?

USD_IDR

With a sentence like the one above you are unlikely to communicate anything meaningful about a graph, table or chart. If there was a rise or a fall, then you need to state precisely what it was that rose and what it was that fell – What is the subject?

For example:

divorce_rate

  • The divorce rate in America rose steadily, while the divorce rate in Indonesia fell dramatically.

Here there are 2 subjects:

  1. the divorce rate in America
  2. the divorce rate in Indonesia

Some of you will complain about the repetition in this sentence (‘the divorce rate‘). However, it’s better to repeat words and phrases and communicate something meaningful than to avoid repetition and communicate nothing.

Actually in this example repetition can be avoided:

  • The divorce rate in America rose steadily, while that in Indonesia fell dramatically.

@guruEAP

* Many thanks to Diro, Nando and Ari for the ‘falling Indonesians’ photo – You guys rock! 🙂

Reaching a peak in IELTS Task 1

In general, the 6pm news reached its peak for almost 5 million viewers per day in the first month.

This is actually quite communicative and in IELTS this sentence might give you a satisfactory score for TA. However, the language problems would leave you with a much lower score for GRA and for CC.

  1. It doesn’t make sense to signal this statement ‘In general‘, because it’s not general. It features data values taken from the x and y axes of the graph. Better to put this information in the detail section of your essay and signal it “In detail,“.
  2. You need to treat ‘reach a peak‘ as a phrasal verb. If you want to change the tense – and the tense will most likely be past simple tense – then you can modify ‘reach‘ (past: ‘reached a peak‘). Otherwise don’t mess with ‘a‘ and don’t mess with ‘peak‘.
  3. The preposition ‘for‘ is not right.

So, if you really are making a general statement, do this:

  • In general, the popularity of the 6pm news reached a peak in the first month.

If you want to mention detail, then do this:

  • In detail, the 6pm news reached a peak of almost 5 million viewers per day in the first month.

Pay careful attention to this pattern:

something + reached a peak (+ of + value x) (+ time expression)

If you don’t believe me, check out these examples!

And whatever you do, don’t write ‘reached the peak‘! That applies to climbers only, where ‘the‘ refers to the mountain that they happen to be climbing at the time!

@guruEAP

How low can you go?

Women having a first child was low in both years (1995 and 2005).

Women was low(?!) Here we have some subject/verb disagreement, and so I’m guessing that it was actually a different singular countable noun that was low, and not ‘women‘!

  • The percentage of women having a first child was low in both years (1995 and 2005).

Your opening theme was ‘women‘. If the women you mention were indeed low then this could mean several things (click for captions):

When you’re describing numbers, you must describe numbers. Remember that numbers are represented by statistics words: number, amount, percentage,rate, ratio, etc. If you do not use one of these words then your writing becomes very difficult to follow, and obviously this affects your IELTS score.

@guruEAP

Trump, Twitter, Trends, Task 1

IELTS Task 1 trends practice activity

  1. Study the chart below (source here).
  2. On a piece of paper, write a short paragraph describing the main trends. Don’t look at PG’s text just yet!
  3. Read PG’s sample text (below). Click highlighted text for explanations.

20160305_woc571_0

Sample text by @guruEAP. Click highlighted text for explanations.

In general, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton attract by far the highest numbers of Twitter followers, but all candidates enjoyed significant increases in follower numbers during the period. In terms of average retweets per tweet, Bernie Sanders joins Trump and Clinton in the top three. Trump’s Twitter account saw almost twice as many retweets as Sanders’, and more than three times as many as Clinton’s. However, Sanders trumps trump when it comes to retweets per tweet per 1,000 followers.

Notes

In general – This is the most concise way to introduce an overview, and remember that an overview is important if you want a good score for Task Achievement. See public band descriptors for Task 1. (back)

attract – This is more sophisticated vocabulary than simply saying ‘have’. (back)

by far – This is a good way to intensify a superlative adjective. (back)

numbers – ‘number’ (without ‘s’) is also possible. However, each candidate has a number of followers, so technically there is more than one ‘number’. (back)

but – In this part of the essay it is often possible, and therefore a good idea, to show comparison and/or contrast. Remember to signal this contrast (here I use ‘but’.). (back)

enjoyed – Again, this is more sophisticated than simply saying ‘had’. (back)

significant – This is a more sophisticated alternative to ‘big’, ‘large’, ‘huge’, etc. (back)

in – The correct preposition after ‘increase(s)’. (back)

during the period – If you have already mentioned the period – July 1 2015-Feb 29 2016 – in your opening statement, then you can use this phrase to refer back to it. (back)

in terms of – This is an extremely useful phrase in Task 1 writing. With this phrase you make clear to the examiner exactly what it is you are talking about. (back)

in the top three – Ranking items is usually possible, and often desirable, in the overview. (back)

saw – More sophisticated than ‘had’. (back)

twice as many – Always look for multiples! (back)

trump – Be careful when you use idioms, but they increase your score for lexical resource (=vocabulary). Take a look in a dictionary at the idiomatic uses of ‘trump’. (back)

when it comes to – An alternative to ‘in terms of’ to make clear exactly what you are talking about. (back)

Useful resources

IELTS Writing Task 1 band descriptors