IELTS Academic Writing Task 1: The line graph shows the percentage of working adults travelling to work in Great Britain between January 2021 and April 2022
You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.
The line graph shows the percentage of working adults travelling to their workplace in Great Britain between January 2021 and April 2022.
Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.
You should write at least 150 words.
This is quite a typical T1 line graph task, with three lines to report (though many do have four or more). There is nothing difficult to understand, though a first impression tells us that with fluctuations in each of the three lines to cover, it is likely that a comprehensive report will requite considerably more than the 150 word minimum.
A point to note is the asterisk (*) after the label for ‘hybrid working.’ The meaning of the term is explained below the labels. This occasionally occurs in tasks where there is a particular term or word which IELTS believes could be unfamiliar to the majority of candidates, and which is important to understand what is shown.
In analysing the graph before we begin to write, and in thinking about how we will frame our summary/overview, we note that one of the most obvious points is the significant overall drop in the percentage of those working from home, which is more than halved.
What could be the reason for this, and should we include our thoughts on it in our text? It is important to note that T1 is a factual report based only on what is shown in the data. We are not required to speculate on why something has occurred, and in fact including ‘extraneous’ material which is irrelevant or immaterial to completion of the task can reduce the score the examiner gives for Task Achievement. (We discussed this at more length in chapter 00.) However, as a well-informed candidate, we may quickly see a probable causal relationship between what is shown in the data and the fact that the period begins around 15 months after the onset of the global Covid 19 pandemic. In this second year of the disease, many countries such as the UK began to progressively lift restrictions on physical contact between people. It would thus be not unreasonable to show our knowledge of this (which after all would give an opportunity to introduce more vocabulary), with a very brief mention. On the other hand, we already estimate that a full report will require a comparatively high word count, so we decide to leave this out.
As always with task involving time periods, it is essential to report all start and finish points, regardless of the detail we choose to include between these.
With line graphs showing changes over time, there are two alternative approaches to describing the data. The first is to describe what happens with each category (i.e line) in each successive period. The second is to deal with each category in turn. This still allows for comparisons and contrasts with the other categories at certain important points.
As reviewed in more detail earlier in this chapter, we strongly recommend you follow the second approach and describe each category in turn. As our text here is going to be towards our recommended upper word limit, and with the fluctuation in each line to cover, we decide on the following structure:
1st paragraph: a paraphrase of the task plus an overview of what we see as most significant.
2nd paragraph: a description of the top line in the graph.
3rd paragraph: a description of the middle line in the graph.
4th paragraph: a description of the bottom line in the graph.
This gives more paragraphs than we use for most tasks of this type, but we feel it makes it a little easier for the reader to see the differences between the trends. However, there would be no problem at all if we chose to combine all three trends into one paragraph and thus have a more usual two-paragraph structure. It also would not matter if we started our description with the bottom line first, though as we normally read down a page it seems more logical to start with the top line and work downwards.
The Model Answer
The line graph details the percentages of adults in Britain who traveled to their workplace, worked from home, or combined the two, from April 2021 to July the following year. In summary, although there were fluctuations, there was an overall increase in those traveling to work, and in those in a hybrid situation of both traveling and working from home. Most noticeable, however, is the marked fall in the proportion working from their own residence.
In April 2021, approximately 38% of employed adults traveled to their workplace. This rose steadily to 53% in October before dropping to around 48% in January 2022. There was a climb to peak at 58% in April, before declining to finish at 46% in July.
About 34% worked from home in April 2021, but this fell steadily to 17% in October. Rising again to about 24% in January, the rate dropped to just 14% three months later before finishing at 15%, in July, an overall decline of more than half.
A smaller proportion, just under a tenth, combined employment from home with travel to the workplace, at the start of the period. The rate intersected with the work-from-home group at 17% in October, then dropped to about 12% in January. It plateaued at this until April, before a considerable rise to around 24% in July.
‘Work,’ ‘working’ and ‘home’ are key words in the task, but we are still able to avoid over-repetition by varying the vocabulary with workplace, employed/employment and residence.
In this graph, the vertical axis gives quite large gradations of 15%, so it is not easy to say exactly what most specific points in each line are. We make our best estimate of what percentage these points are, with the exception of the end point for ‘work from home,’ which we can clearly see is exactly 15%. As reviewed elsewhere, it does not matter if the examiner feels that, for instance, 25% looks more likely than our 24%, and in any case we often ‘cover’ ourselves with frequent use of terms such as approximately, around and about. There is only a problem where the examiner sees that we have clearly made an error in our estimation.
As we know we should always look for how percentages could be changed into proportions, here we think it is reasonable to report the start point for the hybrid group as just under a tenth.
Note too how we do not need to specify the month and year in every case. If we mention October and then go on to January, for instance, it is obvious that the latter must be 2022 without having to say so. In the introduction we show a little more variety in terms with the following year rather than ‘2022,’ and three months later in the third paragraph, rather than ‘April.’
We have considerable variation in our grammar forms, with several complex sentences (remember that we should always aim to include at least two of this type) and in use of present participles such as rising and dropping.