IELTS Writing: Numbers and Pie Charts


Hi there. My name is Emma, and in today's video, I am going to talk

a lot about the IELTS test, specifically writing task one.

I'm going to teach you about a certain thing

you might see on the IELTS, and that's a pie chart. I'm going to explain what a pie chart

is, and ways to talk about pie charts in order to improve your vocabulary mark for the IELTS.

Many students get really, really confused when they see graphs on the IELTS, and they

get really confused trying to talk about numbers, specifically. So, in this video, I'm also

going to talk about: How do we describe numbers when we're looking at pie charts?

How do we describe percentages? You know, and how can we

make our vocabulary very varied? Okay?

So, let's get started.

The first thing I want to do is talk about: What is a pie chart?

So, I have here three different types of graphs.

Three different graphs you might see on the IELTS, in the

writing section, in the very first part of the writing section. Okay? You might see a

picture like this, like this, or like this. So, one of these looks like a pie, something

you eat. Which one do you think looks the most like pie?

If you said this one, you are correct.

This is what we are going to be talking about today. We can call it either a "pie chart"

or a "pie graph". Both are correct. You might also see this one, this one is called

a line graph; or you might see this, which is called a bar graph.

So, let me write that on the board. So, "pie chart", "line graph", and "bar graph".

You might also see a process,

a diagram, or maybe even a table on the IELTS. But for today, we are only going to be focusing

on pie charts.

Okay, so what is a pie chart? A pie chart shows us percentages. Okay? So, if we look

down here, I have here what I spend my money on. Okay? I want you to imagine each month,

all the money I make, all my salary, this is what I spend it on.

I spend some of it on rent, I spend some of it on food,

I spend some of it on transport or transportation,

and I spend some of it on fun. Okay? So, on the IELTS, you might have to describe something

like this. It might be more complicated. Sometimes you might actually have two pie graphs or

pie charts that you might have to compare and describe, but in this case, let's start

out a little bit easier.

So, I want you to imagine you're writing the IELTS, and you've been told to describe this

pie chart. What are you going to say about it? Okay?

Well, the very first thing you should do is you should think about: What does it all mean?

And by that, I mean: Think about

how much percent is each thing? Okay? So, for example, for cost of living, how much

is this? What size does this look like? Although we can't be sure, because I'm not the best

artist and this is not a perfect circle, I would say this is about 50%.

Okay? And this, what does it look like to you? Maybe 25%.

So, food is around 25%. Transport we might

say... Let's say 15%.

And fun, maybe 10%. Although, we're not sure. So, on the IELTS

you might see something like this. You might actually have the percentages written, so

you already know what it is, or you might actually have numbers. Okay? So, this might

actually be money, and so it might actually say, like, $500 to rent, $200 to food, and

so forth. Okay, but the first thing to do is really think about: What are the percentages, here?

Okay, so to begin a sentence when we're talking about the pie chart, these are three different

sentences that are very great... Really, really good sentences to use on the IELTS when you're

talking about pie graphs.

The first one is: "According to the chart", you can also say:

"We can see from the chart", or "We can see from the pie chart", "The chart shows that",

okay? So these are good ways to open up the sentence, and then to actually talk about

what you see here.

Okay, so we're now going to talk a little bit about: How do we talk about percentages?

So, I want you, again, to look at rent. We decided this is about 50%. So, which of these

three ways can I write this on the IELTS? Should I write it: "fifty percent", should

I write it "fifty per cent", with a space, should I write it "50%" as a number, or should

I write it as "half", because 50% is half the total?

What do you think is the best way to write it?

Well, the truth is all of these are good. Okay? You will see percent written

as one word, and also two words; both of these are fine. You can write it as a number, or

you can also write it as half. These are all great ways to write about pie charts. So,

let's get a little bit more into how to talk about numbers and pie charts.

Okay, so let's look at some good sentences you can use when describing numbers and percents.

So, again, we have the same pie chart. We have rent at 50%, food is about a quarter,

transportation is about 15%, and fun is at about 10%. So, I've written up some sentences

to describe rent. Okay? So, what I can say is: "Rent makes up half of the living expenses."

And notice the verb I use, here. "Makes up", okay? So, this is a phrasal verb, "makes up"

is great to use when you're talking about pie charts. If I wanted to talk about food,

I could say: "Food makes up 25% of the living expenses.",

"Transport makes up 15% of the living expenses." Okay?

We can also change the sentence around, so that instead of "half" being in the middle,

we start with the percent. "Half of the living expenses are rent." So, this is essentially

the same sentence, but reversed. "Rent makes up half of the living expenses.",

"Half of the living expenses are rent." We can also say: "Rent accounts for 50% of the total",

or "50% of the living expenses". So, again, we have a really, really nice verb that's

great whenever you're describing a pie chart: "accounts for". It means the exact same as

"makes up", okay? Could I change this to "half"? Yes. Could I write: "fifty percent", not using

numbers, but with letters? Yes, I could spell out "fifty percent". It's all the same; it

means the same thing.

There is, however, one thing you should be aware of. In English, we do not like to start

sentences with numbers. So, for example: "50% of the living expenses is rent." This is...

This is not good. We don't like to start out with a number.

It would be better to actually write it out. Okay?

Just like that. Okay, excellent. So, again, these are great sentences

to use when you're writing about pie charts.

So, now let's look at some ways to talk about numbers. We've already talked about 50%, we've

talked about how it can be called half, and how... The different spellings of 50%. So,

now, let's look at some other different ways to talk about percents. I have down here the

word "a third". So, if this is my pie chart, a third-there are three pieces-would be about

this, which is around 30 to 35% is a third. Okay?

I can also talk about "a quarter", which would be about 25%. Okay? If we looked up here,

food is about a quarter. We can also talk about "two-thirds", this is where it gets

a little bit confusing. So, a third is, like I said, we have one out of three. Here we

have two out of three, which is about 66%. So, two-thirds would look like... One-third,

two-third. Okay? So, this is one-third and this is two-thirds.

When we talk about quarters, we can also talk about three quarters, where instead of talking

about this little piece, we're talking about the rest of the pie. So, whereas this is one

quarter, this in red is three quarters. Okay? We can also talk about "a fifth".

So, if the pie has five parts, 20% would be a fifth.

Okay? So, in red is a fifth. Or we can also

talk about "a sixth". If we have one, two, three, four, five, six - six slices, six equal

slices, if I colour in one of these, that becomes a sixth.

Now, one thing to note. When we talked about "half", we don't use an article. We don't

say: "a half". Okay? Notice there is no "a" here. When we talk about "a third", "a quarter",

"a sixth", "a fifth" - we do have "a" there. Okay? So, you don't need "a" with "half",

but you do need it if you're talking about "a third", "a quarter", "a fifth", or "a sixth".

Okay, excellent. So, now let's talk a little more about percents.

Okay, so I made a little bit of a mistake in one of my drawings. A fifth, I think I

drew actually just four slices. Here, there's one, two, three, four, five.

So, if I coloured in one of these,

this slice would be a fifth. Okay?

So, now what we're going to do is we're going to talk about another way to boost your vocabulary

mark when you're talking about numbers and pie charts. So, I have here a new pie chart.

This is about what I like to drink, and what I drank today. Okay? So, if you look over

here, 42% of what I drank today was tea. I love tea. 25% of what I drank was coffee,

and 33% of what I drank was milk. To be honest, I also drank water and juice, but to make

this simple, we'll just stick with these three. Okay?

So, imagine you get a pie chart like this. Now, again, on the IELTS, usually they're

a little bit more complicated. But just to learn from, imagine you were given a pie chart

like this. How could we describe it? Well, again, a great sentence to use is:

"According to the pie chart", or "As we can see from the pie chart, tea", okay? It says here 42%.

"Tea accounts for 42 percent of the total". Okay? And again, if I want, I can write it

as a number, I can even go like this and get rid of the word "percent". There's different

ways I can do it. They're all correct.

Now, one thing you can do is you can add words in order to... To be a little bit more specific,

and to help your vocabulary score. So, I have some words here:

"exactly", "precisely", "around", "approximately", "nearly", and so forth.

So, these can help you with your vocabulary mark

to get a higher score. So, if I'm talking about tea at 42% and I say it's 42%, I'm being

exact. This is exactly what it is. So, I can use the word:

"According to the pie chart, tea accounts for exactly 42% of the total."

I could also use the word "precisely":

"According to the pie chart, tea accounts for precisely 42% of the total."

Now, what if I'm just looking at this and 42% is too specific; I just want to be a little

bit more general? Well, if I don't want to be exact, I can use the words: "around", "approximately",

"nearly", "close to", "roughly".

So, in this case, I'm not giving the exact number; I'm

giving near that number. So, instead of saying 42%, which tea is,

I can change this to 40%,

if I add one of these words, because it's not 40% exactly, but it's close enough. So,

I can say: "According to the pie chart, tea accounts for around 40% of the total", or

"nearly 40% of the total", "close to 40% of the total".

One thing to note, here, on the IELTS spelling is very, very important. So, if you use the

word "approximately", make sure you can spell it, because I know this is a tough word. If

you think you're going to panic and make a mistake, use "close to", it's easier, and

not only that, but you actually get-one, two-two words added to the word count for this. So,

you could say: "close to 40%".

We could also say, if we're not being exact, we can say: "slightly above" or "just over".

42% is a bit more than 40%. So, we can say:

"According to the pie chart, tea accounts for slightly above 40%",

or "just over 40%". Okay? So, again, this shows that not only

do you understand the numbers, but you're also using some very good vocabulary.

Now, imagine if I estimated a little bit higher, and I said this was... It's around 45%.

What I can say is that:

"According to the pie chart, tea accounts for slightly below 45%",

or "just under 45%". Okay?

So, these are all great words to use to add when you're talking about

percentages. Now let's talk about... A little bit more about percentages.

Okay, so now let's look at some general ways to talk about percent. We've already talked

about specific, using words like "50%", "half", "a third". What about if you don't really

want to speak so specifically? Well, I have here some different expressions you can use.

So, before we get to those, I have a new pie chart. Now, again, you will not see something

this simple on the IELTS. This is very simple to help you learn. So, imagine if this red,

little slice, if this represents coffee, and imagine if this green represents tea, and

this is how much... You know, how much I drink in a day. So, I drink very little coffee,

and I drink lots and lots of tea. Okay? And you have to describe this. So, instead of

saying the specifics... Okay? You know, what we can tell from this is that this is a small

amount, coffee is a small amount, and tea is a very large amount.

So if we wanted to talk about this, we could use the words: "a small fraction". So, this is a small fraction.

"A small fraction of the total is coffee." Okay? We could also say: "a small percentage".

We're not saying specifically what it is. "A small percentage is coffee.",

"A small number is coffee.", "The lowest percentage is coffee.", "A very small percentage is coffee.",

and "A very small proportion is coffee." These, essentially, all mean the same thing. They're

different ways to say a small amount. Okay? Or a small percent.

So, we can also change up the sentence structure a little bit. Okay? So, for example, if I

start with coffee, I can say:

"According to the pie chart, coffee makes up a small fraction of the total.",

"Coffee makes up a small percentage of the total.", "Coffee makes up a small number of the total.",

"Coffee makes up the lowest percentage of the total.",

"Coffee makes up a very small percentage of the total.", and finally,

"Coffee makes up a very small proportion of the total."

I can also add the percent, if I want to, here. Okay? So it is good to be specific where

you can, so you can always put in brackets, and the actual number. Imagine if coffee is

10%. At the end of the sentence, I can put: "(10%)". Or, I can write the word "at 10%".

I could actually write out the word "ten percent", and say: "of the total at ten percent". Or,

if they didn't give me any percents, but imagine if this says two cups a day, and this says

20 cups a day, what I could also do is write down specifically if they gave you a number,

what that number is. So, sometimes they won't give you a percent, but they'll actually say

an amount. If they say an amount, you can actually write in that amount. So, for example,

if they said two cups a day, I could say:

"Coffee makes up a small fraction of the total at two cups a day." So that's also possible.

Now, what about if we wanted to talk about tea? Tea is a large fraction. So, we can use

the exact same vocabulary, but change the word "small" to "large".

So, we can say: "A large fraction of the total is tea.",

"A large percentage is tea.",

"Tea makes up a large number of the total.",

"Tea makes up the lowest..." or "the highest"... In this case, we're not

talking about large, but the opposite of "lowest" is "highest". "A very... A very large percentage

of the total is tea.", and "A very large proportion is tea." Okay? So, these are great expressions

to use when you are describing percents and percentages.

Okay, so thank you for watching this video.

I would like to invite you to come visit our website at

There, you can actually do more practice questions and actually

test yourself by taking our quiz to make sure that you understand this video, as well as

so you can practice using some of these percentages and numbers.

Thank you again for watching, and until next time, take care.