Useful Words for Writing an IELTS Graph Essay

Ah, the IELTS Writing Task 1.  Describe the key information in a graph.  I’ve read thousands of IELTS graph essays.  I will be honest.  For the most part, I find them dreadfully boring to review. The main reason for this is that the ESL student doesn’t vary their language or use a variety of synonyms.  As 25% of your marks are for the range of vocabulary that you use, this is a very important component to review as you prepare for the Writing Task 1. Here, I am going to provide you with a range of words and phrases to incorporate into your writing now, so that you can get top marks on at least the lexical resource category.

Introduction Phrases

Often ESL students start their essay with ‘The graph shows…’. While this is fine, the verb ‘shows’ could be replaced by a more exciting and high-level vocabulary word.  Here are four different prompts to start your essay:

  • The graph illustrates the trends in…
  • The graph reveals information about the changes in…
  • The graph provides the differences between…
  • The graph presents how X has changed over a period of…

Tip: DO NOT write the word below or above in your introduction. i.e. The graph above/below shows…

Add Suitable Adverbs

Adverbs help express a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, and degree, and can greatly add some color and interest to your writing as well as show off your range of vocabulary.  Some great ones to use in the IELTS writing include:

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  • approximately
  • dramatically
  • erratically
  • gradually
  • markedly
  • significantly
  • slightly
  • slowly
  • steadily

Use Appropriate Synonyms

Again using a variety of nouns and verbs for words like rise and fall will help increase your overall score.  Here are some suggestions:

Add Time Phrases

Where appropriate, add time phrases such as:

  • between… and…
  • from… to… (inclusive)
  • in the year (1994)
  • during/over the period….
  • over the latter half of the year/century/decade/period…..
  • over the next/past/previous….
  • days/weeks/months/years/decades….
  • by (1997)…..

Model Essay Example

Look at the sample Task 1 graphs on the British Council website.  Below is my model answer with useful words in bold:

The bar charts illustrate the trends in computer ownership, with a further classification by level of education, from 2002 to 2010.

Over the period, it can be observed that there was a significant surge in the percentage of the population that owned a computer. In the year 2002, only about 58% of the population owned a computer, whereas by 2010, this gradually increased to where over three-quarters of individuals had a home computer.

Looking at the information by level of education reveals that higher levels of education correspond to higher levels of computer ownership in both of those years. In 2002, a significantly low percentage of the population who did not finish high school had a computer, but this figure skyrocketed by 2010, going from 15% to over 40%. There were also dramatic climbs, of approximately 30 percentage points, for those with a high school diploma or an unfinished college education (reaching 65% and 85%, respectively, in 2010).

To conclude, during the last decade, there has been a substantial growth in computer ownership across all educational levels.

Hopefully you’ll start to incorporate some of these key words and phrases in your IELTS Task 1 Writing. If you still don’t feel comfortable doing so, consider dedicating more time to your IELTS studies with Magoosh’s fun, engaging IELTS prep for extra practice.

By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

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6 Responses to Useful Words for Writing an IELTS Graph Essay

  1. Sana July 30, 2018 at 12:20 am #

    I would like to get sample of all types of graph eassy

  2. Joyce January 23, 2020 at 10:29 pm #

    Thank you Magoosh for the comprehensive guide. I’m a subscriber to you GMAT course and is now checking out IELTS.

    Wanna ask, I read and watched many other sources that says we should not write a conclusion. However, yours did.

    So, is it permissible or not permissible?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 12, 2020 at 9:50 am #

      Hi Joyce,

      The concluding sentence is optional–if you have time to write a concluding sentence after writing and reviewing your essay, then it looks good to have a concluding sentence. If you don’t have time to write a concluding essay or you’d rather focus on other parts of your essay, then it’s totally fine to leave it out. You can read more about this in our Complete Guide to IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.

  3. Julia P March 9, 2020 at 12:40 pm #

    “Growth” is not an noun? Because in the board it’s saying that it is a verb

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 13, 2020 at 11:52 am #

      Hi Julia,

      Thanks for pointing this out! It seems like a mistake on our part. We should probably change that to “grow”. I’ll make a note for our writing team to make this change 🙂


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