The word ‘summarise’ usually occurs in the IELTS writing (part 1) question. Students should therefore not write about every number or statistic they see, but instead look for the key movements and trends.
Students need to look patterns, jumps, and consistencies. Here are some ideas:
The Beginning vs. The End
Look at the numbers in the first column or chart. Then look at those in the last. What major changes have occurred?
A Change in Position
Often things are in an order (for example, most popular to least popular). Has the order changed?
Widening and Closing of Gaps
Sometimes the order of things don’t change, but the gap between them becomes obviously bigger or smaller.
Spikes, Drops, Gradual Climbs or Falls
Within the chart/information are there any sudden rises or drops? Alternatively, are any areas constantly gradually rising or falling?
Sometimes the important information is that nothing much is happening at all. It is often the case in charts that whilst some numbers are changing, others are always roughly the same. This is also important.
For five years students at Pig Academy were asked to name their favourite teacher:
Mr Banana: 42%
Mr Idiot: 30%
Mrs. Pumpkin: 16%
Ms. Bigteeth: 5%
Mr. Banana: 45%
Mr. Idiot: 35%
Ms. Bigteeth: 11%
Ms. Butterfly: 4%
Mr. Idiot: 38%
Mr. Banana: 37%
Ms. Bigteeth: 18%
Mrs. Stormy: 3%
Mr. Banana: 35%
Mr. Idiot: 33%
Ms. Bigteeth: 23%
Mrs. Stormy: 5%
Mr. Banana: 55%
Ms. Bigteeth: 36%
Mrs. Stormy: 4%
Mrs. Pumpkin: 2%
Points of note:
Mr. Banana and Mr. Idiot were consistently at the top until Mr. Idiot fell off the list in 1997 (possible retirement or leaving the school). Mr Banana rated above Mr. Idiot except for a brief dip in 1995.
Mr. Banana’s numbers had been falling, but rose dramatically after Mr. Idiot disappeared from the list.
Ms. Bigteeth has made considerable gains, moving from 5% to 36%. She gained about 6% each year until Mr. Idiot left, at which point she picked up some of his numbers (rising 13% in a single year).
The 4th ranked person on the list has frquently changed, but usually gains 3-5% (Mrs. Pumpkin’s 2% in 1997 is the lowest).