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How to Describe an IELTS Academic Pie Chart

The IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 has you write a 150-word report about a bar chart, a diagram, a table, or a pie chart.  In each of these formats, you will need to use some different language to describe what you see and you will need to tackle them slightly differently.  Recently we looked out how to describe a bar chart. Today, let’s look at how we describe an IELTS Academic pie chart.

What Can You Expect to See for the IELTS Academic Pie Chart?

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 Academic 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.”

How to Describe an IELTS Academic Pie Chart

  • 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 detail is included.
  • When you write your introduction, show that you are looking at the pie chart with the relevant language.  (i.e. From the pie chart, it is clear/obvious/evident that….)
  • In the body paragraphs, 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. Focus on similarities and differences. 
  • Try to relate a particular item in the pie chart to an aspect of the graph/chart by using language such as is related, is connected to, has an effect on.
  • 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.
  • As with any Task 1, it is important to vary your language. You should not keep repeating the same words and phrases.  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 words can include: a large number a small minority, less than a fifth…
  • 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!
  • 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 when writing.
  • Finally, remember that practice makes perfect. Use Magoosh IELTS prep to not only improve your pie chart description, but to help increase your score across the test.

By the way, sign up for our 1-week free trial to try out Magoosh IELTS prep!

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