Task 1 – TOOLS, part 3


Part 1 – Tenses

Part 2 – Observing Specific Data

Part 3 – Describing Trends, Movement, and Change

Part 4 – Comparing and Contrasting

Hey folks!

Here is Part 3 in our 4-part series about how to write your IELTS Writing Task 1 (Academic) answer.

Today I want to show you a few ways to describe trends, movement and change.

Let’s go.


How Do We Describe Trends / Movement / Change?


IELTS Task 1 Academic graphs and charts contain many changes, and we need to be comfortable describing them. This can include big changes and overall trends, as well as small ones.

Our goal is to be able to write about a graph like this one using the style of sentence in the example below:

task 1 line graph

“Road and rail started out as the two most popular transport types, but roads gained in overall popularity throughout the period, while rail was overtaken by water.”


Learn to use both Adjective-Noun and Verb-Adverb combinations:

  • There are two very useful grammar structures to describe changes: adjective-noun combinations, and verb-adverb combinations.

A very common way to use adjective-noun combinations in our observations is like this:

     There – be – adjective – noun – in – noun phrase

     “There was a dramatic rise in the number of people at the station.”

  • And of course, we can attach more prepositional phrases:

“At around 8:00, there was a slight drop in the amount of foot traffic at the station.”

“There was a slight rise in the number of students who prefer University lectures   in 2006.”

  • The second common way to describe a change is to use verb-adverb combinations, like this:

     Noun phrase – verb – adverb

     “The number of people at the station rose dramatically.”

     “At around 8:00, the amount of foot traffic at the station dropped slightly.

     “The number of students who prefer University lectures rose slightly in 2006.”

  • Notice above that the adjectives can be turned into adverbs by adding -ly, and the nouns can also be used as verbs! This is very common for words describing change and movement.

It’s good to have two different methods to say something similar, so we can use a variety of vocabulary and grammar.


Some Vocabulary for Describing Change:

Adjectives (in order of strength):

*Remember that adjectives describe nouns.

*Most of the following adjectives can become adverbs by adding -ly endings.

  • small - slight
  • stable         
    • [describes something staying the same]
  • steady        
    • [describes something staying the same, but can also describe a change that kept changing in the same way over time, like “a steady increase”]
  • gradual       
    • [describes slow change]
  • moderate
  • large - considerable - substantial - significant - sharp
  • very large - dramatic - enormous



*Most of these can be used as verbs as well. Some words have different verb forms from noun forms. [reduce V. / reduction N.]

  • increase – climb – rise – gain            
    • [indicates going up]
  • decrease – fall – reduction                
    • [indicates going down]
  • spike – surge                                     
    • [indicates quick, short term increase]
  • drop – dip                                          
    • [indicates quick, short term decrease]
  • fluctuation                                          
    • [indicates something that went up and down]
  • (reach) a peak                                   
    • [indicates the highest point on a graph]
      • Noun: “It reached a peak of 405…”
      • Verb: “It peaked at 405…”                 
  • (reach) a low                                      
    • [indicates the lowest point on a graph]


Other Useful verbs:

  • experience           
    • [Often used for introducing one of the above nouns; “Vacation time experienced a surge in 2002”]
  • overtake              
    • [Used when one thing passes another thing in amount; “In 2010, China overtook Japan as the world’s second largest economy.”]
  • reach                   
    • [Used when something arrives at a specific data point; “The number of tourists reached 90,000 in 2006.”]
  • finish                   
    • [Used for describing the end-point of the graph; “The number reached 90,000 in 2006 and finished at 85,000 in 2007.”]
  • stay – remain       
    • [Used for talking about something that stayed the same; “The numbers remained stable throughout the period.”]


Let’s Get Some Practice!


Let’s look at a graph that describes the time spent by young teenagers on TV and computer, between 2000 and 2018:

line graph


Well done! When you’re ready, check out Task 1 TOOLS Part 4: Comparing and Contrasting.