IELTS Writing Task 1: How to Describe a Pie Chart

how to describe pie chart in ielts - image by MagooshThe IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 essay has you write a 150-word report about a bar chart (also known as a bar graph), a process diagram, a table, line graph, or a pie chart. In each of these formats, you will need to use slightly different language to describe what you see.

If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this piece, we’ll give you an overview of how to describe an IELTS writing task pie chart, some specific IELTS writing pie chart tips, and some IELTS task 1 pie chart vocabulary. These strategies will help you score high on IELTS writing task 1 and earn a high band score overall.

We also recommend that you take a look the IELTS graph vocabulary guide, which covers useful language for IELTS writing task 1, including appropriate words and phrases.

How do pie charts work in IELTS Writing Taks 1?

A pie chart is a type of graph in which a circle is divided into sections, where each section represents a proportion of the whole. The various sections add up to 100%.

Example IELTS Writing Task 1 pie chart

Example IELTS Academic Pie Chart

Sometimes you will see the pie charts illustrated as above, without any percentage marks. When this happens, you will need to approximate the amount. I like to think of the pie chart like a clock and imagine that the part where each section ends corresponds to the minute hand of the clock.

For example, in the pie chart above, you can imagine that the long hand falls on the 20-minute mark between “bus” and “walk,” which is a third of an hour. Therefore, the percentage of bus travel would be 33%. Likewise, the percentage of walking travel makes up the rest of the time before the clock hand reaches the 30-minute mark, so through some simple math, we can see that the walking travel is roughly 17%.

Rarely will you have just one pie chart. You will usually be presented with two or more pie charts or you might have both a pie chart and a graph that are related that need to be compared and contrasted. In each, though, there will be the following language: “Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.”

Step-by-Step: How to Describe an IELTS Writing Task 1 Pie Chart

  1. First, take a few minutes to read the pie chart’s heading and data labels. Do the same with the graph if there is one. Make sure you know what the information is about and what specific details are included. This will be critical to answering the IELTS pie chart question effectively.


  2. When you write your introduction, or overview paragraph, show that you are looking at the IELTS Writing Task 1 pie chart with the relevant language (i.e. From the pie chart, it is clear/obvious/evident that…).


  3. In the second paragraph and beyond, make sure that you show the connection between the pie charts and the graph or bar chart rather than just listing the data from each separately. Focusing on similarities and differences is the logical way to crate a good essay structure.


  4. Try to relate a particular item in the IELTS Writing Task 1 pie chart to an aspect of the graph/chart by using language such as is related, is connected to, has an effect on.


  5. Choose the most important points to write about first. Usually, these will be the largest pie slices. Items such as ‘other’ are usually less important and account for small amounts, so can be left until the end or excluded if you don’t have enough time or word count.


  6. As with any Task 1, it is important to vary your language and sentence structures. You should not keep repeating the same words and phrases but instead use a good range of IELTS task 1 pie chart vocabulary. The key language when you write about pie charts is proportions and percentages. Common phrases to see are “the proportion of…” or “the percentage of…”. Other phrases can include: a large number, a small minority, less than a fifth


  7. Avoid drawing conclusions and stating opinions about information that is not in the charts. If you think that the bus travel is higher than car travel because you think the graph is representing a metropolitan city, it doesn’t matter. If it isn’t included in the data, do not mention it!


  8. Think about what tense you will use to write your essay. Often your essay will be given a date in the past, so be sure to use the past tense instead of present tense when writing in these cases. If you can, try to vary your sentences between short and complex sentences. And of course, by mindful of your grammar.


  9. Finally, remember that practice makes perfect. Use Magoosh IELTS prep lessons to not only improve your bar and pie chart descriptions, but to help increase your score across the test.

A Final Word on Describing IELTS Pie Charts

Remember that the in order to discuss a pie chart correctly, you will need to understand what exactly the graph shows. Make sure not to rush through reviewing the chart thoroughly, but also remember that you should only take about 20 minutes total on this IELTS writing task 1.

IELTS writing task 1 is short and straightforward, but a huge key to scoring well on the IELTS exam is having a good understanding of IELTS task 1 pie chart vocabulary. We hope this has been a helpful tutorial for this IELTS academic task!

Good luck!

By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

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